10 January 2009
Berg en Dal to Afsaal
We left Berg ‘n Dal at 5:45 this morning. The first thing we spotted was a marabou
stork at the top of a tree. Another
highlight was seeing a spotted hyena that seemed a bit disoriented and was
crossing from one side of the road to the other. He disappeared into the bush and we thought
he’d happily re-join his mates. We
continued to the water hole then returned along the same road and there he was
again doing the same criss-crossing of the road before going off into the bush
Interesting birds this morning were a group of
double-banded sand grouse with their beautiful yellow eyes.
We had a lovely experience when we stopped on a
bridge and scanned the river. A big
brown bird flew straight at us, It was a
hamerkop and he landed right next to the car and began to look for something to
eat. We got stunning views of him and
another flew over too. When he flew off
a little three-banded plover dropped down and then we moved on. A few meters down the road and I spotted a
paradise whydah but he flew off before we could get photographs.
At Afsaal, we had toasted sandwiches for breakfast,
Priscilla charged her camera batteries at the shop and I downloaded my
photographs onto the computer in case I ran out of space.
All we saw after that was black saw-wing swallows,
zebra, wildebeest, impala elephants and waterbuck!
We arrived at Pretoriuskop at 12 and checked into
our two bungalows. It was a relief when a thunderstorm broke this evening as
everything cooled down but it put our braai fire out and we had to cook our
meal on the brand new stove – which had a non-functioning hotplate. The newly equipped cupboards were also short
of a dinner plate!
11 January 2009
Pretoriuskop to Skukuza
We left Pretoriuskop at 06h00 and drove the whole day until 17h00 with a
stop at Afsaal for breakfast at half past eleven. The weather was cooler with quite a bit of
cloud cover and some rain.
Earl needed to deflate the tyres and as we drove to
the petrol station, I spotted a woodpecker on the ground. Heather, Priscilla and I got out of the car
to photograph it and got some lovely shots of the Bennet’s on the lawns and the
Cardinal in the tree.
The next exciting spot was when Priscilla saw a
pearl-spotted owlet in the fork of a tree.
Owls camouflage so well that it’s always a thrill to be able to see one.
We have been lucky spotting birds of prey and today
we saw Brown Snake Eagle, Eurasian Hobby African Harrier-hawk and Lizard
Other thrilling bird sightings were pygmy
kingfisher, common scimitar-bill and ground-scraper thrush.
Several cars stopped to tell us that the road was
blocked by a fallen tree but we continued as we were seeing lovely
birdlife. When we got to the tree, we
called Skukuza to inform them
Just before 14h00 we turned onto S4. We were
travelling quite quickly to make up time lost on the blocked road and there had
been no exciting spotting for quite some time. At times like this it can become
quite boring in the car and one can lose concentration. Priscilla had fallen
asleep, Earl was concentrating on his driving and it was left to Heather and me
to spot! I was praying for some
excitement when suddenly there she was – a leopard in a tree! I yelled – Stop – Leopard. Earl screeched to a halt and shouted – where,
where? I already had my binos trained
on the animal, Heather saw it immediately and said, Right here in this tree.,
Priscilla had a rude awakening from her doze and we all just stared at the
beautiful creature. She was looking
into the bush – scanning for prey, we presumed, and then as quick as a flash
she slid down and slunk off into the bush.
We could see some impala a distance away and guessed she would circle
them and approach downwind. Had we come
two minutes later we would have missed her.
It was so interesting to see her in the most unlikely tree but she was
using it to scan the area not to devour her kill. We continued on our way, basking in the
afterglow of a wonderful experience.
At Skukuza, we were assigned Family Cottage 223,
which was comfortable but the air-conditioners were very noisy!
The kitchen was well equipped and while Priscilla
and Heather went to use the inadequate launderette, I cooked a casserole for