Yesterday was our first full day at Letaba.  Helen wanted to get in a run before we went out yesterday am.  Given the temperature is rising to around 35 degrees, you can pretty much only run in the morning. She managed to do just over 30 minutes by running around every loop in the camp. After she had showered we went out for a morning drive to Engelhard Dam. The bird life was again quite good and I managed to add 2 lifers (Grey Rumped Swallow and Common Quail) during the drive. While there was quite a lot of buck (particularly waterbuck) in the river and at the dam, the other game seemed sparse.

We spent the rest of the day in the camp. It was a low-key day with Helen catching up on some sleep, I managed to do some emails and CBD work, we did some reading and just generally relaxed. Exactly what I was hoping the two weeks would be like. We did a walk around the camp and walked to the shop for ice creams but no point in straining yourself when you’re trying to spend time relaxing.

We went out at about 4pm again and this time went to the southern part of the Engelhard dam. The road and views of the river are actually better and you can drive almost onto the river at some points. We didn’t see anything special and only added 1 new bird to the trip list.  It was only a two of the Big Five day – elephant & buffalo – so much slower on the game front too.

We had a braai for dinner (pork ribs) but that was probably a mistake as it took my temperature up another 5 degrees and given the outside temperature was 33 degrees at 6pm, it felt extremely hot. By the time we had washed the dishes we were ready to be inside with the aircon and we both needed a shower to cool off and refresh. Given the hard day (!) I just didn’t have the energy to do the blog last night which is why I am only doing it now.

Until tomorrow (or tonight) depending on how I feel!

P & H

Kruger Park Day 2

The gates open at 4:30am at the moment.  That seemed a little early for Helen and I and so we agreed to set an alarm for 5am.  I was awake before the alarm went off and we left for our first morning drive before 5:30am. There is a dam near the camp (called Sunset Dam) – it is only about 1 km away.  It was definitely worth visiting for bird sightings.  There were some many birds we didn’t really know where to look at some stages.  Add to it that the crocodile in the water were splashing around and the disturbing the fish (intentionally). We had a crocodile and Saddle Billed Stork right next to the car (couldn’t have been more than 5 meters away but fortunately still in the water – at least in respect of the crocodile).  We must have seen at least 20 different species of bird just at the dam.

We then did a loop around the camp toward a viewing/picnic site over the Mlondozidam. On the way there we saw hyena in the road and then crisscrossing the road. We had our coffee and rusks at the picnic site while adding a few more birds to the trip list and then headed back south toward the camp.  It was a very slow leisurely drive stopping numerous times to do some birding.  We had some great sightings of birds including seeing numerous Amur Falcons (we saw so many we didn’t even stop for them eventually). It was probably the best birding I have ever done on a morning game drive.  We got back to camp about 8:30am. At that point we had seen 56 unique birds.

The rest of the day was spent in the camp just relaxing.  Helen went back to sleep for another 2 hours when we got back.  We had an iced coffee and coke float for lunch at the Mugg & Bean (overlooks the Sabie River), wandered around the camp and back to the hut we are staying in.  It was pretty warm at this stage (around 35 degrees). It is OK when you’re in the shade but the moment you step into the sun you can feel the sun burning you.

We went out again at 4pm for another loop around the camp.  There is a bird hide (Ntandanyathi) which overlooks a part of the river. While we didn’t see too many new birds for the trip (we added one at the hide), we did see an elephant come to the hide to drink.  There is a second dam on the road (Duke) and we wanted to go there but we (and a few other cars) encountered an elephant you didn’t want us to go there. We were fortunately at the back of the queue of cars and so could make a U-turn the easiest. It seems whenever we come to the park we encounter an elephant that doesn’t want to let us down a particular road.  We headed back to the camp and got in just before closing time (which is currently 6:30pm).

We added Crocodile, Steenbuck, Bushbuck, Waterbuck & Hyena to our animal list.  I forgot to say that yesterday we did also see Giraffe, Wildebeest & Zebra. No predators today but we did see two of the big five again – elephant & buffalo (they are just permanently parked off in the river in front of the camp so not hard to miss them).

Until tomorrow

H & P (especially for you Bryan … Helen said I had to switch it around because I kept calling Saddle Billed Stork, Marabou Stork!)

PS: sorry about lack of photos … will try better tomorrow!

Kruger Park Day 1

Helen and I are doing something we have never done before … 2 weeks in the Kruger Park. We left this morning from home at 7:45am and headed for the airport.  Michael kindly dropped us off. Our flight left at 10am for Nelspruit Kruger Airport.  When we arrived the pilot said it was 26 degrees C but his thermometer must have been off because by the time we got into the car it was reading 31 degrees.

We drove to Malelane to do some food shopping for the next 2 weeks. While I was paying Helen went off to buy some KFC for our lunch.  She was feeling pretty hungry so she bought us each a Streetwise Five (that’s five pieces each!). Needless to say we only ate 4 pieces so the other 6 will be our lunch tomorrow (and probably the next day).  With all the necessary stocks on board we headed for the Crocodile Bridge Entrance gate which is near Komatipoort. It is the Eastern most entrance to the Kruger Park.

We got to the gate around 4pm and right at the gate we saw the first of the Big Five. I don’t think I have seen an elephant so close to the gate ever before. There was basically no one at the gate so doing the necessary paperwork was very quick and then we headed into the park. Not 5 minutes in and we saw a pride of lion lying in the shade under a tree. Probably about 5 in total but it was hard to tell exactly as they were not very active (mainly lying with their paws in the air actually).

We also saw a lot of birds and were doing more birding than animal looking when suddenly a white rhino crossed the road in front of us. It walked down the road straight toward us turned off the road when it got to us and walked past the left side of the car.  One of the best sightings of Rhino we have had in the Kruger Park ever. No other car in sight … just us … just the way we like it!

As we approached Lower Sabie (our camp for the night) we saw buffalo in the river.  That made it 4 of the Big Five in about 1.5 hours and really on our drive in.  Quite incredible really. The park is very green and lush and so we were expecting it to be hard to see game but so far it has been the reverse.  If all two weeks are like this then we are in for a great time! Helen said earlier she can feel herself relaxing (and that’s exactly how I feel too).

Lower Sabie is a beautiful camp right on the river. We managed to add a few birds to our trip list which is currently at 19 birds. Not a bad start for 1.5 hours in the park.  On the game front we have also seen (besides elephant, buffalo, lion and rhino) giraffe, kudu, impala, warthog, baboon and vervet monkey.

Dinner this evening was a steak salad – steak on the braai (cooked perfectly Daniel/Stephen!) – salad made by Helen.  Only challenge was that we discovered (when we were about to eat) that there was only one fork! I just did the manly thing and ate the meal with my fingers.

It’s 9:12pm and I can feel the need to get to sleep. Gates open at 4:30am in the morning. We are thinking maybe a 5 or 5:30am start might be more appropriate for us.

Until tomorrow

P & H