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Today was our last day. Our flight was at 1pm and so we had plenty of time to accumulate numbers 199 & 200 on the bird trip list. We had a late start as there was no need to rush as we were only just over 2 hours away from the airport.

After packing up we headed to the Sunset Dam one last time to see if we could add any birds to the trip list. No luck there. Then we headed south but made one last crossing over the Sabie River. That was a good call because not only did we get no. 199 for the trip, but it was also 504 of the lifer list – Great Reed-Warbler. Warblers are still our stumbling block as we haven’t managed to identify to many of them as yet. This one we managed to ID through both the call and the look. It is actually key to be able to ID through the call because they look so alike.

We then headed south to Crocodile Bridge camp and gate. We took the dirt road as I think it is a better road for game. We didn’t see any predators but we did see a large herd of buffalo and elephant. On every game drive we did in the last 2 weeks, we saw at least one of the Big 5 and the majority of drives we saw two or more.

By the time we turned back onto the tar road (about 4 kms short of the gate), we still hadn’t seen no. 200 yet and then about a km from the gate we finally saw no. 200 – White fronted bee-eater (pretty common bird but we hadn’t seen one as yet on the trip). That is the first time we have achieved 200 birds in a 2-week trip. Our birding is definitely improving.

We got to the airport at about 11am. Remarkably we saw black Impala at the airport (see photo). This is not something you see much at all and in fact I thought they were only found in one place in SA. Uneventful flight home – we actually landed 30 minutes early.

Until next time …

P & H

Lower Sabie Day 3

Today was a scorcher. Predicted to get to 39 C and it got there. At 3:15pm H checked the weather app and it said 37 C, feels like 47 C. At 7pm it was 32 degrees still. It was HOT, HOT, HOT!

We did leave a little earlier this AM for the morning drive and decided to head north to the picnic spot Nkhulu on the Sabie river. It was overcast this morning so that made it more bearable but by the time we got back (at around 8:30am) it was already 28 C. The animals clearly could sense the hot day coming because even in the early morning they weren’t very active.

We did have an interesting sighting of hyena (3 of them) rolling in urine on the side of the road. At the time I had no idea why they would do it but after some research tonight I discovered that they roll in the urine of the animal they are planning on hunting. They apparently do this most often when they are hunting zebra. So it seems the hyena were after breakfast actually.

Besides the hyena we saw all the standard game and nothing else special. Even the birding was slow today. We added 3 more birds taking our tally to 198. We just have tomorrow morning before we fly home so it will be close but we are confident of getting to the 200. We did go out late afternoon but it was really too hot to see much and so we really only birded.

As it was our last night and our food supplies are somewhat diminished, we decided to have dinner at the restaurant (Mugg & Bean). The food was actually pretty good – the only issue was how hot it was. I wanted to be sitting without my shirt on but thought the other diners might not be that happy.

Until tomorrow … P & H

Lower Sabie Day 2

We slept in a little yesterday and only headed out shortly after 6am. It was misty as we headed north to a picnic spot that overlooks a dam. We got further delayed in getting onto the dirt road to the dam by an elephant that decided to be half in the road eating from a tree on the side of the road. He wasn’t budging and we waited for 15 minutes before he finally headed more into the bush so that we could pass.

Shortly after turning onto the dirt road we had a hyena lope across the road in front of us (while we had stopped to ID a bird!). The game life thinned out as we headed further north approaching the dam. We had coffee at the dam and then started to head back to camp. The road back had even less game but we did manage to add a few birds to the trip list. Before we headed back into the camp we did a quick turn at Sunset Dam (which is right outside of Lower Sabie) and I am glad we did because I added number 503 of lifers – Cut throat finch.

By this point the temperature was 28 degrees and it wasn’t even 9am yet. The prediction was for 35 degrees (and it did get there). Our weather app said 35 degrees but feels like 42 degrees. They were right – it did feel that hot! We tried to do a bird walk around the camp but it was so hot in the sun that the only time I was prepared to stop and look at a bird was if I could stand in the shade.

We spent the balance of the morning and most of the afternoon in camp as we reckoned it was just too hot for animals to be doing anything but lying under a tree. Even when we did go out (at about 4:15pm), it was still 32 degrees and we did see very limited game. We did manage to all 11 birds to the trip list and that took us up to 195 birds so far. That is already the best we have done in any one trip (we are decidedly better birders now and can ID some birds simply by their calls). We are confident we will get to 200 birds for the trip with 1.5 days to go.

We did a braai for dinner – ribeye steak with vegetables in the coals. It was quite pleasant sitting outside again – no insects attacking us. The only thing that drove us in was the allure of the airconditioning and a cold shower!

