Satara 7-8th February

Satara 7-8th February

Friday, 7th

The south wind arrives during the night accompanied by distant thunder and lightning. Every night “load shedding” strikes but fortunately every camp has a large generator which comes to the rescue. A sprinkling of rain falls. has forecast heavy rain at 6am for today but when I reach the gate at 5.15am it is clear to the east. To the south though heavy cloud and some lightning is to be seen.

I lead a line of six cars out of the gate and head down the S100 Nwanetsi River road but……. every single one of the cars follow and I am hard pressed to maintain my lead. Everyone knows the advantage of being first on a road in the early morning but I am unhappy having to go faster than usual just to stay ahead. So after a while I slow and allow all to pass. Bad move. Following after them I soon round a corner to find the cars bunched having just watch a leopard strolling along the road. Cars tell me that it has disappeared into the long grass on the left – away from the river. Right there is a small herd of impala and…….. they are grazing contentedly. In other words they are unaware of the leopard.

The cars move on leaving me behind. I am convinced that I am about to witness a leopard catch an impala so I settle down and from a good vantage point I have a good view of the area. But I don’t know where the leopard is so it is difficult to know where to train my camera. The impala become skittish and every now and then catch a whiff of the leopard and group together.

I spend an hour and a half here before the impala have suddenly had enough and go tearing off into the far distance and I must concede defeat. I had to weigh up the chance of getting an outstanding sighting or missing out on what other sights were to be seen further on. Unfortunately, I took the wrong option but still enjoyed it immensely.

I join the S41 turning left and travel to the Gudzani East windmill. From there I travel southward all the way down to the Sweni Causeway along the S37 but although I take my time, nothing untoward shows itself. I try to call in a Painted Snipe at every causeway but nothing doing. Tyre marks in the road tell me that some good sighting were made earlier but…. I took the wrong option. I then take the main H6 back to camp arriving back at 11am. Despite my lean sightings I really enjoyed myself especially in the coolness of the morning.

At midday the sky clears but more rain is forecast over the next five days. New neighbours tell me that it stormed at Letaba last night with good rain.

Late afternoon I go west again to Girivani Dam where a herd of ellies are drinking from the reservoir.

Out east gigantic clouds rear up into the sky.

This is the type of weather where anything can happen – a deluge or sunny and dry.

Saturday, 8th

7mm of rain falls during the night but by dawn it is over with. Out I go at 5.30am, heading again for the Sweni S126 road. The rationale is the the grass for the first 8kms is shorter and game viewing prospects better.

I am happy to be first on the road hoping for cats avoiding the wet grass. But a Sanparks tour truck comes from the opposite direction having effected a good sweep of the road. And although Sweni is at its beautiful best, I see very little – even of the regular game.

Beyond Welverdiend I turn around and retrace my steps thoroughly enjoying the cool, cloudy weather.

I continue up the H1-3, past Satara and turn right onto the S90 to the Mavumbye pond where I turn back to the tar. Up further along the H1-4 tar but all is strangely quiet from an animal and bird point of view.

I arrive back at camp at 11am little prepared for the drama that is to follow. Walking towards the caravan, a Ratel beats me to it from the opposite direction and I hear him opening the now empty deep-freeze. Hurrying forward to discourage him, I am met with a swarm of angry bees whose nearby hive the ratel has just raided. The bees come at me en masse and I turn and flee. At a breathtaking 5kph dash and with cap flailing, I head for the ablutions with bees stinging my back. Crashing the door shut behind me, I find that about ten bees have followed me in and I now have a battle to subdue them – which I finally do.

It is fully 30mins before the bees allow me out of the building and I finally make it to the caravan with a number of stings on my back. Once recovered I do a quick inspection of the area and find that all the surrounding campers have been stung too. Amongst them is a German couple, the man having taken a number of stings on his legs. They are curious to know what a Ratel/Honey Badger is so I bring them to the caravan and show them pictures of the Ratel busy with our leg of lamb on Wednesday night.

The very decent Germans are suitably impressed and after looking at my other photos, complain that they have seen so little – could I take them out this afternoon and help? Of course. So at 4pm we set off down the S100. My status as a “big white hunter” is sinking km after quiet km along the road. But then cars stop to inform us of a leopard up a tree ahead and thankfully I hurry on.

Arriving at a jumble of cars, we soon find the leopard up a nearby leadwood tree but it is on the far side, largely obscured by branches. Two trailing legs and a tail really excite the Germans and my stocks rise rapidly. We return much happier to camp having learnt all about hornbills, impala, wildebeest etc.. The Germans retire happily to their tent and all thoughts of bee stings are forgotten. Certainly a different sort of day ends with a beautiful full moon over the camp.