Skukuza 21-23rd May

Skukuza 21-23rd May

To add to my problems, the settings on my computer have come back changed and you subscribers are not receiving my emailed notification of my posts. I am now in the hands of my technical support.

Saturday 21st

Heavy rain falls throughout the night. I wondered whether to bring my rain gauge with me or not but winter in Kruger….. never. I should imagine that about 50mm of rain falls and the ground in the campsite is sodden. Fortunately, we did most of the packing yesterday so that it only remains to hitch up at 7am. But in just that short time I am soaked.

Dark and dull with rain falling incessantly, we head north up the main H3 to Skukuza arriving at 8.30am. With our large caravan, I am loathe to go to all the effort of levelling it so we seek out one of the few level campsites remaining and in pelting rain, we unhitch, level and then retreat into the caravan. I cannot put out a blog without photographs again so I am going to dip into my library to illustrate Skukuza and its environs.

At our age we do appreciate our comforts, something that this beautiful caravan provides in full measure

Breakfast at the excellent (and good value) Cattle Baron down by the fast flowing Sabie River. Usually meals are served on the lovely deck but today we huddle inside.

The Cattle Baron Restaurant with its lovely deck overlooking the Sabie River – on a sunny day

At 3pm despite the continuing rain we cross the Sabie River and head for the Sand River causeway for coffee.

Sand River Causeway on a good day. We park in the little recess in the middle for our coffee

Rain, particularly in winter, is not conducive to good game viewing and we see very little all day. Lightning flashes overhead and heavy squalls of rain sweep up from the south. Returning to camp at 4.30pm the sun briefly breaks through with a vivid rainbow shining in the east.

We await better days, especially after our Bergendal disaster, but more heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow so we must be patient until Monday.

Sunday, 22nd

We awake to rain drumming on the roof of the caravan, so decide to sleep in – sacrilege for us in Kruger. But my main object is to take beautiful wildlife photos – something that is just not possible in these conditions.

The Sabie River from the H12 high level bridge in better conditions

At 8.30am we travel down the H4-1 river road without seeing anything other than some bedraggled impala. On the H12 high level bridge over the Sabie River, we pause and are agog that in late May the river is a surging mass of brown water covering all the rocks. So high is the water level that the river is flowing in the sandy riverbed on far north side.

More bad news is that our favourite S30 Salitje road is padlocked and closed, dashing our early Tuesday morning plans. A couple of years ago this same road was closed off for six months. I, rather naughtily, decided to investigate and after skirting the barrier I drove the full length of the road and found no reason at all to justify its closure.

With the rain still falling, we head back to camp where we do some domestic chores. Unfortunately, all the camp washing machines are either missing or ‘out of order’ so we must wait for the sun. The camp is full but many of the chalets are empty.

A very old aerial photo of Skukuza

Monday, 23rd

The rain is even heavier this morning and we do not leave the caravan until 10.30am. The sky has brightened and we decide to brush away our ‘cabin fever’ by drifting down to Lower Sabie for lunch. At last after a full week in Kruger I can pick up my camera and begin photographing the birds that have hidden away for three days.

White-browed Scrub-Robin
There was a time when the White-crowned Lapwing was a rarity. Look carefully at its chest and you can see two spikes protruding from its wings – used for defence and fighting. This is a feature of all the Lapwing species.

Just before the high level H12 bridge, a really splendid lioness is busy stalking some prey in the riverbed but we soon lose her amongst the bushes. This is more like Kruger!! Downstream from the bridge, a watery sun actually breaks through and conditions are now ideal.

Brown-hooded Kingfisher
An oh so handsome Male Giant Kingfisher. (Remember the male wears a rufus tunic whilst the female wears a rufus skirt)

Beyond the revamped Nkuhlu Picnic site and just when we are looking forward to Lower Sabie bathed in sunshine, the weather suddenly closes in and it begins to rain again. It is evident that all the streams flowing through culverts under the road are in full spate. None more so than the Nwatimhiri River which is a raging torrent.

Mwatimhiri River
Lubyelubye Rocks

By the time we reach Lower Sabie, the weather has closed in again and steady rain falls. Sunset Dam is brim full but wee push on to Mugg & Bean where we have a splendid breakfast on the rain swept deck.

Down at the bridge, the water is rushing under the deck along its full length. This really is absurd for May month. Every one of the gravel road entrances is chained off. Thereafter, a rapid trip back to Skukuza with rain falling continuously. There we have a quick rest before setting out for the Sand River with the sky at last beginning to clear. Our plan was to go down to Mbyamithi tomorrow in the forecasted clear weather but having seen the state of the Mwatimhiri River, we change our mind. We will be heading for Leeupan and Tshokwane up the