Having heard the wind blowing hard through the night, I was not surprised to see the weather had changed for the worse when we got up this morning. The sky was dark and cloudy, the wind definitely on the cool side. I quickly made up our flask of coffee, packed a few munchies and we were back on the road. We took the tar heading north, stopping by the river area as we went along. Much quieter than yesterday but found Saddle-billed Stork, Hippos, Spoonbills,
Little and Greater Egrets, a tortoise rushing across the road,
Grey Heron and Sandpipers. By the time we had reached the Letaba bridge, the rain had also arrived.
Stopping on the Letaba bridge, we got out of the car briefly to check the river bed – Waterbuck and various Ellies about – but did not tarry for too long as it was decidedly damp.
Keeping to the tar road, we soon came across a large Buffalo herd and parked up to watch them as they munched their way through the bushes and eventually crossed the road.
Further north we took the H15 Giriyondo road in the hope of finding some of the rarer antelope. Lots of Zebras
and Wildebeest and then a group of Tsessebe.
It is a long time since we have driven down the H15 and, even then, had never continued for very long – partly because we do not usually have the treat of such a sturdy 4x4 and also it could be busy with people dashing across with boats in tow as they raced towards the Indian Ocean. Although the road was quiet we continued as far as the Makhadzi Picnic Site – it was still a chilly morning and a comfort break was in order. We were the only car here although we spotted a couple of staff on the edge of the site. We were somewhat intrigued about the number and size of the buildings here. Perhaps someone could explain – does it have a special reason for them? Some history of which we are unaware? Not sure if it was because we were the only visitors but it had a sort of strange atmosphere...but then, maybe I was feeling a bit super-sensitive that day!
Back on the track to rejoin the H15, we headed east for a short while as it looked as though there might be a river crossing – certainly the line of large trees seemed to line up either side of the road. Just a muddy patch however, with a Green-backed Heron patrolling
and a Fish Eagle was settled in a nearby tree.
We decided to turn back and head back to the tar but were soon stopped by a Red-crested Korhaan displaying for us in the middle of the road. What a fabulous sight it was and just wish I had been able to capture it on video.Red-crested Korhaan
, on Flickr
Continuing on, the Zebras were grazing in the open area by the tar junction. Heading south lots of Little Swifts in the sky, a European Roller posing and a Steenbok caught our attention. At the bridge the Ellies had moved on and were replaced by Hippo, Little Egret, Yellow-billed Stork, Egyptian Geese, Fish Eagle and a Spoonbill in flight.
A solitary Terrapin inched its way across the road – I’m sure he would have been safer crossing under the bridge.
Back at Letaba camp I cooked a late breakfast to warm us up. The temperature had reached 21 degrees but the rain made it feel much cooler. Obviously we had been spoilt by the very hot days further south and I really do like the heat as all my family and friends will confirm!
This was our last full day at Letaba and we wanted to drive up to the Manthambeni hide this afternoon. Passing Waterbuck,
Giraffe, Baboons and 2 single Bull Elephant along the way, we finally reached the hide. What a difference all the rains earlier in the year had made. Plenty of deep water but much fewer sandbanks for the waders to use. Like everyone else, we read avidly on the Forum about all the heavy rainfall and sometimes floods but, until you actually get to an area that you know well, you cannot comprehend how much difference these can make. Plenty of water for large Hippo pods, several Crocodiles were stretched out along the central sandbar, a few Ellies came down for a drink but the star attraction for us were the 4 Fish Eagles.
They flew backwards and forwards in front of the hide, constantly calling out to each other. We had never seen 4 together and were unsure whether they were two adult pairs or one adult pair and their two grown up offspring.
Moving on, we headed south over the bridge, pausing to watch a group of 7 Waterbuck and Yellow-billed Stork. Turning onto the H9 a Buffalo herd filled both sides of the road, soon causing a real traffic jam. We tried our luck along the S131 which was very quiet apart from a single Bull Elephant, then took the S96 and back along the H9 where we soon caught up with a long line of vehicles strung out along the road. A pride of lions were laid out in the bush, mostly sleeping.
We could see 6 but suspect there were at least 4 more hidden deep in the long grass. It was difficult to see them all but we were shocked when another vehicle drove way into the grass in an attempt to get better photos
and thoroughly upset one male lion who looked very skinny and was limping badly.
It’s never easy to know what to do for the best in these situations, several of us tried to flash the driver and call out to him to get back on the tar but, if you shout too loudly, you are disturbing the wildlife also. We took a photo of him, others waved pen and paper to indicate that they intended to report him but it all leaves a bad taste in the mouth for everyone else who were prepared to sit and wait quietly for a better chance to see them. As we inched closer to the action, we saw a couple of friendly faces, YRs Wildcatzoo and her SO, who kindly gave up their space for us to get some photos. Huge thanks to you both and it was nice to see you again as we had met up before at Satara.
Eventually we got back on the road and headed back to camp and be met by some of the resident Bushbucks.
Time to light up the braai, pour out a glass (or two) of red and talk through our day
...we also had to pack up ready to move on again in the morning.