Well, I did say we had to ease our Park visits gently and so we had collected our Breakfast Picnic and joined the queue at Phabeni Gate at 5am where we were the second car. The rain had stopped and we spent the waiting time chatting to the occupants of the vehicle ahead of us. They were Pretoria based but had been to Nelspruit on business yesterday and always took the opportunity to have at least one day in the Park before returning home. Sadly it was from them that we learned of the passing of Madiba, without whom we would probably never have been able to come to South Africa in the first place.
Once the gates were opened, it did not take long to get our paperwork stamped and we were back in the Park. A Green-backed Heron was fishing close to the causeway but we could not wait there long as the cars were approaching behind us. A juvenile Eagle was posing in a tree but the branches were partially hiding him and we could not identify what type he was.
A Bull Elephant was striding out through the bush, no doubt on his way back from the river. Our plan was to drive down the S3 initially but, after a brief stop for a Hyena, we spotted a large tusker ahead of us and he was striding purposefully along the road towards us.
I paused, he still kept to the road, I reversed for a bit and he still kept coming. Another car stopped behind me but I knew we would need to reverse again. This continued for some time and, after reversing for at least a kilometre or two, not only had the Ellie continued to keep walking on the road towards us but the traffic jam behind us was also mounting up. We were fairly certain by now that the Elephant was in musth and I began to feel a trifle vulnerable. When you are the only vehicle needing to reverse you feel more confident but with a veritable jam behind us now, they were making me very nervous. When one car decided to pass us all and drive closer to the Elephant, despite us all calling out to the driver that he was in musth, I opted for the safe route and turned around to drive back along the road we had come. Most of the other cars did the same but a few decided to brave it out. Perhaps ‘brave’ is not the right description, ‘foolhardy’ more like and having read about the tragic incident on the Waterhole Road a week or so later, I think I will stick to my decision to give the Elephant precedence!
Before joining the tar road again, we were rewarded with a sighting of a Black-bellied Korhaan. These birds had certainly been one of the stars of our trip this year.
We stopped for coffee at Nyamundwa Dam and were joined by Hippos, Cormorants, Fish Eagles, Pied Kingfisher and Wire-tailed Swallows.
En route to Skukuza we passed Wahlberg’s Eagle,
Giraffe, Tawny Eagle, Zebra,
Wildebeest with a new born calves,
After a quick pit stop at Skukuza and the sighting of a Leaf Insect (a Katydid?),
we were back in the car heading south. For no particular reason we decided to try our luck along the S114 and, for certain, this was an inspired choice today. When we saw the line of cars ahead, we wondered what the spot would be...Leopard. It was hiding in the base of a bush but after some time, it eventually came out of hiding and we were able to get some great photos.
Moving south again we found Dwarf Mongoose,
Kudu and then we parked alongside Mpondo Dam for a while. It is a very peaceful place to sit, even if the wildlife is not about but today we saw Kudu, Waterbuck, White-faced Duck, Egyptian Geese, Green-backed Heron and Fish Eagles. The time was passing quickly and we needed to head west again. A common Duiker greeted us and then, along the H3, a Lioness.
After nearly 4 weeks in Kruger, we finally had a Big 5 day!!
The Klipspringer were awaiting us at the big koppies close to the junction of the H3 and the H1,
then more Zebra and Giraffe.
A quick check at Transport revealed Greater Egret, Grey Heron, White-faced Duck, Blacksmith Plovers, Hippos, Crocodiles, Malachite Kingfisher
and Water Dikkop. Like Lake Panic, it is rare for us not to try our luck at Transport and, even when quiet, it is such a peaceful spot just to sit, look and listen.
At Shitlhave we found Waterbuck, Grey Heron and Egyptian Geese.
During the day we had also enjoyed the company of several Rhino.
Finally, on the way back to Numbi Gate, we were amazed to find another Vine Snake.
We have never seen them on previous trips and this time we had spotted 2. Just shows, you never know what will come looking for you!