10 July 2014 Olifants to Mapane Camp. Temperature at departure 4 Degrees C
It was a chilly start to the day. We woke at five, packed up and departed for Mopani just after 6 It was still dark but the light arrived suddenly and we had a few good sightings.
First up was a grey duiker disappearing into the bush. Next a pair of Sandgrouse but we missed the photo opportunity.
Then we almost knocked into a hippo who was making his way back to the river after a long night of grazing on land. He had a way to go still.
We met up with elephants at regular intervals – all lone bulls. On the S 94 We found a lone buffalo, warthogs, giraffe and tree squirrels within minutes of each other.
We arrived at Letaba at 8:30 and it was now 10 degrees C. We went to Mug and Bean for breakfast. This time was not as good as the last. Typical of M and B we have found, they did not have all the ingredients advertised on the menu. We complained and the waiter was great. He told us that the management had not got the ordering right yet. We told him we would be complaining to both Sanparks and M&B head office. If they are going to put these big franchises into the park they have to be at least as good as the last one,Tree, with whom we were always superbly impressed. M&B service is slow (it was not busy), they get the orders wrong and they don’t have what’s advertised on the menu. We overheard another patron saying to the waitress “Do I need to order the night before to get breakfast in the morning?” We sympathized!
The food is actually fine when it arrives so there is nothing wrong with the ability of the chefs – it’s the organisation that is faulty. When Mugg & Bean first hit Cape Town, I found their coffee absolutely aweful but that at least has improved. My coffee was hot, strong and black the way I like it and they gave it to me in the requested cup. When I was done I was immediately offered a refill. Mugg & Bean if you can just get your service and organisation right you might just make the grade in Kruger.
Bushbuck frequently come into Letaba Camp and we found another one just outside the restaurant.
Back on the H1-6 we had sightings of giraffe and baboon and other animals. The baboons amused us with their antics.
As we left we found a small herd of zebra. As we pulled away they started running. “Something’s spooked them,” said Peter. Maybe a lion. Go back Earl.” Earl obliged, reversing slowly and checking the bush carefully. Then – omigosh a huge bull elephant emerged from the bush and came straight for the car. “Go Earl, Go!” I yelled to Earl. He pulled away slowly and the elephant was almost touching the car. Even though I was in a state of terror I took a photograph for those who found our crushed bodies to observe what had happened!
Earl took out his cell phone and took photos through the side mirror. We all went into panic mode and begged him to go faster. “No, he said, “he’s far away!” The thing was that through the side mirror things look further away than they are so we yelled louder. Earl just laughed and continued snapping photos.
The elephant increased his pace, flapped his ears and waved his trunk. We were in fits of nervous giggles and screaming hysterically. Earl is normally very wary of ellies but being in front gave him a feeling of power. I kept yelling – He’s flapping his ears. He’s going to charge. Finally Earl decided that caution was the better part of valour and went a little faster and thankfully the elephant let us go.
After that adrenalin rush we all reprimanded the errant driver for his casual attitude to a dangerous, wild creature. Only after examining his own photos days later, did he admit that he had taken a bit of a chance! Never ever fool around when elephants are about – they can be unpredictable and are quite capable of overturning and crushing a vehicle even if it is as big as a Caravelle.
We cruised slowly along until the S62 where I saw the birds we missed this morning – double banded sandgrouse – this time there were 2 adults with a single tiny chick. We managed to get photos but the chick was hidden by the parents.
We found a brown hooded kingfisher in a tree and took some photographs.
We did the river loop and stopped to observe for a while. A pied kingfisher entertained us by catching and devouring a fish.
We arrived at Mopani at 2 o’clock, checked in a spent the rest of the day in camp.