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Kruger park December 2016 - another Self Drive.


Hads
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" Everything in Africa bites but the safari Bug is worst of all" - Quote!

I have just returned from South Africa having spent the past 6 Weeks there with my wife and Kids mainly visiting my in-laws

I was Lucky enough in this Time to spend 8 Nights in Krüger park with my Father in Law and 2 Nights in Nambiti Game Reserve with my wife and Kids.

 

This trip Report will only be about Krüger.

The Krüger trip itinary is äs follows:

2 Nights Shimuwini

4 Nights Satara

2 Nights Lower Sabie

I Went to Krüger with my Father in Law (FIL), he loves the park and Visits there 2-3 Times per Year.

One i have downloaded all photos i will get started on the Report in Detail.

Highlights of the trip for me were:

- Hippo's fighting

- woodland kingfishers singing

- satara rain

- Bullfrogs appearing after the rain

- final game drive

I hope you enjoy this self-drive safari report.

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Bring it on, Hads - looking forward to it! :)

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Looking forward to learn about Satara and Lower Sabie, and to see how much changes rain brought to Shimuwini.

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Ok here we go, as I mentioned in the opening post I was lucky enough to do this trip to Kruger with my Father in law (who will be known as FIL in this trip report). FIL loves the Kruger park and was very keen to do visit the park again.

 

We arrived at the Phalaborwa gate at around 1400hrs on the 06/12/16 and checked in , whilst checking in the first bird I really took any notice of was the Woodland Kingfisher singing his beautiful welcoming song. I was in the office at this stage paying our Fee's with FIL and ducked outside to see him sitting in a tree adjacent to our car (FIL's Toyota Hilux extra cab 4x4).

 

Payment made and in through the gate and yes I was on Safari again, Safari is like being in a bubble, you don't know what is happening outside in the Modern world and really do not care too much either.

From memory the first animal we saw was the stunning Impala.

 

We were heading to our first overnight destination at Shimuwini on the H9 and took a detour and visited the SABLE overnight hide on the S51. This hide is situated overlooking the sable Dam. It must be nice being able to camp overnight in the hide close proximity to whatever passes by and listen to the African choir.

At the hide we saw stunning Fish eagle on a dead lead wood tree in the dam, not much was happening until we saw 1 Elephant slowly make it's way down to drink, within a few minutes there was another 3-4 Ele's who came down and joined the first,next minute they were in the water having a good wash and play.

Within the next 10-15 minutes there was about 25 Elephants in the waters edge or in it bathing and playing. What a great welcome back to Kruger.

 

Time was getting on and we headed off northwards on the H14 towards Shimuwini.

Entering into Shimuwini it has it's own private section of road on the S141.

The trip up we saw more general game and finally we reached the camp and booked in, one thing I remember clearly from the Shimuwini check in office was the receptionist lady from SANPARKS, she was very friendly but had a habit of rolling her eye's back so you could only see the white's of her eye's...... Quite spooky.....

My first thoughts of the camp area was stunning, the chalets were 2 story and overlook a beautiful waterway which had a resident dagga boy and elephants plus waterbuck impala, hippo's and plenty of birdlife.

Edited by Hads
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Sorry I am having trouble downloading my photo's on the Apple lap top.

Will get to it soon..

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well I'm back and will try to get this TR back on track.

I have just had my In-laws here from Africa for the past few days and did not get a chance to resolve my Download issue's. Hopefully things go smoother now.

 

One thing that I have learnt from going on Safari with my Father in law (FIL) is that nearly every road he has a story of a special sighting. I read Sharifa's @Mention historical trip report and it reminded me of what FIL has experienced over many decades of Kruger trips.

FIL has been going on Safari in Kruger park for over 50 years and has had many special sightings and memories to share.

 

Here are a few photo's from day one on our journey from Phalaborwa up to Shimuwini.

 

* Elephants swimming at Sable dam

* Fish Eagle @ Sable dam

* Kori Bustard

* Elephant Bull

* Temmincks Courser

* Water Buck

* Impala

 

 

As mentioned in an earlier post I was very impressed with Shimuwini as a Bushveld camp and would not hesitate to go back again purely because of the quietness and remoteness of the camp.

