Sunday, 30th July.     Although we are going to miss Satara, we look  forward too to Skukuza with its very strong attractions.

We travel rapidly southward stopping only at Tshokwane. But the food queue is so long that we push on. We stop at the amazing Leeupan and marvel again at the sheet  of water that we find. Never in the many years that I have been coming to Kruger have I seen so much water as is currently in the rivers, pans and dams of central/southern Kruger. This is meant to be the dry season and Leeupan should be a parched expanse of dried mud. Instead it is brimming with water.

White-faced Ducks feeding in Leeupan

We cross the Sand River which, like the Sabie, is flowing crystal clear and strongly.

Sand River

We move into a hut in Skukuza and after visiting the nearby shop return to find devastation. The baboons have raided the fridge and the remains of our groceries lie strewn about. So, back to the shop for replenishments. More of that later.

This evening we shoot down to the high-level bridge over the Sabie River. The river is at its absolute best and is such a picture in the later afternoon sun. We are pleased to see a car turn down the long closed Salitje S30 road – always a firm favourite.

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

Monday, 31st           I must seize the opportunity to visit Lake Panic whilst I am at Skukuza. So, at 6am I am off to the hide where I claim the pole position. So engrossed am I by all the activity that the next two hours flash by. Herewith some of photos I took:

Lake Panic
The Hippos are huffing and puffing as the golden sun rises.
A Black Crake having an eyeball to eyeball…..
….. and then giving a Terrapin a tweek in the nethers.
Burchell’s Coucal

At 9am I return to camp to find that the baboons have again raided and managed to open the fridge and help themselves. So brazen are they that they completely ignore Renette’s attempt to drive them off. Back to the shop for replenishments but…  more of that later.

I spend a while photographing the sunbirds feeding off the flowering bushes around camp.

Collared Sunbird
White-bellied Sunbird

This afternoon we go out to the Sand River where we have coffee with the water gushing over the rocks below. We push on and turn onto the Maroela Loop S83 which is such a favourite but has yielded so little over the years. Two years ago we did see something very special here and I am going to reproduce a photo that I took then.

This photo is exact as is – no photoshopping. They could not have arranged themselves better.
Maroela Loop S83

At the end of Maroela Loop we find that they have concreted the sandy crossing over the Mutlumuvi stream. So deep have they made the concrete surface that I can only see problems once the rains come and cover all with thick sand.

Looking across to where the Sand and Sabie rivers meet.

Back on the tar H1-2 returning towards Skukuza,  a large troop of baboons play in the road but they seem to have lost their appeal of late. At the Sand River bridge, an African Hawk Eagle is perched high in a nearby tree.

African Hawk-Eagle

Tuesday, 1st August        Today we are going to have lunch with Werner, Noleen and family down at Lower Sabie prior to their departure tomorrow. They have had a lovely time but the game viewing has been disappointing around Lower Sabie – again due to the widespread water sources.

But first, Renette and I do an early morning dash down to the high-level H13 bridge with the sun rising as we enjoy our coffee. We decide that we are not giving up on the beautiful Maroela Loop S83 and continue thence. What a picture is this magnificent road. We have it to itself and surely one day our luck will turn. After a short distance along it, two large tourist trucks  thunder up behind us and I let them past. 1Km further on we find them parked across the road and beyond them we can see a lion heading towards us.

Then two lionesses then squeeze between the vehicles and come walking towards us with the male lion not far behind. We have a lovely view of them as they approach in the morning sunlight and then pass us by.

In the meantime the tour trucks have turned and are trailing behind the lions. We decide to move on a leave them to it. Not far further on, three more big black maned lions are lying 100m from the road. But word is now out and Maroela Loop quickly becomes congested with speeding tour bakkies converging on the lions. Time to retreat.

One must, I suppose, recognise the important role that these tourist bakkies play in showing off our wildlife to overseas visitors. With huge financial benefits for the country I may add. So perhaps we should remember this when we are muttering a bit.

The Salati Railway hotel

With our faith in Maroela Loop now restored, we return to camp. Now, there is such a thing as gross negligence. When we left our hut in the dark this morning, I completely forgot to turn the fridge against the wall giving the camp baboons their third chance to pillage. They spared nothing and even a tin of sardines was bitten and the juice drained. We decide not to replenish until we reach Lower Sabie tomorrow.

We leave camp at 9.30am and head for our lunch date at Lower Sabie – via Salitje S30. This really is an outstanding road and we intend to visit it a lot over the next three weeks.

Lilac Breasted Roller

At the bottom end of the road we really see the enormous damage done by the floods. At the Makungwa stream the road was cut at the end of the causeway whilst debris hanging in the surrounding trees testifies to how high the floodwaters reached.

Before our lunch date we take a quick look at Sunset Dam and on the far side see this group of hippo unusually grazing at midday.

We enjoy a fabulous braai with Werner, Noleen and family before bidding our farewells as they return home tomorrow. We will move back into our caravan tomorrow and resume our Lower Sabie stay.