Saturday, 6th April
Late last night we received the traumatic news that Renette’s beloved Auntie Toppies had suddenly passed away in Johannesburg. She had been her normal bubbly self at the wedding in Cape Town two weeks ago so the news came as a terrible shock.
Leaving poor Renette to sleep, I arrive at the gates at 5.32am and find them inexplicably open with no one in sight. So out I go seizing the opportunity to get ahead of the pack, on to Salietjie (S30). I quickly go down a dark H4-1 road, enjoy a quick coffee on the high-level bridge and then onto Salietjie before I see another car. Last night’s rain shows no fresh tyre marks, the sun is trying to break through the cloud and all is set for a perfect morning. But……… nothing stirs and despite creeping a good 15Km’s along the road and then back again, I see nothing to even warrant a stop.
The air is chilly with a south wind blowing and I can imagine that any tardy migratory bird will now be sent on its way northward. I have not heard a Woodland Kingfisher for days although I did see one at Lake Panic yesterday.
Slowly back up the loops off the H4-1 river road and back into camp to be with Renette. She is bearing up and prefers to stay in camp today so after a while I take off again to make the most of the cool weather. I head across the H1-2 main road heading north. Just short of the Sand River I come across a dreaded pile-up of cars. Whilst waiting to thread my way through, I see two lionesses attempting to catch two impala rams that are busy sparring with horns locked together. So distracted are they that they very nearly come to grief only seeing the on coming lions at the last moment.
Both the Sand and Sabie Rivers are markedly swollen by last night’s rain which must have fallen heavily along the escarpment. I again travel along the Maroela Loop (S83) without success, then I cut across along the H12 to the Sabie high-level bridge and back up the H4-1 to camp.
I fear that the plentiful water lying in pools throughout the veld has scattered the game far and wide because these river roads are usually much busier.
This afternoon I go out along the H1-1 heading westward. I turn left at the H3 junction and then left again along the S112 gravel road heading towards the Stevenson-Hamilton koppies. Both animals and birds are lying very low today and perhaps some warm sun tomorrow will energise them. A burst of sunset sun finds me winding up the Stevenson-Hamilton koppie road but the way is blocked by a herd of ellies so I turn and head for camp. Decidedly one of the quietest days of the trip despite the effort made.
Sunday, 7th April
Before the gates open at 6am, Sanparks tourist bakkies pour out of the camp which means that one is unlikely to see animals on the road. Without doubt my biggest problem with Skukuza are the tourist bakkies but more on that later.
Today being our last at Skukuza, I would like to try Biyamithi weir again. Under a cloudy sky I see nothing of interest along the way and arrive at the weir as the sun begins to break through the cloud. A Giant Kingfisher is perched nearby.
I am afraid that the Green-backed Heron really is becoming over worked on this trip but he is ever the showman that one cannot ignore.
I would have liked to stay longer but decide to get back to camp to join Renette so move back along the river road (S23) before cutting across to the main H3 road back to camp.
I stop at a group of cars and am told that a leopard has just crossed the road. At which point a tour bakkie draws abreast of me and the young guide tells me to stop speeding. Now if anyone scrupulously observes the Park speed limits it is me and with my GPS calibrated speedometer I know exactly what 50kph is. So I have a little set to with this impudent fellow. But having tangled with a couple of these guides, I think I know why. They have a “Big White Hunter” image to uphold and like nothing better than to throw their weight around in front of their guests. In fact I find these bakkies the scourge of Skukuza, mobbing sightings and chasing about after the Big 5. There are hundreds of them coming from surrounding lodges and the park camps themselves.
A little ruffled I return to camp by which time the weather has warmed enough to have a swim and lunch on the deck. This evening we doggedly travel the Maroela Loop S83 and return in beautiful evening light across the Sand River.
We end off by seeing a Scrub Hare that remains motionless despite cars passing within meters.
Tomorrow we move on to Pretoriuskop for a week and which I look forward to.