First full day in the Park begins…
We were up at sparrow’s fart – excited for our first morning drive. I am not a morning person at all while I’m at home, yet I never seem to have any problems jumping out of bed at a ridiculously early hour of the morning while I’m in Kruger.
In fact, this morning I woke up 10 minutes before the alarm went off – I think my subconscious was working in overdrive
Since we didn’t take long to have some coffee and a little bite to eat, I suggested we wait in our car at the gate until opening time. We were half an hour early – I really was jumping out of my skin with excitement.
After 20min of waiting I wasn’t quite jumping out of my skin as I had been earlier.
Notice my attempt at a yellow ribbon on our car… it is not the best, but at least it is yellow (a very bright yellow at that).
Once the gate opened we were off – we turned left on to the H1-4 (heading north towards Olifants) – at our usual speed of 35km / hr. We were immediately overtaken by 3 or 4 cars – all in a hell of a rush to get to a very important, unknown destination.
This made us grumble a little bit, but we were travelling under the speed limit. Besides, how can you grumble for long when this is the view you are looking at?
Our first animal sighting was a wildebeest crossing the road. We congratulated him/her for making it through the night, but he/she just kept walking...
A little further along the road we sat and watched the antics of this little Dwarf Mongoose – it looked stunning in the morning light.
Not much further and we found this lone Male Kudu, wandering in the tall grass.
We weren’t even 5km down the road and it was already a good morning
Our next stop was for a very noisy roadblock:
Helmeted Guineafowl appear to be such daft animals, they remind me of kangaroos: instead of running away from the car when you approach them – they run into it. The problem we have discovered with the Guineafowl is they are a lot smaller than a kangaroo, so you can’t see them when they run in front of the car. We spent nearly 10min trying to get through this lot without causing a casualty – thankfully we were successful.
Just before our intended turn-off to the Timbavati Picnic spot – we came across this feathered friend:
Can any of the birders help with an ID here?
My Dad loves his birds and used to know them all – but struggled with this ID. His thoughts were a shrike of some description?
Moving along – we decided to take the turn-off down the S127 towards the Timbavati Picnic Spot. We’d never visited Timbavati before; the promise of toilets made it a very appealing destination.
Just after the turn-off, we spotted some zebbies on the road:
Then we came across some Kori Bustards out in the long grass
It was a somewhat quiet drive along the road, with the usual suspects (such as impies, giraffe, zebras and wildebeest) spotted along the way. I’m using up my photo limit rather rapidly here, so I will refrain from posting pictures of these now.
Coming into the Timbavati picnic spot was this beautiful Baobab:
It was the only Baobab we saw on this trip, so we stopped (and Mork waited patiently) while I took a million photos of it.
We really liked the Timbavati Picnic Spot – there were quite a few people there when we arrived, most enjoying their breakfast… what a bloody fantastic idea! Our grumbling bellies wished we’d thought of that
It was great to be able to get out of the car and stretch the legs. We also got chatting to a lovely man who used to live in SA but was now living in Canada (returning twice a year to visit Kruger and his children – in that order). He told us all about the cheetah he saw sleeping under a tree the previous day, and the lions he had seen… but other than that, he said he’d had a quiet visit so far.
It was so nice to chat to a friendly person in the park… but it made me realise, I hadn’t seen any yellow ribbons yet.
After another walk around (including stopping to watch this little Bush Buck)…
… we hopped back into the car and headed on our way.
We decided to head down the S40, the idea being to continue a “loop” back to the H7 (we didn't want to head back down the same road we came in on).
By this stage it was 9.40am, and it was starting to warm up. The rumbling in our bellies was getting louder, and so we decided to drive closer to the speed limit to get back to camp.
Not a minute after deciding on this plan, there was an animal crossing the road ahead of us – a big cat-like animal. My heart started pounding – I said to Mork quietly “look!”
It was huge – “Mork said is it a lion?” and I said “I don’t think so – it’s got the tail of a leopard, but it is HUGE!”
It was about 80-100m up the gravel road – we didn't want to race up and scare it, but it was crossing the road quickly – so I put my foot down and actually went the speed limit (for once) to try and make it…
It had walked into the bush just before we got there – a little disappointing (as we couldn't get a photo), but we’d both seen it... Mork got his wish for a leopard, and we both saw it!
(There really is nothing worse than one person seeing something special, and the other missing out!)
We were both pretty chuffed… we turned off the car and sat looking into the bush where the leopard had disappeared, hoping we would catch a glimpse of it… but to no avail. Those things are so darn camouflaged!
Mork had the camera positioned out his window – just in case – but still nothing.
Then I heard a rustling on the driver’s side of the car – lo and behold, look what popped up:
I whispered to Mork something along the lines of (but not quite as polite as) “holy moly Mork – look what’s outside my window – quick, give me the camera!”
We had found ourselves a breeding pair of leopards, and this fellow was trying to follow his lady friend that had just crossed the road… how lucky were we!
He walked up past the car, then on to the road behind us. The following pictures were taken through the back window of our car, as we didn’t want to reverse back and get in the way of true love.
This sighting happened at 9.45am, and we had it all to ourselves. It was over in all of about 4 minutes, but our hearts were racing – my hands were also shaking… SO exciting!
Just as our spotty friend walked into the bushes, another car drove up and said “what are you guys looking at?”
I felt terrible saying “I'm so sorry – you've just missed a leopard walking into the bush…”
Normally it’s people saying stuff like this to me, so I know how disappointing it is to have someone say “sorry you just missed it…”
After a quick little chat, we headed off again. Of course, now the discussion turned to Mork's wishlist… he had now seen the leopard, and proclaimed “we just have cheetah and wild dog to go.”
My reply: *again – please insert a whining, nagging, (and for MM) Aussie drawl here*
“Moooooorkeeeeeeee – you have just seen a breeding pair of leopards… we are SO lucky – did you see how close that thing was to the car!... finally – we got a picture of a leopard!… if this is all we see for the rest of the trip, I’ll be happy – YOU should be happy too!… you cannot be disappointed at not seeing cheetah and wild dog… and by the way, HOW AWESOMELY CLOSE WAS THAT LEOPARD!!!... etc… etc”
[We were both beaming – you could not wipe the smile from our faces! And yes – we ate A LOT of biltong to celebrate this one!]
Our trip back saw the usual characters (impies, giraffe, etc) – plus also a kudu pottering around in the bush.
Turning left on to the H7 (heading back towards Satara) we had another “first” sightings – some ground hornbills. We watched these guys scavenging for ages… they seemed to find heaps of lizards and other creepy crawlies to eat – throwing them into the air, catching them gobbling them down.
Sadly, I wasn’t successful in getting a picture of them actually eating anything, but it wasn't for a lack of trying - I had about 120 photos of these birds by the end of our visit with them!
Not to despair though – they are beautiful birds, I just love their eyelashes (I would kill for nice long eyelashes like that!)
That concluded our wonderful morning drive.
We were pretty shattered once we returned – the early start had caught up with me – and so after a smaller than anticipated breakfast (thanks to the celebratory biltong we had eaten an hour or so prior), I had a little nanna-nap
I swear I dozed off with a permanent smile on my face – what a great first morning drive in the park!