13 December 2014
The last safari of 2014 and I picked up the guests in Nelspruit. A leisurely drive through the plantations up to Numbi Gate where we entered the Kruger National Park. Our first drive was down Numbi tar where just outside the parking lot we saw two woodlands kingfishers having a colourful display of their wings and their voices to impress a female. We drove down to Pretoriuskop, underway seeing our first impalas, kudus and a leopard tortoise.
After a spot of lunch we continued our drive. This time we found a hinged tortoise just outside Pretoriuskop before we turned onto Napi. Here we saw our first baby impala as a small group of impalas was hanging out with vervet monkeys. As Carol loves the birds, we had some nice photographs taken of a European roller, a lilac breasted roller, a bateleur flying over and a helmeted guineafowl. We stopped briefly at Shithave Dam to admire the large group of waterbucks, including some males with impressive horns. The resident hippo was in no mood to entertain as he only briefly showed his nostrils.
While we continued on Napi we saw some nice zebras coming out through the bushes, a black-bellied bustard, a red-crested korhaan, a warthog, giraffes and a couple of elephant bulls. Our next sighting of vervet monkeys was quite entertaining as a woodlands kingfisher was attacking one of them. He came from the top of the tree and probably had either found a nest and came to close or actually raided the nest as the kingfisher had a right go at him. And not just with sounds, she was dive-bombing and at one time actually hitting the vervet monkey!
We took a drive up Watergat where we spend about 30 minutes watching aweaver colony building their nests and trying to impress females. Forktailed drongos nearby were actually mimicking the sound of the weavers. It was a busy road as we saw some more zebras, multiple steenboks, quite a few elephant bulls, grey louries, warthogs, a lone ground hornbill hanging out with impalas a blue wildebeest and actually two lions. The lions were boring though as they were both playing dead, or at least sound asleep for the 30 minutes we sat watching them.
Down Doispane and then Kruger road we encountered a journey of giraffes that was quite as interested in us as we were in them so we spend some time watching each other. But the longest time we spend watching this herd of elephants. The elder adults were calmly feeding, but the youngsters were portraying their learned behavior and trying to do as the adults. It resulted in a youngster which had still no tusks, trying to dig in a little mount of dirt. And a baby trying to grab a little branch of a bush but not really knowing yet how. A baby that was a tat older actually managed to break off a little piece and ran to mommy to show its good work, then showing it around before dropping it as if it had lost its fun to play with. Two other youngsters were constantly pushing and shoving each other as two kids playing in the playground having fun. Well, we had an amazing time watching this show. Until the matriarch said it was enough and the herd started disappearing in the distance.
On the last stretch to Skukuza, our camp for tonight, we also saw some kudus and nyala bulls. While checking in the collared sunbirds were hanging around in the garden as we could hear plenty of other birds preparing for the night.
14 December 2014
This morning it was just getting light and we were already out of the gate! The marabou stork on top of the tree must have thought we were mad, if he knew, because he was still asleep. Later on we saw one that was actually awake and already preening itself for a new day. We drove towards the river and suddenly movement on the right of the road made us stop: porcupines!! A male was having all his quills up and trying to impress a female. She wanted none of that though, and took a run for it. The male in hot pursuit! It was a brief but rare and amazing sighting!
Just around the corner two hippos were crossing the road on their way to their beds in the water. When we got to the low level bridge over the Sabie, we saw some water birds like a giant kingfisher, a colony of masked weavers, Egyptian goose and pied wagtails as well as three hippos that were already asleep in the shallow water. At the bridge over the Sand river we were distracted by a beautiful sunrise.
On Marula tar we found our first giraffe of today, for whom it was too early as well. He was still having a snooze and lying down for it as if not a care in the world for the cars. The second giraffe was already up, but not very active. She just stood admiring the sunrise, or that’s what it looked like. A male baboon in a nearby tree was snoozing just as well. Two Cape buffalo bulls crossed the road towards the water and we saw a hooded vulture and two common grey duikers before we turned towards the high level bridge back over the Sabie.
We noticed a few cars standing on one side of the road and suddenly we were looking at two lions. Even though they were lying down, these lionesses were at least a little more active as the ones we saw yesterday, as one was licking the other. We watched for a while and then continued on our way, stopping for two whitebacked vultures in a tree and a small group of nyala females. On the bridge we noticed a hippo feeding down below and while watching him a troop of baboons showed up. We got some nice shots of baboons sitting on the railing close by as well as sitting in the road facing the sun, grooming each other, a male playing with himself (uhuh), a female having to do her call of nature, and little ones playing. The impalas hanging around there didn’t mind any of it, neither did the hippos that were already asleep in the water.
On the way back to Skukuza we saw plenty of impalas, including many babies, hadeda ibisses, a lone male bushbuck and plenty of birds: blackbacked puffback, Jacobin cuckoo, guineafowls, little bee eaters, woodlands kingfishers, Burchell’s coucal and a subadult fish eagle. We also had a close encounter with a few giraffes. Three females and two youngsters were feeding on one side of the road while a large male was watching them on the other. The fact that we had stopped in between was not a problem as he could easily look over the car. In fact, he was so close he didn’t fit in the picture as he was too big. On the other side one female was feeding of an acacia with her bum on the road so close that we could count her ticks (many)! In the end the male chose to cross the road in front of us and joined the group of females.
We had our breakfast at Skukuza while watching a water monitor below the deck of the restaurant and then we packed up and left for our last game drive, aiming for the exit. Before we left Skukuza however we already saw some wildlife as a family of banded mongoose was foraging in between the bushes around our huts. We took a drive down Napi with a stop at the lovely viewpoint Mathekanyane. As the day was already getting quite hot, we then had a relatively quiet drive with the occasional impalas, kudus, a steenbok, a european bee eater, white-browed robin-chat, and a lovely herd of elephants standing in the shade flapping their ears, before we noticed two white rhinos lying under a tree quite close to the road. Not disturbed by us or any of the other cars coming up behind us they lend themselves for some wonderful rhino close ups. We also noticed a family of five ground hornbills in a tree. One was holding up a worm, maybe for the youngster to come get it or saving it for later. Whatever it was, he wasn’t letting it go.
Just before we exited at Numbi Gate we encountered a Kruger-style roadblock of a massive bull elephant in the middle of the road. Calmly we waited until he had is fill from the grass on the side of the road and decided to walk away. It signaled the end of our last safari of 2014, as we drove down to Nelspruit. Here we said goodbye to Carol and Natalie, who were off to Jo’burg and then back to the UK. It was lovely to have you on this safari, and maybe we will see you again one day!
That’s the end for 2014 see you next year!!!