Next post will be the late afternoon drive on the Shimuwini river loop road.

I forgot to add for this trip I invested in a new Tamron 150-600mm lens - it made quite a difference for an average photographer.

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Edited by Hads
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Once checked in Shimuwini camp I set about doing abit of exploring around the campground and went visited the bird hide which is very pleasant to sit and relax and watch the world and birds go by.

 

There was a choir of birds , it was great to here my favourite WKF (Woodland kingfisher) singing his tune.

The campground overlooks the Letaba river.

There are about 15 chalets in the campground each with power, we had a fridge but no freezer but there is a communal chest freezer at the main entrance where you can put your frozen goods. Each chalet also has it's own Braai area.

You can not go on Safari without having a braai each night :P and of course a cold Windhoek lager.

Here are some photo's from around camp.

* Hippo's

* Cape Buffalo

* Open Billed Stork

* WKF

* Egyptian Geese

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FIL and I decided we would go for a late afternoon game drive along the private camp road, the S141 which is only for guests of the camp.

We took the river road which has a few nice little loops and game spotting is better than the other side of the S141 loop,

the drive itself is only about 9km's in 1 direction but we had some nice intimate sightings of a Steenbok, Waterbuck ram showing his counterpart who is the boss , female Cape Buffalo's which looked thin, Hippo's, Giraffe and a mum elephant with it's baby.

There was also plenty of the blacksmith lapwings strutting around the loops.

After the first afternoon in Kruger it was a great feeling to be back in Africa.

Once back in camp and after our braai and a beer or 3 a small herd of elephants walked straight along the fence line in front of our chalet - it doesn't get much better than that, what a way to end day 1!

 

Coming up in Day 2 - The battle of Shimuwini........ This was the first kind of encounter of this type for FIL and myself.

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Day 2 - The Battle of Shimuwini.

 

Before I get started on Day 2 I will give a basic overview of how FIL and I structured our day.

FIL decided that each day we swap drivers for the day therefore the driver decided on which route to take, it is always exciting deciding which road to take to try find that special sighting, even though every sighting is special in it's own way.

In summertime in Kruger gates open at 4:30am and close at 6:30pm everyday, therefore we were up around 4:15am every morning and tried to be out the gate before 4:45am with a coffee and rusk in hand.

We always got back to a rest camp around 10:00 - 11:00am for breakfast/brunch therefore our morning drives were pretty long.

FIL would usually have a rest in the afternoon for 2-3 hours while I went back out for a small game drive and I would get back to camp around 3:00pm.

We would then prepare for our afternoon game drive and try leave camp again by 3:30pm with a few refreshments in tow and get back at camp just before closing time.

I would spend anywhere between 8-12 hours per day on game drives.

At night we had a braai every night and have a cold beer or 3 and listen to the sounds of the African bush.

In a nutshell that is how each day went.

 

Back to this battle we saw.

We left Shimuwini camp early and headed along the S141 river road, our plan was to head North East up towards Mopani.

As we entered the first of the little loops on the S141 we say a hippo out walking along the river, we watched him for awhile and then he started jogging off, we did not give it much thought. As we got to the next little loop along the river we saw the same hippo coming towards the river however there was another big guy in the same pool who was watching him and did not want this guy to join him in his domain.

The hippo in the river slowly made his way to the riverbank as the other guy approached making his presence felt.

I have never seen hippo's fight before especially going toe to toe like Mohammad Ali punching on with George Foreman just like the Rumble in the Jungle however this did not go 8 rounds and there was no knockout punch.

The hippo's put on a good show though standing up on there hind legs with mouths wide agape trying to get the advantage over the other.

Somehow I got the photo's of of sequence but you should get the idea.

The intruder eventually gave in and made a mad scramble into the water and then all went calm again.

It was all over in less than 3-4 minutes but it shows you how amazing nature is and the unexpected is just around the corner.

