We woke early so that we could set off by no later than 6am as we were driving from Olifants to Shingwedzi. We figured it was better to get as much of the drive in as possible before it became to hot as it was predicted to hit 37 degrees C again. It was still relatively cool at 22 degrees C when we left Olifants. The terrain is mainly Mopani trees/bushes between Olifants and Letaba and that is attractive to elephants but not a lot else. It has been measured that more than 50% of the elephants in the Kruger Park reside between Olifants and Shingwedzi and there are 12 000 elephants in the KNP. Our sightings matched the statistics as we reckon we saw more elephant on the drive to Shingwedzi than we had the other 5 days so far in the park.
We stopped at Mopani for breakfast (we got there at around 8:30am). The view from the restaurant is over the dam. It is a beautiful view with elephants having a morning bath and numerous birds around (including some right in the building – that’s a barn swallow in its nest in the photo). The staff at the restaurant are also very friendly and so it makes for a pleasant stop. We were on the road again at around 9:45am but unfortunately the temperature was already into the 30s by that point and so while we did see some game, most of the animals were also looking for a place to shelter from the heat of the day.
We arrived at Shingwedzi at 12pm and unfortunately our accommodation wasn’t available yet as they were still cleaning it. So we decided to have ‘lunch’ at the restaurant. Helen had a lime milkshake and I had a waffle & ice cream. Healthy lunch as you can see! We were able to get into the hut at 1pm and so we relaxed for the balance of the heat of the afternoon.
We decided to go for a short drive at 5pm before the gates closed. There are numerous loops and roads around the camp and we did our favourite one that runs along the river. The river is not really flowing but there are patches of water (enough for hippos even). The bush is very lush around the river and the game seem to like it too as the drive was just teaming with game. Giraffe, waterbuck, impala were seen in abundance. The drive brings good memories for us because last year we twice saw leopard on the drive and in previous trips we have also seen leopard on that road regularly.
We usually turn around and head back at a particular point. Just before that point Helen asked me to reverse as she thought she saw something but it might just have been logs. So I dutifully reserved about 100 meters and I saw what she saw and thought ‘yes logs’ and then Helen looked through the binoculars and said ‘cheetah’. And sure enough, when I looked, cheetah! An incredible spot as there were at least 100 meters into the bush. There was a road with a no entry sign on it and so we drove down until I was right next to the no entry sign (being law-abiding) and watched the four cheetah for about 20 minutes. Other cars drove right past and despite Helen and I trying to get their attention to show them the cheetah, they either ignored us or didn’t see us. It reminded us again why we so like Shingwedzi camp.
We have also added substantially to our bird trip list as we are now up to 123 birds for the trip including 4 lifers (which takes my tally to 436). We saw a lifer on our last drive around Olifants on Wednesday evening (Little Stint). We also have maintained our record of seeing one of the Big 5 every day since we have been here. In fact most days we have seen two of the Big 5 as we have generally seen buffalo and elephant everyday.
P & H