Skukuza 20-21th November

Skukuza 20-21th November

Friday, 20th

!0mm of gentle rain fall during the night and it is still raining at 4.30am so we rise late today leaving camp at 7.30am. Although not soaking, 10mm will find its way into the grassroots alleviating the general dryness.

We stop on the H1-2 Sand River bridge and ponder over a blue object in the reeds downstream. Only with the help of a long lens and mega pixels is the mystery unravelled – a dreaded Covid face mask.

Wire-tailed Swallows on the side of the Sand River bridge.

After the spectacular sighting of the wild-dogs on the Maroela Loop S83 last week it has reverted to type and we see nothing at all along it. Poor Dave and Steph have understandably lost faith in this very beautiful road and wish to sideline it. We join the H13, cross the Sabie high level bridge and make our way down the H4-1 to the Nkuhlu Picnic site. The migratory birds are now coming in strongly perhaps sensing a change towards wetter weather.

Our first Woodland Kingfisher seen today. (My Library)
Diederik’s Cuckoo (My Library)
Violet-backed Starling (My Library)

It is cool today with an unpleasant south wind blowing so not the best of viewing conditions. But as we keep saying – keep your line in the water.

The impala lambs are now coming in a flood and they are everywhere. Again one marvels how mobile they are so soon after birth.

Leaving Renette in camp with the children, Dave, Steph and I set out for our afternoon drive along the H11 towards Paul Kruger gate – the busiest road in Kruger. At the S1 Doispane intersection a large buildup of cars indicates a cat sighting and sure enough a leopard is snoozing contentedly up a tree close to the road. So streetwise is she that the sounds of unruly shouts and even hoots from yobbo motorists does not even cause her to lift her head as she sleeps soundly through the noise. I was lucky to get this photo when she momentarily shifted her position.

We travel along the S1 and then turn off along the S4 down to the S3 river road. Despite travelling really slowly, nothing is moving and besides our slumbering leopard, today has been exceptionally quiet. We join the H11 at Kruger Gate and begin our return to camp. Back at our leopard tree, she is still fast asleep and has not even moved in our absence.

Tomorrow is Dave and Steph’s last day with us before they return to Jo’burg on Sunday. Weather prospects tomorrow look better and we must hope for a grand finale for them.

Saturday, 21st

Today we are out of our starting blocks at 4.30am and this being Dave and Steph’s last day, we mean business. We are going to do the whole of the Salitje Road S30 and continue on to Lower Sabie where we will have breakfast. We are the only car down the road and arrive at the high-level bridge by ourselves. And this really illustrates how luck can play such a part in game viewing.

Callum is a little restless so we decide to delay our usual coffee stop and continue along the bridge from which David spies (poaches) a leopard sitting on a rock in the riverbed.

But she is on her way to the northern bank so we wait on the S30 gravel to intercept her and…… she duly obliges.

Had we stopped for coffee we would have missed her. The weather is just magnificent this morning with broken high cloud and still, cool air.

From our favourite lookout spot over the Sabie, Renette very cleverly spots a distant African Finfoot which I have been trying to photograph for so long.

Leaving our coffee spot, it is now Steph’s turn to join the action as she spots an oh so handsome lion.

I have mentioned David’s reputation as a sharpshooting game spotter. Today he performs the most miraculous spot that I can remember. Only 200m beyond the lion we go through a slight dip in the road and amongst the rocks 30-40m from the road, he picks out a leopard that none of us can even see after we reverse and the vehicle is stationary. All he could see was a small part of its white spotted underparts. It was only later that the leopard stuck its head up and I could get these photos.

If you want to see leopards, invite David along. He has a list of brilliant spots but today’s surpasses them all.

Further along Salitje we sit in the midst of a buffalo herd as it crosses the road around us. What an awesome sight.

On the rocky outcrop at the end of Salitje S30, two Klipspringers are resting on the rocks.

Klipspringer (My Library)

We take the S128 towards Lower Sabie and it is a joy to be out on a day such as this. Where the road approaches the river a couple of cars indicate yet another impala up a tree in the leopard pantry.

Now this sets one thinking. Surely no leopard would chose such a flimsy tree in which to feed on his prey. Nearby we find a hyena hiding under a bush and we can only think that after catching the impala the leopard pulled it up the nearest tree to escape the hyenas. It is doubtful that he can feed on the impala up this tree but if he moves it he has the hyenas to deal with. A great pity that we will never know the outcome.

A lovely breakfast on the Lower Sabie Mugg & Bean deck and then rapidly up the H4-1 road back to Skukuza arriving at 12.10pm. What a great, great morning in all respects.

After our 3pm swim, we go out west and take the attractive S65 road. Usually this road is too busy with tourist bakkies from nearby lodges but today it is quiet allowing us to enjoy its beauty and serenity. Back on the H1-1 tar road we pass some sleeping lions and enter the camp as usual at 6.30pm after a really wonderful day. A final supper at the Cattle Baron on the open air deck above the Sabie River brings closure to such a tremendously happy week with Dave, Steph, Callum and Sophie. I am afraid that our leopard prospects are set to plummet as they head for Jo’burg tomorrow.