P & H

Berg-en-Dal to Lower Sabie

We aimed to leave later in the morning as the last change of camps was happening. As the crow flies, it is only about 60 kms between camps but we decided to take a slightly longer route via Skukuza as we had the time to do and both the road north and the one from Skukuza to Lower Sabie are known for their excellent game sightings.

As we crossed one of the rivers, sure enough, another crash of rhino. I have now lost count of how many rhino we have seen around Berg-en-Dal but it was substantial. All the ones we saw had been de-horned which hopefully keeps the poachers away from them. I read an article recently that said the Kruger was 2700 poacher incursions a year – that is about 7 a day. These aren’t only to get rhino. They pointed out that 60% of the youth on the western boundary of the park are unemployed and many of them are orphans from either AIDS or from COVID. A lot of this poaching is therefore simply to catch a buck to feed themselves and their families. The criminal enterprise of rhino poaching though is even more lucrative and the kingpins are prepared to pay a years worth of food for someone bringing them a rhino horn. It is no wonder the rhino population in the Kruger Park is under severe threat and they very hard to find.

Just outside Skukuza (at the main crossroads) we found a male and female lion mating. They do it multiple times over a few days. The actual act takes a few seconds and then they take a break and then a few minutes later they do it again. But they also don’t tend to stay still so we had a good visual of the male and the female before we headed into Skukuza for a leg stretch, ice cream (for me) and some shopping of essential items (like droewors).

The road between Skukuza and Lower Sabie is legendary for its predator sightings. Before we got onto it though we went to see the lions going at it again and once again had a very good sighting with the male walking right in front of the car. We didn’t see any more predators but we did see the a LOT of impala. Per km that had to be the most impala we had seen on any road.

We stopped at the Nkhulu picnic site which is right on the Sabie river. It really is very nicely laid out. They have made parking spots that are covered and H remarked that it was nice but a bit of a waste. Then when we got out of the car we realised they were actually solar panels and they power the whole site … actually very clever! The shop and facilities at the site were really the best we have seen the park too. We sat and ate lunch with a view over the river and collected a few more birds to our trip list. We were on 184 at end of Tuesday. 16 needed in 2.5 days. Going to be tight to get to the 200 but the 10 we saw on Tuesday did really help the cause.

By the time we arrived at Lower Sabie it was already 33 degrees but our weather app said ‘feels like 42’! The app was correct. The accommodation we have is without a doubt the nicest we have had so far and probably some of the best in the Kruger actually. It overlooks the Sabie river and has a nice layout. The huts are in a much better condition and are better equipped as well. We had lamb chops on the braai and even sitting outside was pleasant. We didn’t get attacked by thousands of insects and as the temperature was cooling down nicely we just sat outside and enjoyed the evening.

Cellphone signal is very patchy and so again I am just hoping to get this posted. Apologies for no pictures again.

P & H


H has never liked the camp and I’ve been indifferent about it but I’ve now swung H’s direction. While the setting of the camp is really beautiful – on a dam with a small river flowing into it – the camp is dark and it is seriously in need of some maintenance. You simply couldn’t use the hot plate at all. I tried to boil some eggs for breakfast yesterday and after waiting about 20 minutes and I could feel no effect on the water so I gave up. Thought I would fry some bacon and eggs instead. 30 minutes on full power and I could turn the bacon over with my fingers. Gave up and microwaved the bacon and didn’t have any eggs. Also no egg lifter in the kitchen – had to go and get one from a neighboring hut (not that I used it). The cellphone signal was also appalling (but we are now at Lower Sabie and it doesn’t seem any better – the speedtest just registered 0.1mpbs!).

The game viewing in the morning was again good. No predators but two separate sightings of rhino – one right next to the road again. And the evening game drive was again a similar repeat – two separate sightings of rhino. It seems around Berg-en-Dal is the place to see rhino! No rhino for the first week and then suddenly 6 or 7 sightings (I lose track) of rhino in 2 days.

The game viewing in the camp was really good. Just sitting in our hut we saw impala, elephant, waterbuck, bushbuck and warthog. All really close to the fence. We also had a red-chested cuckoo calling in front of our hut every minute (for SAfricans that is a piet-my-vrou) and it periodically would fly down in front of hut and then see me and get a fright and head back into the trees. We also had a legavaan on our roof and above the patio. Who needs to go on game drives?!

We did have to braai yesterday evening as we had learnt our lesson from the previous night. Unfortunately even that wasn’t hugely successful as the logs in the wood we bought were so big that after 90 minutes they were still burning like I had just lit the fire a few minutes ago. We did manage to at least get the ribs braai’d for dinner eventually.

