We had both slept well and managed to crawl out of our beds reasonably early. It had been a pretty warm night and by 5am the temperature was already at 21 degrees. The rush for the gate had already passed and the roads fairly empty at 5am, no doubt they were checking out ‘Lion Alley’. Another guest at the Inn in Hazyview who had recently been in the Park for a few days had told us cheetah were being seen on a daily basis near Satara so we decided to head south along the tar road. On past trips we had often been lucky along this stretch of road in the early morning. Guineafowl were playing Russian Roulette across the road and Baboons sat down on the tar catching the warmth of the sun as they groomed each other. It was not long before we had our first big cat – lion.
We enjoyed his company for a while but moved on as a traffic jam eventually began to form.
So much to watch and enjoy as we drove on, Elephant, Swainsons Francolin, a tree covered with White-backed Vultures,
a herd of Wildbeest,
Magpie Shrikes with their deafening call, Steenbok, Zebra, Impala,
Warthog, Grey Lourie, Tawny Eagles and Giraffe.
What a lot and we had only just driven as far as Kumana Dam where we parked up to enjoy coffee and biscuits. The residents from yesterday were still about – Waterbuck, Grey Herons, Hippo
and Egyptian Geese – and we love this morning ritual of just sitting, drink in hand, watching whatever is out and about and soaking up the atmosphere.
Refreshed and in need of a comfort break at Tshokwane we passed Kudu, Rhino
and more Warthogs as we headed south. Now I know that you do not need a 4x4 to drive Kruger roads but they certainly make some of the sand roads considerably more comfortable to drive down so we decided to try our luck on the S35 towards N’wanetsi. It is a long time since we have been down this route, no particular reason why not and we still hoped to find these elusive cheetahs. It was not to be though but plenty of other wildlife along the way – Wildebeest, Zebras,
Hadeda Ibis, Steenbok, Giraffe family with a delightful baby,
Burchells Glossy Starling and Crowned Plover.
By 9am it was already 32 degrees and the frequent drinks meant we needed to call into the picnic site before continuing our journey. Only a quick pit stop and we were back in the car driving along the S41. This a particularly quiet this morning but we did find a juvenile Bateleur,
an Impala herd with lots of new born lambs and more Giraffe before heading westwards along the S100. No kitty cats along lion alley for us today but more Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Steenbok, Common Duiker, Waterbuck and Kudu. By the time we reached the tar road again, our tummies were grumbling loudly and we headed back to camp to cook up some brunch. The day was getting ever hotter and SO went inside for a rest. I sat down on the stoep with a cool drink and do a bit of birdwatching. By 3pm we were ready to get back on the road but had to pause near Reception as a large Water Monitor made his way along the track.
If it was the same one we watched at Satara last year, he is growing well and soon had a fascinated audience.
Our favourite afternoon drive, when based at Satara, is along the H7 and we certainly made the right choice today. After watching 3 Ground Hornbills close to the road, we soon saw a veritable traffic jam ahead. We had found a large pride of lions, spread along both sides of the road and each with a kill. As you can imagine, the hot weather did not make this scene particularly sweet-smelling! As we inched along, we found our first YR this trip – WildCatZoo and SO – but so many vehicles jostling for position do not make it a great experience for us and as soon as we could find a space, we drove away.
We paused briefly at Nsemani Dam where Hippos and a Bull Elephant
were cooling off in the water and continued along to the S12 turning. Before Girivana we passed another Bull Elephant, Zebra, a family group of Giraffe, a white-backed Vulture
and Arrow-marked Babblers. At the waterhole Saddle-billed Stork and a Woolly-necked Stork were feeding
and just ahead of us a large herd of Ellies who seemed to be on a mission. They could have been drinking at the waterhole but with the hot weather rapidly evaporating the water, we thought it more likely they were on their way to Nsemani. They had several youngsters in their group and we kept well back to ensure they were not distressed by us. When they had all disappeared safely into the bush, we headed back for the Dam in the hope that we might see them come down to the water. At the Dam, the Hippo were starting to leave the water,
Waterbuck and Impala had come down to drink, Knob-billed and White-faced Ducks were along the water’s edge and a Fish Eagle was watching over proceedings.
Despite waiting for a while, the Ellies did not make an appearance and we also hoped to get some better photos at the Lion kill on the way back to camp. There were a few less vehicles in the jam and I suspect a few would be late arrivals at Orpen in due course.
Finally back in camp, it was time to light up the braai have some sundowners,
catch up with our neighbours Nick and Douglas and catch our breath from another full day in the Park. Our final sighting of the day was the latest camp resident, an African Wild Cat.