Shingwedzi to Letaba

It rained most of last night and at times quite heavily. It must have somehow affected the electricity at the camp as it tripped out a number of times during the night (we know because the aircon went off and on each time). When I woke and ventured out the water was making mini-dams inside the camp.  It clearly had rained quite a lot and as the soil is pretty hard, it wasn’t soaking in at all.  It made us wonder what the rivers were going to look like.

The original plan was to have a quick morning drive and then come back for breakfast, pack up and head for Letaba.  However, Helen groaned half-asleep that she wanted to sleep more and skip the morning drive especially as it was still raining. So we did just that. We had a leisurely breakfast and eventually left the camp at around 9am. We had decided to drive the dirt road along the Shingwedzi river as we had plenty of time to get to Letaba (check in is only at 2pm). It was probably one the nicest drives we have done in the Kruger. The game was plentiful and the terrain is absolutely beautiful. It is the road that lies the furthest to the east in the Kruger and basically runs along the Mozambique border. We didn’t see in predators but we saw tons of other animals and birds. Our bird list is up to 137 species now.

There is also a bird hide on the road which, the author in a book we own on the Kruger roads, said is worth spending an hour at. He was right. The birding was very good and we added a number of new birds for the trip while sitting there. We had been there about 10 minutes when we heard voices. Helen and I couldn’t believe it. You’re in the middle of nowhere (nearest camp was probably 50 kms away) and right next to the Mozambique border. When we got out of the car at the hide there was a big sign up saying you should report poachers and the telephone was displayed who to call. The first thought through our minds was poachers.  The second was illegal immigrants from Mozambique.  Neither filled us with joy and so we high-tailed it back to the car. Just as we got into the car, two men appeared in army uniforms with rifles slung over their shoulders. They waved and greeted us. Phew … SA Army or anti-poaching! It really did make us wonder where they came from and how they got there in the first place until we were about 1km down the road and came across their bakkie parked in the bush. Our heart rates had declined to normal levels by that point. I was having thoughts of being hijacked by poachers and Helen and I having to spend nights in the hide waiting for someone to find us!

We stopped at Mopani for lunch as we both felt like toasted sandwiches and then we were back on the road to Letaba (which was still 47 kms away). The dirt road took us longer to drive than expected because of the amount of wildlife and the beauty. It was also very muddy and slippery in places so I had to drive cautiously at times. The rain had also caused rivers to flow where there weren’t rivers before and some of the causeways we crossed were under water as well. But we weren’t complaining because it was relatively cool (so much so that we had jerseys on – 22 degrees C) and it was a really enjoyable drive (have I said that before?).

About 10 kms from Letaba a leopard just appeared in front of the car. It came from my side (right side) and I called out ‘Oh my word’ and Helen replied ‘What?’ and I said ‘Leopard’ and she said ‘Where?’ and I said ‘in the road right in front of us’.  She was admittedly looking intently out the left side that she just didn’t think to look in the middle of the road. It was incredible timing as the leopard (without any concern for us at all), just ambled over the road and wandered off into the bush.  A minute later we wouldn’t have seen it.  A minute earlier we wouldn’t have seen it. But God’s timing is perfect  and we saw it!

The drive wasn’t finished rewarding us yet as about a kilometer before Letaba we also had a really good sighting of a caracal. They are nocturnal and so generally not seen during the day but we again had an excellent view of it before it headed into the bushes. We spent the balance of the day in the camp and just relaxed. We could hardly beat that day for excitement and interest!

Until next time …

P & H

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