7 July 2014 Orpen to Olifants Our day started very early with a loud clattering and crashing coming from the stoep. Earl and I both got up to investigate at the same time – I knew it had to be a honey badger and I grabbed the walkie talkie to alert Heather. By the time we got there the invader had gone. It was just after 2 a.m. We went wearily back to bed and eventually dropped off only to be awoken by fresh clattering and this time there were 2 naughty critters. They’d upset the bin, opened a latched cupboard and were greedily devouring the scraps left over from last night’s supper! Our presence with cameras did nothing to deter them and we managed to get some reasonable shots of the little burglars.
After all this excitement it was difficult to get back to sleep but exhaustion took over and we were back in dreamland knowing that our wake up time would be 5 a.m. BUT I had somehow got it wrong and woke with a start at twenty to six. The alarm was only set for 6 which was supposed to be departure time! But with cooperation from everyone we packed up quickly and were on the road to Olifants by 6:30. Our intention was to stop at Timbavati Picnic Site and make breakfast there. But the weather had turned and it was freezing so we had a loo and coffee break there then continued to Olifants where we had brunch much later. The sightings today were good. From Orpen along the H7 we first found wildebeest and then Peter said – red brake lights up ahead – what has he seen? As we approached Heather called out Jackal and to our joy he cooperated well and gave us a good photo shoot. He sniffed and scratched for morsels to eat, performed his toilet then took off into the bush.
We saw zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and impala and then another holdup of cars ahead.
When we caught up we found a huge herd of buffalo – nice to see after the few scattered pairs and individuals we’d seen previously.
All this was before 7:30 in the morning. Then up ahead two cars cruising slowly and staring into the bush. Earl passed the one in front very slowly and I mouthed – what? Lion he mouthed back. We couldn’t see anything then the car in front of him pointed and we caught up and stopped. Heather yelled – there he is and a huge male stared me right in the eye! Earl said – close your window – my hands were shaking on the camera but I was not about to give up my shot to wind up any window!
We watched him for a while turned around and saw him cross the road and march off into the bush. There was a second lion but we didn’t see it. It must have gone over while we were looking at his friend.
Near the waterhole Girabana we found a fish eagle in a tree and waterbuck looking too gorgeous for words.
After our coffee at Timbavati we took a detour to the Ratelpan hide but it was disappointing. Usually we spend at least half an hour there but today the cold prevented us from waiting for something to turn up. There seemed little to see on the S127 and were chatting about this and that when I interrupted a story Heather was relating – Kori Bustard! And then there were 2.
Soon after we stopped for Temminck’s coursers and while we were trying to identify them a car drew up and asked if we’d seen the Secretary Bird. You mean Kori Bustard? we asked. No and he showed us his photograph – he’d seen it 5km back – too far for us to chase. We were most disappointed to have missed it because earlier in the holiday I’d commented that we’d never found Secretary Birds in the KNP! How annoying to have missed it by 5km! They raced ahead and we found them soon after starting at a bird of prey in a tree. It was difficult to identify but we thought we knew what it could be We asked the driver what he thought but he was stumped. “Juvenile Black breasted Snake-Eagle we said. ” when it’s a juvenile – I give up he laughed. But that’s what my son thinks it is too! The boy was about 12. Next up we found a small group of Mommy elephants with their adorable offspring.
Then surprise and delight I spotted the elusive bird we’d been seeking – A secretary bird! What were the chances after missing the previous one we would so soon find the culprit!
The next interesting sighting was a little yellow mongoose trying to hide away from us. The final highlight of the day was once again seeing 2 cars ahead going slowly, catching up and Earl declaring – its a hyena. In fact it was a baby. On a previous visit we witnessed an adult pack going off to hunt, a baby bidding its mom goodbye and going off to the den. Clearly this one had not obeyed the instruction to stay hidden while his elders we getting his lunch! It was a beautiful sighting!
We arrived at Olifants at 12, checked in but could only pick up the keys at 1 so we had brunch at Mug and Bean – a tad better than Satara but not much!