03 July 2017

Kruger Park - South Africa

Elephant - Kruger Parkl
Kruger Park - just the thought of another trip to the park, makes one tremble in anticipation! It's one of those iconic places that we never tire of? Or so it seems to me. The park opened to the public in 1927 and has truly gone from strength to strength in many ways. The downside, sadly, remains  Rhino poaching.

Day 1
What a day! We saw elephant, hippos, waterbuck, zebra, impala, huge crocs, a lilac breasted roller eating a grasshopper, buffalo, vulture, giraffe, kudu, wilderbeest, hornbill, and a huge leopard! Unfortunately, the cars that had the best view of the leopard refused to give up their "spots" so we only caught a glimpse. This route was Kruger gate - Skukuza - Satara - Orpen gate.

As time had caught up with us we exited at the Orpen gate and decided to take the "shortest" route home.....ya right! Acornhoek, Thulamahashe, Lilydale and back to Burchells Bush Lodge. It was a trip through Africa - dusty roads, posh houses, half-built houses, soccer matches, Saturday night parties, speed humps galore plus potholes and then we got lost! By now it was dark and the GPS kept trying to take us to a road that had been dug up so it no longer existed! Thankfully, a lovely lady gave us very good directions which got us safely back, It was fun seeing how the local people live in their villages. Drivers are cautious and do indicate in good time - even though everybody looks like a "drunk" driver by just trying to avoid the many potholes! All in all a fun day!

Day 2
Our first sighting just into the park at Kruger Gate were a herd of elephants crossing the road! I just love elephants despite being rather terrified of them when they are very close.

Next came a rather frantic looking Wild Dog, dashing between the cars to eventually escape into the thick bush. Something must have disturbed him but we could not see any predators lurking. This was a wonderful sighting as there are only120 Wild Dogs in Kruger. It's a terrible photo as it was really just a grab shot - he was not exactly posing for me! Don't you just love that bushy tail?

The gravel road south was rather boring with no sightings so we cut across to Lower Sabie for lunch. The Mugg abd Beab was very busy so service was not great.

We carried on the S79 and spotted a lonely Steenbok, a vulture, eagle, hippos, grey Goway bird, Cape Glossy Starling, giraffe, a Pied Kingfisher staring down at the water in the hope of spoting a fish, giraffe and then a herd of elephants.

It is always pot-luck in the Kruger - if we had not stopped so long for the Steenbok, we could have seen a leopard crossing the road! But again, we missed this.

People do weird things, resulting in this notice being placed at one of the viewing spots! We also spotted a guy out of his car (illegal) and weeing through the bridge into the river below, despite the fact that the Public Toilets at Skukuza Camp were a mere 1km away!

Day 3
Our first stop was at Lake Panic Hide where a huge croc was lying on the bank and then one of the rsident hippos slowly lumbered out to start grazing. One has to wonder at the name - just who was in a panic? Animals or humans? Some turtles were gathered on a log awaiting some sunshine and an African Darter was flapping his wings as they ten to do.

Next we did a few short loops on the Skukuza to Lower Sabie road. We spotted Vervet monkets, with some strange habits! plus baboons and then buffulo on the Sabie River banks.
Vervet Monkeys

There are many elephant along this road - very large herds. The youngsters are prone to charge and one has to wonder if this is just a mock charge or whether they are already learning to be intolerant of the many cars on this road? We didn't wait to find out as even a juvenile would wreck havoc on a rental car!

Giraffe are a pleasure to watch - they are very inquisitive animals and will always turn around as if to say "Who are you"

The pan had about 12 hippos lying on the bank - amazing that this species is so huge given the fact that they only eat grass!

Day 4

Just inside the Kruger gate, our first morning sighting was a large herd of buffalo crosing the road.
We headed towards Phabeni Gate - it's a pretty lanscape so make the drive interesting  and pleasant.
Kruger Park is so large and the vegetaion is so diverse that it's actually quite incredible to see.
Sometimes grassy plains, othertimes just thick bush, other sections have many tall trees. All very beautiful in their own right.

We enjoyed good sightings of giraffe, zebra, and the ever presnt Impala. Next a herd of ellies decided to cross the road - very peacefully this time.
Kruger Park, South Africa

Then it was a case of shake, rattle and roll on the very corrugated Albasini S3 gravel road to Pretoriuskop. Even my "rolls" were shaking from the vibrations! A good grading is called for here, methinks.After a Wimpy breakfast at the peaceful Pretorius Canp, we headed to Shitlhave Pan where there was simply no sign of nay life.The Transport Pan yielded wildebeest, hippos and waterbuck in a very tranquil setting.

