Tuesday, 21st May
Chris and Renette are with us on a flying visit – in more ways than one. Today they must be at the Skukuza airport at 10.20am, so in order to broaden their Kruger experience – Lake Panic at sunrise becomes a must.
So at 6.25am as the sun rises over the dam, we are all in our seats and ready. The hippos are blowing and snorting, a Fish Eagle perched above us is calling, the kingfishers are diving into the water and a large croc glides past. Bathed in the early morning golden light, it really is a sight to behold – especially for newcomers Chris and Renette.
However, like Roley and Verona last week, we feel that our visitors have been deprived by not seeing a cat. So we reluctantly drag ourselves away from Lake Panic at 7am and decide to move and then double back along the Doispan Road (S1) – the scene of many a leopard sighting. This morning we strike gold.
After only a couple of Km’s we come across some parked tourist vehicles and we are told that a leopard has disappeared into the grass. “Oh no, not again”. But after a while a movement catches my eye and a leopard stands up in the grass almost directly opposite.
It is about 80m off the road but we have a grandstand view from the embankment on which we are parked. It soon becomes apparent that there are two leopards and from their antics and snarls we realise that they are a mating couple.
So despite them being some distance off and often hidden by bush and long grass, through binocs and a long lens, we get a fairly good view of them – all in lovely light. What a thrilling sight and we are so pleased for our visitors.
Elated by our good fortune we return back along the H11 road stopping to watch two White Rhino close by in the bush.
We have breakfast on the deck next to the river with green pigeons above us and we are then a little intrigued to see a small trolley being wheeled along to the middle of the old railway bridge. Some figures then alight and appear to be inspecting the structure. I have heard that they are going ahead with a hotel (not a restaurant) train which they wish to park on the bridge itself. It will cater for 48 guests and will include a swimming pool atop one of the bridge columns. Oh dear, surely there must come a time when they put the brakes on the commercialisation of Skukuza. Meanwhile the sprawling hotel that was completed in December stands empty as (word has it) they try and sort out a problem about who will run it.
We drop Chris and Renette off at the airport and at 11.20am hear their plane taking off for Cape Town. I think that they enjoyed their first visit.
In our camspsite at midday, we have an unexpected visit from Shaun Jenky, Chane and Ally who all work at Sabie Sands. It really is a tonic to speak to these youngsters who are so knowledgeable and passionate about the bush. Lovely to see them again.
A brisk south wind arrives which rather puts a damper on our afternoon circular trip down the Sabie H4-1 river road, coffee on the high level bridge and then on to the H1-2 Tshokwane road and back to camp. Certainly a wonderful start to the day even if it did end rather quietly.
Wednesday, 22nd May
The cold front has slipped by, the wind has dropped and with a bright sky I head back to Lake Panic. I arrive at the gate 2 minutes before opening and follow a long queue of cars.
Yesterday, everything went according to plan. Lake Panic was lovely and then the leopards obliged. Today – not so. Arriving at the Lake Panic hide, I am amazed to find eight cars already there. It can’t be – I am always first. I enter the hide and the only remaining seat is behind a screen of reeds – and someone has taken MY PERSONAL STRATEGIC SEAT. A little miffed, I carry on photographing but this is just one of those days when things go wrong. The bird won’t sit properly or dives down behind something. This fish eagle swoops in and catches a sizeable fish and I miss him coming.
The photographic light goes quickly so I return to camp at 9am.
This afternoon I return to the hide but it is again full of people and I cannot position myself where I would like to be.
So not the best of days but tomorrow Renette and I are going to tackle Salietjie road for the last time before we move to Bergendal on Friday.