Skukuza 1- 4th February

Skukuza 1- 4th February

What a strange time in Kruger. Few tourists, flooding rivers, roads opening, roads closing, days of rain and days of sunshine. Somehow we just cannot seem to settle into a routine.

Monday, 1st Today is a lovely day for Lake Panic – sunny and still. You may remember that when I was last at the hide the water level was so low that the nearest water was some way off.

Lake Panic early December

So, after all the rains and floods conditions at the wonderful Lake Panic shough be perfect – right? Wrong. This is the sight that meets my eyes.

Lake Panic today

In fact a photographic disaster – no kingfishers, herons or any waterbirds. After all the rain I wonder if they have purposely drained the dam. So, disappointed I pack up and go trundling down the Doispane S1 road instead. This is the most beautiful road with its grassland and scattered trees and what is even better, little traffic.

Looking west along the Doispane S1 road. Note the troubled sky.

Eventually my way is blocked by an obstinate male ellie in musth so I turn around and head back to camp. Here we swim, do domestic chores whilst all the while the sky to the west against the escarpment darkens and thunder growls in the distance. Later in the afternoon I venture down to the Sabie low-level bridge which is dry and passable but the authorities have nevertheless blocked the road.

Tuesday, 2nd As forecast, the wind direction changes to south during the night and good rain begins to pour down. By the morning I measure 25mm in the rain gauge. Dark, damp and windy, I take off down the H4-1 river road. Before I even reach there, I can hear the river which is now really angry. Bank to bank it surges downstream as a mass of foaming, brown water.

Taken from the High-level bridge with the flooding Sand River joining the Sabie from the right.

The Salitjie S30 is still open so in dismal conditions, I proceed along it. But where the Nwatindlophu stream joins the Sabie I am met with this sight.

The stream actually is not flowing. This is the flood waters of the Sabie pushing back.

So nothing more for it but to turn back, cross the bridge and continue down the H4-1 road. After a few Km’s I come across a couple of cars ogling a leopard feeding on an impala in a tree down at the water’s edge. Through thick bush I do manage this photo with the river water as background.

Under normal conditions this would have caused a massive traffic jam but here we can all enjoy a leisurely view, me better than most because of the height of the Quantum.

I turn back and despite the adverse conditions, wander out along the H1-1 road heading west eventually reaching Pretoriuskop itself. All gravel roads are closed, the grass is tall and there is not much to see other than evidence of the 190mm deluge that struck this area a couple of days ago.

Returning towards Skukuza, I come across two ‘damsels in distress’ whose car has broken down. As I prepare to help them, a Parks Board Ranger, Craig Williamson, arrives and takes control. I have a short chat with him and he tells me what a help the flooding Sabie is in combatting the poaching problem. He does say though that the rhino poaching is “quiet”. It is really heartening to know that there are men of his quality caring for our wildlife.

With most roads blocked off, options are limited, the south wind makes things unpleasant so we spend the day in camp. Because of the scarcity of tourists the Skukuza laundry has closed down and is being outsourced.

Wednesday 3rd The weather clears today and I head again along the H1-1 road out westward. Near Transport dam I come across these lions in the road.

What a lovely sight. Folks, you must forgive me but perhaps I am showing my age. In our youth we would have spent all day racing around the park taking wonderful photos by the dozen. Now we prefer short forays in the early morning and late afternoon and then spend midday swimming, reading etc.. Which does not make for the most interesting blog.

Lesser Grey Shrike

Thursday, 4th Today is beautifully calm and clear so we are heading for Tshokwane along the H1-2. We cross the Sabie across the H13 high-level bridge and already the erratic Sabie river has calmed a lot. Leeupan has filled more after the rain but the thick grass makes viewing and photographing difficult. It is seething with birds though.

North a Tshokwane the Nwaswisontso River is flowing strongly.

I really do not enjoy seeing rhinos anymore. The agitated behaviour of these docile animals just illustrates the pressure they face. This wretched bull was so traumatised and confused – tragic.

At Tshokwane they have a few historic photos on display which I always find of interest.

Paul Kruger

Kruger Park quite rightly bears his name. At a time when everyone thought nothing of destroying the country’s wildlife, it took a man of foresight to put a halt to this and establish this game reserve – amid huge opposition I may add.

James Stevenson-Hamilton

The great Head Ranger of early Kruger whose African name was “Skukuza” – he who sweeps clean. Reference to his efforts in cleaning out the hunters and others from the game reserve.

A young Tawny Eagle
Juvenile Gabar Goshawk

This afternoon we go out again along the Doispane S1 road – a real favourite. Again, we come across lions in the road which no doubt prefer this to the damp, thick grass.

A really unusual sight is a civet cat that scampers across the road just ahead of us but is quickly lost to view in the long grass.

More rain is expected tonight as the wind direction swings to the south. Rain is forecast for the next two days.