Friday 28 October 2011 Satara
By 5:30 we are ready to leave after a quick cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal. Our first creatures – wildebeest which we have seen so few of this year. There are very few of them in the northern part of the park but now they are becoming more plentiful as we go south. Then a big 5 animal – the buffalo – heaps of them here too. The beautiful waterbuck are about too.
We take the legendary S100 and hope it lives up to its reputation – though many say they’ve never had luck on this famous/infamous road. It is dry and silent and we begin to have serious doubts then at 6:20 we see a small traffic jam – only two or three cars. We pull up next to one and the friendly occupant points out the position of a pile of 6 sleeping lioness. They are so well camouflaged in the dry yellow straw-grass but we get lovely views and they obligingly lift their heads and stare at us. As more cars arrive we move on satisfied that we have had our chance to see these lovely felines.
The quiet dryness continues but there are waterbuck a-plenty, wildebeest and impala. Where there are grazers there is a good chance of predators I reason.
Suddenly Eec says – vultures – and below the road in a ravine we see a scores of them on a kill and then just one jackal. The vultures are hooded and white-backed and we snap their portraits as we watch the feeding frenzy.
For some reason I look back and a man silently indicates that I look left and there comes a big male lion towards the kill.
I alert the others and at once all the vultures fly up and the jackal makes rapid tracks. The king does not remain long at the carcass and makes his way back up the slope . He squats and defecates and the vultures descend upon his leavings making us gasp in horror at their desire for such a delicacy – obviously full of suitable nutrients for a scavenger. Another lion is waiting for his friend in the bush on the other side of the road and we watch them march off together.
Nothing can be more exciting that this.
We then go to Gudzani water hole and find a hippo out of the water and two fish eagles in dead trees opposite each other.
Vereaux’s Eagle-owls, we usually see in the big leafy trees and its the foliage that presents a photographic challenge. But today we find one on the branch of a dead tree but as it is a dull day it is light that makes it tricky to get a good photograph of a wonderfully obliging subject.
Lions twice in one day have us in a good mood and well-satisfied with all the excitement so when we find another small traffic jam we are over the moon with joy to see two cheetah on a kill.
They are close but the mess of cars and twigs and grass do make photography difficult. We do our best then manage to manoeuvre out and on to give others a chance to see. We find this trip, that the traffic jams are mild and the manners much improved compared to past trips. At this sighting, nobody emerges from their cars.
Earlybird says he can’t hold his breath any longer – “I hope we have some peace for a while now!” But then we spot a Martial Eagle. Everybody wants the perfect shot. Earlybird patiently moves the car to everyone’s instructions – just a little bit back –– Now I can’t see – Okay that’s perfect – stop – what part of stop don’t you understand? Eventually everybody is satisfied and the cameras click away happily. “May I take a shot now?” asks the only and very patient man in the car.
We just begin to breath again when we sight another raptor in a tree. This time its an African Hawk Eagle. And what’s with the Vereaux’s Eagle-Owls? We find another one on a dead tree.
We also stop from time to time to admire the zebra and giraffe and other friendly creatures who never disappoint.
We stop at Nwanetsi Picnic site for coffee and buns and then go to the lookout. There is nothing too exciting but as we come out we find a mocking chat perched on the thatch.
As we travel on we stop periodically when flocks of little birds swoop down to strip the grass of their seed. Among them are blue waxbills, firefinch, sometimes golden-breasted buntings and green-winged pytilia.
We find another martial eagle. It is in a tree but takes off and circles round and round giving us lovely views of itself on the wing.
Just before we arrive at Satara I get a call from my vice principal DJ. Yesterday she asked me for a recorded message to play to my Grade 1s for next year. Now she is asking if I could video a message and send it to her. I am chatting and getting details while my companions are getting excited over a yellow-throated longclaw and I am missing the photographic opportunity – but never mind Earlybird and I are one flesh and he gets some beautiful shots and this makes me equally as happy if I got them myself.
For the video request I got Earlybird to record me in front of the waterhole and as luck would have it there is an obliging elephant who agrees to stay put in the background. The idea is that the children see me in my environment and understand why I can’t be with them at their welcome party next week.
But – the file is big and I can only reduce it to 15MB. DJ assures me that if I send via Gmail it will be fine. I try and after an hour is times out! I decide to try again and insist the others go for an afternoon drive without me.
The others return and they have seen a rhino – the only one of the big 5 we have not seen this trip. I am not too disappointed to have missed anything, as I am sure another rhino will soon make an appearance.
(At this time I was sure my video clip had failed to go through – I’d prayed hard and I found out on my home from Kruger that it had indeed gone through so all the effort had been worth while.)
Earlybird notices that the neighbours have an NCW registration and goes to chat to them. It turns out that they know our daughter very well. The wife is a teacher and taught with Lauren. They also know all the other Kokstad relatives. They invite Earl to come and fish in their dam next time we spend time in Kokstad.