12 January 2009
Skukuza to Orpen
We left Skukuza just after 6 o’clock. We were enjoying our bird watching having
seen pied wagtail, boubou, marabou storks and blacksmith lapwings, when a car
waved us down to tell us to look out for lions on the road. We were amused to find that this is literally,
where they were – a pride of five, lazily lying in the middle of the tar fast
asleep at half past six in the morning.
They did not flick a tail or bat an eyelid, clearly exhausted after a
night of hunting.
A little later we came across another group of lazy
lions also thinking the tar road made a comfortable bed! Earl tried to wake one up but she didn’t even
lift her head!
Our most exciting event was when Heather called out
– Stop – Sable antelope – Earl reversed quickly and we all managed to get a
good look at this magnificent creature before he disappeared into the bush.
Waterholes, dams and rivers are often interesting
places to park off and this morning next to the Skukuza river we saw a
knob-billed duck in a tree, a yellow-crowned bishop – a lifer for us all – and
a bird half hidden in a tree which Priscilla drew our attention to. After careful observation when it showed a
bit more of itself, we were delighted to discover that it was a dwarf bittern.
One of the birds that I most look forward to seeing
in Kruger is the endangered beautiful black and white Saddle-Billed Stork. with their enormous slightly upturned black
and red bills made beautiful by their yellow saddles. The males have black eyes
and the females’ are yellow. We spotted these
lovely birds just outside Nhlanguleni Picnic Site where we stopped for
We had a good day of game viewing today and saw
elephants with babies, herds of buffalo – though some has snotty noses, zebra,
wildebeest, giraffe, and kudu. We also spotted
interesting little mongooses and steenbok from time to time. The birdlife was good too and interesting
birds we saw were lesser grey shrike, melba finch, coqui francolin, purple
roller, carmine bee-eaters, green pigeons, double banded sand grouse, red-crested
korhaan and cardinal woodpecker.
We checked into Orpen at around about 5 o’clock and
were delighted with our family cottage.
It had a lovely outdoor kitchen.
Orpen is a small camp with only 15 cottages and the best pool in the
We thought we’d animal proofed our fridge but
during the night a honey badger managed to push it into a position where he
could open it and stole eggs and bacon from the fridge. He also over-turned the bin and nibbled the chicken
bones. I heard the noise but when I shone my torch I could only see the bin and
didn’t realise he’d raided the fridge until the next morning.
13 January 2009
Orpen to Timbovati
We decided to have a late start today and after a leisurely breakfast of
bacon and eggs cooked by Earl after he’d bought a fresh supply from the shop,
we left camp at half past eight.
We thoroughly enjoyed our morning of birding and
the first highlight was seeing Senegal lapwings. It was also interesting observing how the
bird postures were different in the wet and we were amused by a black eagle who
sat in tree with wings spread out to dry.
We stopped at Timbovati picnic site at about 1
o’clock and had some coffee and rolls. The picnic sites in the park are usually
well looked after and have clean loos and boiling water for your tea or
coffee. This one was no exception.
We met two young girls, Kerry from Johannesburg and
her friend Silke from Germany. They’d
worked together in Ireland and now Silke was having an African experience. She wasn’t too interested in the bird life
but was desperate to see Lions. “You
come to Africa to see a lion,” she argued, “Who’s interested in stupid birds!”
We weren’t far down the road when we were waved
down and informed of a pride of lion about 10km further on. We had not intended to ravel all the way along
this road but decided to in order to see the cats. Sure enough there they were – Mom, Dad and 3
cubs having a siesta. However, they were
a bit more interesting than the lot lying on the tar road yesterday! I felt bitterly disappointed that the girls
had taken a different road and we didn’t take their cell phone numbers! After
observing the pride for a while we turned round and travelled back to the road
we intended taking back to camp. As
luck would have it, we saw the girls at the crossroads and waved them down,
told them where to find the lions and then exchanged cell numbers. They had about 20km to go to find the
pride. We continued on our trip, enjoyed
our bird watching, and hoped desperately that they would get to see their
lions! That evening I received an
S.M.S. “Saw the lions – made our trip!
Thanks. Love Kerry and Silke.”
We braaied steaks for supper and put scraps and
bottles in the bin after making sure the fridge was badger proof. We wanted to get up to see the badger if he
paid us another nocturnal visit but he didn’t!