The Salietjie road (S30) has disappointed in the last few years but its beauty still remains a drawcard. So at 5.50am we join a long queue at the gate and then follow behind a bakkie that is like-mindedly heading in the same direction.
Experiencing both sunrises and sunsets each day does encourage a surfeit of photographs and we dutifully stop as the sun bursts over the Lebombo mountain range to the east. Coffee at the beginning of Salietjie where we admire an Orange-breasted Bushshrike before slowly making our way along this now very dry road.
Kruger is still wearing its winter clothes – all khakis, yellows, browns golds and pastel greens and a light blue hazy sky.
We see the odd things of interest but at the N’watinhlophu confluence with the Sabie river, we come across a scene of pure theatre.
Parked under a leafy Jackalberry and a thicket of Tambotie trees, we look out on a scene that must be one of the most picturesque in the Park. The N’watinhlophu stream flooded badly in March 2017 cutting the main Skukuza–Tshokwane (H1-2) road and in the process scouring out deep channel ways where it meets the Sabie river. Hippos now snooze before us and the following photos will give you an idea of what we enjoyed as entertainment.
The activity is never ceasing and we agree that we could spend the entire day at this one spot. But with two very well behaved youngsters in the vehicle an hour is all we can give before we move on.
We come across another large herd of buffalo feeding on the grass in the riverbed.
Crossing over the high level bridge we begin the trip down the south bank back towards Lower Sabie.
As usual we pass herds of ellies along the way.
We stop for breakfast at Nkuhlu which we note is now powered by solar panels which form the roof of the new parking cover.
Near the Nwatimhiri causeway we come across a large herd of buffalo that cross in front of us. I note one young calf with only Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on it whereas only Red-billed Oxpeckers cover the rest.
Back at camp our lunch is interrupted by people streaming past on their way to see a leopard sleeping in the shade of some reeds on the far side of the riverbed. After viewing him we return to our caravan just in time to see a large baboon climb into the boot of a newly arrived car and help himself to packets of biscuits. Off he goes and sits nearby with his friends munching on their takings.
This afternoon we go out quite late and just meander up to the Lullaby rocks. The lions are still there together with a group of cars. Beyond we go to the scene of yesterday’s leopard and lions and find more cars viewing a large male lion sleeping in the riverbed. An ND Quantum has gone off the road in order to get a better view and has driven down a steep bank leaving him hanging above the lion but unable to reverse back up the steep incline. He is stranded with no tow hitch with a vehicle full of tourists. I suspect it is a hired vehicle driven by a clueless foreigner. How he extricated himself I do not know but I suspect that he would have required help from the Parks people – and a good bollocking.
There is another large herd of buffalo in the riverbed not far from camp and it would seem that everything is concentrated near the river with precious little beyond.
We watch the activity at Sunset Dam – crocs squabbling, hippos snorting and the usual birds going about their business. End of another day.