Tuesday, January 25

Kruger meanders - south western Kruger

Day 5  (click here to return to Day 4)

With only two more full days left in Kruger I got up this morning after a really hot sweaty night to the pitter patter of rain on my tent. I had decided to get going early as I wanted to cover a large section of south western Kruger and that was going to take most of the day.

After a quick cup of coffee I was on my way, into the overcast, cool, greenness of southern Kruger. Park authorities had controlled burned over 75% of the south during the last dry season and I was keen to see how well it was recovering after a month or so of rain.

Heading south.....
At the camp gate I bumped into one of my old colleagues from the safari company and he told me of a lion kill 15km south of camp.

Well that’s where I was heading anyway so off we went to see what we could find.

Bingo! Some way off the road, scattered on the new green grass and under the burnt trees we could see several lion. They were not very energetic despite the cool misty morning and when the big male got up we could see why – very full bellies. The fact that vultures were tentatively picking at the kill also indicated that the lion were almost finished with it. Unfortunately from a photographers point of view there were too many sticks and small dead bushes too get a very clear view of the lion. After enjoying the scene for 20 minutes or so, a whole host of open safari vehicles rushed into the sighting, which prompted me to get “the hell out of there”!

The results of the extensive and hot controlled burns were very evident throughout the day as I moved south, then north west and finally east back to camp. The south of Kruger has relatively high rainfall, and we have had a couple of very good wet seasons.
So, yes, the bush gets very thick and it is hard to find and photograph animals. At this early stage of the new wet season the grass on the open areas is still short and seeing animals – especially the cats is so much better. There was also lots of green grass for the grazers though the browsers were obviously having a more difficult time of it.
However, many of the burnt and dead looking bushes and small trees were shooting forth new leaves from their bases, so by the end of the summer I think the country side will be as dense as ever again!

Hammerkop fishing

A typical Kruger river bed

I spent the next couple of hours heading south on dirt roads with very little traffic and a lot of peace. Not very many animal sightings so the buffalo in the river bed and small elephant herd browsing in the bush-willows were welcome breaks.

I had a lot of fun photographing wild flowers which were everywhere, and even the more common, weedy types were looking very pretty out in the open areas and alongside the road.
 Unfortunately it's not really possible to get good close up photos of the flowers as we are not allowed to get out of the vehicles in Kruger - makes the photography just that little more challenging!


a curious young buffalo

After a quick breakfast at a picnic spot I started out on the old Voortrekker Road (named after the people and transport wagons that blazed and used the route before Kruger was created). This dirt road crosses undulating granite country and produces beautiful vistas in addition to good animal sightings.

I found another lion asleep deep under a bush – the day had turned to sunny and hot – and was lucky to get brief glimpse of a leopard walking away from the road into the trees.

My first rhino of the day were two young males trying to cool off in a sandy gulley.

 Lunch was a very quick leg stretch at another rest camp in the west and then I started heading east back to Skukuza on one of the main tar roads. It was just 20 minutes later, at the first water hole that I had a real “fall off my seat in amazement” shock when I spotted a Blue Crane on the far side of the water hole. The Blue Crane is South Africa’s national bird and it’s normal habitat is on the high, wet grasslands of the southern highveld. This crane was not only the first one I had seen in Kruger but the first one I had ever seen in the wild- very exciting! After I got back to Jo’burg I reported the sighting to a “rare birds” organisation here in SA and apparently this was their first recorded sighting of a blue crane in Kruger, ever!

The Blue Crane

South Western Kruger - granite country!

Well that really made my day, and though the next two hours back to camp were relatively quiet I was happy. But I must admit that after 9-10 hours of driving I was very glad to be back in camp, where I could sit in my chair, enjoy a nice cold Savannah and watch the monkeys wreak havoc in the camp site!

another camp visitor - a Water Monitor Lizard

Click here to continue to Day 6 (the last posting of my bush holiday!)

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