Shingwedzi 24-25th February

Shingwedzi 24-25th February

Wednesday, 24th Whilst I have the opportunity I would like to get to Shingwedzi, some 180Km north of Satara.

But first it is a lovely, misty, golden morning – too good to waste travelling with the caravan. So, I shoot down the S100 Nwanetsi road for the last time. And what a picture it is.

Sunrise through the mist

I am alone along the road and go quite briskly intending to creep back with the sun at my back. Towards the end of the road I come across a lioness with two cubs in the road. The rising sun is directly behind them but the effect is nevertheless quite pleasant.

After they disappear into the grass, I begin my way back back up the road to camp. That magical hour after sunrise certainly produces a lot of entertainment.

Amur Falcon Hunting
The entrance to Satara Camp

I quickly hook up the caravan and I am on my way northwards at 8am. Travelling at a steady 50kph, I must concentrate on the road so no spotting allowed. However, my progress is sometimes delayed.

Of course the whole of Kruger is a carpet of long, green grass. I cross first the Olifants river which is so bland, brown and unattractive. Pushing north, I pass Letaba and then the Letaba River, full and flowing strongly too.

And then a curious thing happens. Suddenly the grasslands along the verges are alive with the “twit-twit.. twit-twit” Harlequin Quail calls – so mysteriously absent in the south.

Male Harlequin Quail (My Library)

I make good time and reach Shingwedzi at 11.45am only twice delayed by ellies in the road. Of course Shingwedzi is much more laid back and relaxed than the more frenetic camps to the south. Quails are calling incessantly at the fence. After setting up and having a rest, I go out to explore the beautiful surrounds. First I cross the low-level causeway just outside camp and I have a few anxious moments as the Quantum is pushed by the strong current. Then down the Kanniedood road with its rich, thick vegetation. Flocks of Red-billed Quelea are also suddenly evident.

Looking downstream to the old dam site.

Then round to the high-level bridge and a view downstream. Really this must be the most beautiful part of Kruger.

Thursday, 25th I arrive at the gate at 5.20am to find it open. Oh the informality of the north. Today is lovely and clear so I take off quickly northwards up the main H1-7. At the Babalala Picnic Spot I turn left onto the S56 Mphongolo river road and then creep southward. Of course the solitude is complete and I do not see another car for three hours. The following photos will give you an idea of this superb road.

This is a well known leopard road but on that score I draw a blank. But the sheer beauty of this place makes for an outstanding morning. Unfortunately, the bottom section of the road is closed, no doubt because of wash-aways.

Back on the tar H1-7 I move back towards camp. All the while I am on the lookout for the elusive Grey Headed Kingfisher but I know that the best chance of seeing it is along the Kanniedood S50 road just downstream from camp. So in first gear I idle through the thick vegetation and miraculously – THERE HE IS. Sitting perfectly for me and quite at ease with my presence.

I am delighted to find such a lovely specimen. Two German ladies arrive and after enquiring what I am photographing, they go frantic as they have come to Shingwedzi purely to find the Grey Headed Kingfisher. They are shattered as it disappears just as they arrive. My lucky day today.

I will complete this afternoon’s activities in the next blog.