Monday, 11th February
At 5am we begin our very slick packing and at 6am we leave behind our ellie lined waterhole. Punda has been terrific and we are determined to return as soon as possible.
Bright, crisp and sunny we turn onto the main H1-8 road and head south for Shingwidzi. It immediately becomes apparent that Punda Maria and Luvuvhu missed out badly on last Tuesday’s rain. The grass becomes lush and vibrant with long seeded stems that have burst out of the ground in places forming a beautiful carpet. Every now and then we come across large expanses of water just lying in the veld with Knob-billed Ducks and Geese attendant. Unfortunately, we have the caravan in tow and cannot reverse or dawdle and savour the scene.
After an hour and a half we cross the Shingwedzi River bridge and note that large pools of water in the riverbed.
Immediately thereafter we turn left on the short 2Km road to Shingwedzi Restcamp. I can think of no other camp in Kruger with such an impressive entry road. Massive trees line the river bank making for a really spectacular scene as one approaches the camp.
The campsite at Shingwedzi is probably the best in Kruger – large, spread out and well shaded. Which makes one wonder how they managed to get popular Lower Sabie so wrong with its pokey, shoebox campsites.
We rapidly set up camp near the swimming pool, which in itself is the best in Kruger.
Once the setup is completed I take the back entrance gate and drift down to the causeway below the camp. Stories that the river flooded are true. The high water mark shows that the waters ran bank to bank and a frontend loader has had to remove debris from the road. The river is still flowing and Marabou and Yellow-billed Storks, Egrets and Hamerkops are busy fishing. I return to camp and admire how well kept it is.
One circle of huts is still in that pioneering style whilst other modern chalets are beautifully appointed.
I book in at the immaculate reception and am efficiently seen to by a courteous young lady. The Park Shop too is excellent given that they can never have the turnover of bigger and more popular camps.
All in all, top marks to Sanparks. I have been critical in past years here but give credit where it is due – Satara, Punda Maria and now Shingwedzi are superb. Having visited Hwange in Zimbabwe last September, Saffers should be mighty grateful to Sanparks for their efforts in Kruger.
Heaven is braaiing in heavy shade at midday with the peace and quiet of these summer months surrounding one. We are both exceedingly happy and content as we begin our fourth week of the trip.
Ominously, weather forecaster, yr.no, is predicting 220mm of rain to fall on Friday. As long as it not a repeat of January 2013 then I am quite prepared for it.
At 2.30pm the long arm of Eskom reaches out. No generator kicks in at the shop and we grope around in darkness making our purchases which are then painstakingly recorded by hand – as they did fifty years ago except today they used a pocket calculator. So, what’s the problem? Swimming time and the beautiful pool is filled with foreigners enjoying the respite from the heat. A Brit marvels that at home they think twice about travelling 10 miles but here they travel thousands without a thought.
Shingwedzi or Shingwidzi? I know not which is correct. Sanparks seems to use both and the general media seems to as well so I will stick to Shingwedzi. The name apparently derives from that of a then local chief.
It is hot and pre-frontal today and we venture out at 4.45pm going down to the causeway next to camp.
A Fortuner is ahead of us having difficulty crossing. We stop and are amazed at the activity. Yellow-billed Storks, Great White Herons, Little Egrets, Hamerkops and crocs are making merry with little fish that are pouring over the causeway.
This is unusual feeding for the Yellow-billed Stork which has adopted the crocodile method of waiting with its bill open and then snapping it shut if a fish swims through.
After a while the Fortuner reverses and the German driver explains that a “crocodile is lying in the street” blocking his way. So he reverses out and leaves.
And that hour that we spent on the causeway summed up what was wrong at Punda. There was nowhere where one could just sit watching a scene as interesting as this. The sun is rapidly setting making for a beautiful scene in the riverbed.
We finally leave and continue along the loop enjoying that final half hour with the light so special.
A beautiful day and we so look forward to our time at this very special camp. As I write this, a lion is roaring nearby and we look forward to the morrow.