Sorry – no pics today because signal is so bad I am just hoping this posts (I know I am already almost a day late)!

P & H

Big 5 Day

We changed camps today as we went from Crocodile Bridge to Berg-en-Dal. We decided to take the dirt road which runs along the southern boundary of the Kruger Park along the Crocodile River. Every time I drive that road I have not been disappointed and today was no exception. As we left the camp (literally right at the gate), a hyena ran across the road. It was a good start to a great day.

About 10 kms from Crocodile Bridge we joined a number of cars watching a pride of lion. They weren’t doing much. You could see a paw of male lion up against a tree and occasionally you could see one of the others as they shifted position. We were going to drive on but decided to stay and see if they did anything. We weren’t disappointed because I had an experience that I have never had in the KNP before. Some of the cars had been there for some time and one of their cars wouldn’t start when they wanted to leave. What else can you do but get out of your vehicle and jump start from another car. Not something you really want to do with lions 30 meters away though! They connected up everything and ran the one car for a bit. By this point some of the lions were sitting up interested in what was going on. When they started the other car the male lion was up and running. Fortunately not toward the guy out of his car though but away from everything – genuine scaredy-cat! Then all the others were up to suddenly all looking. The guy out his car didn’t flinch though – finished with the jump start, packed up everything and got back into his car. A few minutes later the male lion came trotting back again like nothing had happened and he just had to make a dash for the loo.

We headed on and saw quite a lot of wildlife along the drive – giraffe, elephant, impala, kudu, zebra, vervet monkeys, warthog, waterbuck. Large herds of impala which is always good for seeing predators. On one of the water crossings a driver we past said there was a leopard in a tree with its kill along the road. We did get to see that (it had an impala) but before we got there we saw 4 rhino in a river bed and then they walked basically right past us and into the bush. First sighting of rhino in 7 days and a really good one too. The leopard sighting was 4 out of the big 5 – we only need buffalo which we saw a few minutes later giving us the Big 5 in one day.

It didn’t stop there though because just a little later, we rounded a bend and a male lion was walking down the road and walked right past my window (which I had closed by that point!). We turned around and followed it down the road and then it eventually headed off into the bush. We went up to a bird hide and another bird to the trip list – they are unfortunately coming through very slowly now. We added 5 yesterday only and now on 167. Looks like the 200 target might be out of range.

We also managed to see two more crashes of rhino yesterday. All of them very close to the road and the last two we were the only car watching them. We actually got to 1.6 x Big 5 as we only didn’t see leopard and buffalo twice. We got to the camp at 2pm and after checking in we decided we didn’t need to go out again after that drive. What else could we really hope to see!

While lying on our bed relaxing, I looked up and I could see elephant right at the fence in front of cottage. It was a big herd and they clearly came to eat the marula fruit that had fallen from the marula tree. They had one of tiniest calves I had ever seen. Then another herd approached as well and there was some brief charging and retreating from both sides and eventually the first herd left and the new (larger herd – more than 20) took over. Lots of smelling of us – we couldn’t have been more than 10-15 meters away at times but fortunately with an electric fence between us and them. A lovely entertaining sighting.

As it was overcast and rained the majority of the day, we had decided against a braai and had planned to do a pasta for dinner. However, after about 30 minutes of waiting for the plate to get hot enough we gave up and headed to the restaurant for dinner instead. It was our anniversary so seemed fitting to be at least eating out even though the menu wasn’t particularly exciting.

Sorry for the delay post but the cellphone signal is terrible here at the moment. Comes and goes and last night it was gone entirely. Let’s see what happens tonight!

P & H

Crocodile Bridge Day 3

The weather forecast was for overcast and rainy conditions the whole day. When we woke up it was only partly cloudy at that point. We decided to do the same route we did yesterday morning heading north then west and back south to camp again. The number of raptors had diminished a bit since yesterday but there were still a lot of them. About 10 kms up the road we saw a bunch of cars and as we drove up we saw a female lioness walking toward us (i.e. heading south). We probably got the best view of her as she was walking toward us still and then she veered deeper into the grass and was gone. Nice to see another lion again though – they have been somewhat sparse.

We stopped for our morning coffee and rusks at the dam again. C & J had given me a nifty car powered travel Nespresso machine. I had a hand powered one previously but after making two cups pumping my hands were really sore always. This thing you just pop in the pod, add the hot water, press the button and presto you have a cup of coffee. Video available for those you want to see it in operation!

