TUESDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2011 SKUKUZA TO PRETORIUSKOP
We wake to a bleak a rainy day but are packed and ready to leave by 6:15. Because of the weather we decide at first to give Lake Panic a miss and instead do a circular drive ending up back as Skukuza for the loo.
Just before we go through the gate we see thick billed weavers but they fly away before we can get photographs.
We are surprised several white crowned lapwings at various intervals along the wet road – why aren’t they next to the water?
we find a Wahlberg’s Eagle in a tree where starlings are viciously harassing him. The road is wet and full of songololos of all sizes. Earlybird tries hard not to ride over any of them. On the H1-2 a troop of baboons are walking along the road – young and old, male and female. They are clearly on a mission.
One smart youngster decides to hitch a ride on top of the Caravelle.
Earlybird now has to drive very slowly. Two others think – hey if he can why can’t I and soon we have three clinging on and enjoying the easy passage. Now and then we see a hand or tail dangling down and sometimes a face looking in at the back window but the people in the jeep jockey approaching us are in fits of laughter and snapping away happily. I quickly scribble my email address on a scrap of paper and the jeep jockey kindly pulls up next to us and takes it from Earlybird to pass on to his passengers who I hope will send me some pictures. (But I didn’t get one – perhaps in my rush I wrote down the address incorrectly)
Other cars approach and all point and laugh at our stowaways. Eventually Earlybird must make it uncomfortable and he gently breaks and speeds up until the apes decide its best to jump down and walk along with the rest of their species.
The next interesting sighting are a family of ground hornbills – we have seen many of these this trip but still take another photograph
We get close and personal with a gang of elephants
Our next camp is Pretoriuskop – not to far to go and check in is only at 2 so we decide in spite of the weather to go to lake Panic. Eec wants to go to the nursery so Earlybird drops H2 and me off for an hour while they go and see what they can find. Jim and Maureen are there and are surprised to see us as we’d messaged them that we were on our way to Pretoriuskop. They leave after a while and H2 and I have the hide to ourselves. There is little difference from yesterday and the light makes photography difficult but nevertheless we enjoy watching the activity. White-faced ducks fly in with shrill whistles but settle on the section out of sight from the hide.
The resident Goliath is busy fishing and we manage to get a shot of him that is not too bad.
When Earlybird and Eec return we set off once again taking the H11 then S3. On the S4 we find white-backed vultures,
buffalo which are lovely to see in the green area, hippo and a fish eagle. Then I notice a big bird flying toward us – it’s not a raptor but I am puzzled. Earlybird identifies it straight away as a black-bellied bustard. “Please land where we can see you,” implores Eec and he does and obligingly poses for us.
He fluffs up his feathers raises his neck points his bill upwards and half opens it and starts to call with a soft pop. He repeats this several times and then starts strutting through the bush. I don’t know who he is doing this for because there are no other korhaans about – perhaps he is trying to attract the attention of a hidden female.
A white-fronted bee-eater is not using the wet weather as an excuse to hide.
And the warthogs I think are enjoying the cooler conditions
We visit Phabeni Gate and go to the loo then make our way to Pretoriouskop. We arrive at 12 and go to the restaurant for lunch before checking in. H2 and I order the chicken kebabs. One helping could feed a family of four! They come with a salad and chips and neither of us can finish so we take a ‘wild doggie’ bag. Earlybird and Eec had the croissant tower.
Check in goes well and we settle into cottage 110. It is wet and we decide not to go out again in the afternoon.
For supper Eec took all the left overs – vegetables, chicken kebab, wildebeest wors – a packet of mushroom soup and cooked us up a thick soup-stew for supper – it was delicious.
WEDNESDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2011 PRETORIUSKOP TO MALELANE GATE
Sadly today is our last couple of hours in the camp. We are packed and ready to leave by quarter to five. I would still love to see the doggies but anything that pops up in the next two hours will be a bonus – we have seen so much and had such lovely experiences. Thank you Kruger for revealing your treasures to us.
It is still dark when we leave the camp gate and all we can see are guinefowl on the road. But as it becomes lighter we begin to notice more creatures.At 5:14 we see buffalo – aha – a big 5 member – this is promising. Natal Francolin bid us farewell and then the second big 5 member – elephant. You’ve kept us well entertained fellows – and I wonder why you don’t have tusks mommy ellie – you’re certainly big enough for them. At 5:20 – Earlybird screams out – lion, leopard no cheetah and slows down to a near stop and there on my side of the car is a beautiful specimen looking back into the bush and another one appears. We are almost falling out of the car with excitement – three cheetah sightings in one trip. It looks like they’re in hunting mode and I want to follow them but they disappear into the bush and we are the only car to see them. Wow – a few minutes later or earlier and we would have missed them. This is the best of the very poor photographs.
We’re on a high as we move on. Its 5:32 and Earlybird says – around this next corner you’re going to see hyena – and sure enough there they are – he guessed right because we’re at the culvert where we saw the hyena family yesterday but today we find 6 adults and one baby takes a last feed from him mom. The rest of the clan start walking off and baby returns to the den presumably to wait until they return from the hunt.
As we continue toward Malelane we see our old friends, impala, giraffe, zebra, warthogs, waterbuck and wildebeest. We zip past a red-crested korhaan but stop briefly to id a brown snake eagle.
We going at a steady pace as we want to get through Swaziland where the border posts will delay us and its a long way to Kokstad. But I spot a double banded courser and screech for Earlybird to stop. He poses beautifully and we all get good photographs.
Soon thereafter we see a jeep jockey looking into the bush – its a rhino – so we have now we have three of the big 5. Its 7 o’clock and our last exciting spot is a juvenile African Hawk Eagle.
Finally the warthogs bid us farewell and we leave through Malelane gate at 7:15. Look out Kostad here we come!