Apologies that my photo's are only being posted in low resolution - hopefully they are ok for ST.

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Edited by Hads
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Very cool battle of Hippos. B)

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Love it Hads! from your wife ;-) :D

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After the Hippo battle we continued on the journey along the S141 and onto the H14 heading north towards Mopani rest camp.

During this Safari in Kruger I have never seen so many Hyena's and today was the start of our Hyena sightings, it must be due to the drought and the predators seem to be doing well.

The first Hyena's we saw was a nice little family of 3, a mother and 2 half grown pups.

We stopped off at the Mooiplaas picnic site which is a stunning place to get out of the car and overlook the Tsendze River. It has a nice little thatched lapa and a great spot to have a coffee break.

We saw a beautiful fish eagle, namaqua dove and a pair of Egyptian geese with chicks.

We ventured further on taking the S5O northwards up to the Nyawutsi bird hide, along the way we saw some nice big tuskers and a lone dagga boy, plenty of plains game and from a long distance some Tsessebe.

At the hide I saw my first brown headed parrot.

It had been a big morning driving and we headed back to Mopani for breakfast which was stunning overlooking the Pioneer dam.

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The hippos battle was a wonderful sight! Was there any serious damage to any? Because those teeth looks and acts lethal to me.

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Hi @@xelas there was no obvious damage, maybe some pride damage for the loser.

Those teeth are nasty weapons though.

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I had a small walk around the Mopani restaurant area to the fence line along the outskirts of the Pioneer dam, I had nice sightings of a Egyptian geese family and a yellow billed stork.

The drive back to Shimuwini was very pleasant as we had the pleasure of watching 2 separate families of elephants right by the road bathing and playing in a waterhole at 2 different locations.

The kids in particular really seemed to be enjoying the bath.

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Once back at camp I had a walk to the bird hide and around the camp grounds, I watched the resident dagga and hippo's boy from the hide which was nice. It was quite hot this day and I decided that a swim was in order, the pool at Shimuwini is very nice. I then headed off solo for a drive for an hour or so seeing general plans game.

One small waterhole there was an elephant giving 2 zebra a hard time stopping them from drinking. He eventually got bored of the game and let them get to the water.

The S141 river loop I was greeted with a nice Nyala family and 3 dagga boys which I practiced some photography through the Mopani leaves and a few bird photo's.

The afternoon drive saw FIL and I take it pretty easy and once again we tackled the river loop, this was very peaceful as there we hardly saw another vehicle- the highlight here was a couple of Klipspringers who were very alert of the surroundings.

On the river loop there is a massive Boabab tree which has had some serious Elephant de-barking going on.

All in all another great day in paradise, the highlight for me was definitely the Elephants bathing and the Nyala family, come to think of it having a sundowner beer overlooking the letaba river and resident hippo's with the smell of FIL's braai in the background is pretty hard to beat as well.

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I've been told that the rocks around the baobab tree are not there for any religious purpose but a (vain) attempt to keep the elephants away from the trunk.

Edited by xelas
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@@xelas - I think you are correct about the rocks under the tree, my Father in law and I spoke about this and It does not seem to be working too well....

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Day 3 - Shimuwini to Satara via Letaba for breakfast

 

Summertime in Kruger there is nothing better than waking up to the sounds of the Woodland Kingfisher calling first thing in the morning.

Today we were heading to Satara, quite a drive to get there but we could do it very comfortably.

We set off about 4:45am and took the river loop leaving Shimuwini and once again we saw our stunning little Klipspringers on the look out.

We got to the H14 and then turned left and once we got to the H1-6 we turned right heading towards Letaba.

We took a slight detour on the S48, The Tsendze loop, which is a pristine little loop that runs along a riverine area which had only small pools of water.

Along the way we had to Letaba we had several nice sightings. The first being a lone female elephant right on the road, 4 Ground hornbill feeding in some grasslands, 2 Wahlbergs Eagles sitting atop a tree (can someone please confirm this is correct) and we got to see our first Cat sightings, 2 Male Lions taking it easy under the shade of a tree and a couple of Saddlebilled storks wondering the streets.

