9th December 2012
This would be last full day based in the Park and we made a special effort to get on the road early. The sun was shining and we turned onto the Voortrekker road. Not long before we sighted an Owl and a Red-crested Korhaan but both flew off before we could take any pictures. Spotting a group of antelope back from the road, I crept along so as not to startle them. The closer we got the less familiar they looked – another first for us, we had found Red Hartebeest.
What a great start to the day!
Further on we passed Giraffes, Zebras, a Hyena on a mission,
lots of Ground Hornbill,
Kudu Bulls and several Ellies, one of whom had definitely got out of the wrong side of the bed that morning. Even a really tiny tortoise
(a Speke’s Hinged Tortoise) paused in the road – probably not a great idea as it was so small, he could easily be missed by other vehicles.
After a quick comfort break at Afsaal, we headed out to Biyamiti Weir where we found our friend from Sable Hide, Renate. Lots to talk about as we had seen so much since we had last met.
Three-banded Plover and Egyptian Geese were feeding close to the weir. Keeping to the sand roads we found 3 Rhinos
and a Steenbok before arriving at Skukuza for a well-earned brunch. As we waited for our food to arrive, we followed a Water Monitor making his way along the path.
Eager to be out spotting again, Buffalo were ambling along the H11 before we took the turning to Lake Panic. As I know I have said before, we just cannot pass by this hide without stopping to look. There had been so much activity with the birds each day, it was almost like a soap opera. The Goliath Heron
and Grey HeronGrey Heron Juveniles
, on Flickr
chicks continued to create havoc for their parents,
the Prinia was still busy constructing his nest, the Thick-billed Weaver had finished his nest and was desperately trying to attract a female to join him in it (and by the time we left this afternoon he had succeeded – how brilliant was that),
a Broad-billed Roller was around
and a Giant Kingfisher had come to join all his other Kingfisher pals:
As usual, there were Hippo
You could write a book just on one days sightings at Lake Panic.
However, we knew we must get back on the road and decided to try the S65 again. For sure this was the right decision as on reaching N’waswitshaka, we found two lionesses and one cub. They were well in the shade under a group of bushes, very close to the road but the thickness of the bush made photography very difficult. We stopped and waited in the hope that they would get up and move on. A few other vehicles had now joined us, including a JJ, the driver of which told us that he had seen very recently in the area a male lion, 3 females and 5 cubs. I know some of these guys have not always had a good press but this was definitely not the case today. Actually we had seen this driver at another sighting recently and had moved on in order for him to give his guests a better position for viewing. He had remembered us and wanted to know what else we had seen since then. As we all sat waiting a much different scenario enfolded. Whilst the lions were still happily asleep in the shade, a breeding herd of Elephant had come down to the water tank to drink.
Suddenly the matriarch must have smelled the lions or something had spooked her. We could not see any other lions but perhaps they were further back in the bush out of our view. By now there was a pretty big traffic jam and little chance to move, the Elephants wanted to force the lions out and away from the herd and there was uproar. The lions flew out in all directions with the Ellies, initially, in pursuit.
We had never seen anything like it in our life and as we were closest to their shady bush, we had to stay put as we were encircled by other vehicles. In such a short time it had turned from a peaceful spot to something bordering on chaos. There was certainly a deep sense of relief when both lions and Ellies had all gone and we were able to move away again but it was one of the most fascinating altercations we had ever witnessed.
We drove slowly on and our heart rate gradually began to calm down. Just time for a quick check at Transport and just before we reached the Dam, we see a couple of cars stopped. At first we could see nothing and we pulled alongside to ask what they could see. Hidden well along the branch of a big tree a fair way back from the road and what awaits us...a LIT (Leopard In Tree).
Our first day with a Big 5 and what a way to do it! Some days just get better and better. On our previous trip we had been really lucky with leopard sightings around the Transport Dam area but never thought this beauty would still be around. It was not so easy to get a position to watch him and as more cars stopped behind us, we moved on to let someone have our spot.
Down at the Dam a Bull Elephant had come down to drink
along with the usual Waterbuck.
Time was passing quickly and we needed to head back to camp or we would not be there in time for gate closing. Yet more Ellies and Kudu
along the way and a detour along the Napi Boulder road found a lovely group of 6 Giraffe.
Finally back in camp it was time to light up for our last braai in the Park and pack up in readiness to leave in the morning.