Caravelle Cruising in Kruger 2012 – Day 14

Saturday 29 October 2011 Satara to Skukuza

It is 5:30 and we are packed and ready to make our way to Skukuza.   The first creature we see is a waterbuck. And then there he is a male lion in the middle of the road.  I could not ask for better than that he walks to off-road toward a tree and I manage to video him.

Soon after this we find a heap of lionesses asleep on the side of the road.

We think that our lion luck is fulfilled for the day – but no – there in the long grass walking at a rapid pace we see a lion and then another and another.

We are on the H3 and we turn around to follow the lions path through the yellow grass.  We anticipate that they will come out on the S126 and turn down to wait.  We watch them approach.  Other cars have followed and are facing toward the lions.  Earlybird turns around and we have the advantage as we see seven move rapidly to where S126 meets H3.   When they turn left down the road we turn right and leave them to their mission.  Wow!

The warthogs we see next barely get a glance and it takes a yellow-billed hornbill feeding his wife in a hole nest in a baobab tree to get us interested in other things again.

It is overcast and drizzly which is keeping the temperature at a tolerable level – but does nothing for the light needed for good photographs.

It is a bird-productive day and we find green pigeon,

brown-hooded kingfishers and crested barbets

Crested Barbet

On the H1-3 there is an immature bateleur and some marabou storks.

I haven’t seen a rhino yet so am pleased to find one although it is far from the road.

Just soon after this we see a slight traffic jam and ask the people in one of the cars what they’re looking at.  They point out a leopard in a tree about 200m from the road.  Wow – its a stunning sighting.

At first we can’t see her face but then she looks straight at us and we get some great photographs.  I think its a female because she is quite small.  We wonder why some cars are parked so far from the sighting and think they may bet getting an uninterrupted view.  We move slowly forward and a jeep jockey signals us to chat.   Its dirk.v.neethling, a forum member and he’s noticed our yellow ribbon.  He tells us that he’s also been watching a leopard but she’s come down the tree.  He’s heard she has a cub.  “We must be watching the cub,” we conclude.  We look for mom but she’s gone.  Obviously she’s instructed the cub to stay put in his tree – because although he moves he does not come down – obedient child!

It is quarter to ten when we get to Tshokwane Picnic site.  We order breakfast and coffee.   It’s disappointing that the coffee bar in the middle is closed and one has to go to the shop to order ones cuppacino, latte etc But the coffee is still the best in the park.

We cannot pass this area without a quick detour to Orpen Dam lookout.   But all we find of interest is a fish eagle in a distant tree.  On the road out we see a little steenbok – I love steenbok and no matter how many photographs I have I still want one more.

Our lion luck for the day is still not over – we find a single male guarding his kill but no sign of the rest of the pride.

We always get a thrill out of the little things and mongooses are so cute.

Soon after, we find a field full of baboons with babies.  They are so amusing to watch and what doting parents they are.

We look at the giraffe and the zebra, the impala and the common birds and suddenly more excitement – a huge bird flies up in front of us.  We’ve disturbed a white-headed vulture from a very smelly carcass. He flies up into a tree and then another flies over his head and into another tree.

Meanwhile next to the carcass a group of guineafowl are making a fuss – one would think they’d stay clear of such a big bird but they seem to  know they’re safe from the talons of a scavenger.

We arrive at Skukuza at 1:00 wait in a short queue and check in then goes smoothly.   We are assigned  into Cottage 222 with a lovely river view.  The maids are still there and I ask if we are a bit early for them – No problem, came the reply we’re finished and they leave. But I am not satisfied with the cleanliness – the floors had not been swept or mopped so I phone reception who report to housekeeping and within five minutes a supervisor arrives to ask what the problem is.  He then sends somebody back with mop and broom and the cottage is thoroughly cleaned.   .

I have booked 3 days @ Skukuza specially so we can have time at Lake Panic – but I have heard from the forums that it has been closed for maintenance work. I phone reception and ask, “Is Lake Panic open or closed?”   “She seems not to understand so I say it again slowly – Lake Panic – it was closed for repairs – Is it open yet?:  She hesitates then says – it is open.   “Are you sure?”  I can’t believe my luck.  Silence – I repeat – are you sure and the phone clicks – we’ve been cut off.   I am a positive person and like to look on the bright side so I confidently tell everyone that Lake Panic is open – let’s go.

En route we see three tortoises – two males and a female I presume – the two males are fighting the one trying to turn the other onto his back and it is obvious over who gets the female.   She storms off in a huff and leaves them to it.  What the result is I do not know as we pushed on to Lake Panic.

We’re delayed when we see a juvenile bateleur in a tree and a little later in another tree the two adults.

Finally – Lake Panic – and what a bitter blow – hazard tape blocks our way and a sign screams out – closed for maintenance – we apologise for the inconvenience.

So instead we follow the road to Kruger Gate and do not have a very fruitful drive – but after this morning we can’t relain!

We decide to eat out tonight as we’ve run out of braai food and the cooking facilities are not the greatest in the cottage.  But first our friends Jim and Maureen and another couple who are caravanning with them come over for drinks.   We have a lovely time catching up and tell each other about sightings.  Maureen and Jim have been in the park for two weeks and haven’t seen cheetah – they can’t believe our luck – two leopard and two cheetah sightings – indeed we are fortunate.

Dinner is at Silati Train Station.  We’ve always wanted to give it a try but never got round to it.  We are not disappointed.  Earlybird and I have the game hotpot which is served in a little pot with a bed of rice on a separate plate.   It is delicious.  H2’s fillet is good and so it Eec’s rump.  We love the ambience.  It feelss like we are sitting on a real old-fashioned railway station and we dream about days gone by and what it must have been like travelling through Kruger on a train.

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