Helen and I so enjoyed last years’ 2 weeks in the Kruger Park that we decided to repeat it again this year. It set the year up so well for us and we are trusting it does the same for 2019!
We left yesterday morning at 10am to fly into Nelspruit Kruger airport. We arrived 30 minutes early (strong tail winds) and had our car and were out of the airport before we were originally meant to land. We headed to Malelane to do some grocery shopping (selection inside the park is poor), bought some lunch from Steers and then headed to the Crocodile Bridge gate.
We were surprised by the weather. It was drizzling slightly when we landed. It was humid and warm though (26 degrees C). It remained overcast the whole day and became increasingly windier as the day went (and unfortunately the wind has still not stopped yet). This morning when we woke up it was around 20 degrees but with the wind blowing it actually felt quite chilly. We were also surprised how green everything is up here. They clearly have had significant rain so far this summer.
Last year the drive in from Crocodile Bridge gate to Lower Sabie yielded a lot of game. There was an elephant at the gate and Helen said she would be disappointed not to see one again. Her expectations were set high (and is it turned out they were met and surpassed). Not 5kms from the gate we saw our first lioness relatively close to the road. A little further down the road we found 2 more with one of them VERY close to a herd of impala and zebra. She was down wind and clearly interested in hunting. We probably watched them for close on an hour as we hoped to see them hunt. At one point a warthog family came running past and the other lioness thought it was a take away delivery and came running toward them. They scattered immediately they saw the lioness though. She was not patient enough. The other lioness kept crawling closer and closer to the impala but they did spot her and watched her very carefully.
We eventually moved on and as we drove another few hundred meters the remainder of the pride were heading to join the other 2 and crossed the road right in front of us. I lost count of how many we saw but it was a significant pride. One of the rangers said they believe there are 20 in the pride. What I forgot to say that while we were watching the lion, on the other side of the road we had seen two separate crashes of 3 rhino. 2 of the big 5 within 5 kms of the gate. We also saw Southern Ground Hornbill (one of the birding big 5 and on the endangered list) while we were watching the lions.
About 10 km from the camp we spotted a male leopard walking alongside the road and so we reversed with it and watched it until it headed into a thicket and couldn’t be seen anymore. It was a very good sighting of a leopard walking (and it was walking quickly). Just before we got into the camp we saw elephant and then just 1 km shy of the camp we found another lioness just lying in the middle of the crossroads (causing a traffic jam). The game viewing was quite incredible and by the time we arrived in the camp we had seen a lot of game already including lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, impala, zebra, wildebeest, kudu (though only one so far) and baboon.
Mandatory braai for dinner (pork ribs & sausage). We were both exhausted and probably asleep by 9:30pm. We were up at just after 5am and on the road at 5:30am (the gate opens at 4:30am but the sunrise is only 5:20am at the moment). We didn’t see much game this morning (impala, elephant & waterbuck) but we saw a huge amount of birds. The swallows all are sitting on the road and we have seen three different types at one time on the road in front of us. We saw a Red-crested Korhaan doing its call (will try post the video on our instagram).
Just before we got back into the camp we went up to the Sunset Dam which is about a km outside the camp to the north. We added numerous birds to the list and also saw a crocodile with a Carp in its mouth. We watched for a long time (over 30 minutes) hoping to see it eat it but it never did. By 9am we were wanting breakfast and so headed back into the camp. After breakfast we walked around the camp and managed to see numerous (we reckon well over 20) birds including 2 lifers (Trumpeter Hornbill and Greater Southern Collared Sunbird). We have already seen 60 species of birds since we arrived yesterday (in less than 24 hours). To put that into perspective, we only saw 61 species in 6 days in Kglalagadi in June this year!
P & H