Lower Sabie 16-18th August

Lower Sabie 16-18th August

Wednesday, 16th       For our afternoon drive we head north up the H10 Tshokwane road to Muntshe Mountain. The road skirts the western slopes of the mountain and with the Mnondozi stream on the left, this route is both picturesque and productive.

We have seen a lot of buffalo on this trip and, as is the case in wet years, their numbers have increased rapidly. However, they are first in line to feel the effects of drought when their numbers also fall quickly. This afternoon we admire again a herd grazing in the long grass.

Craggy face of an old warrior.

We turn round at the turnoff to the S129 road at the top end of Muntshe and quietly drift homewards. All along the way are things of interest and we have a lovely afternoon.

Where we turn to come back to LS we see a distant Sable bull.

Thursday, 17th     We need petrol again today and decide to take the excellent S28 gravel road down to Crocodile Bridge. The sky is clear but there is a lot of mist about. It would seem that our luck is out in the area south of Lower Sabie. Again, we see very little on the S28 although driver Warren notes many leopard tracks in the road. Later, other tourists report good cat sightings at the Duke waterhole so we must just persist.

Just outside Crocodile Bridge camp

We enjoy a quick breakfast and re fuel before beginning the return trip up the main H4-2 road .

The Vurhami stream a couple of Km’s from Croc Bridge

Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on a buffalo

Back in camp, David and Warren decide to travel up the Sabie road at midday and soon  return to report that a pride of lions are on a kill 1km from camp. We hurry back to join the action which took place on the far bank of the river but by the time we get there, the lions have abandoned whatever the carcass was and have retired into the bush. Only some vultures remain.

Later in the afternoon, we travel up to Nwatimhiri but see nothing special expect for this stately kudu and some Wooly-necked Storks.


Friday, 18th          Whereas we usually travel up the S128 towards the Salitje S30 road, today we are going to travel up the H10 to the Mlondozi crossing and then cut across left along the S29. It proves to be a good decision.

During the night, a lot of lion roaring is coming from the H10 bridge direction. Crossing the bridge at 6am we slow down for a car whereupon a loud roar comes from the thick bush right next to the road. After a while we press on which again proves to be a good move. Later reports say that the lions came out on the road thus halting all further traffic. Meanwhile we move quickly up the main H10 road until driver Warren spies a leopard up a Maroela tree right next to the road. It quickly jumps down, dashes through some hyenas waiting under the tree and scampers away into the bush.

But…. we find that another young leopard has remained up the tree. We then enjoy a sighting that is usually only preserved for “canned leopard sightings” in the private reserves. Everything is in our favour. The hyenas encourage the leopard to stay in the tree, the light from the rising sun is just beautiful, we get a perfect view from only 20m distance and not a single car comes our way for the 45 minutes that we are there.

Eventually the leopard braves the hyenas and jumps down making its escape into the nearby bushes. All things considered, this was an outstanding sighting which few people are fortunate to witness.

A little numbed by what we had just seen, we continue our trip along the S29 towards Salitje.

At the little pond some halfway along the S30 Salitje we find some five Wild-dog resting after a successful hunt. Three of the dogs are carrying collars.

Next to the dogs some Zebras are going through their early morning routines.

No lions on  Salitje today, but towards the end we come across a flock of White Helmetshrikes. Forever on the move, these birds are difficult to photograph but Warren applies some bushcraft by mimicking the call of the Pearl-spotted Owl which often raids Helmetshrike nests. This has the effect of drawing the birds close to us and I manage some good photographs.

From the H12 high level bridge over the Sabie I photograph this lovely male Bushbuck.

After a stop at the crowded Nkuhlu Picnic Spot we finally reach camp at a late 11.30am – rather late for our standards but for very good reason.

Later this evening the others go off on a Sanparks night drive whilst I stay in camp looking after young Sophie. What a trip they have. Two more leopards up a Sycamore Fig close to camp, an African Civet cat, a pride of lions down at the  Duke waterhole and then three large male lions harassing a hippo at the bridge near camp. What an action packed day.