Monday, 4th March
Monday, 4th March
The Satara faithful are very keen. We arrive at the gate at 5.05am and are still back in the queue.
We are certainly not Big 5 people, appreciating everything that comes our way. But that is not to say that we don’t enjoy a leopard or cheetah now and then. The car ahead of us in the queue has been eight days at Satara and they have seen five leopards. We have been 43 days in the Park and have seen only one. However, there are sightings and sightings. Many people stay on the main tarred roads and quickly travel around all day from traffic pile up to the next ticking off their leopards amidst a scrum of frantic tourists. We prefer the solitude of deserted roads so I suppose it is to be expected that our points tally will be down. Furthermore, the long grass makes a sighting off the road difficult unless something is sitting on an antheap or in a tree. We also prefer to travel early mornings and late evenings for two reasons. Firstly, the good ‘photographic light’ only lasts for a couple of hours after sunrise and then a short while before sunset and secondly, we find that after four hours of travelling, our concentration wanes.
Today there is a high cloud cover giving us ample time to get to the Nwaswitsonto (S125) river road to the south. Here we creep along this magnificent road with its stately trees but besides the normal impala, giraffe etc., we draw a blank.
At the end of the road we are feeling strong so impulsively turn south down the Nhlangulene (S26) road – something we have not done for decades.
We stop at the picnic spot for a little breakfast before continuing onto the Vutomi (S33) road. Being so far from any camp, this is another road that we have badly neglected. It is beautiful, lined with pools of water, great trees, geese and ducks. Other than a rather testy ellie who drove us back for a while we meet with nothing untoward. We reach the main H1-4 tar road and travel quickly back to Satara.
Renette then stands me to a birthday lunch at the surprisingly good Tindlovu Restaurant. After years of mismanagement and poor quality, Tindlovu has really improved matters tremendously. It remains for Tindlovu to take over that red, Wimpey monstrosity at Pretoriuskop.
Evening coffee amongst the zebras and wildebeest along the S90 with the sun breaking through a bank of clouds to the west. A quick swim to keep the fitness levels up and Satara continues to be a wonderfully happy place.
Tuesday, 5th March
We are really working on our leopard this morning and are determined to be on the S100 Nwanetsi river road first. So at 4.55am we arrive first at the camp gate in the dark. The sky is completely clear but by 5.30am it is completely overcast as a front pushes through with a southerly wind blowing.
Off we go at 5.30am and our plan is working well as we begin the S100 by ourselves. However, our best laid plans begin to come adrift as an SUV rushes up behind us and then squeezes past at the first opportunity. To add insult to injury he mouths obscenities at us for holding him up and sweeps ahead, thus clearing the road of leopards. A deluge of cars then rush by and we are left a little deflated. One can get this beautiful S100 road badly wrong when the mobs arrive.
We get onto the S41 road heading north and this is much quieter with interest all along the way.
A Lanner Falcon lands on the road ahead but he is off before I can photograph him.
At the Mavumbye lily pond we pause to watch a juvenile Malachite Kingfisher fishing from the bank.
Just before camp Renette spies an eagle in a dry tree close to the road. It proves to be a Black-breasted Snake-eagle, a beautiful bird that one sees seldom in Kruger.
What makes this eagle quite special is its striking undercarriage when in flight – white with ‘lacey’ dark bands. This is a long range shot which does not do this beautiful bird justice.
Back to camp where Renette begins her packing for her flight tomorrow to Cape Town. This is in preparation for son, Gareth’s wedding to Sarah in two weeks time. I will follow next week.
At midday a ratel sniffs around our camp and then quite calmly waddles off to inspect our neighbours. It is rather unusual to see these endearing animals during the daytime at Satara.
This evening we dawdle up the main tar road and stop to watch a group of giraffe.
Travelling back to camp we come across a group of cars that are showing respect for an old ellie that is plodding down the middle of the road.
I am first past this actually quite docile old fellow and arrive back at the camp gate twenty minutes after closing time at 6.00pm. An over zealous gate guard then threatens to call the section ranger to fine me but then the arrival of all the other cars overwhelms her and she grudgingly lets us go.
Renette flies at 11.20am from Skukuza so we will be taking our time down the main road south hoping for something exciting.