Lower Sabie 7 – 9th August

Lower Sabie 7 – 9th August

The erratic Lower Sabie Internet has really been a problem. I find that at 3am this morning it is finally working for the first time in days. So here goes.

Monday, 7th August     This morning  begins badly as I discover that during the night, a ratel has made short work of my slip-slops that I always leave outside the caravan door each night.

So, it’s back to shoes and socks for a while. Today is calm, clear and bright – ideal for Sunset Dam. We arrive a good 30 minutes before sunrise and I have barely set up my camera when a fight breaks out amongst the crocodiles. Such is the excellence of these modern cameras, I am still able to record some of the action (ISO 32,000) in the poor light, and pretty grotesque it is with these huge monsters thrashing about in the water.

Things quieten down and after a while and pair of Giant Kingfishers arrive and start fishing, pretty successfully I may add.

Male Giant Kingfisher (Chestnut Waistcoat)
Female Giant Kingfisher (Chestnut Skirt)

I am missing one of our routers and can only conclude that I left it behind at Skukuza before we moved down to LS. So at 8am I leave Renette in camp and rapidly head for Skukuza, some 45kms distant, hoping to find it. As so often happens, I seem to see more when I am not game spotting than when I am. A splendid black-maned lion strolls across the road in front of me near the Monument Dam at Nwatimhiri. I reach Skukuza and am mightily relieved to find that my router has been found and that my trip has been worthwhile. I begin the trip back to LS and some ten kms down the Sabie H4-1 road, I come across some cars which tell me that there is an impala carcass in a nearby tree and that a leopard is somewhere in dense ground cover. Just then, a hyena arrives and the leopard is flushed out of its cover and backs off hissing and snarling.

Hyena (left), Impala up tree in foreground, leopard (right).

The hyena then loses interest when it sees that there are no scraps coming his way.

About 5kms beyond Nkuhlu, I am following two other cars at a distance when another leopard rapidly snakes its way over the road just ahead of me. I quickly turn but the photos are so poor that I discard them. Which goes to show how much luck there is in leopard spotting. The leading two cars went right past an almost invisible leopard which then very kindly revealed itself to me.

This afternoon we return to Sunset Dam and enjoy the fabulous weather conditions. Those first and last few moments of the day are so precious for photography. The following would be nothing if taken at midday.

Grey Heron
Yellow-billed Stork
African Spoonbill fishing amongst the crocs

Tuesday, 8th          Things are looking up for gate guards. Each morning the camp gates are opened at 6am by a portly female guard who then climbs into a newish 4 x 4 – and drives out of the gates. The mind boggles a bit.

Surely Salitje S30 should perform for us today. With all senses on high alert, we quietly travel again along this most picturesque of roads but have no reward at all, absolutely nothing. The beauty though compensates for the lack of animals.

At the high level bridge at the end of the road over the Sabie river we do find a Long-crested Eagle. It would seem that these birds are becoming more common in the Park.

Young Long-Crested Eagle

We decide to continue up the road to check on what progress yesterday’s leopard is having with his impala up the tree. We actually find him up this very dense tree busy on the carcass but despite being only 10m off the road, we don’t see much of him amid the jostling traffic. So, we turn and continue down the road towards Lower Sabie.

Black-crowned Tchagara – the songster of the Bushveld.

This afternoon we are going to travel quickly +20kms down the main H4-2 road towards Croc Bridge and then turn onto the lovely Gomondwana S130 road and then quietly make our way back. Not far along this road we come across a Giant Eagle Owl screeching in a tree.

Verreaux’s Giant Eagle Owl. Note the bird prey under his feet.

This tree is a feature along this S130 road.

We again do not see much and the trip is marred by the heavy traffic. It would seem that a lot of the day visitors choose this road to make their way out of the Park at Croc Bridge.

Wednesday, 9th     At 6am we pass our motoring gate guard (whose vehicle always heads the queue), and head up the H4-1. Petrol again influences our decision to take the Nwatimhiri S21 out west and then proceed to Skukuza. Like Salitje, the S21 is so beautifully attractive but it too yields so little.

Adult and Immature Bateleur (taken directly into the rising sun)

After coffee on the deck, we fill with petrol and then head back towards Lower Sabie. The threadbare remains of the impala up the tree tells us that our leopard has moved on.

Back at Sunset Dam there is a fearful jam of cars viewing another leopard on the river side of the road. Through the logjam of vehicles, Renette manages to catch a glimpse of a large male leopard but there are just too many cars.

Across the  dam I see of small flock of Openbill Storks, something that I cannot  remember seeing before in Kruger. Singles yes but never in a flock.

This afternoon with a southerly light wind blowing, we again head up the Sabie Road. Down in the river, the flock of Openbills are busy feeding in the water.

Where the Lubyelubye Rocks cut across the river.

Parking space is at a premium at Sunset Dam at 5pm so we move to the bridge below camp.

What would Kruger be without its magnificent Sabie River

Across on the other side of the  river, we come across a large herd of buffalo that seem to be heading to the river to drink. We sit amongst them in the golden evening light as they swirl around us as they cross the road.