Tuesday, 19th February
Every camp in Kruger has its own peculiar appeal. Satara’s is the big game feel of the savanna, Punda’s is the historic remoteness and the Luvuvhu whilst Shingwedzi’s are the magnificent river roads and the camp setting. But of all the camps in Kruger, none beats Letaba (River of Sand) for the beautiful grandeur of the camp itself. The great trees, the spacious lawns and wooded thickets, the copses of lala palms, the river frontage and of course the elephant museum make this camp stand out in my mind as the outstanding one of Kruger.
However, outside of the camp, the surrounding monotonous mopane detracts from the Letaba experience.
Out of all disasters there comes some good. Our smashed rear window has meant that we are camp bound so at sunrise I stroll about the camp with my camera. I just marvel at the beauty of it all and again I compliment Sanparks in presenting this place so tastefully. Everything is immaculate and the murmur of visitors sipping their coffee with shafts of sunlight playing through trees makes for a most pleasing spectacle. The lala palms here are much more extensive than Shingwedzi’s and I would have thought that the Collared Palm-Thrush, which is sometimes seen at Shingwedzi, would have preferred Letaba. This bird nests in the dead palm fronds that hang beneath the green canopy but no amount of calling brings any success. I am not quite that desperate though as I did photograph him at Kariba.
I visit the ellie museum which is so attractively laid out. I pay special attention to the older tuskers, the Magnificent Seven, which are displayed. Disappointingly, the one great tusker of recent times – Duke – who we saw on occasions, is not on display but according to the attendant, there was no more room to display him and his tusks now lie in a storeroom at Skukuza.
The weather throughout February has been cool without a single day of north winds. Today is like an April/May day and we happily spend our time in camp. Word comes through that the new back window has arrived in Phalaborwa so I will be going through first thing in the morning to have it fitted.
The birdlife in camp is prolific and we are entertained throughout the day.
This evening the Scops and Pearl-spotted Owls are calling as a full moon rises over the river.
Wednesday, 20th February
I have an appointment with Glassfit in Phalaborwa at 7am so I leave Letaba at 5.30am. Again, a south wind is blowing and clouds are moving quickly across the sky.
Not far from camp, I come across this scene – an African Hawk-eagle with the setting full moon behind it. I have taken some photographic licence to get both moon and bird in focus and the lighting correct for both but that is as I saw it. Rather an unusual sight.
The people in Phalaborwa could not be more helpful and again I am aware of how, everywhere I go, I find so much goodwill amongst everyday folk in this country. I quickly drive off having a new rear window fitted, call at Toyota to have some new hornbill damaged wipers replaced and I re-enter the Park by 9am.
The large Sable Dam is only a couple of Km’s off the road, 5Km into the Park and I call in there. As expected, it is brim full of water – so much so that it is often backed into the mopanes with very little mud bank exposed. So very few birds about. Back in camp we do a spring clean of everything so we are next set to get down to the business of game and bird spotting early tomorrow.
Today marks a full month since we arrived in the park on 20th January and the time has raced by. Which is to be expected I suppose as we are loving every moment spent. We are never remotely bored and what has been a bonus is that the weather has been cool throughout our stay.
Kruger at this time of the year is filled with “swallows” escaping the northern winter. Eastern Europeans, Germans, French, Spaniards, many Brits, Americans, Aussies, Canadians – the place is full of them. And lovely people they invariably are.
This evening we go out and have coffee on the main Letaba bridge. With the water having subsided, the river is now much cleaner. After three disrupted but very enjoyable days, we get down to some serious work at 5.30am tomorrow.