Another long drive today from Shingwedzi down to Satara (about 170kms). We decided to set out earlier rather than later so that we could get the majority of the drive done in the cooler part of the day. We woke up at 5am and were on the road at around 5:45am. At the junction of the road running from the camp with the north/south road were a clan of hyena (or a cackle of hyena). They had cubs which were still suckling and the mothers were lying down so they could do that. It was the first of three separate sightings of hyena this morning. The next two sightings were all with them running up the road (heading north) like they were all heading to a hyena convention. The second sighting also had a cub with her.
Until we got close to Mopani, they were the most significant sightings we had. Just before we got to Mopani though we saw a herd of Eland. There are only 460 Eland in the KNP which again makes them harder to see than lion or leopard. It has probably been 5 years (at least) since we last saw them. What makes it even more difficult to see Eland is that they do not need to drink water and so are often not near waterholes and since the roads run past the waterholes, dams and rivers, it means that are often not near the roads either.
We stopped at Mopani for breakfast and did some birding over the dam again. Pretty much the same time we arrived, another couple arrived. It was clear they were serious birders when they just walked up and started sprouting bird names of things they saw (mostly without the use of binoculars – not only good birders but good eyesight too!). Only difficult was that they were doing so in Afrikaans and so Helen switched the birding app we have into Afrikaans so we could at least figure out what they were looking at. The best sighting was a Western Osprey (a lifer for us) which is pretty rare (they reckon less than 500 birds in Southern Africa).
On the road between Mopani and Letaba we added another lifer (Temminck’s Courser) and also saw a Roan Antelope. Those are the most rare animal to see in the KNP as there are only 90 (cheetah and wild dog are 120 each). So this means we have now seen the three most rare things you can see in the KNP on this trip. As we were approaching Mopani, the rest of our family (our kids + Daniel our nephew) were taking off from Cape Town to fly into Skukuza.
We did a quick stop at Letaba and then headed on towards Satara. On that section of the road the traffic increased significantly but so also did the game viewing. It is open savannah grassland and you can easily see herds of buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and impala all grazing. These all make good food for lion and leopard and so it is also a great stretch of road to see predators on as well. It was clear that many people were trying to do that despite it being the middle of the day and it was very hot at around 33 degrees. As we were driving along and noticed a leopard in the middle of the road. It just walked across the road, used the side of the road as a toilet and then walked off into the bush. Another great sighting and despite all the cars behind us, I think only use and 2 other cars actually saw it before we vanished out of sight. It reminded us how a few seconds makes the difference between seeing something or not.
We arrived at Satara at about the same time the kids had arrived in Skukuza. They got their rental car, went to get some food at Skukuza and then headed up to Satara (which is a 3-hour drive). Helen and I got our accommodation (3 bedroom house) and went to have some lunch and just relax until they arrived. They got in just before 5pm. They didn’t see any predators on the way up but did see elephant & buffalo so at least they have covered off two of the Big Five so far.
It was great having them here to start the fire this evening and help with the braai.
P, H, M (because he did most of the braai), S (because he washed the dishes), C (because she helped H with the vegetables) & D (because he mainly hung in the hammock)