We then headed back to camp using the dirt roads and around the same spot that we saw a leopard yesterday, we saw a leopard again. We assume it is probably the same one but this time there were far fewer cars, it was in a much more open spot and so we could get a better view of it and so we spent some time just watching it until some more cars arrived and then we decided to make way for them. A really nice sighting.

At one point on the drive we thought we were going to add no new birds to our trip list but fortunately we did see one new bird – Bronze Mannikin – before we got back to the camp. We spent the balance of the day in the camp but just sitting on our balcony we managed to 6 other trippers and a lifer. I saw the Grey Waxbill that H had seen 2 days ago. That actually takes my lifer list to 502 now (in updating everything I found there was another bird missing off the list). The game also came to us in that we saw impala, elephant, bushbuck and warthog all pass right in front of us – the latter two of this side of the fence. Fortunately our ‘friendly’ snake stayed away the whole day.

We went out at 4:15pm and decided to just head to the dam near the camp and just sit there for an hour or so. We were the only ones there to start with and then it seems we started a trend because the cars started to pile in (annoyingly). An elephant in a VERY grumpy mood came down to drink and mud-bath. He went into the river and trumpeted and thrashed around and finally crossed it. On that side 3 hippos had gotten out and were eating the grass. The elephant was highly unimpressed and charged at them and the hippos hightailed it back to the water. It was incredible to see how quickly they turned and ran and dove into the water. The drama continued because every time they stuck their heads up the elephant would trumpet and run forward. At one point of the hippos did a swan dive to get down into the water. It was hilarious to watch. The elephant kept thrashing at things – tried to pull a tree down, pulled out the grass and then threw it down. He really was in a foul mood but fortunately we were far enough away not to be concerned.

It started to rain while we at the dam and as it came down quite heavily we figured best to head back to camp and cook dinner. I should have turned on the stove before we left because when we started cooking it probably took 20 minutes for the pan to get hot (not exaggerating). We had decided not to braai because we knew it was likely to rain. Turned out to be the right decision. Chicken schnitzel for dinner could be done in a frying pan. It took so long to cook though, I reckon I could have built a fire and finished cooking before the pan got hot. At least we stayed dry though!

Until tomorrow … P & H

(Almost forgot – trip list up to 162 – target for trip is 200 so 38 to go – getting harder and harder though!).

Crocodile Bridge Day 2

Our usual morning drive started just after 5:30am. We headed north (could only go north or west given where we are) on a dirt road up to a dam and a bird hide. The terrain is very open and teeming with wildlife. At times you can see impala, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and numerous birds without having to turn your head even. In addition to the game, the BBJs (big brown jobs aka birds of prey) were numerous. On almost every tree there was a raptor to be seen. It got exhausting just checking we hadn’t seen them before and eventually we just gave up. It was a really interesting drive even though the road was VERY muddy and slippery in places. On the road to the waterhole we encountered a hyena. They always seem to be sniffy the air and looking at your quizzically.

The bird hide was a very nice hide but unfortunately not productive at all. It faces east so you are looking straight into the rising sun. And the pond it looks out over was covered in algae and so there didn’t seem to be any bird life at all. It was a pity because it is a really nicely constructed bird hide.

We then headed west on another dirt road and again the game was quite substantial. We also saw numerous cars and quickly discovered it was a leopard and her cub. The mom was lying under a tree and we could get a clear sighting of her. We never saw the cub. The problem with those sorts of sightings is that H and I get irritated with the game trucks and other cars all trying to vie for the best position to see the leopard. We decided not to stay and let another car have our spot and we headed back to camp.

By this point in the morning (just after 9am) the temperature was already 28 degrees and we could tell it would be a scorcher today. The mercury hit 34 degrees later in the day and even when we were eating dinner tonight it was still 30 degrees C. The UV index was 12 – I thought the scale only went to 10 but it seems that 11+ was created for ‘extreme’ conditions. The weather app we use showed 34 C, feels like 43 C – and they were right it did feel like 43!

We spent the rest of the morning in the camp. I went to throw out some rubbish at lunchtime and guess what I encounter in the bin area again but ‘Mr Green Snake that I have no time for’. Having witnessed the ranger remove it with his non specialised tools, I found the same implement leaning up against a tree and tried the same process. This time the snake decided to take itself off toward the fence and I encouraged it along. It did leave at pace which made me realise how quick snakes can be and scares me even more now! I am hoping it is not back again tomorrow at lunchtime … seems to like the bin spot… might be because it is cooler in there.

We did go out for a late afternoon drive but it was still very hot and so predators are unlikely to be active. Throughout the day (including at the camp) we added some more birds and the list is now up to 155. It was important to pass 150 because M&O were here earlier in January and they got to 150 (#notatallcompetitive).

