We would be leaving Satara today but only moving as far as Letaba so we had plenty of time to do an early morning drive before returning to cook breakfast and pack up the car. Our roads of choice would be south on the tar, along the H6 to N’wanetsi, up the S41 and back along the S100. Pausing to watch a group of Zebra, we were joined by YR, MandyM, again. A bachelor group of Ellies had returned to the area, a small herd of Buffalo, Wildebeest, Black-bellied Korhaan and 2 big Tuskers. There had been very little traffic on the road with us (so many seem to start with Lion Alley) but shortly after a 5 a.m. sunrise
we saw 2 cars parked ahead of us. We approached slowly and were rewarded with one of the best sightings we have ever had in the Park – 2 young male Cheetah had crossed the road and were hovering around the base of a dead tree.
They seemed oblivious of their audience and with just the 3 vehicles (another 4th car joined later) parked up, we all had an amazing half hour as these beautiful cats stretched, posed and then one climbed the tree to check out the area.
It was just like one of those documentaries shot in the Serengeti. We have seen some fabulous Cheetah in Kruger over the years but never had we seen them climb a tree. When they eventually moved away into the grassland, we all looked at each other and let out an big “WOW”.
We were absolutely buzzing as we continued eastwards along the tar – what a start to the day and thank goodness we had decided to make this early morning trip before moving camp. We were in need of a comfort break at N’wanetsi but even before we reached the picnic site we had found a couple of Black-backed Jackals,
Grey Duiker, Kudu, Giraffe, African Land Snail and Waterbuck.
Heading north we spotted a juvenile Bateleur posing in a tree
– actually I think it may have been the same one we had seen a day or two before – Open-billed Stork and White-backed Vultures.
We stopped at Gudzani Dam for our morning coffee and biscuits. Hippos were playing in the water, Egyptian Geese and White-faced Ducks kept a safe distance from the resident Crocodile, a Glossy Starling hopped close to our car and a Bataleur flew above us.
SO’s tum was beginning to rumble and we drove back along the S100 – no lions this morning but lots of Wildebeest, Waterbucks, Impala, herd of Zebra,
Warthogs and 2 juvenile Saddle-billed Storks.
Back at camp SO helped pack up the bags whilst I cooked breakfast. I must admit over the years we have got this down to quite a slick operation, no doubt all you ‘Mites are just as proficient, and loading up this ultra spacious Isuzu is utter simplicity. Pull down the back and shove it all in – never have we had so much space. Our plan was to keep to the tar heading north and it wasn’t long before an approaching car flashed us and stopped alongside – it was YR Flying Cheetah who we had met on our last trip and it was lovely to spend a few minutes catching up on each other’s journeys so far. If you get to read this TR, FC, do you remember commenting that you had been in the Park for over 2 weeks before spotting a leopard? We recalled that observation many a time over the next few weeks as you will see.
After our ultra busy morning so far, the wildlife seemed to have decided to hide away from us but an occasional Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe
and Tortoise were still about. A Slender Mongoose also raced across the road in front of us. On the Olifants bridge we got out to stretch our legs and look out over the river. The air was full with Swifts, a Crocodile lay out on a sandbank and Impala ambled along the river bank. We were curious to see what the state of play was with the Balule crossing so took the S91 to check it out and then continue along the river to Olifants. No work seemed to be ongoing at the causeway which explains why there is no date being offered for its re-opening – pity, we love this causeway and have had some lovely sightings over the years. As with Biyamiti weir, we find it a brilliant spot for bird photography as you are so close to the water. A female Giraffe was feeding close to the road and then we spotted a family of Banded Mongoose. We both love Mongoose and were really lucky spotting them on this trip. It was a long time since we had seen the Banded ones though and so an even greater pleasure to find a family this time.
We called into Olifants to get Ice Creams and met up with 2 more Yrs – Bert and his SO – they were also on their way to Letaba so we hoped to meet up with them again.
Taking the sand roads along the river towards Letaba, lots more Giraffe out and about, at the small waterhole on the left side we paused briefly but as soon as any vehicle stops here, the terrapins race towards the road so we moved off quickly. A solitary Crocodile sat watching us with a curious terrapin.
Three Buffalo were cooling over in a pool by the rocks
and an Elephant Bull stood drinking in the river whilst Fish Eagles cried overhead.
At the small causeway before you reach camp, we had plenty to see – 3 Crocodiles, Grey Heron, 2 Yellow-billed Storks, Egyptian Geese and a Sandpiper.
The thought occurred to us that, by the way of an internal competition, we would try to see who could get an images with the greatest number of different species in it. The latter image has 4 (this was one of mine) – plenty of time left for further attempts at the record.
The recent heavy rains had obviously replenished this area of water and the wildlife were taking full advantage. Just a short way now to reach Letaba and check-in did not take long. I have forgotten to write down our hut number but it was in the section 85-90 not far from the Laudromat. We have often stayed at Letaba but, for whatever reason, have always been allocated accommodation at the other side of the camp. We quickly unloaded and sat on the stoep with a cold beer. Our new neighbours soon arrived and we were very pleased to find it was Bert and SO. This was only our second camp of the trip but they were leaving the Park in a few days so we had plenty of sightings to catch up with, including a Rhino mother and calf.
It was a pleasure to meet you both and thank you for sharing time with us.
It had been a truly memorable day and after a well-earned dinner, we were soon more than ready for our beds.