Sunday 3 October 2010
We are packed and ready to leave Pretoriuskop just after 6:00 a.m. The temperature is a pleasant 19⁰C. We travel on S7, S3, detour to see the Albasini Ruins, take a loo break at Phabeni Gate and then continue on the S1 (Doispane Road) to Skukuza.
The first bird of the day is a green pigeon followed shortly thereafter by a black-eyed bul-bul. We enjoy sightings of kudu and zebra and then our first rhino of the trip. This particular chap is hiding behind the bushes but then obligingly decides to cross the road and passes right in front of us.
So often we meet people who say – “We have seen nothing all day.” How is this possible? In Kruger there is always something to attract your attention. I don’t deny that I get a huge thrill out of seeing a magnificent leopard, fleet-footed cheetah or royal lion. But I have more fun enjoying the what the run of the mill creatures do in their natural environment. H2, SO and I would not normally ‘fight’ for position at a traffic jam. Our best sightings of have always been on our own or with very few other cars. But when soon after joining the S1 we come upon a mess of cars looking down an embankment, we join the fray for the sake of showing D.A. a leopard. We are not well rewarded for our efforts and manage only to spy a few spots! His face and paws do not make an appearance so we move on. I assure D.A> that we always see leopard and this trip will be no exception. “We will see one right next to the road, draped in a tree, all on our own,” I promise and pray that Kruger is listening and that those spots are a teaser of what’s still to come!
The rest of our sightings are special indeed but no more spots of the cat kind! We journey on and greet elephant and buffalo and then at 8:20 we stop at Nyamundwa Dam and enjoy watching hippo, impala coming down for a drink, a single darter and some water dikkop.
Moving on we find a white-backed vulture on a nest and then S.O. screeches breaks, reverses and points out a special bird – Senegal Courser camouflaging well in its surroundings.
Our next exciting and interesting is when the road crosses a shallow part of a river. We stop and look down to see a bird party. Blue wasbills are drinking thirstily then flying off and returning as quickly as they left. Blue-billed fire-finch are there and widow birds in non-breeding plumage flock around too.
A huge thrill is when a slender mongoose comes to the water’s edge and slakes his thirst before turning tail and disappearing back into the bush.
All the while go-away birds are keeping watch and sending out warnings of potential danger.
The Big 5 were once the animals that hunters strived to shoot. Since this sport has become politically incorrect we now aim to shoot them digitally and I notice now that hippo have been added to increase the search to the Big Six. We have decided to add Giraffe to our special African Animals. Is their anything more African than a Giraffe? He may not be as fearsome and dangerous as the others but he is tall and he is beautiful. On our safaris we have had near spiritual experiences with these gentle creatures and they never cease to intrigue me. I think they are my favourite mammal. Before turning onto the H11 we see zebra, warthog and giraffe. I love this picture of on with a drongo in a nearby bush.
On the H11 just before the Skukuza entrance gate we stop to look at some interesting bird activity. There is a beautiful violet-eared waxbill on its nest. A tchagra calls melodiously and an orange-breasted bush-shrike makes a brief appearance then hides amongst the foliage and calls but refuses to pose for a portrait.
It is too early to check in so we go to the restaurant for breakfast – always good here – take a look at the diminished number of bats, meet up with this fellow on the way out and then make our way to Lake Panic.
Lake Panic never fails to deliver. On the boardwalk I hear the orange-breasted bush-shrike this time get a photograph.
The hide is quite full but people come and go. We find places and enjoy the show. A visiting photographer from the United States has set herself up for the day and is shooting magnificent footage with her mighty lens. She is spending three months in Kruger and tells us she will spend months editing on her return. And yes – she does sell her work. What a wonderful way to make your living.
There is a lot of activity. A Goliath Heron takes centre stage and stands dead still just looking gorgeous.
Then another one arrives and they call to each other before lapsing back into vigilant silence. Grey herons are nesting and the chicks are demanding food.
Grey Heron with nesting material
Green-backed herons come and go, a terrapin climbs onto a log, black crakes forage and there is one with chicks.
Hippos grunt and disturb the peace from time to time. A darter appears and creates a fuss as he calls to his mate. There is so much to watch then suddenly a disturbance and I see the darter catch a fish. I get some good shots before I can share the sighting with the others. He struggles with it for some time and we all enjoy the show. It’s a big fish and he almost succeeds in enjoying his catch but loses it at the last minute. Oh dear – all that effort and the meal is lost.
Other birds we see are Eastern-bearded robin, African Pied Wagtail and white-faced ducks.
It’s time to check in so we reluctantly take our leave. We stop on a bridge and see a crocodile out of the water.
Mads sees our yellow-ribbon and stops to chat. She is on her way home. We see elephant just before entertaining the gate.
Check in goes smoothly and we are assigned Cottage 217. We unpack, have a nap and when we wake we find Banded Mongoose on the lawn.
It is quarter past four and we go for a brief afternoon drive though it is still quite hot.
We take the H11 then H1-2 and meet Hippo Fan on the bridge. Thanks for stopping to chat, Hippo Fan!
On the Marula loop we find Kudu, red duiker and baboons.
On the H12 there are elephants in the river.
Moving onto the H4-1 we meet more amusing baboons, the ever cute impala, warthogs and francolin. Then a traffic jam. We are on a loop and cannot turn back so continue on and look for a gap. We manage to get a peek at some sleeping lions and move through as quickly as possible. People are behaving atrociously! Young men and women are hanging out car windows. Someone is actually out of his car! The cats ignore the attention and slumber on. A pity the big male doesn’t rise up and hunt down an easy snack. Imagine the hullabaloo if a human were eaten!
D.A. though horrified at peoples lack of respect for the rules of the park was delighted to have at least a glimpse of a cat. Once again I promise her she’ll have a better sighting another day. I sound more confident than I feel! (Kruger, please smile kindly on us!)
Elephant bid us good night and we return to camp. Our friends Jim and Maureen from Jeffrey’s bay are staying in the caravan park. It’s Jim’s birthjday and we’ve invited them to join us for supper.
They arrive at 6:45 and we have a delightful braai and swap Kruger experiences till late. (10 o’clock is late in Kruger!)