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Impisi08's KNP trip : May 14th - June 5th 2006

Tell us about your breathtaking experiences in the parks
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Impisi08's KNP trip : May 14th - June 5th 2006

Unread post by Impisi08 » Sun Jun 11, 2006 10:21 am

I spent the 3 weeks at the following camps:

Letaba (1 night), Punda Maria (2), Shingwedzi (2), Mopani (1), Maroela (2), Pretoriuskop (1), Berg en Dal (3), Lower Sabie (2), Balule (4), Satara (3) and Letaba (1).

Although I could hear them almost every morning, it took me 20 days to see my first lions! I still can not believe it. And yes, I started every morning at six. Sometimes I was close: "a pride of lions with cubs crossed the road 1 kilometer from here" or "at the junction, go right and follow the road for 3,3 kilometer. You will find 2 male lions lying next to the road". Fortunately there is much more to see than lions. (I am not going to mention every impala, bird etc.)

Part 1: Letaba - Punda Maria - Shingwedzi - Mopani

I flew from Johannesburg to Phalaborwa. The airport at Phalaborwa is very nice and only 5 minutes from the Phalaborwa gate. My first mammal in the park was an elephant.

It started very good with 2 wild dogs on the way from Punda to Pafari (close to the S60 - S 61 junction). They were walking on the road, stopped, listened to something, jumped in the bush and were gone in a second because of the high grass. Other people had seen a pack of 6 wild dogs in this area so I assume they were looking for the rest of the pack.

I really like Pafuri with all those trees, birds, baboons, vervet monkeys, kudu, waterbuck, impala's and nyala's. I also saw a herd of buffalo's and African fish eagle. According to the sightings book at Punda there were 6 cheetahs in the Pafuri area but I did not see them. In fact I did not see cheetah during the whole trip.

A big shock when I came back at Punda. An "African Jumbo Camper Overland Truck" and an Elwierda touringcar were parked next to my tent and people were erecting their tents. Fortunately it was a group of Dutch people so, of course, they behaved very well and didn't make too much noise.

I spent another morning at Pafuri before going to Shingwedzi. On my way down I found a crested francolin on the road that was hit by a car and still alive. While I was considering my options, kill it yes/no, it died.

When I arrived at Shingwedzi I saw another car with a yellow ribbon and had a nice talk with Katja who was on here way to Punda. Katja is the only forumite I met during my 3 weeks in Kruger. Two weeks later, near Satara, I met a friendly couple from Johannesburg who, when they saw my yellow ribbon, told me they had talked to Katja. Spent the rest of the afternoon watching the antics of baboons and male impala's. Also saw some bull elephants and watched the sunset from the Shingwedzi bridge.

The next day I did the Red Rocks drive (S 52). Not too much wildlife. Besides impala and zebra I saw a Sharpe's Grysbok. You're allowed to walk around at the Tshanga look-out point. The rocks are surrounded by high grass. I was the only person. It makes you very alert to all the sounds and movements.

An elephant was shot at Babalala because it was too agressive and terrorising the picnic-spot.

At dinner I met Tony Roocroft. He has a very interesting website about Kruger (

May 19th

Went to Mopani via the S 52 and the Old Main road (S 144). Saw a beautiful giraffe, elephants, impala, zebra, kori bustard and watched the early morning grooming session of a family tree squirrels. Also had a good look at the armoured ground crickets. A lot of them are killed when they cross the road. Others feed on the dead ones and consequently get also killed sooner or later.

Had a bungalow with a view over the dam. In the afternoon I did some drives around Mopani (S 49 - S 50) hoping to see one of the rare antilopes. No luck.

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Unread post by Impisi08 » Sun Jun 11, 2006 12:59 pm

Thanks for your comments.

Jockelina, I am writing this between all the World Cup soccer games and a war with ants that keep invading my house. I am afraid you have to wait till tomorrow for part 3. :D

Hi Katja, you will find a detailed report on under "articles and incidents" about the elephant.

Part 2: Maroela - Pretoriuskop - Berg en Dal - Lower Sabie - 1 st day Balule

A whole group of vultures (lappedfaced -, whiteheaded - but mostly whitebacked vultures) on the banks of the Sand river (H 1-2 between the turn offs for the Maroela loop). I do remember seeing vultures at the same spot in February.

Lots of impala, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and warthog near Maroela. I see my first black-backed jackal. In my opinion and experience Maroela is the best place to see black-backed jackals. Also lots of crowned plovers, five ground hornbills and a saddle billed stork.

May 22nd

Black-backed jackal day! I see four of them in the morning and one in the evening near Pretoriuskop. One catches a mouse or a rat.

At Tshokwane a vervet monkey steals a muffin from two ladies.

Somebody had told me that there was a wild dog den near the Stevenson - Hamilton memorial tablet. I can not find it. But I do see a klipspringer.

May 23 rd

Watched the sunrise from Shabeni (S 10). While watching two klipspringers a safari guide tells me about two male lions "next to the road, 3 point 3 kilometer from the junction". I don't see them. Later I see a breeding herd of elephants on the Fayi loop.

