Skukuza 22-23rd November

Skukuza 22-23rd November

Sunday, 22nd

Dave, Steph and family leave for Jo’burg at 5.30am and what a wonderful week it was with them.

With the weather being cool with high cloud, Renette and I take off across the Sabie and Sand Rivers along the main H1-2 road. We come to a large troop of baboons in the road and we are surprised to see the dominant male mothering a baby.

To the extent that the little one clung underneath him as they usually do with their mothers. I can’t remember seeing this before.

Bateleur (My Library)

We come back along the H13 over the Sabie and then back to camp.

With the weather still pleasant I take off at 1.30pm for an extended afternoon’s viewing. Down the H4-1 I go creeping along and concentrating on birds as I go.

Golden-breasted Bunting (My Library)
Emerald-spotted Wood-dove (My Library)
Red-billed Firefinch (My Library)

I reach the high-level bridge where I pause for some time enjoying this beautiful spectacle.

The Sabie River looking downstream from the high-level bridge.

I am a little perturbed to see clumps of water hyacinth float down with the current and collecting in backwaters.

I then go down the Salitje S30 Road and spend some time at our favourite lookout place.

An afternoon view

Our resident croc is peacefully snoozing in the shallows with no evil intent today.

Some geese are busy nearby and it always amazes me that crocs always ignore them.

The immature White-backed Vultures are so much more attractive than the adults.

I then head for the Maroela Loop S83 where I find a flock of White Helmet Shrikes.

Back on the main tarred road and with time running out I come across a pack of wild-dogs on the road clearly on the hunt. They are probably the same group that I saw last week.

I then cross the Sand River bridge with the light fading at 6.15pm and am amazed to see yet another pack of wild-dogs some 3Km from the dogs I have just passed.

Monday, 23rd

Today is our last day at Skukuza as we move to Satara tomorrow. So, armed with a grocery list and with a number of other errands to do, I am heading for Malalane this morning. I am first out of the Skukuza gates at 4.30am and intend doing some good spotting on the way down.

With the S114 gravel road closed for road works, I travel out along the H1-1 and then turn down the H3 towards Afsaal and Malalane. But I turn off left along the S113 towards the Biyamithi Loop S23. I haven’t gone far before I come across a mating pair of lions on the road.

As usual the male is in a sorry condition after his hectic exertions. I leave them to it and continue along this so attractive river road (S23). There are many granite outcrops and on one I find a pair of Klipspringers.

The Biyamithi weir is one of my favourite places in the Park. But the dry conditions have left it as a series of muddy pools with very little open water – not conducive for good photography. Thick weed covers a lot of the water and under it somewhere is our resident hippo that has been living his solitary life here for years. Our neighbours at Skukuza were very surprised when he surfaced amongst the weed.

I continue southward along the badly corrugated S114 until I reach the Mlambane River. On the road ahead, I can see a few cars (the first I have seen for 3 hours) and upon arrival there I find this amazing scene.

A male leopard perched atop a granite boulder feeding on what looks to ge a warthog. This is at the junction of the S114/S118/S119 roads. What a leopard hotspot this is. I have now seen five leopards within 1Km over the past year.

One never tires of these magnificent cats – all power, beauty, secrecy, and so so special.

I continue along the Mlambane S119 road. They have definitely had more rain in the south and although the river remains dry, there are large pools of water at the side of the road.

I then exit the Park noting again how much hyacinth is floating down the Crocodile River. I think that these river systems need a good sluicing from some heavy rain.

Chores done I hurry back to Skukuza at 12 noon. We then start to pack up in preparation for our move tomorrow. The weather is not hot but the humidity is extreme. A quick swim and I take off again for the Maroela Loop S83 which lends itself as a most pleasant afternoon route.

African Hoopoe (My Library)
I see the first of the Red-backed Shrikes

Large clouds are building up eastward over Mozambique and I suspect the heavy rains are imminent.

A Tawny Eagle

Across the Sabie River at the river T junction, another pack of wild-dogs are holding up the traffic. Skukuza has been very pleasant but we do look forward to the change and Satara beckons.