Skukuza 24-27th

Skukuza 24-27th

Highly frustrating for me is that my website support team has been unable to find the fault which is preventing the blog being automatically sent to my subscribers. One can only hope.

Tuesday, 24th

At last we wake to a clear sky and because most other options are closed, we are heading north to Tshokwane. Now my main goal is the wonderful Leeupan, a haven for waterbirds, and I want to reach there in the soft light of sunrise. So, in the dark, we join the gate queue at 5.50am.

At 6am we tail off up the road behind the cars ahead. We turn left at the 4-way crossing and a hundred meters on we see a couple of cars have stopped – must be the usual hyena. But as we come up behind them, a large male leopard stalks past us and then crosses over behind. What a pity that such a great sight should be blighted by headlights, exhaust fumes and jostling cars. We must bide our time for better sightings.

We continue quickly up the main H1-2 with the early morning light strengthening all the time. As we reach Leeupan so the golden sunlight reaches this scene of great beauty.


Bird and animal line themselves to enjoy the sun’s warmth after these days of cold.

An Impala enjoying the first bit of sun for days

Despite this quite idyllic scene, the summer frenzy of birdlife is absent and I must make do with the usual geese, jacanas, moorhens and blacksmith lapwings.

Common Moorhen
African Pygmy Goose (My Library)

I have heard of recent reports of the beautiful Pygmy Geese being present at Leeupan but…….. no such luck. Nevertheless, just to be in such surroundings is so enjoyable.

Mwaswitsonto River which flows past Tshokwane

We spend an hour at Leeupan and then continue to the popular Tshokwane Picnic Site. This is for good reason, their little kitchen serves up really delicious, quality meals – at a reasonable price too. Renette and I enjoy an outstanding breakfast with one of their pies taking top honours. Well done Tshokwane!! I do have a broomstick at the ready to fend off a pretty brazen baboon making raids on unsuspecting tables.

Just south of Tshokwane we come across a splendid Lapper-faced Vulture sunning himself.

Near the large, round koppies some 12kms south of Tshokwane, we come across a pack of wild-dogs on the road verge with a couple of attendant hyenas. But with all the gravel roads closed off, the volume of traffic on the main tar roads is heavy and we move on. Driving through Kruger on a still May day after the rain is something to really appreciate. A lovely morning.

Back in camp, we spread out the mats and chairs and enjoy the midday sun. Later at 3.30pm we drive down the Sabie River road H4-1 to the high level bridge. The water level is dropping already and becoming cleaner.

Sunset over the Sabie Bridge train

Wednesday, 25th

With many road options still closed, we just amble again down the scenically beautiful Sabie River road H4-1. The sun rises at exactly 6.30am into a cloudless sky.

Sunrise from the High-level bridge over the Sabie River

On the far side of the high level bridge H12 a small group of cars inform us that a leopard has just disappeared into the bushes.

I am afraid that this famous road is so affected by rainfall. With pools lying everywhere there is just no need for animals to run the predator gauntlet down to the river – all the way to Lower Sabie, we see very few animals. The birds though do come alive an hour or so after sunrise.

Green Woodhoopoes
Brown-hooded Tchagara
Rattling Cisticola

The Nwatimhiri causeway road has been opened and that muddy torrent of Monday has calmed already to a clear cascade over the causeway.

Nwatimhiri Causeway

Breakfast in the warm sun on the Mugg & Bean deck and the world is a wonderful place. I give thanks again and again for the privilege of being able to enjoy this paradise.

Little Bee-eater

A quick inspection of the bridge and then we make a rapid return to Skukuza. This afternoon we circle the Renoster and Stevenson-Hamilton Koppies but nothing entices me to lift my camera. This is vintage May weather in South Africa – cool, still and sunny.

Thursday, 26th

These still, sunny conditions are perfect for a favourite Skukuza destination – Lake Panic. At 6.10am I therefore leave camp and make my way there. Surprisingly another car beats me to it. The Lake Panic bird hide is renowned far and wide and quite rightly so. However, it is L-shaped and the trick is to sit in the seat at the corner of that L thus enjoying an unrestricted 200 degree view of the lake. Unfortunately, the occupants of the early car have taken that one seat and I am left muttering my misfortune.

Lake Panic at sunrise

The water level of course is high and there are no sandbanks exposed which rules out a lot of the wading bird species. I do still manage to take a couple of photos.

A Fish Eagle is calling nearby…….. before diving down and flying past me.
Grey Heron

After a while “the couple in the L” leave but before I can take their place, a “male couple” dart ahead of me with binoculars busily scanning. Excitedly they focus on some “waterhogs”. Thoroughly deflated, I accept that it is just not my morning. Which maybe is not too bad a thing as Lake Panic is not at its best with the high water level and the usual quieter winter months.

Our favourite afternoon destination is the Sand River causeway along the main H1-2 and some 10kms distant. The Sand River really epitomises Kruger, granite outcrops, sand banks, dense reedbeds and the clear stream snaking through. So from our coffee spot we enjoy this scene with the rush of the waters below.

The view from our coffee vantage point on the Sand River bridge

Again however, the animals have spread far and wide and we see very little.

Friday, 27th

We have an appointment to keep in Nelspruit at 8.30am so we are early out of the Skukuza gates at 6am. We take the H3 main road down to Malelane and have a tight schedule to keep. Twice we are held up by elephant herds in the road but we finally exit Malelane Gate at 7.30am. Thence along the busy N4 to Nelspruit arriving at our destination at exactly 8.30am.

Business completed, we travel the 8km into town to buy groceries – blissfully unaware that we are being followed. Arriving at the open air mall parking area, I notice some suspicious characters in a small car draw into a nearby parking bay. My locking remote now will not work and eventually I manage to lock all the doors manually and then instruct the car guard to keep his eye on things. As we are having breakfast I receive a phone call from our earlier meeting people to say that their CCTV system had picked up these rogues trailing us from their premises. And their description matches our friends in the car park. I hurry back to the Quantum but mercifully it is still there and the scoundrels have disappeared. Had their ‘jamming’ succeeded then I would have lost my vehicle and more importantly, ALL MY PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT. My goodness, this is time to recalibrate and be far more on my guard.

Later, it is with much thanksgiving that we re-enter Malelane Gate and the safe tranquility of Kruger. This morning’s experience makes me value it even more. On the way back to Skukuza we pass some lions lying hidden in the grass and at the top end of the H3, a leopard also invisible right near the road.

Tomorrow we are moving to Satara for a week so back in camp, we begin tidying up. I have a small suspect lump on my back so I visit the Skukuza doctor who turns out to be a female with a ‘dusky hue’. She is pleasant enough and after a two minute inspection, pronounces the lump benign and safe. All well and good until I have to pay at the desk. R750 for a two minute inspection, nothing else. This is outrageous when compared with what the doctors in Ballito and Somerset West charge and I will be following up on this when we return to Skukuza in