We woke up at 6am this morning so that we could have breakfast and get on the road by 7am. We had to drive from Skukuza to Olifants which is about 150 km. While that might not seem a lot when you are traveling at an average speed of 30 km/h then it does take about 5 hours. We also didn’t want to lose the best part of the day (which is early morning) because we knew that it was going to get very hot later. And that is what it happened – the temperature got to 32 degrees at about 2pm today. It is still about 26 degrees outside and it is now 8:30pm.
We were on the road at 7am and whole day turned out to be a good game & bird viewing day. There was plenty of game almost from the outset of leaving Skukuza. We added zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and waterbuck before we had crossed the Sabie River. We stopped even more times for birds and had added about 20 to the list by the time we stopped for earning morning coffee. After our early morning coffee we has a quick glimpse of a female lioness. The sighting was not great but we all got to see her before she vanished. We also just before that had seen buffalo so that made it 3 out of the Big Five.
We drove to Satara for and got there just around lunch time. We made the mistake of ordering lunch at the Cafeteria and waited for 45 minutes to get our toasted sandwiches. We could have made them ourselves in a fraction of that time. Not sure what they were doing – maybe slaughtering the pig for the ham and cheese sandwiches? We are on holiday and not really in a rush so we didn’t really mind. On the way out we saw what is reputed to the be the most photographed Scops Owl in the world. It resides in a tree outside the ladies toilet.
After Satara when continued North towards Olifants. It was VERY hot and as we felt it was unlikely that we would see much game due to the heat I decided to drive a little faster. It turned out that we saw a huge amount of game especially around the watering holes. The first waterhole yield 4 lions drinking; about 50 vultures and 2 back blacked jackals (amongst other things). The next waterhole yielded buffalo, zebra and warthog (and lots of bird life). And at the next one we saw Rhino, Elephant and Giraffe. And incredible amount of game for the worst viewing time of the day especially given the temperature. I don’t believe I have ever seen so much game at that time of the day in the Kruger Park.
We did also stop again on one of the bridges coming into Olifants. You are allowed to get out of your car (and we did). The bird viewing was ridiculously good and we spent about 20 minutes on the bridge just looking over the river in one direction. It was slightly spoilt by a drunk Afrikaner who was shouting at the top of his voice, hooting and just generally making a nuisance of himself. Why do people feel it is necessary to come to the Kruger if they are going to behave like that? What is the point?
We did eventually move on because it seemed that 3 of the family were getting bored while Stephen and I birded! In fact it was like that most of the day. Helen gave up the front seat after about 30 minutes of driving and the rest of the day Stephen was in the front with me and we just ticked off one bird after the next (and that’s ignoring the animals we saw). At one stage only Stephen and I were awake I think. They did all wake up at least when we saw the lions!
We got to Olifants at about 3:30pm and checked and offloaded. We have accommodation overlooking the river. It is a beautiful view and with the temperature at 30 degrees, sitting outside with the binocs and perusing the river was the thing to do. Stephen and I headed out for a quick 40 minute end of evening drive and when we got back we found 3 people all sleeping. They only missed an Elephant crossing the river (he went right under except his trunk sticking up) and we had one more bird sighting to the list. The bird list now stands at 69 – yes you read that correctly. That would be 51 new species just today. I reckon that is a record for us in one day (especially since it was Stephen and me for most of the day only). And we only have 3 raptors so far on the list and we are missing a lot of obvious birds that we should really see like Sunbirds; Kingsfishers etc. I am hoping that if it continues like this we will get close to 100 by the end of tomorrow (though that is probably ambitious). Unfortunately no lifers yet.
We had the mandatory braai tonight again and everyone is now already in bed. I am the only one left up at 9:20pm. I am going to send this and then head to bed myself. I was hoping to most more photos but the connection is very slow – it took about 5 minutes just to upload the Owl picture. Tomorrow we are heading to Bateleur Bush Camp. We have no idea whether we will have any cellphone signal. If you don’t hear from us you know why. It isn’t that we have been eaten by Lions.
The wind has picked up and is whipping around the house we are staying in. As Chloe would say ‘Quite Freeky’. Sleep tight, hope the bed bugs don’t bite (and in our case the Mozzies don’t bite).