Sunday 30 October 2011 Skukuza
We leave camp at quarter to six and take the H4-1. First up we find impala – what a surprise – then warthogs followed by baboons who are always amusing. The birds are asleep except for the starlings and hornbills. Finally an emerald spotted dove makes an appearance.
A jackal crosses the road but quickly disappears into the think bush. More baboons appear on the road and a great deal of grooming takes place.
We are not going on the S120 but go onto the bridge just to have a look before turning around.
Its a good move because we see a fish eagle in a tree and he shrieks out his African call too. Two Burchell’s coucal are calling too – a sure sign that there will be rain.
Our close relative the baboon are having the time of their lives and behaving just like human beings. A small troop of vervets decide that the bridge is the place to be seen this morning too.
But its the birds that bring us the most pleasure. Black Duck are not often seen and when they are they’re usually in pairs. Today we see a large group – perhaps mom and dad and their teenage family. I just have one of the parents here.
There is a Little Egret, some African Pied Wagtails, many Little and Horus Swifts flying under and over the bridge, a Water Dikkop camouflages well but we recognise his distinctive call . All are active and its interesting watching them.
Earlybird suddenly notices a hyena walking across the road right at the end of the bridge and heads quickly in that direction.
A jeep jockey comes from the same road it has come from and there are in fact three hyenas. They go into the undergrowth on the other side of the road. The jeep jockey lets his passengers have as best a look as they can and then drives off. We are alone with the critters and watch them being indecisive among the scattered trees and bush – then they start to move and I am convinced they will come out onto the road just up ahead. They do and we get excellent views of them all to ourselves for several minutes before another car comes along. When we’ve had our fill we return to the bridge and alert others what’s up ahead.
We continue on our planned route and at half past seven stop at Nkulu for a loo break and a look around. This is a lovely picnic spot but today I am shocked at the state of the loos – one toilet is not working and the place needs a good mop and clean. I go to the shop and ask to see the boss. I tell him what I find and he immediately gets some staff onto it and I see a cleaner go in. She is cheerful and tells me that somebody forgot to switch off the light and that is why there are many dead insects lying on the floor and in the basins. It does not explain why there is litter around the picnic site nor why the loo has not been fixed.
Moving on we find a Jacobin Cuckoo
Then we find some brown-headed parrots
We hear the orange-breasted bushrike and spend a tense few minutes trying to find him . But he is uncooperative and won’t give us good photographs.
Just before we enter Lower Sabie we stop at Sunset Dam – which like Lake Panic – never disappoints. We see the usual hippos,cro cs and storks,
reacquaint ourselves with sandpipers,
and jacanas and look about for anything else interesting. Today Goliath does not make an appearance. A pied kingfisher enjoys his angling and weavers are as busy as ever.
We hear a Diederick’s, find him and manage to get a photograph or two.
Then as we are about to leave, Earlybird finds a green-backed heron hiding in a bush.
He is beautiful in intense breeding colours. We take many photies and then he flies away.
Lower Sabie is as busy as ever. H2 and I have a toasted bacon and egg and the others the bush breakfast. It is well prepared but the coffee is dreadful – I need mine to be hot black and strong but I wonder what was in my cup because it was certainly devoid of caffeine.
On the Sabi bridge we found red-breasted swallows, lesser-striped swallows, pied wagtails and a pied kingfisher.
Moving onto the H4-2 we find a tawny in a tree.
Later the S79 offers up two of the big five – buffalo and elephant. It is good for birdlife too. Two brown snake eagles cuddle together in a tree,
a hamerkop fishes in a puddle
and a red-crested korhaan calls for a mate.
At a waterhole on the S114 we find busy warthogs and relaxed Egyptain Geese. Dwarf mongooses scurried about and a few impala had a drink.
We see an elephant on the S112 and as we come to the turnoff to the S22 which we do not intend taking a man in an army truck waves us down – if we’d gone past a second later he would not have seen us – Listen, he says, drive down here and you will see a small branch on the road then you will come to a dip and on the left there is a cheetah standing on a hill. We follow his directions exactly looking on both sides in case he has confused laterality – and then I see it – the ‘hill’ is a termite mound and there sits the cheetah in all his glory – and we are the only ones for quite a while to see him.
He is not easy to spot being the same colour as the surroundings and 200m from the road so the army man has excellent powers of observation.
Another car comes by and asks what we see – he is thrilled to find the elusive cat.
We turn round and retrace our steps, stopping cars to tell them what to look out for – it is rewarding to see the excitement on their faces with the anticipation of seeing the cheetah – unknown army man – you made a lot of people happy today!
We continue on and decide to check out Transport Dam. It is not particularly productive but we enjoy the usual crocodiles, hippo, weavers and a diederick’s cuckoo. A fish eagle makes a brief appearance and we find five well camouflaged water thick-knees on a piece of land jutting into the water.
On the H1-1 we see a car parked off and looking into a ditch. A hyena family – and the little one is so cute.
The S65 shows us a legawaan and waterbuck.
The Nkwisnitshaka Waterhole hides a small troop of elephant who disappear before we all see them and a tree conveniently hosts some red-faced mousebirds who sit still for a change.
Our friends Jim and Maureen decide not to join us for a braai tonight so we do some wilebeest kebabs and wors and turn in early. The good news is that Jim and Maureen went to check out Lake Panic and found it open so we plan to meet them there first thing in the morning..