Today was another scorcher and the temp would get to the high 30's again.

Just North of Letaba the river was alive with yellow billed storks and African spoonbills feeding.

Once at Letaba rest camp we had a great breakfast at the Mug and Bean and enjoyed the very tame Bush buck that wonder the campgrounds and quite a few of my favourite WKF!!

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Edited by Hads
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Day 2 cont - Letaba to Satara.

Leaving Letaba we headed down the S46/S93 dirt rides along the Letaba river loop, the start of this drive is beautiful overlooking the river and floodplain area's.

We saw general game and the birdlife was ok but overall in the heat of the day it was pretty quiet.

We briefly stopped at Oliphants for an ice cream and took in the views for 10 mins and then continued on.

We took the S91/92 Dirt roads where we saw a lovely Fish eagle catch a catfish, Goliath heron, giraffe resting in the shade, once we hit the H1-4 we went south Straight to Satara.

It was getting seriously hot and the animals had taken cover for shade, the temp was about 38-39 degrees today. The further south we got towards Satara the more desert like things were getting!! I have never seen this area so dry and baron.

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We checked into Satara rest camp, it was unbelievable how dry the camp was along with all the game area's to the north.You could literally see for hundreds of metres in the bush from the road.

As it was a late check in we decided the afternoon drive would be down the S100, all the vegetation was dead, on the sweni stream there was a couple of small pools but that was it.

The S100 road and the Satara region is generally pretty good for predator sightings and this afternoon we saw 2 male Lions passed out by the side of the road and about 6 female lions near the S100/S41 junction laying low in the long grass.

It was still terribly hot and the game was very lazy and in active hence not many photo's taken.

All in all a great ending to another wonderful day in Kruger.

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@@Hads glad to see you got into your report at last. It must add to a trip when your FIL has 50 years of stories from the area but you will no doubt have a collection of your own with 8-12 hours each day finished off with a braii - life is good. Nice sequence with the two evenly matched hippos and the klipsringer is a nice image showing me now how much different they are to steenboks. The buff peeking through the leaves is also very nice. We saw Satara from the air on our December trip and it looked dry as a bone for miles.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Thanks @@deano for reading my report, it did take me awhile to get into it though.

Finishing off each day with a braai and a cold beer is pretty special - life is great that's for sure especially on Safari.

I still have 6 days to report.

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Day 3 - The Hyena's were out and about and the drought revealed.

 

Well as usual I was eager to get going early morning. Myself and FIL were in his bakkie (Toyota Hilux) and out the camp gates by 0445hrs.

The trip for today was to head north of Satara along the h1-4 for a few km's and then take the S90 & head east and once at the intersection with the S41 we would South until we got to the S100.

The first guys we came across leaving camp was 6 hyena's snooping around early, the light was pretty dark so the photo's were not the best.

Still on the H1-4 about 4 km's after we left the first clan of Hyena's there was another pair of mum's with elderly pups suckling. They were not interested in our presence and stayed put on the side of the road. The was the odd impala and zebra but the plains game was scarce early on due to no grass....

A couple of km's on the S90 who greeted us running down the road but another Hyena coming straight towards us.

The surrounding bush in this area and along the S90 was barren and desert like, you could literally see for miles.

We got onto the S41 and we saw abit of birdlife and a troop of baboons in a tree. We stopped at the Gudzani east waterhole and yep you guessed more Hyena, some bathing in the watering spot.

I have never seen so many animal skeletons as I have on this trip, especially Hippo skeletons and carcases as you will later see. The poor hippo's streams , rivers and dams have shrunken to almost nothing in a lot of places, they have become too weak as there is no grass to eat. The predators are having a field day with the weakened animals..... Very sad to see.

The S100 was pretty quiet this morning but we saw a nice fish eagle, 2 x WKF and a pair of LBR with a kill!!

Excellent morning so far an it was still early, next part more drought and a cat or 2.

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Edited by Hads
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