The wind has abated and the sky is fairly clear as we leave camp at 6am. Our petrol is low so we decide to go up the Sabie River road (H4-1) for breakfast at the Nkuhlu picnic spot. We follow a couple of cars up what, without a doubt, must be the most productive road in the Park whose great beauty is spoilt by its heavy traffic.
We dawdle over our coffee whilst perched on the Lubyelubye (Lullaby) bridge and the road is quiet with few other cars about. We then proceed 1/2Km around the corner and, noting some Hooded Vultures on a tree to the right, I take a little loop off the road to show young Callum. But Mary who is in the front passenger seat has other ideas. “Leopard” she splutters spraying out rusk crumbs, “Leopard”.
Sure enough only 3m from her window lies a large male tom with bulging stomach. This encounter always comes with a bit of unreality – one moment nothing and the next gazing at point blank range into the face of a magnificent leopard.
Our man is lying under a low sausage tree and is not at all at ease as he turns to look back across the tarred road. And with good reason as a series of loud lion roars can be heard close by.
The leopard gets up, crosses right in front of us and then retreats down the bank into the trees and bush. We try and follow him by getting back on the tar but as we are turning back, Steph spies a large male lion splashing through the river water below. We try and anticipate where he will cross the road but after a while move back to the leopard’s marula tree. Just at that moment this enormous lion hoists himself up the trunk, then precariously climbs out along a low branch where he seizes the remains of an impala which we hadn’t noticed.
From this photo one can make out the bulky form of an enormous male lion.
This now explains the leopard’s bulging waistline. After some very ungainly movements along the branch the lion finds it more difficult climbing down than up the tree. He ends up taking a wild jump out of the tree and then quickly makes his way down the bank towards the Lullaby rocks with the impala scraps in his mouth.
We next arrive back on the tar just as two great male lions cross and after surveying the riverbed, come right past us as they follow their companion with the impala. All the while young Callum remains silent and goggle-eyed at the window taking in this tremendous spectacle – and so do we all and we saw it virtually by ourselves. Back on the tar another car tells us that the leopard has just crossed and that he has disappeared into the bush where he will spend some time digesting his meal. And that, dear folks, spectacularly brings up the 200th leopard that I have ever seen in Kruger – and Mary fittingly spotted it.
We drive back to the Lullaby rocks and find two of the lions wandering about before they lie on some rocks together with two lionesses. And thus ends a most special sighting that Kruger is so adept at producing. My only regret was that I could not photograph as I had wished as everything happened on the other side of the vehicle, a bush was in the way or I had to take through the distorting windscreen. We abort our Nkuhlu plans and after circling the Nwatimhiri causeway return back to camp after a most successful morning.
The afternoon south wind is cool but the sun is shining as we cross the Sabie for our afternoon drive out to Mlodozi Dam.
The joys of grandparenting.
Fortunately, there is no sign of veld burning (yet) as we drive up the main road (H10). These grassland roads are always interesting with a myriad of birds, zebra, giraffe, ellies, impala, a secretarybird, a distant eagle (?) lining the route.
We find Mlondozi Dam bone dry which is surprising as there was a storm in this area in May with a heavy downpour. We have coffee at the lookout point and Mary has a tough time freeing a Mocking Cliff-chat that has become trapped inside the parked Quantum.
With the sun setting we set off for camp and come across this very impressive Kori Bustard beautifully lit up by golden rays.
And so ends another great day in Kruger.
I am a person who feels bored very quickly but I can say that in this paradise I have never once suffered a moment from this. Something special and unexpected is lurking around the next corner and the stimulation from my camera keeps me happy and content. I always look forward to the following day with eager anticipation.