Tuesday 18 October 2011 Letaba to Shingwedzi
We are all packed and ready to go by 6:00 this morning. The first birds of the day are little swifts flying overhead then black headed oriole, brown-hooded kingfisher and white-backed vultures
It is an overcast, cool day making driving the long distance to Shingwedzi quite pleasant. Our plan is to stop at Mopani for breakfast between 9 and 10 depending on how much we see to delay us. We make regular stops to observe the usual zebra, giraffe, elephant and buffalo. l I remind my companions that we are in yellow-billed ox-pecker area and that their preferred client is the buffalo. “I can see one with a red bill and yellow tip,” pipes up Eec. Ha – that’s it! And it is the only one among all the red-billed lot. He flies up into a tree for a perfect portrait.
Further on we stop to observe an non-descript bird, and argue as to the likelihood of it being is Sabota Lark. Definitely a Sabota says H2 and Earlybird and I agree and prepare to move on. “Hang on a minute,” says Eek in a perfectly calm voice – “I can see a leopard in a tree!”
“You can’t,” come three disbelieving voices making a rapid 180 “What, where, are you sure!” Yes of course she’s sure! You can’t mistake a leopard in a tree! It is about 250m from the road but oh so clear through our binoculars. She is languishing lazily on a branch and givese us a disdainful stare. Eagle-Eye Carrol, you’ve earned your stripes,” I proclaim. – “You mean spots,” quips H2. EEC is not amused.
All this adrenalin and it is only half past nine! A more calming sighting of a small herd of tsesebe with some zebra and wildebeest settle us down before we arrive at Mopani for breakfast at 10 o’clock.
What a lovely restaurant this is, and the health breakfast – muesli and fruit salad in tall glass – is highly recommended.
We take our time and then browse in the shop which seems quite well stocked and decide that on our return from Punda we will enjoy spending two nights here.
The next leg of the trip has us enjoying wonderful birdlife and we see a bateleur flying overhead, different francolins foraging busily on the side of the road, puff-backs flitting and calling their clicking call but refusing to pose for a portrait and red-headed weavers among other birds working busily in the trees.
Elephants, giraffe, zebra and buffalo are once again in evidence but no cats and no rhino.
A little steenbok stops us in our tracks when we observed him eating bark from a tree – is if for toothache or some other medicinal reason?
For a while there is not much to see so we chat while constantly checking the bush for the flick of a tail or the twitch of an ear. Earlybird brakes and points up and there in an abandoned nest of some or other large bird is a Vereaux’s Eagle Owl. And to our delight we could see the baby’s head peeping over the top of the twigs. Perfect rented accommodation for the owls.
Just before arriving at Shingwedze we come across a big troop of ellies drinking in the river. Then a large herd of buffalo starts coming down the bank to join them – what will happen now – there isn’t much room. Well – the elephants politely make way for them and saunter off to their left and soon disappear leaving the buffs to enjoy a communal drink. There is civility in nature.
At Shingwedzi check in is quick and smooth and we are assigned Cottage A29. It is a little on the small side and a better option might have been two smaller huts with outside kitchens as the stoeps have low walls which make sitting outside somewhat cozier. But we’re not complaining – just being in Kruger is enough for us.