Satara-Skukuza 14-15th February

Satara-Skukuza 14-15th February

Friday 14th

I join the queue out of the gate at 5.30am on the first cloud free day for weeks. The air is still, clear and crisp – in fact a beautiful morning.

I gradually work my way to the front and after the H6 turnoff I am all by myself heading for Sweni S126. The best laid plans come adrift when I reach there to find that the road still remains closed and barricaded.

I retrace my steps back to the S100 Nwanetsi River road but I am now half an hour behind the pack. Notwithstanding, I have not gone far when an unusual bird on the road’s verge takes off against the rising sun and begins circling. I am gratified to see that it is a rather rare juvenile Pallid Harrier. (I did need expert help for correct identification).

After getting a few photos in flight I am thrilled when he dives down to retrieve some titbit that he has left on the road. For me this is payback time for all the barren hours that I have experienced of late as I get some special photos.

I continue along this quite magnificent road. I would wager that there would be mighty few people who would not be moved by the scenes through which I pass.

The herds of impala, buffalo, zebra and the odd ellie feasting in these rich grasslands dotted with giant leadwoods all bathed in the soft light of sunrise. I really enjoy every minute of it.

Two Tawny Eagles are catching flying ants in the road near the S100 windmill.

The mystery of the quails persists. The day before the rains arrived and on my way to Orpen, the Harlequin Quails were in full voice. Since the rains ceased, I have not seen or heard one. In fact I have not seen a quail whether in flight or at the roadside all trip. Perhaps they are too busy nest building but whatever, all rather puzzling.

Back in camp, I make preparations for tomorrow. Renette flies back from Jo’burg so we have decided that we might as well move camp whilst we are about it. So in the cool of the morning I leisurely break camp so that in the morning I can just hook up and travel the 100km southward to Skukuza. This does necessitate quite a bit of washing of muddy mats that were submerged in the rain.

Glory be. the swimming pool is back in business and at 2pm I enjoy my first swim since Punda. It is good to do some strenuous exercise again.

The S100 acts as a magnet for me at this time of the year when the traffic is light. A 4pm I do my last trip down this great road. Not far along it I come across a small herd of ellies feeding in the bushes. I notice one ellie with a lightish mark on its trunk and on closer inspection, I am horrified to find a sizeable hole in it, a meter or so from the tip.

Although the trunk is kinked, it does not seem to be a handicap as the ellie feeds freely on the bushes. How it sucks up water when drinking I don’t know. I can’t quite work out how he came about his injury because it looks neither like a croc bite nor a snare. Rather like a slash from a machete.

Further along the road I come across a large flock of Carmine Bee-eaters in the road. They only arrive in Kruger in mid-December and I wonder if they come from the breeding colonies along the Zambezi River.

I turn and amble back up the road and pause at the windmill where I find a pair of Woodland Kingfishers hunting insects.

This is the beauty of photography whereby the scope for improving on what one already has is limitless. I have many Woodland photos but this one is quite special.

Back in camp, I spend a most pleasant evening with Sjoerdtje and Daniel, old time friends who farm near Barberton.

Saturday, 15th

Unexpected ‘load shedding’ delays my start and I finally leave Satara at 6am. What with the rain and the long grass I haven’t done too well from a spotting point of view but Satara remains my favourite camp. Particularly in summer when the roads are so quiet and one can enjoy one’s drives at leisure. Besides the leopard in the tree with the German’s, the S100 did not serve up much excitement but…… it remains one of my top roads in the Park, just from its sheer beauty.

This morning is sunny with some fluffy clouds about as I make my way down the H1-3 southward, bound for Skukuza. Of course every stream is flowing and Kruger really is bursting with life. I stop at Tshokwane for some coffee and one of their famous pies. So annoyed am I by the rudeness and disinterest of the loutish staff that I leave empty handed – muttering. This is not usual in Kruger and it is a pity because Tshokwane is otherwise a very well managed picnic spot.

The Sand River of course is pouring under the low level bridge and I look forward to Skukuza. Here we go into “avoid the crowd” mode and once one gets that right, Skukuza is a very attractive camp.

Kurrichane Thrush

I quickly set up camp and then shoot off to Malelane for a haircut and other running repairs. Then back in time to collect Renette from the airport at 2pm. She is raring to go and will no doubt bolster my game viewing efforts which have not been too good of late.

At 4.30pm I take off down the S114 and then around the Stevenson-Hamilton koppies. All very attractive but nothing to threaten the use of my camera. Tomorrow I hope to enjoy the Lake Panic Bird Hide.