Wednesday, 26th July After lunch at the excellent Cattle Baron restaurant, we book into our hut and catch our breath. It is good to be back at Satara again which although large, lacks the hustle and bustle of the south. And a big positive is the lack of those open tourist bakkies that make things so unpleasant at cat sightings in the south.
This afternoon we take a short drive to Nsemani Dam out west along the H7 Orpen road. We stop to view a majestic Martial Eagle on a tree and patiently wait for him to take off…. which he finally does with pleasing results.
Goodness, that is really a wonderful Kruger sight.
The dam is quite full with attendant elephants, hippos and the usual.
Thursday, 27th In typical lowveld weather we head for the Sweni S126 road which we travel slowly along without seeing a single vehicle travelling in either direction.
We also see very little of interest along the road and all is quiet. The lack of cars may well be because of the terrible road corrugations which leave us a little shell-shocked by the time we get to Mzanzeni for breakfast. Thereafter, straight up to the H7 past Rockvale and then along the tar to Camp.
This afternoon we take our coffee and head for Girivani Dam out west where we enjoy the passing show.
Friday, 28th Renette is staying in camp whilst I am first at the gate ready to tackle the Ngotso Loop S147, a splendid single tracked 7km road some 25km north of Satara. This was the scene of where I once got stuck in mud and had to walk some distance before finding help.
Today I leave the gates at 6am and lead the pack up the road. I come across a rather seedy looking male lion lying in the road but pass him by, hoping that he will delay those cars following behind. I reach the turnoff to the S147 just as the sun rises and start to creep along the track all by myself. Now for photographers, those few moments after sunrise are very special when the light is at its best. I have gone about 3km when on my left and only 10m from the road is not one but two leopards casually strolling along together. But I have a problem. They are on the wrong side of the vehicle, the track is too narrow to turn, so what to do? I decide to ease past the leopards, so close and magnificent in the early light, go some 200m further on, turn the vehicle, set up my camera and the idle back to my target. But… at the crucial moment a car comes along the track, stops next to the leopards which take fright and that’s the end of them. Badly peeved and deflated I search the nearby bushy stream but all to no avail. Well… perhaps another day, but chances like that don’t come often.
I had planned to cut across and travel the beautiful Timbavati S39 but having spent so much time on the S147 I return slowly along the main H1-4 to camp.
This afternoon we travel out eastward along the tarred Nwanetsi H6 road but the grass has been burnt and we see little.
Satara is somehow the place to be when it comes to night calls. As I type this, the lions are roaring, hyenas whooping, jackals howling, bushbabies screeching and Scops Owls “kruuping” at intervals. Yes, Satara is very special, somehow the big game centre of Kruger.
I must remark on Kruger getting some things right. The privatised restaurants really work well. The washing machines of old were broken or had ‘disappeared’. Now in all three camps where we have stayed there are new washing machines and tumble dryers. The internet at Satara had been a problem for years but now it works so quickly and well. If only LS and Shingwedzi could follow suit. The campsites in Satara are now neatly demarcated with white stone. Indigenous rock art now lines the entrance road which may not be to everyone’s liking but at least shows that someone is trying.
Each camp has its own generator so loadshedding is not a problem for us here in Kruger.
Saturday, 29th We purposely leave camp ten minutes late allowing the morning rush to go on ahead. Which doesn’t quite work out because at the Orpen Road H7 intersection there is a sea of red taillights signifying only one thing. Last night’s roaring pride are in the road and they then nonchalantly thread their way through the cars.
We then head along the wonderful Nwanetsi gravel road S100. Stopping for coffee we can hear the river actually still flowing which cannot happen often in August.
There are surprisingly few animals to be seen and one only suspects that the widespread water sources in the veld have drawn the game away from this usually prolific road. Down near Gudzani Dam the water is gushing over the Mavumbye stream causeway into an overflowing dam. Here we enjoy our breakfast.
Beginning our return up the S100, we meet a lonesome young lioness plodding down the road.
This afternoon we travel up the main H1=4 for 15km and then dawdle back. Burnt grass to the east and long, thick grass to the west.
Sunday, 30th Today we are moving to Skukuza but Renette first insists on trying again for those leopards along the S147 track. We arrive first at the gate at 5.30am and at 6 head first up the road northwards. Again at 6.33am the red sun rises in typically Kruger winter style.
We then creep along this exquisite little track willing my leopards to give us a second chance. At the spot and as I give Renette a blow by blow description of how it all happened, a loud lion roar comes from the nearby bush. But nothing comes of it. We see little things of interest along the way bathed in the early morning sunlight. What a picture.
Back on the main H1-4 tar road, we head south. At the S147 intersection and jam of cars tell us of a pride of lions scattered about in the surrounding bushes. Two lionesses come onto the road and then stealthy stalk two buffalo which detect them, turn tail and rush over the road to safety.
Heading further south, we come across this large buffalo herd busy feeding on the rich grass.
Back in camp we quickly pack up and head south to Skukuza. Our time at Satara was all too short.