Day 8, 15 March 2013
After another night listening to the Lions all night long, we were up early since we had a long drive ahead of us. The plan was to drive to Shingwedzi and explore the area. The last time we’ve been there was more than 20 years ago. Shingwedzi was still closed to the public after the January floods and we packed breakfast, snacks and enough cool drinks.
After leaving camp leaving camp we drove the short Tsendze loops North of Mooiplaas Picnic Spot. We heard the Lions in that direction last night. All we found was beautiful fresh flower prints (Hippo spoor).
Next we had to stop at the Shipandani Hide causeway to see if the Goliath Heron was still there. This was the last time we saw him and we were rewarded with some nice photos.
The Goliath Heron lives in the shallow margins of large water bodies like the lower end of the Pioneer Dam where we found this Goliath Heron a couple of times. They are generally widespread but uncommon residents across Southern Africa. Outside of protected areas they are in competition with severe overfishing. The Goliath Heron is not threatened, but regional populations are quite small. They catch fairly large fish, frogs and small mammals. Goliath Herons breed monogamous and are normally solitary, but sometimes they breed in loose colonies. They build a large stick nest in a tree over water or in reed beds or on the ground on an island. – Roberts Birds of Southern Africa
We turned around at the Shipandani Hide and headed back on our way North.
Just before the Tropic of Capricorn we were stopped by an Ellie in the road.
Keeping a safe distance we waited for the Ellie to go on his way, but before we knew it, we were surrounded by a huge breeding herd of Elephants! They were everywhere appearing from the Mopanies, left, right and even behind us.
We had so many good Ellie encounters and thought nothing of the huge herd of Ellies since they all looked nice and calm just eating away on the Mopanies.
All of a sudden an Agro Ellie Cow popped out of the Mopanies and without warning charged down on us! Skillie was quick to react again and hastily reversed! I took this one picture through the windscreen…
The Ellies behind us in the road got a fright and moved to the side of the road. Then Skillie stopped all of a sudden as he lost sight of the some of the Ellies behind us. I was just watching the Agro Ellie charging and luckily she stopped a couple of meters from where we stopped and stood on the edge of the road. Again we were trapped by Ellies! We spend about half-an-hour waiting for the Agro Ellie Cow and her calf we did not see before to cross the road and disappear into the Mopanies. Needless to say that my heart skipped a few beats…
More Ellies crossed the road.
Two Ellie bulls were having a go at each other and blocked the road again, but they were in a better mood…
This young Ellie were very inquisitive and came to have a look what all the fuss was about and also left us a bit nervous, but the grass was to tasty…
After what seemed forever, we could drive on and turned onto the S144. Not far and we were stopped by these two again – I think the same two from the other day and had to backtrack almost to the tar road before they left the road...
After what seemed forever again, we could drive on. The plan was to take the Old Main Road Loop – S144 to Shingwedzi in the morning and come back on the H1-6 late this afternoon.
A bit on we found a pair of Warthogs! We were delighted, since here between the Mopanies they seem to be a bit hard to find.
A few Dagga Boys further along the S144.
Not far and we were stopped by another Ellie who decided that the road belonged to him.
It took us hours to drive the 29 km loop and only found a few Zebra where the road turns east again.
At the end of the loop we turned right onto the H1-6 and did not see anything but sky high Mopanies. We turned on to the S52 river drive and the scenery changed before our eyes to river galleries and green grass. We stopped at Red Rocks for the first time in 20 years and wow, what a feeling to see an old familiar place again.
Day 8, to continue...