Joined: Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:11 pm
Location: Back on earth.....
Alrighty then, left ‘drive’ again…
Day 7: Part 1 (6 April 2009)
The last day we intended to visit Shingwedzi, the area that I have intensively inspected in December 2008. A wonderful world of nature, filled with extraordinary vegetation, and full of surprises.
It was already light, and relatively early when we left the gates of Mopanie behind us. We were all fully recovered from the backpack trail, and ready to the long round trip towards Shingwedzi. I suggested we do the Red rocks loop, as some of us were newbies to the area, and have never been there. Secondly, I knew from my previous visits that the s52 red rocks loop is a very scenic one, and prefer it to the H1-6 tar raod heading north as well.
Bowkers Kop was shining in all it glory in the soft early morning sun. We were all in an excellent mood, despite the knowledge that or 8 day stay in Kruger was almost at an end. This was the last full day, and we intended to enjoy it till the last minute. That said, I decided to give myself a break, and didn’t take half as many pictures as I normally did…..
At Bowkerkop waterhole, a small herd of elephants crossed the road. They were mostly young ones. No aggro ellies this time, just a peaceful group of Nomads roaming in the area. As said, I was lazy and as we have seen so many of them around there, I didn’t even switch on my camera. Further on, the odd impala and warthogs greeted us. It was relatively quiet on the tar road. Grysbok waterhole didn’t have any grysbok around this time. Similarly, Olifant’s drinkgat was occupied by the ordinary Egyptian geese, 3 impala rams. Nothing very special to report!
Nkokodozi delivered us a lone elephant bull. But the fella was hiding, so pics were a bit difficult….Soon, we hit the ‘entry road’ of the s52. I still remember how wet and muddy it was in December last year! We almost didn’t come through the mud with our low BMW…! This time of the year, all signs of mud and water pools next to the road had vanished.
I LOVE this road: it’s is VERY scenic with lots of big trees, and the surrounding vegetation along the southern part of the Shingwedzi is very different to the large Mopanie veld it is surrounded by.
Red rocks is an awesome place, and one can easily spend 15 minutes by just watching the stunning rocks, and the lush vegetation around there. Amazingly enough, there was more water in it than in December!! We were the only cars, and after standing around for 5 min, we only then noticed a young elephant bull that was quietly drinking from the water below as he moved out of the think bushes. Imagine it being a leopard, we wouldn’t even have noticed it!
We enjoyed the view a little longer. I still remember the wonderful ‘biltong’ and ‘dry wors’ I chawed there! Tasty kudu that was! The whole of the s52 was relatively quite, but we enjoyed small sightings such a dwarf mongooses, baboons, groups of impala and of course the unlimited birds in the area. For birders, I guess it’s the best route of that part in the Park. I got quite excited when I saw a HUGE group of vultures circling in the air!! That means a dead animal, possibly a kill!!! And it seemed luck was with us, and the road lead towards the spot….. (Sometimes my imagination runs to fast ) Anyway, just before we thought we were REALLY lucky, my bubble burst as the road turned to wards the wrong direction…. And the ‘kill’ seemed to be on the other side of the road!! Bad fella’s those vultures. Makes you so happy, and then disappoint…. Almost like BEEP*****
Almost at the end of this road, we noticed the increase of kingfishers. Every regular Shingwedzi visitor will remember the sounds of the woodland kingfisher, which is extremely abundant in that area. BUT, here there were lots and lots of Grey headed kingfishers (gryskop visvanger). However, they didn’t want to pose, and after numerous attempts I got this one….I suspect it’s an immature one, as he didn’t really have partly blue wings… tell me if I’m right There were many more birds, and we watched a few hoephoep’s having an ‘argument’ with the local red eyed dove population…. Quite amuzing if you’re interested in small things as well.
The last 3 km tar before came provided us with 2 lone buffies. The buffalo were a bit nervous, and walking as if they’re not sure where to go… The Shingwedzi river on our left was dry. Well mostly, as at some places there were small patches of water. The river must have been flowing for quite a while then….
