Just wanted to give quick feedback on the 2 trails I did last week. The first running from the 25th to the 28th and the second running from the 28th to the 31st of July. It was a great week out, enjoying some fantastic wilderness, exploring new areas, swimming in hot springs, digging for water and tracking game. All in all, an awesome week in the untouched surrounds of the Kruger National Park.
Water is getting scarcer but searching for water is part of the adventure, while animals are also starting to focus on the remaining permanent water points which translates to good sightings.
Mphongolo Trail Report
25.07.2010 – 28.07.2010
We (6 guys from Pretoria, the trails assistant and me) left Shingwedzi Camp on a warm Sunday afternoon, and drove out to Ribye Waterhole, North West of Shingwedzi. After the trail briefing and short wait for our gear (we forgot to take some equipment out of the trailer) we headed immediately south into the Wilderness, later swinging west to Matiovila Hot Spring. It was a quiet afternoon sightings wise, and we found ourselves a great Campsite just after 4pm, under a Canopy of Tamboti Trees. We were greeted by a pair of Giant Eagle Owls who we roosting in the area. The guys setup Camp and immediately headed for the Hot Spring, the warm nutrient rich water too enticing for words. In the evening some of the heavier loads had to be lightened, and the first to go was the liquid refreshments, unfortunately it meant that most of the Camp roared like lions when they got to bed.
The next morning we packed up Camp and headed south via Mafayeni and onto the Phugwane. We found fresh Buffalo tracks on the way which we tracked west, coming across a fantastic herd of almost 150 animals! After-which we continued south to the river stopping at Ndlulamithi Waterhole, which was almost dry and had a rather unique aroma. We collected water and took siesta, before heading west along the river. Just before Boomplaas, we found a permanent water point, with Giraffe, Zebra, Impala, Baboons, Waterbuck, Klipspringer and more Buffalo. We setup Camp and went for a swim as the sun called time on the day. In the evening we sat around the fire discussing the day’s sightings and route ahead. The Full Moon came out and turned night into Day, allowing us to see up and down the river with ease! Overnight, we had 2 hyenas come in close serenading us with their whooping call.
Realising that we had now walked quit far from our pickup we decided to head up river to the Zari and change our collection point. On the way there we a wide variety of general game: Impalas, Baboons, Waterbuck, Kudu, Grysbok, Warthog, and Crocodile. We walked through several extremely beautiful areas, including the fantastic Leadwood forest and past some gigantic Nyala Trees. We also took time to visit the Zari Graves before stopping for lunch at the Zari Waterhole, where a lone Bull Hippo was making his final stand as the water dried up around him.
I decided that instead of waking my colleague earlier that day that I would wait till lunch to make the call and change our collection point. What an error!? The Satellite phone had switched on in my bag somewhere along route (likely on Day 1 already) and had gone completely flat! We couldn’t phone and change the pickup point and were now 12km (straight line distance) from our pickup. We had no choice but to trek back with all our gear to our Campsite just before Boomplaas. Fortunately it wasn’t a long walk, and took us through several open areas where the general game was a plenty. Lesson to be learnt: Be rude, phone before you go!
On our final morning, and knowing we had a long walk out, we decided to wake up that little bit earlier. Everyone was excited to get back, and the talk of cold beers and burgers became everybody’s motivation! We headed North at a good pace, lighter than when we started (though some believed they were fitter as well) making great time in the cool weather. On the way we came across Waterbuck and Impala, and, as if to say good-bye, we heard Elephants trumpeting upstream as we crossed the Mphongolo River just before the pickup point.
Our pickup was on time and although we were tired and slightly dirtier than when we started, all thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
Mphongolo Trail Report
28.07.2010 – 31.07.2010
After a quick shower and a bag re-pack I was ready to go out again. The guests were an unusual bunch, 3 Spaniards (who were very quick to point out they weren’t soccer supporters), and 2 single South Africans. Our drop off would be at the Zari Spruit an hour & fifteen minute drive out of Camp. On the way were lucky enough to see a wide variety of game including Elies, Waterbuck, Impala, Baboons, Hippo, and Nyala. After an uneventful drop off, we did the safety briefing before heading east along the Zari to our Campsite. The area was teaming with activity; we found fresh tracks of a wide variety of game that were travelling up and down the Zari Spruit. On the way we were lucky enough to bump into a female White Rhino and Calf, who we got a great sighting of through the Mopanes. We setup Camp that evening at Zari Waterhole. The night sky was exquisite as the moon only made an appearance just before 9pm. In the evening we were able to spot a Civet foraging under a nearby Jackalberry, and once we were all in bed, a Leopard let us know that this was its area!
The next morning, we headed east without packs, hoping to find the Buffalo herds of the previous trail. We walked the northern bank of the Phugwane passing Boomplaas before climbing a small Koppie to enjoy the view during breakfast. We looped back on the southern bank, searching for the Buffalo herds but without luck. On the way though we came across loads of general game: Impala, Giraffe, Waterbuck, Warthog, Baboons, Grysbok and Bushbuck. After a long morning walk, we got back to Camp just after noon, everyone choosing to get some shut eye during siesta. In the afternoon, we walked south to a local Baobab tree which is home to 2 lovely Leopard Orchids, before returning to Camp for a swim before the sun turned the horizon orange, red and then almost purple. We all sat on a Leadwood stump and watched it go down in silence as the fire burned beautifully alongside us and the day was coming to an end. Words could not describe that moment well enough. Just pure peaceful wilderness!
Just as you start to have fun, nature has a way of letting you know she is in charge. As the afternoon wind died down in the evening, dark clouds slowly moved in from the east and with them they brought rain. Fortunately for us not the torrential downpour type which would require an emergency Camp location change but the irritating drizzle type! I lay in bed contemplating on whether to pack up and move on (like the plan was) or to wait it out, leave Camp as is and go for a walk once it stopped. Once I thought it was abating I got out quickly chatted to everyone, and realised that most wanted to stay in their tents, not move Camp and listen to the drizzle. An hour passed and it looked like the rain was here to stay and since we have nothing else to do, we all decided to go for a walk up stream and see what we could see… and well… in all honesty it wasn’t much. The drizzle seem to irritate the animals just as much as it irritated us, and everyone was lying low. Though, we did find some waterbuck, impala and crocodile on our way to Wik & Weeg Dam. At around noon the sun came out; drying us off and bringing life back to the bush. The birds began to sing and life could go on, nobody worse for ware. In the afternoon, we went for a short relaxed walk north, we decided to do it in complete silence, just to listen, smell and feel the bush around us. I think it is one of the most relaxing things you can do, and it almost makes you want to stay silent for ever! That evening, the stars seems to be slightly better than before and the Civet came round to bid us farewell
The next morning we packed up, and began our journey back to the collection point. Our route took us past our previous days tracks, and less than 100m from our Camp, with our Campsite still within site, we found fresh Lioness spoor from the night before. She came down to drink, watched us for a little while and then moved on. Amazing! On the way out we tracked buffalo, and found where a leopard had chased after a Porcupine. We also found 3 White Rhino grazing next to the Zari, who unfortunately got our scent and ran off rather quickly.
After collection, our drive took us past a breeding herd of Elies, and while watching them a magnificent Sable Bull walked out onto the the management road, looked at us for a little while and then disappeared into the the bush!
It was a great way to finish off the trail!