With this extract of my trip report two happy people just wanted to say thanks for a fantastic sunset drive we could experience on Thursday, 16.02.2012 and a big thanks to all the guides at Lower Sabie and the entire park for their great daily job
As already said I would have preferred the night drive but same was already fully booked and finally wanted to have the famous Martie as guide but obviously she was on duty for the night drive that evening and we had Irving as guide and if I would have known early what we would have seen this guide and drive would have been my option. The drive started sharp at 17.30 and first spot was as already expected by us at Sunset dam where the briefing of how to behave took place and first animals which could be spotted where lots of baboons enthroned on top of the trees along the dam. I would like to call this one “The Sentinel” but nearl tree had its own sentinel.
Then nearly the hell broke loose when a massive elephant bull in musth popped out of the dense bushes presenting his fifth leg and soon the whole road was wet as after a rain shower.
First this poor guy was still not that aggressive but after more and more cars were coming and going he soon made friend with this car.
At Sunset dam we observed the many many hippos
and the sun which was about to set and was sparkling in the water amazingly.
We crossed the Sabie via the causeway where we also stopped for a close hippo which was sleeping very deep and spotted again the ever present Goliath heron. It got darker and darker already and to my great surprise and I hoped that we would drive that route Irving turned into the S29 and as already early that morning the many different raptors in the bushes were back as well as the elephants which surprisingly appeared from everywhere out of nowhere and were standing suddenly behind our truck.
Gladly these chaps we met here where far more relaxed than the huge one at Sunset Dam
and it was also very impressive to watch that they are indeed nearly invisible by night.
Before it was getting pitch dark Irving stopped and we had a short break and were allowed to leave the vehicle and once more we enjoyed it very much to be out in the bush that late and even by foot.
After a 10 minutes break it was dark enough to enlighten the floodlights and whilst we rolling slowly on we soon spotted a lone steenbok and a common duiker and the cream on top only within minutes was another cheetah!!!
which kept nearly hidden in the high grass and also the picture at night is not that good but proofed that we saw definitely a cheetah.
More elephants came across too
a black-backed jackal which was a bit far away and another first for me – my very first scorpion and also a red-roman spider was crisscrossing the road in the floodlight.
We stopped there quite a while and Irving was a very knowledgeable guide who told us a lot about the animals which we spotted and also showed us his passion and enthusiasm for the wild life in general. Gladly for us was also that there had been booked two vehicles for a sunset drive and so both of them were not that full and when allowed we even could move from one side of the truck to the other in order to have a better view.
The S29 ended already but my prayers had been answered as I did not want to return back to camp already and so we turned onto the tar road into the Northern direction but only to stop for our another bird – our never seen bird No. 6 – a spotted eagle owl – and needless to say that we as owl fans were on high spirits.
Irving had indeed a good instinct according the directions of that sunset drive as all of us in the truck and in special Timon & I were more than satisfied already with what we saw so far but that was still not the end of more surprises.
Meanwhile it was pitch dark and Irving stopped and switched the engine off and asked us to be dead quiet for a minute and simply to soak in the moment and I must say that this was one of my deepest memories I brought back home from that sunset drive. The African star firmament was high above, the Muntshe mountain to the right and once more a very nice breeze was blowing and I simply enjoyed the here and now and did not care about anything else and even I was in my beloved African savannah and I could have sat there motionless the whole night– Sigh.
It came what I already thought would be coming Irving turned the truck around and we were now back to camp although slowly and the time was nearly over but the animals did not let us go!
Suddenly there were only the noise of rooting out plants and the culprits were discovered as a hippo mom and her youngster and in the vicinity there were more grey bodies to be seen.
For us it was quite interesting to realize how far they walk away from any water by night and how busy they were in feeding. Although knowing that they do so to seeing now same behaviour with my own eyes was more than fascinating.
We only stopped a couple of meters further and were nearly ran into a huge breeding herd of elephants which all were feeding on the bushes on the roadside but the matriarch did not see any harm in our noisy truck and did now even raise an eyebrow. We were already running late and Irving wanted to show us the two male lions which were hanging around on the tar road quite regularly by night but they did not show up but instead we found another animal which I wanted to see under all circumstance at least once in my life – a porcupine!!!
Unfortunately I was sitting on the wrong side of the truck and the porcupine was simply too fast and already nearly hidden by bushes and grass but a porcupine is a porcupine and normally Irving would have waited a bit longer at that sighting but as already said we were already late and still was maundering about the two male lions but suddenly the lions were forgotten because there was this spotted chap walking slowly in front of our truck
Who can ask for more as cream on top in form of such a wonderful sighting of one of the most beautiful animals in the world??? The male leopard was extreme skittish and soon disappeared in the high grass but as Irving could obviously understand leopardish he soon drove a bit further and even around the next corner and switched once more the engine off and asked us to be totally quite and to switch all flashlights off and only to switch same again on when he is saying so. We waited and voilà same appeared once more on the road and trotted on as if there was nothing else to be down in the world.
Gladly we stayed as long as the leopard was visible and finally it was time to return to camp and with big grins onto our faces we left the vehicle and thanked Irving a lot for a wonderful sunset drive and even returned with half an hour tardiness.
We unfortunately forgot to take a small torch with us when we left the bungalow and so it was a bit tricky to find the way back to our bungalow which was located at the far end of the camp but finally we succeeded and nearly went immediately to bed as we both were extreme exhausted.
The conclusion of such an event for us was that it was again wonderful to be in bush by night but that was far not enough and we are still thinking about doing one of these famous hiking trails in Kruger but then not in February for sure or to camp on a lone campsite somewhere in the Kalahari......