The plan this morning is to go out along the tar road towards Malelane (S110) and then circuit back along the Matjulu loop (also S110) to the water point thus allowing time for the sun to rise above the mountains. It doesn’t quite go according to plan.
We reach the bridge on the main road which crosses the Matjulu spruit and stop for our coffee noting the little wooden cross which is a memorial to the 25 year old tour guide who was taken by a leopard as he sat on the railings next to his tourists. This happened quite a few years back at dusk.
We turn left onto the gravel road (S110) with the sun at our backs. The Bergendal area is just made for predators with its open woodland and is probably the leopard capital of Kruger. Now, I whinged yesterday that with only two options for drives from the camp the roads can be overcrowded.
But strangely today all is quiet as I, unhindered, get busy photographing some Green Woodhoopoes.
We continue past the Steilberg turnoff and not far from the T junction to the water point, we round a corner and find a few cars parked on the road.
Two hyena are on the right and are giving every indication that something is badly amiss.
Renette notices a dark shape behind a bush and we realise that it is a lioness and the hyenas are obviously trying to put her to flight.
Four more hyena reinforcements arrive but this very potent lioness is having none of it and I am ready for her charge.
The light is right, the angle is right and we are the only vehicle at that particular spot as she charges the hyena. What a thrilling sight and what is more I managed to photograph the whole sequence as it happens. She does a series of rushes at the scattering hyena and then retreats into a clump of bush where we see other lions dragging a zebra carcass.
Well we got it spot on this morning. Which explains why the road earlier had no traffic. They were all busy with the lions.
After this thrilling sight we move on to the water point. Here we find some puddles in the turning circle and there is a frenzy of birds drinking and bathing therein. So we spend another couple of hours engrossed in photographing some very special birds.
We resolve to come back tomorrow as first the Woodhoopoes and then the lions had made us rather late for the water point.
This must rank as one of our finest mornings in Kruger in a scenic paradise with so much action from animal and bird – all played out on a balmy winter’s day that only the lowveld can serve up. Kruger, you can turn it on when you want to.
From here things start to rapidly go downhill. Two teeth have been troubling me so I shoot to Malelane town where I find an excellent, young Indian dentist. We decide that extraction is the best option so after some strenuous work, I part with two wisdom teeth. The thought passes through me that I would have happily parted with my eye teeth for this morning’s sightings. After paying a ridiculously small amount I leave Dr Singh very content that I can now face Satara without a raging toothache.
I am feeling surprisingly sprightly back at Bergendal so we go out again to the Matjulu water point. As we arrive five very nervous White Rhino come onto the road in front of us, rush back into the bush and then finally pluck up the courage to reach the water trough.
Just then two large ellies arrive and nonchalantly rest their tusks on the rim of the reservoir as they slurp up the water.
The road back to camp is blocked by an obstinate tusker who only reluctantly allows us past so that we are late at the gate. What a way to end a glorious day.