Wednesday 26 October 2011 Olifants
Today we made it out of the gate by quarter to six. It was considerably cooler than yesterday with the temperature starting at 22 degrees C. It was overcast and there was a breeze blowing. We turned the aircon temperature up to 21 and I even put on a jersey!
This trip our first creatures of the day have not been the expected impala but today they are the first to greet us. Buffalo seemed to have increased greatly in number because we have seen heaps every day and today they’re second on the list. Then we found the cubs from the pride we saw yesterday. They were hidden in the yellow straw-grass and were looking anxiously into the bush. Mom must have communicated a strict instruction for them to stay put because they lay low and we were lucky to see them at all.
We turned onto the H1-5 and found some beautiful white-fronted bee-eaters on the other side of the bridge.
We then turned onto the S39, which we found to be very corrugated. I hope that there is not going to be a general deterioration of roads in Kruger. We have found that it’s usually staff and service vans that do the speeding and only now and then a deviant tourist.
Homo Sapiens dressed in Sanparks uniforms, on foot and carrying rifles appeared and we stopped to chat. They told us they were checking conditions like water availability and how much game was in the area. We also wondered if they were on the look out for poachers but they did not admit to this.
We continued and found a juvenile martial eagle perched in a tree.
There was nothing much happening and we were our attention was waning when Eec yelled out – Fish Eagle – and there we saw a lovely a pair in the fork of a tree.
Quite a few times today we saw my favourite little antelope – the steenbok and no matter how often I see him I have to take a photograph. Sometimes he is shy and runs off but usually he is very obliging.
Just before we reached Ratelpan Hide we found a hippo standing perfectly still and leaning against a tree. He was clearly not well, was full of scratches and deep wound in his neck which we guessed was caused from a fight with another of his species. I don’t think this creature will be long for this world. He will probably be taken by a predator quite soon. We took photos but I don’t want to post something so upsetting.
From the hide we could see a troop of elephants drinking down the river
and later we saw them all trooping past behind the hide. We were alerted to this by a toot from a car hooter as one of a group of people already in the hide was still in the car and hooted to alert their attention to the elephants.
We also saw a goliath heron, a greenshank, threebanded plover and Egyptian geese but little else.
At lunch time we stopped at Satara and as H2 and I went to find a table we spotted our friend Jim and Maureen who we knew were caravanning at Satara but we had not planned to meet till we were all in Skukuza in a few days time. So we joined them for lunch and had a lovely time catching up on each others experiences.
After lunch we decided to take the tar road back to Olifants and not to stop for anything but the most exciting creatures as we’d been out since early morning and it was a long way to go.
The first thing to capture our attention and interfere with our averages was a Burchell’s coucal. Then some noisy and amorous magpie shrikes making love in the trees.
A small group of reed buck on one side of the road hid behind trees while on the other a family of ground hornbills needed to be recorded for reporting to the research monitors.
Then while we were enjoying a small flock of chestnut backed sparrow-finches Scipio pulled up beside us to say hullo. Nice meeting you Scipio.
When we saw a group of cars stopped on a road parallel to the tar we decided to make a quicke detour to see what they were looking at. It was a juvenile martial at the top of the tree. Hiding in and under another one opposite were some noisy and nervous guineafowl and a few yellow-billed hornbills. When the eagle flew up the hornbill broke into a strange whistle of an alarm call and the guineafowl gathered closer together shrieking nervously. A carload of ladies asked us to help with I.D and then told us that there was also a jackal frightening the birds. We caught up with said jackal and watched him try without success to catch a bird before trotting off into the veld.
At the beginning of the dirt road we’d seen some European bee-eaters and stopped at the tree when we retraced our steps – one or two bee-eaters were about but the rest of the group had gone. While trying to find said birds I said – I think there’s an owl in this tree – and there was – a Vereaux’s but very well hidden. My companions couldn’t believe I’d spotted yet another of these well camouflaged birds.
Next we found a tree-full of vultures. One was a lappet-faced which was lovely to see. Looking into the bush we saw a few of them on the carcass of a buffalo. People in another car told us that lions had made the kill the day before.
And just before returning to camp we found the elegant giraffes in conflict and having a friendly battle. Quite fascinating to watch them take turns to whack each other with their necks. Eec said – they’re giving each other a chiropractic treatment for stiff necks – they’re not fighting at all!
We decided to braai tonight but did not have any lamb chops left so we went to see what we could get from the shop. Earlybird returned with what looked like a fillet of Wildebeest which we could braai and cut into slices but it was actually a huge kebab with enough pieces for the four of us to share and have with ostrich sausage, sweet potatoes done in foil in the fire and accompanied by Greek salad, three bean salad and beetroot. All guilt of eating the wild life disappeared the minute that succulent meat melted in my mouth – it was delicious. No wonder the lions like it. Hope this does not offend the vegetarians amongst us.