Next was an exciting sighting of a Spotted Hyena who crossed the road and then proceeded to flop down for a rest! 
Spotted Hyena

 Our final sighting for the day, again just before Kruger Gate, were a small herd of mom and baby ellies. They were offroad so we could watch in safety!

Still no lions or cheetah!! We have to just be so unlucky!

We did spot an armed ranger on the Phabeni Road. Another Park vehicle was speeding towards him so who knows what was going down? All in a day's drive!

Day 5
A totally brilliant 8 hour drive today, albeit with some very boring stretches. Our first sighting was an elephant trying to push over a tree. As he was right next to the road we decided to give the photo a miss in case he decided that the car would be an easier push-over!

Next was a huge flock of tiny, tiny birds. It looks like a dust cloud when they take off. Then more Vervet Monkeys. A crazy sight was a Southern Ground Hornbill digging in elephant dung and being very particular about what bits he actually ingested! Yuck but obviously a tasty treat for the bird!
Then Zebra, Impala, Buffalo and sadly, a dead Impala in the road. Perhaps needlessly killed perhaps by the speeding motorist who had passed us earlier?
Dead Impala on Road - Kruger Park

Turning, we took the H6 towards Singita Lebombo (stunning private lodge) then onto the S41 where we were lucky to see very large hers of buffalo enjoying their afternoon siesta.

The S100 lived up to expectations, as always with wildebeest, then a group of ellies with babies, quietly crossing the road towards water, more buffalo, a Saddle-Billed Stork and giraffe.

On the road back to Skukuza 2 juvenile ellies were drinking and then got into a mock fight but they "made up" again. We watched them for ages - it really is special to watch the interaction between 2 elephants who were totally oblivious of our interest in their antics (they were off the road!) TRuly special and one of the reasons why Kruger Park is such a special place.

Elephants at play - Kruger Park
Further on there was a very contented, mud-covered elephant who had obviously just enjoyed a glorious mud bath.

We heard that there were lions on the Marula Loop so we headed off that way in the hope of spotting our first lions. Well, the tiny causeway was blocked with vehicles, with everybody gazing into the far distance. I think we need new eyes, new binoculars and a new Nikon as we could see SAND, BUSH and more SAND!
So still no lion sighting for us!!

However, the day ended on a good note with our one and only rhino sighting.YEAH!
The Park no longer broadcasts the number of rhino left due to the poaching problems.

Day 6
Our first sighting today was again a huge elephant - he was approaching rapidly so we di not dare stop. These graceful, quietly trodden elephants are HUGE and very intimidating. They deserve to be treated with respect at all times.

Buffalo - Kruger Park

On a tiny loop just past Skukuza we came upon a large herd of still slumbering buffalo. Even a bird pecking on his face did not wake one of them.

On the S30 we enjoyed spending some time with 8 giraffe who were slowly meandering along the road, most likely looking for the next tree with juicy leaves. So graceful, so tall and so inquisitive.

At a small waterhole, we spotted some zebras approacing so we stayed to watch them drink. They are always aware and did not drink very much before trotting off again to graze.

We were blessed with more giraffe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Waerhog, Cape Glossy Staling, Magpie Shrike, Lilac breasted roller, vulture, waretbuck, poed kingfishers, hippos, martial eagle and what looked like a Sharpes Grysbok.

Our route was S30, S128,S28,S137,S130 then back to Lower Sabie.

On the S79 there was an apparent leopard sighting. All we saw was a traffic snarl-up of epic proportions with about 30 vehicles blocking the road entirely. If a herd of elephant had decided at that moment to try and cross the road, we would all have had squasg=hed cars as there was no going forward, backwards or sideways. People can truly be most inconsiderate. Shouting and hooting from some irate drivers had simply no effect as the chap in front blocking the road refused to budge. No manners, truly. However, right opposite us, in thick bush, was the leopard (sight unseen) haffing and puffing much better  - a leopard noise is something special and we heard it!

Day 7
Sadly, our time in the Kruger Park had to end so we headed off via the Phabeni Gate.

We had just enough time to stop at the Nyamundwa Pan where we received a very special send-off.

A small herd of elephants advanced slowly from the bush down to the waterhole, drank their fill (babies and all) then gradually headed off again in single file. Very special! There were also Impalas and hippos and a stunningly beautiful Fish Eagle perched high upon a tree, just waiting for a jumping, unsuspecting fish!

Impala - Kruger Park

© Judelle Drake

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