I was happily parked on a chair on the lawn watching the river bed, identifying and snapping the birds…for a while. Then I started getting the itch to go out again….Finally at 5pm my eldest son agreed to go on a quick evening drive with me – 30 minutes out, 30 minutes back.
It was fairly hard going again – we did see our first duiker (although they proved to be very difficult to photograph) and the view from the lookout / get out point was fantasy Africa – although I couldn’t see quite why it was safe to get out in this particular spot.
We passed the 30 minute mark….and I decided that we had spent five minutes at the lookout so we could risk another 5 minutes before turning back.
Exactly on the five minute mark, a car approached the other way, flagging us down. “Lions in the river bed exactly 2km further on, stop just past the rhino midden.” This was a decision – how much had we dawdled on the way out? I had tried to get several duiker photos, there was the lookout, we stopped for a couple of giraffe for a while. Long story short – we carried on.
The lions were where our informants said they were – we could see four lionesses lying in the sand. I haven’t posted the photos – it was almost completely dark and they were screened by the bushes.
By now it was 40 minutes since we had left Biyamiti, and we had 20 minutes to get back. So we had our second “don’t speed but don’t stop for anything” drive in three days – self inflicted again. We did eventually get within sight of the next–to-last car, and held distance. Setting aside the danger to the animals, the road to Biyamiti is not one you would want to speed down….
The red dot is from the brake lights of the car in front.
We most have dawdled more than I had thought on the way out, because we made it just about in time.
We had a lovely braai on the lawn that night, and sitting on the terrace, we all agreed we were coming back next year. I loved the way that you could look along the river bank in the dark and see the orange dots from the fire in front of each house.
While I’m on fires, special mention has to go to the wood that I had bought in Lower Sabie on our first night – it was rock hard and seemed to be completely indestructible
. That night I was up half the night trying to get enough heat to cook with – the whole of the rest of the camp had gone to bed, by the time we ate. I bought some charcoal next night, and at Crocodile Bridge we bought some burnable wood.
But our Sabie wood became an obsession – I was determined to burn it all, so once we had a fire going each night, I would chuck a couple of Sabie logs on – and like as not one of them would only be half burned next morning. I ceremonially burned the last log in the fire place at Crystal Springs, over two weeks after I had started trying to burn it all.
As usual we were out at first light next morning – although it took us a while to realise that we could open the gate for ourselves. I do love being able to self drive, and it’s amazing how simple things – like being able to let yourself out of the camp – are so enjoyable. We saw the usual collection of kudu, impala, duiker and giraffe that morning – there are an incredible number of giraffe all over the park. The children took a liking to an elderly looking giraffe that we saw each time near the camp, that they nicknamed knobbly knees – he didn’t look well and I found out later that it would have been bovine TB
When we returned, we finally found something that could keep me in a camp and out of the car - a large breeding herd of elephants right outside the cottage,
They started opposite the hide, and then made their way to the bottom of our garden, feeding in the river bed. Again I have looked at my photos, and the most I have in one shot is 34. They hung around most of the afternoon – we also had visits from kudu and impala.
That evening was our sunset drive. My younger son wasn’t old enough, so my wife stayed back and I only had one child as company. It turned out that there was only one other person on the drive that night, so the three of us set off with our guide.
The first thing that we saw was our first large herd of buffalo coming down to the river to drink. A white rhino was already at the pool with its calf, and the buffalo completely surrounded them. Mother rhino started getting upset, and the buffalo gave them some room, but they were trapped against the bank, probably till the herd moved on.
The second picture is a blow up of the centre of the image – you can see the rhino have a semi-circle of “personal space”.
As it got dark the wind really picked up and we were glad of the spare blankets – my son made himself a cocoon out of them. Unfortunately the animals obviously decided that they didn’t like the wind either, apart from a few scrub hares and the inevitable impala. However our incompetence with the spotlight didn’t help either. Easily 90% of the spotlight sightings were from the lady on the other side of the truck.
After about half an hour with very few sightings, our guide said “I was hoping to see some cheetah – this road is good for cheetah”. Which, unfortunately was exactly what I had said just before our viewing drought on the S28 / S25 on the way to Biyamiti. From then on, whenever things were slow, the kids would chorus “Looks like this area is good for cheetah” – whatever the terrain at the time.
As we headed back, we had seen duiker eating windfall fruit, bushbabies, scrub hares, a very nice genet, giraffe, impala, a white faced scops owl and a pair of skittish hyena.
Right at the end, almost back at Biyamiti, on our side of the truck (although our guide saw it before me), we saw…..a white tailed mongoose! Well, I mostly saw the white tail of a white tailed mongoose
When we got back to Biyamiti, we found that the other two had had quite an evening. The power had gone off shortly after it had got dark, and the powerful macho rechargeable spotlight that I had brought over from the UK must have been more delicate than it looked because it was broken.
I had unthinkingly picked up my bag for the drive, which had the spare torches, so all that they had had between them was one of the kid’s headlights. The elephants were making a racket and the cottage didn’t actually have a proper door – just a screen door. So they were in the back bedroom in the dark with a single weak torch and with the door shut
We packed the car and prepared for an early start - we had to drive to Satara in the morning.