18 November 2014
A new safari with a new starting point as I picked up the guests at Sabi River Sun Resort. We entered the park through Phabeni Gate and started our drive down Doispane. It started off rather quiet, with some scattered impalas hanging around. We then got a herd of impalas with the newborn babies all resting together like in a nursery. We came across a white rhino in the distance and an elephant was feeding in a drainage line. These were the first of their kind we saw on this tour, so we looked at them through binoculars and enjoyed seeing them. Little did we know that by the end of today we drove by their relatives that were standing close to the road as later today we were engulfed in sightings of white rhino and elephants.
A small dazzle of zebra was standing near the edge of road but didn’t dare cross while we were looking so we continued. We turned onto S4 and then took a right onto River road where except for more impalas we didn't see any mammals. We were however entertained by cape glossy starlings, lilac breasted rollers, yellow-billed and red-billed hornbills as well as a crowned hornbill.
Back onto Paul Kruger road we were contemplating making a detour down Watergat when Curtis called us saying he was watching lions sleep down by Lake Panic. So we took a drive down there and joined him. Six lions were lying peacefully not far from the road. Three large males were nicely visible as well as a big cat lying on her back with all 4 paws in the air. Two others were lying half hidden between bushes.
While watching one of the males actually sat up and started washing himself. He did quite a bad job as he forgot most of his body, but then suddenly got up and started washing one of its brothers. His brother then returned the favor and washed his face. Then they cuddled a bit to strengthen their bond and that was it. Within 5 minutes all activity was over and we were once again watching lions sleep. It was our cue to go on to the Skukuza Golfclub for a hearty breakfast.
After breakfast we set off again and once again arrived at the lions. Taking another picture we could play the game "spot 5 difference" as not much had changed in the more than an hour since we had left the sighting. One of the males had rolled over from its left onto its right side and was now lying with his back towards us. We are still looking for the other four differences...
We drove down the rest of Kruger Road and Napi towards the S114 seeing our first giraffe and warthog of the day. A bateleur was preening itself in a nearby tree. Down the S114 started our spree of lots of elephants. At first we saw a couple of elephants hiding in the bush, but they kept on coming closer as we stayed put. Then out of the bush more and more elephants appeared and suddenly we were engulfed by crossing elephants front and back. Mums were relaxed and let their little babies walk straight past our car. Youngsters with their mums a bit further away were more hesitant but in the end all elephants followed their leader across without problems. It was a great sighting and we were in luck as it happened twice more today!
Before we arrived at Afsaal via Biyamiti Loop and H2-2 for our lunch break we also encountered multiple wildebeest, warthogs, plenty giraffes, dung beetles digging around in poo and bushbuck on the Afsaal parking lot.
Then we continued our first day drive up the H3 and Napi and here once again we saw plenty of elephant herds and some lone bulls as well. It was getting hot now so many of the elephants were going to the water to drink and shower. Also lots of small groups of white rhino were grazing along the route. Some were lying in the mud, others were walking around in two colours as they had just left their mud bath but missed a spot. At Kwaggapan we actually saw a herd of elephants drinking on one side, a giraffe grazing on the other side. On Napi we saw our first buffalo. Poor guy was all alone. We also saw our first common grey duikers running away and a zebra crossing. At Shithave Dam a herd of buffalo just walked away from drinking as well as a herd of elephants in the distance. Just before Numbi we saw another two buffalo sleeping, one using the other as a pillow, which looked quite cute.
It was a long but successful day when we checked-in at Nkambeni Safari Camp.
Tomorrow will be another day!
19 November 2014
Today was already our last day of this quickie safari, but as the guest stayed in Hazyview, we could get quite some game drive time today :). Our first sighting for today was three big bull elephants that were hanging out on Camp Road, not far from Nkambeni Safari Camp. We could see the roofs of the tents of Nkambeni in the background. We then turned onto Numbi tar for sightings of impala, a common grey duiker, kudus and a crossing herd of waterbuck. While the waterbucks were crossing a 100m onwards at the same time a herd of elephants was crossing so we had a double herd in our pictures. Both herds disappeared fairly quickly into the dense bush after crossing. And speaking of herds, a little further down the road we came across a big herd of buffalos as well. Might have been the same ones we saw yesterday at Shithave Dam.
