Fri 21st Dec
It is lovely to have cool weather again. As we wind down to the end of our trip we prefer to give the drought stricken areas a miss and just concentrate on our favourite Salietjie S30 road. So at 4.30am we press on down the Sabie Road in cool, heavily overcast weather. Coffee on the high-level bridge and then our meander along Salietjie.
“Imogen the Leopard” is lying low at her rocky outcrop and is nowhere to be seen, Another lion ‘hot spot’ is where the road leaves the river and sure enough lying on a rock are a lion couple. It is drizzling slightly and we have our breakfast hoping for some action. But these are in true lion snooze mode and after a while we leave them,
It is noticeable how many Nyala one now sees in Kruger where once they were a rarity.
Back in camp there is high, thin cloud at midday so I seize the chance to get to Lake Panic. Despite the low water level there is constant activity to keep me busy with my camera.
Sat 22nd Dec
Kruger Park without the Sabie River is unthinkable. This is the most beautiful river in the Park with its clear waters winding their way through sandbanks, rocks and reedbeds – even in the severest drought.
The Crocodile River to the south is ravaged by agricultural pollution, often choked by hyacinth whilst to the north the Olifants now flows sporadically and is so polluted that the crocodiles are dying. Further north and the Luvuhvu and Limpopo rivers flow intermittently. But the Sabie just keeps ‘rolling along’.
In times of drought such as now, we prefer to stay close to the Sabie and again at 4.30am we wend our way along its banks, first to the high-level bridge for coffee and then onto the Salietjie road (S30). Another dark, heavily overcast sky gives hope for some rain and a light drizzle falls over what is really a wasteland. We idle past “Imogen the Leopard’s” rocks and a ratel skuttles out and down into the riverbed. About two thirds of the way down this road, the vegetation suddenly becomes lush as the effect of the Lower Sabie rain of two weeks ago is felt. Amazingly buffalo are busy munching grass with already seed shoots down at Mafourteen.
It is cool and pleasant so we push on to Lower Sabie and Sunset Dam. Then up the Sabie road (H4-1) again, stopping off to view three great Black Maned Lions feeding off a buffalo carcass with masses of attendant vultures.
A light rain is steadily falling but as is the way in dry years, it just will not get going. By the time we reach Skukuza, the clouds thin and the sun breaks through. A quick swim, lunch on the restaurant deck above the river and then on to my last visit to Lake Panic at 3pm – once the afternoon light improves.
Pied Kingfishers squabbling.
A Green-backed Heron and a Squacco Heeron (below)
Lake Panic is never boring and there is always something on the go.
At 4.30pm the sunlight leaves the water and in beautiful evening light, I move quickly to the Sand River which is still flowing strongly. There is no activity at all so I return towards Skukuza. After a Km or two I come across one of those scenes that is so typically Kruger and so very interesting. Termites or flying ants are pouring out of their earthy holes and the veld is full of raptors which are quick to enjoy the spoils. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of bush which inhibits photography. Hooded vultures, Wahlberg’s, Tawny and other Eagles and Marabou Storks are busy in the evening light whilst above a flock of Amur Falcons wheel and dive as they join the feast.
Marabou Stork washed clean by the recent storm.
And that dear folks marks the end of our 23 day trip which has sped by. Tomorrow we return home to Ballito through Swaziland where we join our whole family for Christmas.
The good news is that we return to Kruger on 20th January 2019 for a 5 month trip – the realisation of a long held ambition. I do hope that you have enjoyed my narrative and that you will join me again in a month’s time when we return.