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July 19, 2005
We left the lovely Ben Lavin Nature Reserve on Tuesday morning. We drove off at about eight o’ clock, heading for Punda Maria gate. We were having a great time, admiring the scenery when we suddenly arrived at a fork in the road. Unfortunately they both seemed to go in a direction other than Punda Maria. We must have missed one of those cleverly hidden signs with our turnoff to Punda. Oh well, it was still early, so after a glimpse on the map I decided to aim for Parfuri instead. After a few kilos the road turned from tar to very bumpy dirt. So we and the entire inventory of the campervan jostled along at 25 kmph. After half an hour I had a better look at the map and sighed. After 2 hours of kidney juggling we finally hit tar again at Masisi. Yay! Finally, on our way to the gate.
At Parfuri my first purchase was a Wild Card, followed by the much used Mapstudio’s “Official Visitor’s Guide to THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK” and the totally unused little “Souvenir Map”. At half past one, we entered Kruger with rumbling stomachs. We stopped on the bridge over the Luvuvhu River to admire the view and saw Ellies, Nyala and one of my favourites: Warthogs. We drove to Punda where we collapsed on the little terrace under the beautiful Baobab tree and worked ourselves through a plate of Jumbo chips and multiple glasses of Beer.
After a good sleep and lots of coffee to wake up, we left for our not so early morning drive and decided to do the Mahonie Loop. This turned out to be a good decision. Not only were we the only ones there, but we got to see lots too. We saw Dwarf Mongoose, Crested Guinea fowl (Yay), Sharpe’s Grysbok, Nyala, Squirrels, a Leopard Tortoise, a big herd of Buffalo crossing the road in front of us (gulp), Large Grey Mongoose and a Brown Hooded Kingfisher.
We turned into the S60 where we cruised at 10 kmph and saw a Nyala bull and a Red Horned Hornbill. Zigzagging around elliepoo on the H1-8 we saw a Martial Eagle in a tree, a Brown Snake Eagle flew by, and we saw Zebra, Baboons and Helmeted Guinea fowl. On the S63 on our way to Pafuri Picnic Spot we saw Vervet Monkeys, lots of Impala and Yellow Billed Hornbills. On our way back to Punda we saw a Steenbok ram on the H13-1 and another Sharpe’s Grysbok.
It’s quite amazing we didn’t see any elephants. The roads were covered in ellie poo. We saw quite a lot of birds up north, but I wasn’t able to ID them yet, so they remain unmentioned.
On Thursday we got up early for the drive to Shingwedzi. Quite near Punda camp, on the H13-2, we saw an African Grey Hornbill. Further on we saw more Sharpe’s Grysbok, Zebra, a Common Duiker and lots of little Francolins. We took the Mphongolo Loop, the S56 and I thought I saw a leopard flash up a tree. We stared and stared into the tree, but it was too far away and the leopard was too well hidden. Or was my imagination playing tricks on me?
We did see Giraffe, Impala, Nyala, Hornbills, Elephant, Mongoose and a female Bateleur in flight. Then we came upon a roadblock near the end of the loop. A tree had been pushed over by an ellie. We managed to drive around it without getting stuck. I mentioned it at reception when we arrived at Shingwedzi.
We got a nice quiet spot at the fence. Time for some beer & braai.
We got up early for a change to do what one does in Kruger. Spot them animals. We drove to Kanniedood Dam and saw Yellow Billed Stork, Waterbuck, Baboons, Sharpe’s Grysbok and Impala. Rather hungrily we drove back to camp for breakfast and lots of coffee. This is also when we discovered the boiling water boilers in the camps. 🙂 Around 10 we left for the S52, the Shingwedzi North Loop. We were driving along for 15 minutes when we were flagged down by a car. A leopard! A beautiful female was sitting in the shade, close to the road. We watched her for a minute or 5 and then she moved off, out of sight.
We had just turned into the S52 when we saw 3 Ground Hornbill. We drove down to Bateleur and saw more impala, ground squirrels, giraffe with oxpeckers on them, a Fish Eagle, a kudu herd which seemed to have adopted a baby zebra, francolins, warthogs, ellies and two men. Land measuring by the looks of it. On the way back on the H1-6, we saw zebra, impala and giraffe. We had a quick bite at camp and were off for our Sunset Drive at 16.15. We had a lovely drive and saw elephant (breeding herd), steenbok, giraffe, a Goliath Heron, a Grey Heron, vultures (too far away to ID), a genet, hyena with pups, scrub hares, crocodiles, hippo’s and a pair of jackals. A very rewarding drive. We had a lovely dinner in the restaurant when we came back.
On Saturday morning we woke up with the sky heavily overcast, but the sun came out soon after. Time to move on to Letaba. Just outside the camp we saw baboons and impala sharing breakfast. And a bit further on the carcass of a giraffe. There wasn’t much more left than skin and bones. Pity, we would have liked to see vultures.
Driving further on the H1-7 we saw giraffes, a lone buffalo without a tail, kudu at the Mooiplaas picnic spot, zebra and waterbuck. Near Letaba we saw impies, hippos, giraffe and an elephant roadblock. 2 bulls were standing on the road, feeding and not in a hurry to move. Well, we being on holiday and all, we had time enough to enjoy the scenery and zebra, giraffe and wildebeest.
