Lower Sabie 5-6th December

Lower Sabie 5-6th December

Saturday, 5th

Again, a strong, cool blows during the night and we awake to leaden skies. Sadly, only a little misty drizzle falls.

We are going to replenish our groceries today in Komatipoort so at 5.30am we take off down the H4-2 main road southward. Soon we come to a tree with another well eaten impala carcass on a branch.

Nearby snorting impala indicate that the leopard has just finished his meal and has gone down to the river for a drink. We wait a while but eventually continue on our way.

We turn onto the S28 gravel rode that leads to Crocodile Bridge. And what a disaster it proves to be. This normally lovely road is brown, bare and dusty. To the right, what little grass there was, has been burnt and only bare earth and scorched bushes are on view. There is no greenery at all.

After seeing virtually nothing through this desert, towards the end of the road we come across a really distressing sight. A zebra is lying on its back with all four feet in the air whilst its companion stands nearby. At first we think it dead but it then begins to roll from side to side. I am horrified to see that its stomach has been ripped open with the intestines hanging out.

Vultures and jackals are closing in and even run forward to take bites at the pathetic zebra. It then staggers to its feet and unsteadily makes a few meters with entrails hanging beneath it before collapsing again. I suppose that lions were responsible for the injury but why did they abandon the zebra and why no claw marks on its back? Did a rhino gore it? Renette is so distressed that we leave the scene noting Lappet-faced, Hooded and White-backed vultures gathering. Such is the harshness of life in the bushveld.

The Croc Bridge area always seems to show drought worse than elsewhere. The ground is completely bare and reddish-brown with no green showing.

Giraffe twins take turns to suckle from mum. Note the Croc Bridge bare earth behind

But we have seen before how miraculously this area responds to rain. What today looks a lifeless waste can turn into a verdant jungle in very little time. The rains cannot come quickly enough.

In Komatipoort I am assailed by employees grimly requesting me to wear my Covid mask and spray my hands. Further enquiries fail to find anyone who has even heard of someone who has had Covid. My private search continues so far without success. Chores complete, we hurry back to Lower Sabie noting that the impala up the tree has vanished.

Tawny Eagle

We know already that Salitje S30 and the Main H4-1 road are going to feature prominently in our reports over the next ten days. The area to the south is a write off – except perhaps the bushy Gomondwana S130 road. The Mlondozi/Muntshe area has been burnt earlier and prospects there too are not good.

This afternoon I go out at 4pm and if ever there is a lesson in the advantages of slow travel this was it. I put the vehicle in 2nd gear, foot off the accelerator and idle at 7kph towards Lubyelubye Rocks. These are the photos that I took of these little gems that I would have missed had I been going 20kph. Great fun and this Sabie river is a magnet to all manner of wildlife.

White-bellied Sunbird
Male Chinspot Batis
Little Bee-eaters
Klaas’s Cuckoo

At 5.30pm I pick up Renette and we sit at Sunset Dam for an hour. The wind has dropped and the light is not too bad.

Grey Heron
Great-white Heron

Lower Sabie offers so many photographic opportunities that Satara just couldn’t give. If only the grassland plains were not so dry. I have said before the Kruger Park without the Sabie River is unthinkable.

Sunday, 6th

A most pleasant cool morning greets us as at 4,30am we leave the gates and head up the H4-1 Sabie River road. We stop on the Lubyelubye bridge for coffee and are interrupted by the roaring of a lion close by.

We take the little loops a few hundred meters beyond the bridge and which overlook the river banks. Here we find the source of the roars – a beautiful big male lion.

The Lubyelubye Rocks must be the most likely place in the entire Park for seeing lion and leopard. We continue slowly up the road with the rising sun providing such a beautiful effect.

Hadeda Ibis
Burchell’s Coucal
Bushbuck Doe
The Riverine Forest

A young baboon joins our fast growing list in the casualty department but seems to be unconcerned about having an exposed skull.

We enjoy breakfast on the H13 high-level bridge over the Sabie River.

Surprisingly, the river is fuller and discoloured which is mystifying as there has been no evidence of rain. Maybe a storm on the escarpment.

Thereafter quickly back to Lower Sabie as the light deteriorates. Lunch on the deck at Mugg & Bean with a Barn Owl perched directly above me in the rafters. Goodness, how these restaurant chains have improved the quality of the food available in the Park.

This evening we take up our position at Sunset Dam with something always on the go.

Buffalo-weaver nest building
Kudu Does
Pied Kingfisher Hovering

We have three days of cool weather in the low 30’s before a prefrontal warming on Thursday, Friday and Saturday followed hopefully by some rain. Tomorrow the Salitje S30 beckons.