4 July 2014 – Skukuza to Orpen
We made an early start today as we had a long way to go to get to Orpen and we did not take the direct route so by 6:15 we were packed and ready to go. We needed to fill up and Earl got onto conversation with the petrol jockey. He confided that he’d been to Cape Town and liked it for the fishing but not the weather. Earl readily took this opportunity to show him some of his fishing photos on his phone!
Once we were off I read him an email from his friend John and in the process we forgot to post the keys. This Peter alerted us to when we were half an hour into our journey and so we had to turn back and take a different route to the original plan to Orpen!
We then took the H1-2 and soon found a tawny eagle in a tree.
Elephants and baboons were about and zebra buffalo and rhino made an appearance.
At Leeupan there was a gathering of zebra which we first found crossing the road before they headed to muddy up a small water puddle. Impala and kudu were there as was a single giraffe. There was a woolly necked stork hiding in the reeds and some other water birds were there too.
At Mafagalamba Dam we found a pod of hippo in and out of the water. A heron found the back of a hippo a good viewing point. There were wildebeest and waterbuck grazing and drinking and we renamed the dam Waterbuck bum waterhole as it’s actual name is too difficult to pronounce!
As we crossed a ford over the N’waswitosonto River I spotted a ‘stone’ at the edge of the water but when I looked with my binoculars it tuned into an Ayre’s Hawk Eagle – a wonderful find for the mad birders that we are!
It was a long day today and we continued to find the usual suspects – impala, zebra, giraffe,wildebeest which was great because sometimes you can see nothing and worry about what has happened to our wildlife. Happily they are alive and well and living in The Kruger National Park.
We usually visit Kruger in Spring or Summer when the birdlife is prolific. The migrants are missing in winter so the abundance is not present right now. However every now and then we stop and find parties of small resident birds which are difficult to photograph as they move so quickly.
Some special birds we saw today were Brown Snake Eagle, Red-crested Korean, rattling cisticola, saddle billed stork and woolly necked stork.
Cats – any cats and predators are always exciting to see. We have seen very few so far – 12 lion yesterday were a big surprise. I had a strong feeling that cheetah would appear today and I told everyone that we would see them.
We were tired and in a hurry to get to camp when we noticed a few cars stationery up ahead. In the distance Earl pointed out a shape moving toward us. Lion, he said but it turned into a cheetah! We pulled into a space and had brilliant views of two cheetahs walking gingerly toward us. One ran across the road between the cars and the other was skittish and frightened not wanting to take the chance. He was right next to our car, on the correct side of the road for the sun not to spoil the picture. But the animal is the same color as the grass and very well camouflaged! He eventually summoned up the courage to join his mate and it was so sweet to see them greet each other and frolic together before running off into the sunset.
Wow that left us on a high and now Earl just wanted to get to camp and we stopped only briefly for elephant, rhino, buffalo, kudu and a korhaan!
Orpen Camp is our favourite. We were in huts 8 and 9. Each had an outdoor kitchen and covered stoep. The room was comfy with an en suite shower and loo. Orpen also has the best swimming pool and a floodlit waterhole on the other side of the fence. It is a small, unspoilt camp with no restaurant. However, there is a coffee hut next to the shop that serves excellent coffees, teas and hot chocolate.