Much has happened since I last left Kruger on 1st March 2021. Joining Renette in Johannesburg, we made our way to Somerset West in the Cape. To cut a rather long story short, we both had full knee replacements done to our left knees which proved most successful. We have decided to settle in the Western Cape and in July moved up to balmy Ballito in KZN from where we supervised the moving of our possessions down to the Cape. We are temporarily renting a house in the Schonenberg housing estate in Somerset West. So, with everything settled we hooked up the caravan and made our way via Johannesburg to our beloved Kruger, entering the Orpen Gate and proceeding to Satara on 7th August.
Kruger is really full, mainly with Saffers, whilst the foreigners are still largely absent. Although crowds are unpleasant in Kruger, it is heartening to know that economically the place is again thriving. The campsite is so full that we have difficulty finding somewhere to set up camp. We make do with a barren, shadeless spot – big enough to erect three tents around the caravan. As to be expected, Satara is brown and tinder dry but after the wet summer, the brown grass cover is thick. All the rivers and water courses have extensive pools.
On 9th and 10th, the influx arrives – John, Sherry-Linn and family from the Cape and Warren, David, Steph and family from Jo’burg. This of course, is a family get together so photography and bird spotting take second place.
This does not mean that we don’t put effort into our game drives. Each morning we join the long line of cars at the gate and exit camp in the dark. We do see the odd things of interest.
But generally speaking, we see very little even along the S100 Nwanetsi and Sweni S126 roads. The weather too is not kind to us at Satara with hot winds from the north and then strong gusts from the south sending clouds of dust flying about the camp. So, all in all, Satara just did not work for us with very little to be seen amidst unpleasant conditions.
I never thought that I would ever say this, but……… despite its size, its hotels, commercialization and administrative bustle – SKUKUZA IS NOW MY FAVOURITE CAMP IN KRUGER. The campsite is well spread out with thickets of bush and trees giving shelter from the wind and providing prolific birdlife – far, far better than Satara. And Skukuza offers so many great roads which are free of heavy traffic. We all breathe a sigh of relief as we escape the dust and desert-like Satara.
Sunday, 15th we head down the beautiful Salitjie S30 road with plenty to keep the children occupied.
The ever sharp David, spots some Orange-breasted Waxbills – something that it quite rare and which I have never photographed before.
We continue to Lower Sabie and have a Mugg & Bean breakfast on the beautiful deck overlooking the Sabie river. Then up the Sabie road H4-1 back to Skukuza seeing a few lions along the way.
It is now quite seldom that the family gets together so, without Gareth and Sarah (Covid trapped in UK), we are going to belatedly celebrate Renette’s 60th birthday (actually in June). In the late afternoon, we head for that great granite dome, Granokop, some 12kms west of Skukuza and there cut the cake and give a spirited “Happy Birthday” above the great plains of bushveld. What a setting.
Monday, 16th Today we head down the S114 gravel road to the Biyamithi weir – one of our favoured destinations in Kruger. We travel directly to the weir without seeing much with the veld burnt in many places. We next take the magnificent Biyamithi River road which winds its way past great granite boulders with the river bed on the left. In lovely cool but bright conditions, it is not long before John spies a wild-dog running at speed on the far bank and we next see a whole pack of dogs in a circle tearing at a freshly killed antelope. Unfortunately, I am sitting on the wrong side of the vehicle and miss some great photos of a sight that is seldom seen in Kruger, especially from such a wonderful vantage point. Yelps and squeals soon attract hyenas which soon muscle their way into the action.
With adrenalin pumping we continue along this amazing road and John again excels himself by finding a leopard in a nearby tree. Unfortunately, it quickly descends and is lost to view in the bushes. We press on to the Afsaal Picnic Site along the main H3 road to Malelane and after a well earned breakfast, head back to camp – mightily content.
Our intended afternoon drive out to the Sand River is aborted when we come across yet another pack of wild-dogs hunting near camp along the H4-1 river road. We spend quite a while watching the dogs running about in the long grass and the arrival of vultures and bloody muzzles tells us that they have been successful.
Tuesday, 17th We bid a sad farewell to John, Sherry-Linn and family who are heading off to Kwambonambi in KZN. After their departure, the rest of us return to the Biyamithi River Road but of course today is all quiet. Again breakfast at Afsaal and then back to camp. A final supper together at the excellent Railway Station restaurant.
Wednesday, 18th David, Steph, Warren and children are next to leave bound for Jo’burg. I take off down the Salitjie S30 to try and track down David’s Orange Breasted Waxbills but am unsuccessful.
This afternoon we do the lovely afternoon drive out over the Sand River, along the Maroela Loop and then cut across to the H13 high-level bridge over the Sabie. Coming back up the H4-1 and quite close to camp a cluster of cars alerts us to this leopard.
Only the miracle of modern photographic equipment allows me to get these photos in very dark conditions.
So ends the family part of the trip and tomorrow I will get down to business where I can selfishly concentrate on photographing as I please.