When we arrived in camp I informed about a bushbraai and was very happy to hear we could join one the same evening. It turned out to be a Dutch family with 3 teenagers. We had a great time together. On the way to the braai we had a little sunset drive but all we saw were scrub hare, scrub hare and more scrub hare. The guide was starting to get a bit depressed. We were starting to get hungry.
At last we saw the lights of the lanterns and the flickering of fire. The braai spot is set under a huge Leadwood tree, estimated to be nearly 3000 years old! The chef and the guard were already there and we were welcomed with a glass of brown sherry. We sat around the fire for a while until dinner was ready.
The chef had prepared boerewors, lamb chops, steak and sosaties. Next to the fire were potjies with mieliepap, different kinds of potjiekos, vegetables and a sauce with an exotic name which I seemed to have forgotten. The table was beautifully set with candles. We had a delicious meal and some nice wine to accompany it.
Halfway the meal a tree near us started to rustle and then another one rustled and shook violently. You should have seen our faces! It was a white faced scops owl that had dropped in to see what we were up too.
We had a lovely time and I can highly recommend the Letaba bushbraai to everyone. There is a minimum of 4 people.
We were lazy on Sunday and had a short drive. Just outside the camp we saw 4 ground hornbills. As we drove further we saw impala, giraffes, elephants, zebra, waterbuck at the river and hippo’s sleeping on the riverbanks. We decided to drive up the S62. The road conditions are quite bad. Our campervan rattles and rolls all the way up to the lookout point, where we have a lovely view of Engelhard Dam. We didn’t see much and drove back to spend the rest of the afternoon at the lovely Letaba restaurant enjoying the view.
We left Letaba around nine to drive to Satara. We stopped for coffee at Olifants, horrible coffee, wonderful view. There were lots of elephants, a few hippos, baboons and impalas to see.
Nice little shop there too. I bought more T-shirts and books. We stopped at Nwamanzi to enjoy the view and at Ngotso waterhole where we saw an enormous herd of buffalo. Further along we had a lovely sighting of an elephant drinking and having a shower. We also saw a jackal, an ostrich, a pair of secretary birds, a lion and lioness and a lilac breasted roller.
We got up at 4 for our morning walk. Armed with our Australian hats and water we were ready for close encounters. I should have worn my winter coat on the truck because it was c-c-c-cold! After a 45 minutes drive our little group stumbled out the truck, ready to listen to the instructions. I felt a strong desire to go straight back into the truck after hearing them. Instead I put on my bravest face and, knees trembling, trotted behind the others.
Single file we walked into the wild lands of Kruger. It was awesome!
To my enormous relief we didn’t bump into rhino, lion or buffalo. We did see their spoor though. We analysed a lot of spoor and droppings. Very interesting. We saw impala, baboons, a steenbok, a warthog, a young elephant (on the other side of a river bank, phew), a herd of kudu, wildebeest and banded mongoose. The warthog sighting was the best. We had come quite close to him and were all standing still while he went along eating and looking around occasionally. He had looked at us like this for about three times when it suddenly hit him. Humans!! And he shot off like a hog on fire.
After we got back at Satara we had some serious breakfast at the restaurant before we went for a drive. I thought it would be fun to drive to Orpen and have a look at the cam, so off we went. At Nsemani waterhole we saw hippo, impala, saddle billed storks, kudu and Vervet monkeys and further along giraffes, warthogs and a beautiful Bateleur. We took a picture of the cam, and there was an ellie to greet us. On our way back, just after we had turned right onto the S36 we saw 3 lazy lionesses doing what lions do best: Nothing much. As we drove further along Sweni road (the washboard also known as S126) we saw white backed vulture, giraffes, zebra, red billed hornbill, grey louries, and lots of elephants.
We left early for the long drive to Lower Sabie. On our way down south we saw zebra, impala, wildebeest, baboons, giraffes and 2 eagles on a nest. We couldn’t ID them, because we were looking into the sun. We saw more grey louries, a herd of kudu, peeeeegs, dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose and a crested barbet. We drove on and spotted more of the same, a korhaan and at last: Two rhino, sleeping the day away.
After breakfast we headed towards the S28 on our last journey through Kruger. We saw lots of impala, giraffe and a little one, a duiker, vultures flying high, warthogs and more impala. We turned right into the S137 to visit Duke’s waterhole. We didn’t see much there, the waterhole was dry. Just a giraffe or two and some wildebeest. We did see a Hamerkop though. On the S130 we saw zebra, wildebeest, a red billed hornbill, warthogs, 3 big elephants and a pearl spotted owlet. What a cutie. We drove towards Crocodile Bridge and saw the green fields of the real world again. Quite odd, after spending 10 days in the bush. After checking in at Croc Bridge, we drove to Hippo Pool to see the hippos. We enjoyed our last hours in Kruger with a glass of wine and a braai. We left on Friday morning, heading south: Destination Cape Town.