Skukuza 3-4th November

Skukuza 3-4th November

Sunday, 3rd

We spent a week down at Umhlanga Rocks, just north of Durban, sorting out house matters and preparing for Warren (4th son) and Naomi’s departure for Belgium. It didn’t quite go according to plan as Warren was hospitalised after an altercation with a stingray whilst diving. After being discharged and seemingly on the mend, we flew back to Johannesburg on Friday afternoon. That night, the first rains of the summer fall over the city. Saturday was very happily spent watching the final of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Sunday morning and we leave Johannesburg at 6am together with grandson Callum (4) for Kruger. After five hours travelling on the excellent N4 highway, we enter the Malelane Gate into Kruger Park. But since we left on 25th October, it is evident that no rain at all has fallen and Kruger remains brown and dry. Our PE friends, Tom and Ingrid, have been keeping an eye on our caravan at Skukuza and we find all in order as we finally reach camp at 1pm. Campers are the most friendly of people and our new neighbours introduce themselves. They tell us that we have missed the fun. Yesterday, the ellies pushed down the camp perimeter fence, entered and wandered about the campsite amongst the tents and caravans.

It is hot today, all of 40 degrees C , but fortunately the caravan was already all set up. Late afternoon we set off down the H4-1 river road. Immediately we come across some distant lions lying in the riverbed. Continuing further down the road we come across a crush of cars and are told there is a leopard wandering about in the bush close to the road. Amazingly it appears right next to us not 10m away and passes close to a pop-eyed Callum standing at the back window. We are so hemmed in by cars that I cannot move for a photograph but a special sighting it was – especially for Callum. We move on to the H12 high-level bridge and are treated to a close up view of another type of hippo-like creature who is illegally wandering about amongst the traffic passing on beers to his mates.

Oh dear, all my pumped-up patriotism from yesterday begins to deflate.

So not a bad start with Callum immediately being introduced to the Big 5 today.

Monday, 4th

We learn in the night that poor Warren’s leg has flared up and that he is again in hospital. The treatment that he initially received at Umhlanga Netcare left a lot to be desired and he is now suffering the consequences.

The gates now open at a dark 4.30am which suits us fine. It means that we can enjoy the busy Sabie River road in peace as the tourists all find such an early start beyond them. A cool south wind is blowing today and there is a lot of cloud about. Down at the H12 high-level bridge, two really lovely lionesses give us a grand view in the riverbed.

We continue to dawdle down the river road with Callum enthralled by the non-stop activity. At the badly neglected Nkuhlu Picnic Site we turn around and head back up the road.

The Sabie River at sunrise H12 High-level Bridge

Approaching again the high-level H12 bridge I note a tour bakkie speeding across it which can only mean one thing. We follow it along the H12 and at the H1-2 intersection turn left towards Skukuza. At the Mutlumuvi high-level bridge next to the Sand River, a group of cars marks our speedster’s destination. We are told that a leopard is behind the dense foliage of a large Jackalberry tree and at its base lies a dead impala ram.

We hover about catching the odd glimpses of spots on a branch, hoping that the leopard will descend to collect his impala but after a while we decide to move on and escape the traffic.

Really, these tourist bakkies are a bit trying but one must always remember that they are providing a most useful service to the country’s tourist industry.

Within 2 Km we come across yet another leopard again well hidden behind leaves up another big tree with only a paw and his tail visible. We don’t stay long and return to camp. Callum is the most remarkable little chap with his enthusiastic spotting out in the park and then busying himself back in camp. What a pleasure he is to have.

After a swim we decide to see how our leopard is doing with its impala so head out across the Sabie river along the main H1-2. We pass through a sizeable herd of buffalo before arriving at the Sand River where a trickle of water still flows under the bridge.

The Sabie Low-level Bridge H1-2

The one leopard is still in its same tree but the other at the bridge has disappeared and most strangely, the dead impala remains untouched at the base of the tree. No doubt the leopard is waiting nearby and perhaps is building up his appetite before tucking in. It seems strange that he should risk a hyena finding his meal rather than first pulling it up the tree. Perhaps we will investigate tomorrow.