It was a relief to be back in Shingwedzi after 4,5 months of absence Somehow, I have started to like the place. Do not ask me what places I DON’T love. Quite true on the other hand! But what I mean to say is that Shingwedzi is quite different to other camps. It has this old sphere. Maybe it’s the gate, maybe the old reception area. Maybe it’s just me. Who knows….We had a nice meal at the take away restaurant area, and the service was pretty good (for Kruger and Saffie standards! ). Would recommend it to anyone. Being last day and all that, I tried to enjoy every small detail as long as I could. The restaurant area has a splendid view over the (often dry) Shingwedzi river. There were a few bushbucks close to the fence. I’ve seen them there every time I stop here…..
In camp, I asked around where Matthew Burnett was, as I did a walk with him last year. He wasn’t in camp, as he was on leave. Nice chap, Matthew So, we decided to take the looooong dust road, the s50 Kanniedood dam route along the Shingwedzi, and then all the way down to Mopanie. Lots of interesting pins on the ‘sightingsboard’….
As we wound our way through the think vegetated banks of the Shingwedzi river, we spotted uncountable impala, crocodiles and also a few hippo’s. Sadly for us, most sightings were far. Still, the birds around kept us very busy. Lots of fisheagles to follow. At some big Sycamore figs and Weeping boer-bean trees, a huge flock of African hoopoe, as well as Violet Wood-hoopoe were fighting about this one particular tree. They seemed black, but when I inspected the pictures, they are violet, and their tails so distinctive….. I wonder if this is an uncommon species to Kruger….
As watched them fight for a while, and these small feathered friends can get quite ferocious! It must have been a fight about the fruits of the boer-bean, which ripe in autumn
There were quite a few bushbuck around, but they were difficult to get on camera. So too, I missed the small Njala that crossed the road….
Birdies stayed with us… this time it wasn’t a birdy, but a full grown and full developed Martial eagle!! The nice thing was that he sat VERy close to the road, and Sawubona had the great idea to drive right under him, so we could photograph him
through the sunroofs!! This gave us an unusual angle, and he stared right into our lenses
We just missed a herd of ellies crossing the road by a few hours. The 2 dung beetles beat us by it, and were already doing what they do best……. Preparing elephant rolls
We noticed a rather tired saddle billed stork. It looked almost like he was very depressed, sitting on his knees. The funny thing is the knees are bending backwards, making it an unusual sight. The s50 is a nice road to drive on, no heavy corrugation and easy on the tyres. For us, the next 12 km or so was VERY VERY quiet. Nywutsi hide was dead quiet, and no animals in sight, & also no water in sight!! I guess because the area was very dry, that most of the animals were headed to more permanent sources of water. The area really seemed much drier that the other regions we had visited recently.
We encountered some zebra’s and giraffe at Grootvlei dam. It’s a BIG dam, and actually a better spot to put up a hide…. The dam must have been pretty full the recent summer, as it left clear ‘tracks’ of the water level. However, by now it was almost completely dry, with only a small corner of muddy water, not worth to be called a mudpool
5 Zebra’s and a giraffe strolled around, very slowly, not willing to spill much energy at this place. We drove onto the dam wall, where the actually is a track. Very nicely laid out I must say. I really want to see this place in summer again…! Southwards, along the s50, we drove up to the viewpoint of the Shibavantsengele , which is 482m high. It’s almost on the border of South Africa and Mozambique, and reminds me a little bit (only a little ) of Nkumbe. The view is not so nice though, and one also can’t climb out there… Close to camp, at Nshawu 4, a herd of Tsessebe dived for cover into the low scrubs just as we appeared on the horizon.
Right before the last T junction close to camp, a ellie bull and a buffalo bull stood their ground, claiming their space… Similarly to the giraffes, zebras and Tsessebe, they also tried to avoid too much movement due to the heat of the day. It was quite hot for an Autumn day.. Both looked like they had a recent mud bath… Maybe even together, who knows!
Although we enjoyed this trip a lot, we didn’t find any cats the last 2 days. Or should I say, we didn’t find them YET….. I think it’s time for a ‘break’……..hehe.
To be continued…….
_________________Letaba 8 July, Shipandane 9 July, Shingwedzi 10 - 14 July