Friday, September 26

Kruger Memories

  • The delight and wonder on the faces of the five blind and five deaf children on their first visit to Kruger.
Spot the snake!
  • The Black Mamba crossing the road in front of us and then climbing and moving around a couple of small Mopani’s close to the road.

  • An African Rock Python coiled in an untidy heap below the road next to the Sabie River.

  • The snore of an exhausted lioness during a break in mating.

  • A fleeting glimpse of the Sable Antelope’s scimitar horns near Pretoriuskop Rest Camp.

  • Multiple sightings of the “rare” tsessebe over a 36 hour period near Mopani Rest Camp.

  • Eighty buffalo silhouetted against the setting sun, kicking up the dust in their run down to the waterhole.

  • The huge bull elephant rolling like a kid in the mud at the edge of Nsime Dam.
  • The antics of a baboon troop on the banks of the Olifants River.

  • A Ground Hornbill feasting on a tortoise, tossing it into the air as it tries to get it’s beak into the head and leg openings.
  • The baby elephants rolling over and over in the shallows of the waterhole.

  • The troop of Banded Mongoose scampering down to drink at the waterhole with the baboons and two old bull elephants. 
  •  The majestic “King of the Jungle” surveying his domain in the setting sun.

  • A massive crocodile chasing fish in the shallows, with the young Fish Eagle hovering above waiting for a chance to grab the fish as it desperately leaps out of the water.

  • The wonderful people from all over the world that have shared with me all these experiences over the last 3 months.

Thursday, September 25

A Story of a Buffalo “kill”

Day 1 - Our first afternoon game drive in Sabi Sand and we’re off to see the buffalo kill of 2 large male lions from only 36 hours before. The site is marked by several vultures perched in the leafless trees nearby. The lions are not known to the rangers, they’re probably from inside Kruger, and are very wary of the vehicles during the day – retreating from the kill when we approach. As they move off the vultures see their chance and swoop down. This immediately brings back one of the lion who overcomes his apprehension of us to chase off the unwelcome scavengers. The buffalo carcase still appears to be largely intact though the very full bellies of the lion indicate that they have feasted well.

 We return to the kill later that evening, the lions are less worried by the vehicle and spotlights in the dark – they are feeding again, this time with a Black Backed Jackal trotting at a wary distance around the area looking for a chance when it may dash in and  grab a piece of the meat. No chance while the lion are still so protective of their meal.

Day 2 - Early this morning, before sunrise, we heard the roar of lions close by. What did that mean? Were the strange lions advertising their presence to the resident prides? Our questions were answered on approaching the kill at the start of the morning drive. Two male lions, but not the ones that we saw yesterday! But, again, these two are not from the coalition of five males normally seen in the area. Discussion amongst the rangers over the radio ensues and the opinion is that these two new males are from Manyeleti and were probably the ones we heard roaring this morning. They had obviously driven off the two upstarts from Kruger and then taken over their kill. 

These two new lions are more accustomed to vehicles and allow us to take some good photographs. A couple of Black Backed Jackals are now hovering in the background though they don’t have much chance with two new, hungry lions on the scene.
In the afternoon, we again visit the kill at the start of the drive. Yet another change. The buffalo carcase is now almost bare of meat and instead of two male lions we have one male and one lioness at the kill. They appear very relaxed together although they are probably from two separate prides.

 Day 3 - The morning drive and no lions left at the kill, just the bare bones of the carcase already picked clean by the vultures, jackals and hyena that slink off behind the scrub at the approach of our vehicle. They have already proved their essential role in the bush, the “stink” of the rotting meat, so pervasive in the last 2 days has disappeared with the last scraps of the buffalo.

Wednesday, September 24

Kruger National Park in Spring

Purple Tree Wistaria
The Knob Thorn trees heralded spring’s arrival with thick creamy canopies. The Long Tail Cassia was next, buds on bare branches opening into bright yellow flowers creating brilliant splashes of summer sunshine in the drab winter bushveld. Now the Sausage Trees, Weeping Boer Beans and Flame Climbing Bush willow are flowering in shades of red from brilliant scarlet to deep ruby.
If you are lucky you will spot the occasional touch of purple of the Tree Wisteria.
 Mopani trees, only a few weeks ago ablaze in their russet, green and gold are now leafless, the ground carpeted with their brown leaves.

  (please click on photos to enlarge)

Mazithi waterhole - one of my favourites

The Southern giraffe
 The waterholes are crowded with wildlife delighting in the water, but ever cautious of the hungry predators.

The giraffe’s incredibly long tongue is clearly visible as it strips the new leaf buds off the all but bare branches.

The bush is a muted grey brown beige, framed by the black trunks of the Tamboti and accentuated by the occasional brilliant spring green of an early acacia.
On barren hillsides the “snow” white thorns of the Flaky Bark Acacia thickets stand out along the roadsides.
The baboons perch gingerly in the Knob Thorns browsing greedily on tasty flowers.
The Marula trees stand majestic in their grassy settings showing an odd tendency for new leaves to appear on just one branch at a time.

Leopard in the Sabi Sand Reserve

Ribs stand out on the impala as they drink – even they feel the lack of forage at this time of the year.
Jackal Berry Trees reach to the sky from the drainage lines shimmering yellow in their cloaks of old leaf.
“Dust devil” whirlwinds spring up at random causing momentary, dusty mayhem.

Cool nights, cool breezes alternate with blazingly hot days where winds blow straight from the “furnaces” of the Kalahari.

Immature Martial Eagle, on a kill

Many birds are in their mating pairs, notable among them the Bateleur, Tawny and Martial Eagles. 
In the distance a Secretary Bird balances precariously on it’s tree top nest and closer by, one can glimpse a White Backed Vulture chick raising it’s head to mother.
The Fish Eagle feasts on a catfish trapped in the last muddy pool of a dry waterhole.

Hippo at Lake Panic

The sky has turned a pale, dusty grey, stained by the smoke of the endless grass fires on the Great Escarpment and the dust blown up from the dry and thirsty earth
…………………….. when will the rains arrive?