Sunday, 19th November DAY 5

Usually we travel on to Satara after Skukuza so with the caravan, we never seem to do the route to Tshokwane any justice. Today we are going to follow this road now at leisure.

We are at the gate at 4.25am and typically of Skukuza, we are first there. By the time that we leave only two cars follow. As is our way, we travel quickly in the half-light stopping for coffee on the Sand River. Thereafter we dawdle along this most beautiful of roads ((H1-2). Unusual for this time of year, mist lies in the stream beds, golden in the rising sun. The trees, granite koppies and the beautiful veld make for an exquisite panorama. Just before we reach Leeupan, the first car passes. Leeupan is empty of course but the earth is damp with the vegetation grazed flat. When the rains do come this should be quite a sight with sheets of open water.

We decide to head back towards Skukuza. At the intersection we come across two Levaillant’s Cuckoos (previously Striped Cuckoos). Again, I think why change a perfectly logical name to something so complicated. Almost as bad as changing the lovely name “Dikkop” to “Thick-knees”.

I have only photographed this bird once before so I spend some happy moments getting some good pics in the rising sunshine. This particular photo is of the male feeding the female with a love gift to fire her up. Rather like taking your chick out for dinner.

With the sun now behind us we enjoy Kruger at its best – just this great vista stretching out into the distance. It is not all about the animals – it is the spectacular beauty of the African bushveld.

There are birds of interest all along the way and at one stage we see a Side-striped Jackal – something that for some reason we see now quite regularly.

It is warm and sunny and back at camp we enjoy our daily therapeutic swim and exercise. I must mention that malaria, for the first time I can remember, has become a real problem in southern Kruger. At home I know of two visitors who have actually died and some are critically ill. The cleaner in camp tells us that Paul Kruger gate area is particularly bad we two of his acquaintances dying this week. We don’t fancy taking medication so are plying ourselves with Tabard and ‘Peaceful Sleep’ and hoping for the best.

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

We had new neighbours in the campsite on Thursday. In five years of caravanning I have never seen black folk camping so this is a first. After a rather boisterous first night, they settled to behaving impeccably. In fact they are a perfectly decent family who tell us that they are “passionate” about the park and make regular visits. Their next is ten days in Lower Sabie next June. It really is uplifting to have met them.

Storm clouds gather in the afternoon as we head for Doispan (S1) and then cut down towards the Sabie River (S4) and Paul Kruger Gate.

Cardinal Woodpecker

As is quite common now, we come across a pair of the so impressive African Hawk-eagles which give me the run around denying me a good photo.

Levaillant’s Cuckoo

Not far further on we come across a group of five Levaillant’s Cuckoos which is rather surprising. Again, the afternoon is magnificent both weatherwise and scenically. Thank goodness that Kruger seems to have got over their phobia of burning everything each year.

Today we saw not one leopard, no lion, cheetah, rhino or ellies. But it has been one of the most pleasant that I have enjoyed in the park. There is constant birding interest and little things that just leave no place for boredom. Again, I cannot wait for tomorrow.