It was a 3 out of 5 Big Five day though as we did see buffalo, elephant and leopard. Braai for dinner which caused me to no doubt lose weight because of the additional heat!

Until tomorrow … P & H

Pretoriuskop to Crocodile Bridge

Today was changing camps day. The next 3 nights are at Crocodile Bridge where H and I have not stayed before. We have avoided it because it is right on the edge of the park (at the gate actually) and you can see civilization from the camp. But we decided to give it a try this time for something different.

The shortest route is about 120 kms and we took a slightly longer route – maybe 130 kms. It was mainly dirt roads the whole way – heading east most of the time as Crocodile Bridge is at the far south east of the Kruger (near Mozambique border). The roads we took are not roads I have driven much (if at all) and it really was quite an enjoyable drive. While we didn’t see any predators, there was a lot of game and birds to be seen. The behavior of animals is always intriguing. An example being the photo below.

We stopped at Afsaal (one of picnic spots) and had breakfast. Our breakfast was Roosterkoek filled with scrambled eggs and bacon. At the picnic spot right behind our table we noticed some fresh cat spoor (see pic). After googling it was clear that it was a leopard spoor. I am sure he/she was long gone by the time we were eating breakfast. We arrived at Crocodile Bridge at about 12:45pm and fortunately they allowed us to check in and get our hut.

It was pretty warm by this point (32 degrees) so being inside with air conditioning was what was needed. I was sitting inside catching up on email correspondence when I heard H shout and ran out to find her saying ‘snake, snake’ and I said ‘where’ and she replied ‘in the bin’. The bin is actually in a locked small enclosure next to the braai. On closer inspection I saw Mr Snake who had fitted itself between the bricks. Thin green job. I hate snakes and only green snake I know is a green mamba (which I know is deadly). Figured the only thing to do was go get a ranger. When I got to reception the lady there told me she too is petrified of snakes. The head ranger of the camp was in Skukuza for the day (not going to leave that snake there for the balance of the day!) but fortunately they found another ranger who was off duty but came anyway. He didn’t have his snake grabber tongs so he just improvised. He did ID the snake as Green Spotted Bush Snake (fortunately not venomous at all – he said the bite would be painful though). Removed snake to over fence and saw it slither off into the bush hopefully to not make a reappearance anytime soon.

We spent the balance of the day in the camp as I had a meeting late afternoon. The wildlife came to us though including an elephant right up against the fence near our hut. The fence is pretty flimsy but fortunately the elephant had no intention of coming into the camp. H spent most of the afternoon bird watching and messaging me occasionally to tell me all the things she had seen. I managed to catch up on a few of them and so we are now on 144 birds for the trip. H did see what would be another lifer for me – Grey Waxbill – so I am hoping I will see it in the next few days while we are at the camp. Right on the edge of its range.

Braai of ostrich steak (for steak salad) for dinner. Fortunately we started
earlier tonight because at 7:20pm a thunderstorm passed by and it was a deluge for a few minutes. We were already finished eating by that point so definitely better timing than last night.

Until tomorrow … P & H

Pretoriuskop Day 2

We decided last night that we would head to the Transport Dam which is about 25 km from the camp this morning. We figured we would just stay there for an extended stretch and see what was coming and going. The drive out was incredibly uneventful. It was unfortunately very overcast and also raining so the bird life was even lacking. We only saw hyena (one walking down the road and a mother and child in the den) until we got to the waterhole. At least at the waterhole there was waterbuck and impala. We spent a good amount of time there and an elephant also came and went and then we decided to head back to camp but on a longer route back.

As we were heading back to the main road, one of the cars that was earlier at the dam was parked off and we saw they were watching a leopard in a tree. He wasn’t active except that after a few minutes he went higher up the tree and found another comfortable branch to sleep on and went back to napping. Really nice sighting and reasonably close to the road.

The return trip was much more fulfilling from a game perspective as we saw elephant, wildebeest, zebra, impala, waterbuck & baboon. We also added a few more birds to the trip list though today was a poor day for birding due to the overcast conditions and rain.

We spent the rest of the day in the camp, did some camp birding (list up to 134 now for the trip) and H had a late afternoon run around the camp. I started a braai early because I feared that it might start raining again. We almost made it before it started to pour down with rain. We did a boerewors braai. We had to finish off the wors in the pan on the stove as the heavy rain eventually put the fire out completely. The rain was like a waterfall coming off the hut’s thatch roof. Just running out to get the wors off the braai resulted in me being soaked (my shirt is still wet!).

I’m sure it will be an early night again!

Until tomorrow … P & H