Down Napi tar we noticed plenty of elephant bulls feeding, but no herds this time. A red-crested korhaan did a fake display to impress a female. He flew up high, but instead of pulling in his wings and plummet back to earth he had second thoughts and left his wings wide open. No plummet, he glided back down. Well, we weren't impressed at all, let alone a female korhaan!
It was a quiet until Transport Dam, when talking about mammals. We came across some more birds though, like black-bellied bustard, white-fronted bee eaters, plenty fork-tailed drongos and many others. At Transport Dam we encountered a couple of giraffes feeding next to the road. Not sure who was watching who at this sighting, as the giraffes were all staring back at us. We also saw some zebras, and at Transport Dam itself a fish eagle, Egyptian geese, african jacana, hippos sleeping, blacksmith lapwings and a red-billed hornbill that took begging for food to a whole new level: he sat on the wing mirror of another car where the people in it were having a cup of coffee!!
We followed a tip about lions sleeping on Watergat. Well, when we showed up we were quite disappointed. Ok, it wasn't that bad, but after our sighting yesterday, these two males sleeping hiding in between the bushes about 100m away just weren't as impressive as the ones we saw yesterday about 5 meters away. But lions will be lions, they sleep anywhere and all the time, and these guys seemed out of this world, so no chance they would get up.
We continued our drive watching baboons pass by, a klipspringer ruminating and two white rhinos very close to road (they came so close they almost nudged the car as they forgot we were standing there watching them!), when we got a tip off about some other lions. We thought they would be "flatcats" as much as the other two, but went to check it out anyways. Well, this time we were not disappointed: 8 lions (four lionesses and four young ones) were lying next to Kwaggapan. But there were elephants close by, so they were half sitting up and paying rapid attention to what those two bulls were up to. However the bulls already had some water to drink and a shower on the way and were not interested in stopping at Kwaggapan. But it got a bit warm now that the sun had come out, so one by one the females got up anyways to lie down in the shade. Of course the cubs followed their mums. So we ended up having an awesome sighting of 8 lions walking by and they came quite close to the road too. One female actually seemed like she wanted to cross, but upon looking at all the cars on the road in front of her (and people hanging out of it), she had second thoughts and walked to a drainage pipe in which they hid away from the sun as well as all the people. We waited a bit longer when everyone had already left to see if they would come out again, but no such luck. We did get a great sighting already anyways, so we turned the car around and continued our drive.
We drove in the direction of Skukuza via the S112-S114 route. Here we just missed a baby impala being born by minutes. The little thing was still wet and the mum was licking it dry while it was trying to stand up. Mum didn't help much as her licking pushed it over a couple of times when it was almost standing on its weak legs. But it persisted and after a couple of more tries it stood and tried a few futile steps towards mum's teats. But mum was still cleaning it off so kept turning around to lick it. We watched in awe when the persistent baby impala finally got hold of a teat and had its first sips of milk. It was so adorable, we actually watched for almost half an hour at an impalas first baby steps. Then we decided to give mum some privacy again and continued on our way.
We saw warthogs with impalas and vervet monkeys, black-headed orioles, lilac breasted rollers, an african hoopoe, and plenty more impalas before we finally had our break at Skukuza. We had been on the road so long we made it an early lunch break instead of a quick coffee stop. We then proceeded to take a loop around the river. Just after we set off we saw a couple of banded mongoose running along side the road and a large flock of marabou storks flying over. A female bushbuck was feeding in a drainage line and we saw a crocodile sunbathing while still lying in the water at low level bridge over the Sabie River. On Marula tar the white backed vulture strand was fully occupied as plenty of vultures had taken the liberty of taking a bath and were now drying their wings, while a stray marabou stork joined them. On the way we saw bushbucks, impalas, 5 ground hornbills on the way towards high level bridge, hippos sleeping at high level bridge waters, and then stumbled upon our third lions sighting of today on Ellooff. Three females were lying in the shade, and guess what.... they were sleeping! We took some more photos of sleeping lions, but these also had no incline of getting up as well so we left the sighting.
More vervet monkeys, baboons, plenty impalas, kudu bull, and a leopard tortoise we saw on the way to Doispane, while on Doispane itself we saw more giraffes, more zebras and elephant bulls,. Then it was the end of the safari for Helmut and Jo-Anne, as we exited Phabeni Gate. I hope they enjoyed their safari as much as I did, and maybe we will see you back one day!
More coming soon!!