Today is the last day of the 4.30am early morning gate opening time. So we seize the chance to travel quickly north 33Km to the Babalala (father sleeps) Picnic spot where we turnoff left and begin to slowly meander down the Mphongolo S56 River road. The river has recently flooded and a series of muddy pools line the riverbed.
Soon the sun’s golden rays begin playing on this exquisite scene and we are enthralled by it all. A fat Ratel (honey badger) waddles ahead of us, the odd waterbuck gallops away, ellies and buffalo are drinking at the pools.
Without seeing anything extraordinary, it really is a most memorable morning. The road is actually a single track that winds along the top of the river bank which is lined by great sycamore, leadwood, jackallberry and other trees.
This is one of those great roads of Kruger which one can travel up and down on every day and not grow tired of.
Today is hot and by 9am we are back in camp for the day. We are really missing Shingwidzi’s swimming pool.
We venture out late evening and take the roads around the camp area but nothing stirs after such a hot day.
Such is the lure of yesterday’s Mphongolo S56 river road that we are going to repeat it. Today the gates open an hour later at 5.30am and there are three cars in line.
Fortunately, we are by ourselves as we turn onto the S56 with the sun already rising. Less than 2Km along the river I find a leopard with a juvenile by its side right next to the road. The problem with leopards next to the road is that they are usually coming or going and that is the case today as they quickly cross ahead of us. But no sooner had they crossed than two more youngsters appear and follow down the bank to the riverbed. Four leopards in one sighting – that is quite unusual.
We fleetingly see them down on the sand but the overhang from the bank obscures them. Despite waiting a while for them to reappear, they vanish.
We continue along the road and come across a large herd of buffalo that jostle their way up from drinking in the riverbed and envelop us in dust. To sit quietly within a large herd of buffalo is always a wonderful experience.
Today promises to be even hotter than yesterday and by 8am the good light is fast disappearing as the temperature soars. We have only travelled about 4km along this road this morning but we turn around and head back for camp.
We approach Shingwedzi Restcamp from the low-level causeway just outside camp.