At January 4th, we left Pretoriuskop very early. We followed to the north by the Mestel Dam Road (S7), planning to visit the first water reservoir in the Kruger, Mestel Dam. It was raining, what made even more exciting the beginning of the morning, while we followed through the gravel road (excellent quality, if you stay in the tar roads, you will miss much). We saw two African Elephants (Loxodonta africana
), stealthy, amidst the vegetation, which we did not manage to photograph, in fact not even see very well. But, next, we were pleased by the vision of three African Buffalos (Syncerus caffer
, love this scientific name!). We photographed one of them (see below), hiding in the vegetation, a truly 'black face ox" (a Brazilian lullaby, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lullaby#Brazil
). The day started very well, with two marvellous sightings, of two beautiful and powerful animal species.
In Mestel Dam, we saw a group of hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius
) at a distance. It was the first of many sightings of hippos, animals with an outstanding biology, almost always found in the water during the day, where they protect themselves from solar radiation. In Albasini Road (S3), we saw 2 Impalas, more 15 Dwarf Mongooses and 3 female Kudus (Tragephalus strepsiceros
After visiting Mestel Dam, we returned to Pretoriuskop, soon after seven o'clock, to have breakfast, going down the Mestel Road Dam (S7) and Napi Road (H1-1), where we saw a Lilac-Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus
) with an insect in the beak. Breakfast was great to get back on the road!
After breakfast, we stayed for a while in the Pretoriuskop camp, having fun with the animals that stay inside it, in this case, Impalas and Vervet Monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus
, previously Cercopithecus aethiops
). There were many young Impalas, which were not only very cute, but also exhibited a lot of body postures, probably communicating something we did not understand well (alert?). As to the Vervets, besides having newborns, being very pretty, have body parts (such as parts of the genitals) of an impossible blue color, bring the additional emotion of being one of the primates with the most well-known communication systems, after the studies by Seyfart and Cheney (see, e.g., http://www.sciencemag.org/content/210/4471/801.short
To go on with the day, we went down Voortrekker Road (H2-2), going from Pretoriuskop to the Afsaal picnic camp. This road is in itself incredible, with all its history. Don't miss it! It was named after Voortrekker Louis Trichardt, whose son, Carolus Trichardt, was commissioned in 1849 by the Transvaal Government to open up a regular route between the northern interior and Delagoa Bay, today Maputo Bay, in Mozambique. João Albasini’s caravans were the main users of the road. He was a slave trader and elephant hunter who came to Lourenço Marques, current Maputo, in 1813. The remains of his trading post can be seen in the Kruger, nearby Phabeni Gate. Also, the little terrier Jock of the Bushveld (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jock_of_the_Bushveld
), whose story was was written by his master, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, was born in this road.
Here is a view of the road.
It was down this road that we began to get a clearer idea of the dimension of being in the Kruger for 14 days. The list of animals seen in the Voortrekker Road when going to Afsaal is extensive: Impalas (Aepyceros melampus
1 female Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros
), 1 Cape Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia capicola
), 4 African elephants (Loxodonta Africana
), 1 African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus
), 1 Lilac-Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus
). many swallows flying together, 1 European Roller (Coracias garrulus
1 Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus
), 1 Dark-chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates
), 1 Speke's hinged tortoise (Kinixys spekii
), 3 Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus
), and 2 Helmeted Guineafowls (Numida meleagris
A quite emotional moment was the first encounter with elephants in a less furtive way. Soon after a curve in the Vortrekker Road, we found 4 african elephants at a distance. These are animals whose grandiosity can only be truly perceived when you are close to them, not too close since, as it is said in the security norms given at the entrance of the park, they are one of the only animals that can harm you inside your car. Well, they can crash your car with minor effort, if they wish. It is never too much to remember that elephants are animals living in complex societies, posses sophisticated communication systems, using infra-sounds, perform death rituals, rolling the bones of dead matriarchs, and, at least in the case of indian elephants, pass the mirror test, which provides a hint - even if indirect - of self-consciousness (see Moss, C. J. et al. 2011. The Amboseli Elephants: A Long-Term Perspective on a Long-Lived Mammal. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Plotnik, J. M. et al. 2006. Self-recognition in an Asian Elephant. PNAS 103: 17053-7)). To our knowledge, tests were not being done with african elephants. From the scientific point of view, thus, we cannot say they are self-conscious. But we do believe they are.
In Voortrekker we had the first of our many European Rollers, so much that, by the end of the trip, Pedro refused to stop when I wanted to take one more picture of them... This is the only bird in its family that breeds in Europe. They are seen in the Kruger only in the summer. They have a large global population, with a broad geographic distribution, in Europe the population is currently in decline. In the Kruger, when we were there, they were very abundant.
This Bushbuck was well-disguised in the vegetation, but it didn't escape our eyes... Notice the big ears... To listen well is essential in the savannah...
In the Voortrekker Road, we also had the good fortune of seeing the only Dark-Chanting Goshawk during our period in the Kruger. Look at this beautiful bird of prey! The name comes from its breeding season song, which consists of chanted flutes and whistles. Unfortunately, we did not have the luck of listening to it.
A beautiful sighting in the Voortrekker Road was this Speke's Hinged Tortoise.
I will finish here now and soon get back to the report from Afsaal at January 4th 2011.
1 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
2 June 2013 - Kieliekrankie
3-4 June 2013 - Kalahari Tented Camp
5 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
6-8 June 2013 - Nossob
9 June 2013 - Gharagab
10 June 2013 - Grootkolk
11 June 2013 - Nossb
12 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren