Skukuza 20-21-22nd August

Skukuza 20-21-22nd August

The following three days are similarly quiet with a chilly, south wind blowing. These conditions are not conducive to good photography (or game viewing) and I have drawn from my library of photos to illustrate sightings.

Friday, 20th

After the heat of yesterday it was to be expected that today would dawn dark, chilly and miserable. We are both nevertheless at the gate at 5.45am. Whilst enjoying our coffee we notice two smart ratels snuffling around the gate guard’s door before trotting past us. Really, just by staying inside Skukuza camp itself one can see quite an assortment of animals. Hyenas, warthogs, ratels, baboons, monkeys, bushbabies etc.. I was never a fan of the idea of turning the iconic Sabie Bridge into a hotel but I must give Sanparks their due. The railway carriages now strung out across the full length of the bridge are very unobtrusive with no noise or night lighting emanating from them. In fact one hardly notices them.

The Railway Station Restaurant

We take off down the river road towards Lower Sabie but these type of days are seldom productive. A chilly southerly breeze is blowing and birds and animals seem to be lying low. We stop and inspect the revamped Nkuhlu Picnic facility, certainly a marked improvement on the previous effort. Next, we press on to Lower Sabie, just missing a leopard that had left his tree where he had been feeding on an impala. A quick breakfast at M&B before visiting our camping friends, Bob and Rosa, who live permanently in the Park.

Then quickly back up the H4-1 river road to Skukuza, pausing to photograph a stately immature Martial Eagle.

This Sabie river road is not the place to be at midday – crowded and congested with traffic. Not a good morning – but that is Kruger where one learns to take the rough with the smooth.

This afternoon we go out west along the very attractive S65 road but in dark conditions see nothing of special interest.

Saturday, 21st

Skukuza has really got me beat. We are first at the gate at 5.45am and only one lonely car trails us as we leave camp at 6am – this despite the camp being so full. Most puzzling.

Today is again heavily overcast and cool (15℃) and our headlights are only switched off after we cross the Sand River. Today we are taking a slow drive up north to Tshokwane (H1-2). Light rain falls intermittently and everything is quiet including the birds which seem to disappear in this type of weather. We stop at Leeupan which still has a few pools of water from which impalas are drinking. The vegetation has been trampled flat on the floor of Leeupan which is a mud churned expanse.

Leeupan (My Library)
Leeupan – a birding paradise during the wet summer months (My Library)

Evidence of the bountifully wet summer that Kruger has just enjoyed is everywhere. The dry, tan grass is long and thick – even at the usually dry Tshokwane area. The Nwaswitsonto River is lined with many pools of water.

Nwaswitsonto River during summer (My Library)

On to Tshokwane which we reach at 8am but….. find the kitchen slow to waken with no pies or roosterbrood on offer yet. Goodness, this is weekend with hungry crowds arriving. ‘African time’ can be very trying sometimes.

We wander back southward and take the H13 high-level bridge over the Sabie. The sky is brightening and the birds are starting to become active. We stop to watch waxbills, finches and bee-eaters feeding next to the road.

Blue Waxbill (My Library)
African Firefinch (My Library)
Little Bee-eater (My Library)

Back in camp we get busy with domestics as the sun appears and the clouds disappear – contrary to the weather forecast.

This evening we go off to the Renoster and Stevenson-Hamilton koppies – beautiful in the evening sunlight.

Renoster Koppies
Stevenson-Hamilton Koppie

A family of delightful klipspringers on a rocky domes take our attention.

Sunday, 22nd

After yesterday’s sunny afternoon, we are disappointed to leave camp again in miserable conditions again. Dark, misty weather with light rain from the south meets us as we go quickly down the H4-1 Sabie River road. Over the high-level bridge through thick mist and then crawl all by ourselves along the Salitje S30. But again bird and animal are lying low today and we see very little. However, where the road leaves the river, we again see Cape Clawless Otters cavorting in the water.

Cape Clawless Otters in the Sabie River (My Library)

By 9am we are back in camp after another disappointing morning. Kruger has a habit of doing this. Just when one is getting a little despondent by poor sightings – wallop – something spectacular happens.

This afternoon it is still dark and dismal but I set of nonetheless westward along the H1-1 towards Transport Dam. This was the site of the epic video “The Battle at Kruger” shot by an American on his first visit to the Park.

Along the way I stop to admire a pair of Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls in a thicket.

At the dam the cold south wind is ruffling the water and all is rather quiet. I do get a couple of shots of a Pied Kingfisher and a Fish Eagle in flight.

I return to camp at 5.30pm in the dark.