Lower Sabie 9-10th Dec

Lower Sabie Sun 9th Dec

With a bit of a drizzly start we let Gareth and Sarah catch their breath and we leave camp at 5.15am. After the heat of the past month today is a dream. A cool but light southwester is blowing and the sky is overcast.

We start at Sunset Dam which is a frenzy of bird activity but absolutely no animals which after last night’s deluge no longer have to run the gauntlet to get to water. After an hour or so of fascination we begin crawling up the Sabie river road (H4-1). 

The birds are all busy nest building.

We start with the beautiful Violet-backed Starling (Plum Coloured)

Next the Brown-crowned Tchagara.

Gareth spots a hyena behaving strangely in the road ahead. As we reach the place the hyena takes off with a freshly killed impala lamb in its mouth with a large baboon in hot pursuit.

The Nwatimhiri causeway road is closed off so we breakfast on the high-level bridge over what is a dry sandy river bed. It would seem as though Lower Sabie collected most of the rain last night. It was our intention to breakfast at Nkuhlu Picnic Site but such are the number of distractions that we encounter that it  is becoming late so we turn around and retrace our footsteps.

Back at Sunset Dam we note an interesting phenomenon. The light southwester has pushed up algae alonng the shoreline in front of us which in turn has attracted the barbel.

Three crocs appreciate this and without too much apparent effort are picking off the barbel right next to us.

A really interesting end to a thoroughly enjoyable morning in comfortable, cool weather at last.

At 3.30pm we set off for Mlondozi Dam across the river. Just beyond the 4-way intersection and around the corner, we come across a few cars and discover two lions feeding on a wildebeest carcass 15m off the left hand side of road in the bush. Inching forward and 80m on the right we discover an impala suspended in the fork of a large tree with a large male lion lying nearby. We are told that the leopard has retreated into a large sausage tree beyond.

Edging forward again we can make him out sleeping on a branch high up amongst the foliage.

  We continue along the road for a few Km’s and just before the Mlondozi turn-off we come across two lionesses have killed a wildebeest also some 15m off the road to the right. They have already fed and we can make them out in the grass beyond. With bulging stomachs they eventually come back to the carcass and lie next to it.

You will know that I often grumble about the poor condition of the Kruger lions. Well one of these lionesses is magnificent – powerful and unblemished.

We end off the afternoon at Sunset Dam and I manage to photograph a very street-wise Black-crowned Night Heron in the fast fading light.

What a tremendous day which non-stop interest and a great way to introduce Sarah to the wonders of Kruger.

Lower Sabie Mon 10th Dec

At precisely 1am rain begins to thunder on the roof of the caravan and when we get up at 4am we find the camp again awash. Cold, windy and in almost darkness we are rather curiously number ten in the queue as we leave the camp gate at 4.30am. These Lower Sabie residents take things seriously. Given the rain and the state of the roads we decide to go up the main H10 Tshokwane road but we cross the bridge behind seven other cars which we think are heading for yesterday’s lion and leopard kill. We stop on the bridge to watch the goings on before pushing on. Just beyond the four-way stop we come to the place of yesterday’s excitement but find it unexpectedly deserted. Where have the seven cars gone to? We linger over our coffee hoping for the leopard to show itself but nothing stirs.

Beyond the Mlondozi turnoff we come across yesterday’s two lionesses which are being disturbed by hyenas that have no doubt cleaned up the wildebeest kill.

Approaching Muntshe mountain, we cross the Mnondozi stream which feeds into the nearby Mlondozi Dam but only a series of pools mark the recent good rains. The dull light is not conducive for good photos but we nevertheless pass much of interest. It is noticeable that the further north we travel the heavier has been the rain and the adjacent Mnondozi is flowing strongly at its upper reaches.

We decide to return along the gravel road (S122) behind the eastern flank of Muntshe and in places sheets of water has flowed over the road and large pools lie in the veld. The grass however is still short so there are no Quails, Shelley’s Francolins that favour thick grass cover.

A Lappet-faced Vulture struggles to keep his balance against the strong wind. We do see a Secretary Bird before we reach the eastern Mlondozi loop where we turn left along the S29. After a couple of Km’s the mystery of where this morning’s cars vanished to is solved. The lions have killed a buffalo on the road but all that remains are some smelly entrails, skin and bones – and two bloated lionesses and a cub sheltering in a bush.

This afternoon we go up the Sabie river road (H4-1) and circle back around the Nwatimhiri Causeway. A cold wind is still blowing from the south but we do still see a lot to keep us happy.

A baby Vervet Monkey, a Pygmy Kingfisher, ellies and constant incidents make this maybe not our most spectacular day but nevertheless a very enjoyable one.