Well, here is the next - and last - episode of a 26 day stay in the Northern KNP.
After all the excitement yesterday, we were not going out today – a relaxing day in camp was the plan. A lot of things needed doing – downloading pics onto the laptop; re-charging camera batteries etc. which explains why we have no pics of Punda’s “Etosha” moment!
It was about 10 – 11 o’clock when we noticed a small herd of Elephant at the waterhole. They drank, sprayed themselves and watched the humans watching them. In order to get a better view, we went to the hide and then the full picture was revealed. Apart from the Elephants, there were Nyalas drinking at one of the smaller pools with Kudu waiting in the background. Another pool was occupied by Zebra whilst Impalas were in the marshy area. Behind them could be seen 3 Marabou Storks standing well back from the water. As we watched a herd of Buffalo appeared and advanced to the water – everything else except the Storks and Elephants – gave way and retreated. The Elephant shook their heads but eventually began a slow retreat forced by sheer numbers to give way. Now we knew why the Storks were standing well away from the water – they must have known that the Buffalo were on their way. The Buffalo overran the smaller pools and headed for the main one but some of them did not seem to be aware that there was a drop from the bank into the water. As they got to the top, they stopped – the ones behind did not. Several Buffalo ended up having involuntary baths! We sat watching this for almost an hour and then returned to our caravan.
This waterhole is magic – you do not see such a concentration of game every day but when it happens, you are entranced. It is, in our opinion, the closest that we have seen in KNP to the legendary waterholes of Etosha.
That evening we sat outside and listened to the night sounds of Punda – a screeching Owl; rustling of something moving in the grass on the other side of the fence; a thump on the caravan roof – hey! A thump? Quickly we went to see if a branch had fallen onto the van but nothing was visible. Eventually we realised that it had probably been a Bush Baby using the roof as an easy means to get somewhere else.
Up early again and at the gate as it opened. Our destination today was Klopperfontein Dam again. We took the S60 and headed into the rising sun………..early morning this road is awkward to drive as it heads due East straight into the sun and any speed above 20kph is not recommended as one cannot see a) the road or b) any animals in or crossing it. We eventually reached Klopperfontein and sat by the dam for a while. No Buffalo; no Elephants; No Zebra; No Impala – just the resident Grey Heron preening itself on top of one of the trees bordering the dam. The water level has lowered even more since our last visit and looks as if it may not hold out until the rains come again. P turned to me and said “There’s nothing happening here – let’s go on to Pafuri”
We got onto the H1-8 and headed north – the odd Buffalo or 3; Zebra at Kremetart Waterhole; a few Elephant scattered here and there; a broken down bakkie at Baobab Hill and an abandoned trailer left on the side of the road a bit further on. The Mopane bush here was still mainly green but the Autumn colours were starting to show.
We turned off the tar and headed towards Pafuri picnic site and Crooks Corner. As it was still early there was no-one at the picnic site so we carried on. Plenty of Impala and Nyala, warthogs dashing across the road and the sounds of Elephants happily destroying the vegetation. We turned off onto one of the river loops – a whoosh! And a shadow above and in front startled us – an African Fish-Eagle had been sitting, on a branch that we had just passed under – we didn’t even see it, it was so well hidden! It settled on a branch ahead of us, P got his camera ready but the bird crawled through the leaves and hid again! Curses, foiled again! On the one river loop we looked down upon a pod of Hippo, one of them was standing on the opposite bank lethargically munching on some grass. Large crocs lined the bank a bit further down, occasionally one would slither into the water and vanish. The river itself had flowing water but, judging by the Hippos, it was shallow.
We came to the junction where buses and caravans are not allowed to go further and have to turn off back to the tar road. There is an open plain/vlei area on the right hand side with the Luvuvhu river, hidden by trees, on the left. We crawled slowly along this road – P was concentrating on a couple of vultures circling overhead intending to get a good flight shot. Vervet monkeys were foraging under the trees and a troop of baboons were making slow progress towards the river. In the distance I spotted more Elephants; a couple of Eland and a herd of Wildebeest all heading towards water. Then something caught my eye – slightly apart from the vervets was another couple of monkeys – no pronounced facial mask and a dark brown pelt not grey – Samango monkeys! I did a U-turn and we started looking for them so that P could get a pic ………… they had more or less vanished into the undergrowth and all P got was – another good pic of the bush! (We later described these to Frank at Pafuri and he confirmed that they were indeed Samango monkeys!) We got to Crooks Corner to discover that our neighbours from Punda were already there! We parked and got out to stretch our legs. The Limpopo itself is dry here, the only water being that which is coming from the Luvuvhu – a thin stream on the South African side that winds down towards Moçambiq ue. On the sand banks bordering that stream were White-crowned Plover; Hadeda Ibis and yet another Grey Heron! We could hear 2 Fish-Eagles calling – a duet that fitted in perfectly with the surroundings. Then a strange chuk chuk noise from the bush behind the Notice board drew my attention – I peered into the thick undergrowth and suddenly they came into view – a flock of Crested Guineafowl! All four of us watched them as they foraged and moved deeper into the bush. Yes, P did take a couple of pics but – they were so deep in that one cannot see them in the gloom of the undergrowth.
We left our neighbours and headed back towards Pafuri. On the way, we came across what could have been a giant ant hill or maybe an overgrown tree trunk that had been deposited there by the 2000 floods. Upon this mound, Impala ewes were playing “King of the Castle”
We arrived back at Punda at lunch time, highly satisfied with what we had seen although P was still searching for more photo opportunities.
Late that afternoon, we were standing discussing the Pafuri area with our neighbours when a strange car drew up. A SANParks official stepped out and we all recognised him – Rodgers from Tsendze! He was on his way home for leave and had promised our neighbours that he would see them in Punda. He was very surprised to see us and also to have seen yet another couple who would be in Tsendze when he returned to work. After a short chat, he got back into his car and left – homeward bound! Now, that’s what we call - going beyond the call of duty! It also makes for return visits to Tsendze…………
We went absolutely nowhere on these days – as we were leaving for home on the 26th some cleaning and packing was needed. Punda’s waterhole again provided enough action to distract us from those mundane tasks. Elephants, Buffalo, Impalas, Nyalas and Kudus and a “nervous” troop of baboons that were now drinking water and foraging as far away from the Impalas as they could get! The Marabou Storks were there every morning standing mournfully on the bank gazing into the water for hours on end.
It was with a heavy heart that we packed up – we had contemplated staying another couple of weeks but moving down to Tsendze. However, we had friends coming to stay with us on their way through to Punda on 3 June and would need the caravan as an extra bedroom – so had to, very regretfully, scrap that idea! Oh, but the temptation was great……………….
We left Punda at 6 am on the 26th and despite stopping to “shop” at the roadside hawkers in Elim, were home before lunch already planning our next visit to the magic North.