Day 14. Friday, 31st August
At this time of the year and in these dry conditions it is a good tactic to merely travel up the Sabie River road (H4-1). Certainly all the game is heavily concentrated along the river. About six cars travel ahead of us as we leave camp at 6am and we set off up the road.
The leading cars sail blissfully past a really beautiful pride of lions which however do not escape David’s eagle eye.
Lions in particular with their tawny coats lend themselves to the first rays of the rising sun – something that photographers are so keen to capture.
Turning the vehicle quickly, I am very pleased to catch a male lion in this perfect light. But the cars build up quickly and the lions move off and so does everyone else.
David’s razor sharp eyes pick out first a Pied Acacia Barbet and then a Barred Owl but this exquisite little bird flies off before I can photograph him.
The Lower Sabie river road is an absolute picture in the early morning – the great trees, the tranquil river and the many birds and animals, all bathed in that soft light so peculiar to that time of the day.
Traffic aside, it must be one of the outstanding roads in the Park.
We pass constant sources of interest and all agree that we have never seen so many of the majestic kudu as we have on this trip.
At Nkuhlu picnic spot, we have a quick breakfast before wandering back to camp.
David brilliantly picks out a Verreaux’s Owl (Giant Eagle) in thick foliage up a tree.
An immature Dark Chanting Goshawk
A Km before Lullaby a lioness at the side of the road is casting a beady eye on a herd of impala milling about below at the water’s edge. Suddenly she takes off down the bank but the impala see her coming and scatter. They regroup and then in flight come leaping past us in panic some skidding on the tar. The lioness stands nonplussed in the reeds before disappearing.
Just before Sunset Dam another lioness crouches at the side of the road and amazingly a buffalo is lying quite peacefully some 20m away. She strolls down towards him and he scrambles to his feet to fend her off but the lioness does not press home her attack. I think that both realise that without help from the rest of the pride, particularly the big males, then any action on her part will be futile. I think that these lions must be getting hungry and I anticipate a buffalo kill within a day or so.
Back to camp after an action packed morning.
I shoot off at midday to see how the lions are getting along but they are sprawled out in the shade – such a typical pose for midday lions. The light is now harsh, it is hot and most unpleasant and I cannot imagine spending a full day cramped within a car. I am happy with our tactics – out first thing in the early morning, back to camp after four hours and then out for the last three hours of the afternoon.
This evening is to be our last with Dave, Steph and the children as they head back for Jo’burg early in the morning. I just cannot believe how well behave the little ones are and how keen aged 3 Callum is. This bushveld is etching itself deep into his makeup. We creep up and down the Sabie road again with interest all the way but little out of the ordinary.