My first sable in Kruger! A herd of at least 8 crosses the Voortrekkersroad.

It must be my lucky day: elephants, buffalo and five white rhino's together (Crocodile River road) and two other white rhino's going up to Berg en Dal (S 110).

May 25 th

Elephants, lots of giraffe, white rhino (3), Ground Hornbill and a puffadder.

I stop for a sunset picture somewhere between the turn off to the Crocodile River road and the tar road to Berg en Dal (S 110) and I suddenly see a leopard with a dead guineafowl in my mirror. I can almost touch it when it passes my car. The leopard keeps walking on the road and I am afraid I will not make it in time. I arrive in Berg en Dal at 5.29 pm.

May 26 th

Just before Afsaal a herd of impala is very alert and snorting alarm. One impala is lying down and acting very strange. It looks likes it has a problem with breathing and when it tries to stand up it tolls around like a drunk and falls again. The whole herd is looking at this impala and some come closer to see what's going on. My guess is that the impala was bitten by a snake. In the background a white rhino is sleeping.

In Skukuza I visit the Stevenson - Hamilton Memorial library. Still the same pictures as last year. And the year before.

I see a beautiful kudu bull on the S 28. Later lots of baboons at Sunset dam.

May 27 th

A beautiful sunrise with a lot of mist over the river. At one point it is zero degrees Celsius. I follow the S 28 to Crocodile river. It is a bit quiet with wildlife but not with cars. On the S 25, before the turn off to Hippo pools, there is small pool. I arrive in time to see five waterbuck. While watching the waterbuck I see a white rhino with calf approaching.

May 28th

I follow the H 10 to Tshokwane. I do see two reedbuck, elephant, zebra, vervet monkey and kudu. I stop at Nkumbe but the visibility is not good because of bush fires. The lookout point is covered with cigarette butts. :evil: :evil: :evil:

Just after leaving Nkumbe I think I see a piece of wood (appr. 1,5 meter and 20 centimeters high) sticking out of the bush (I am looking into the sun). When I swing around it I realise it is a python. That must have been a monster. I wish I had seen that one.

Around Tshokwane the world is black and white because of the smoke. While watching a warthog a car stops and the people tell me a pride of lion with cubs crossed the road one kilometer down the road. Too late.

A very relaxed elephant bull is feeding next to the road.

A few kilometers before Satara I see a yellowbilled hornbill trying to eat a scorpion.

After the lunch I drive to Balule. While erecting my tent a spotted hyena walks by. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the hyena den one kilometer south of Balule. Two of the three cubs are wrestling, chasing each other and playing with sticks, the other one is nursing. When another adult arrives they show the greeting ceremony. What a fantastic animal. (In the May issue of Africa Geographic there is a very interesting article about spotted hyena's.)

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Unread post by Impisi08 » Sun Jun 11, 2006 2:58 pm

Hallo Kathydownunder. I get my films back later this week. And then I must edit and scan them. It will take a while.

Part 3: Balule

May 29 th

I start with the spotted hyena's. After a while the adults hear something and suddenly ran away with the tails in the air. The cubs disappear in the den.

I go to the low water bridge and try to take pictures of the monitor lizards. Because I have to move every time for other cars I think I cross the bridge 9 times this morning.

I buy some stamps at Olifants. I must pay 6 rand for a stamp. At the Skukuza post office the price was 38 rand for 10 stamps (!). (The cover price for the Africa Geographic is 34,95 rand. I paid 49,95 rand at Satara. Oeps.)

The hyena's are not at the den this afternoon. I do the S 90 to Bangu but it is slow besides a few giraffe, zebra and impala. I watch the sunset from the low water bridge and wonder why another car further on the bridge is not moving. When I approach I see an elephant feeding next to the bridge.

May 30

I watch the sunrise from the low water bridge. The hyena's are not visible so I continue on the S 90 and then, just before the turn off to the S 89, I see the head of a leopard. It is stalking two male impala's. The impala's sense something is wrong and disappear. A couple in a higher car arrive and I tell them I saw a leopard. They scan the area with binoculars and they see the leopard too. Later the woman shows me a nice picture on her digital camera.

I decide to do the S 44. After 6 kilometers or so you cross a small stream. I stop for a scenic picture and see small heads above the water. Terrapins (I think). I spent an hour or so trying to take some pictures when they approach. They are really curious and come by one by one. Funny enough it is hard to keep them in focus when they are swimming towards you and diving. Even with the Al Servo function on my camera.

I spent the afternoon with the hyena's. Most of the time I am there by myself because there are not too many people in the area and some people are simply not interested. Fortunately these hyena's don't have the habit of biting in your car or tyre. I really enjoy watching the youngsters.

In the evening I want to take a long exposure picture of the stars. After 50 minutes I must stop because it is getting cloudy.

May 31 st

I hope your not getting bored but I start with the hyena's again. After that I went to the S 44 and see 4 black-backed jackals together. On the other side of the Olifants river a breeding herd of elephants is drinking. I count 17 elephants. One gives a clear warning to a crocodile.

I stay at the small stream and suddenly there is a malachite kingfisher. And it is not a shy one. At one time it sits on a rock next to my car.

In the afternoon I go to the Bangu waterhole. Going back an elephant is walking on the road and starts drinking at the Hlahleni stream that you cross on the S 90. I wait and see another elephant approaching from behind. Again that funny feeling in my stomach. While I move my car to the far side of the road the first elephant steps off the road and I can pass. Thank you. My last afternoon with the hyena's. The youngsters really put on a show.

At six I press the shutter for a 5 1/2 hour exposure of the stars. I don't know what it will look like. Just playing a bit.

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Unread post by Impisi08 » Sun Jun 11, 2006 9:15 pm

Part 4: Satara - Letaba

June 1 st

The end of my stay at Balule. I take the S 39 and the S 40 to Satara and I see the following mammals: zebra, impala, hippo, buffalo, wildebeest, white rhino, baboon, vervet monkey, grey duiker, slender mongoose, elephant, tree squirrel, warthog and black-backed jackal. I also met Katja's neighbours from Olifants.

In the afternoon I go to the Sweni hide via the H 6. I see Egyptian goose, jacana's, a grey heron, kudu, crocodile and terrapins.

June 2 nd

Compared to others years in the same period it is very busy at Satara. (I have been told that it was a special discount period for seniors.) That is reflected on the S 100. Most of the time I am part of a convoy of 7 cars. Then my first lions of the trip. A lion and 4 lionesses walking on the road. To be honest, most of the time I am looking at the backside of two Toyota's. Sometimes I see the male. Unless you're the leading dog the scenery will never change!

I continue to the Sweni hide via the Gudzani road. When I leave the hide a male baboon is sitting on a car.

When I arrive at Satara an open safari vehicle leaves the camp. The passenger is holding a snake stick (?) outside the car with a puff adder.

At Satara I have a chicken burger with chips for lunch and must pay 7 rand more than the week before.

I find the S 100 to busy and do the "Sweni drive" (S 126) in the afternoon. Just after crossing the second bridge south from Satara I see 2 lionesses. It is two o'clock and almost 30 degrees. Don't they know they're suppose to hide and sleep?

Only 3 cars at the S 126. Amazing. I see impala, an elephant, giraffe and a herd of buffalo. I really like the late afternoon light at the S 126. Somehow it looks more red to me than at other places.

June 3 rd

I follow the tar road in the northen direction. In the distance a lioness with two cubs.

On the S 89 I take some pictures of a redcrested korhaan. It allows me to reposition the car and I can take some close-ups.

On the way back to Satara I stop at the main bridge over the Olifants river. A car stops and the driver is very excited: "A leopard, porcupine, 10 minutes, 10 kilometer from here". But I find nothing after 10 kilometers. Not even after 12 or 15 kilometer. Was he pulling my leg? Then some cars and I see a dead leopard and his body is full with porcupine quills. This must have been a fight. (I don't know if the porcupine survived.)

Later I see a lioness. She is looking at a herd of buffalo. After a while she disappears in the high grass.

A few kilometers for Satara a puff adder is lying on the tar road.

June 4th

I am curious what happened to the leopard during the night. It is still there but in another position than yesterday. When I arrive a woman is outside her car and touching the leopard.

I go back to Satara and this time the lioness is stalking a herd of zebra. Very far away so I continue. Suddenly I see two zebra's running and they cross the road in front of my car. They look very excited and the reason is a spotted hyena that is chasing them. But he is no match for the zebra's.

In the afternoon I drive to Letaba. The dead leopard is gone.

June 5th

A short drive to Middelvlei and back. Hippo, impala, waterbuck and very far away four Tsessebe.

At the cafetaria I make some of the waiters happy with the rice from my beanbag and then I leave for Phalaborwa.

I am thinking about going back in February. But first in August/September back to the most beautiful place in the world: Denali National Park in Alaska!

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Unread post by Impisi08 » Wed Jun 14, 2006 7:03 pm



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Unread post by Impisi08 » Wed Jun 14, 2006 7:05 pm



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Unread post by Impisi08 » Thu Jun 15, 2006 4:53 pm

Thank you for your comments.


I think it is a Leonotis.


Sunrise over the Sabie river


Wildebeest at Maroela


Impala and redbilled oxpecker at Crocodile River road (S 25)

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Unread post by Impisi08 » Thu Jun 15, 2006 9:00 pm

Hi Greamy,

I don't know. I just looked at those two slides and what I see on my screen is almost exactly as it is on the slide.

I use the Canon EOS 3 with Fuji Velvia 50 and (sometimes) Fuji Provia 100 slide film (except for the 3 rolls Kodak film I had to buy at Olifants for the last day).

I have not used a filter.

I scan the slides (did a bad job framing the Leonotis :redface: ) and I only correct the shadow/highlight or the saturation after scanning to bring it back to the original photo.

Most of my pictures are taken before 9 am or after 3.30 pm when the light is warm. Sometimes this has an effect on the final picture.

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