October 12, 2006

South AfricaWe woke up at 5:40 am and decided to get up and get an early start on the day. We had our usual breakfast of tea and cereal, and by 6:45 am we were on our way out of the gate. We had decided to drive the N’wanetsi River (S100) Road, which is supposed to be good for animal sightings, and during the night we had heard lions roaring off in that general direction.

But before we had even driven the 2 kilometres to where the S100 turns off, we had already seen several impalas and giraffes. Yesterday had been Warthog Day, but today there were no warthogs because it was Giraffe Day. On the road we saw Cape buffalo, waterbuck, and several different bird species. Before long a car coming towards us slowed down, and its driver told us there was a male lion and some females about 1 kilometre further along. Sure enough, there was a little blue car stopped at the roadside where the lions were. But we couldn’t really see the lions because to see them you had to be precisely where the little blue car was, and the driver refused to move. We moved ahead of them and turned around to try and get a view, and while doing so a male elephant came along. We watched him push over a tree to get at the roots.

So off we went down the road, past herds of impala and zebra and the odd wildebeest. And of course some giraffes. And within half an hour Rosemary spotted a movement in the bush, and lo and behold, a female lion came out of the long grass, followed by three more females and three young ones. They paraded by in a very stately fashion and paused on the road as if for a photo-op. The adults seemed to be watching intently for prey, but they might also have been watching out for male lions. After crossing the road they settled down to rest in long grass under a tree. We waited a while to see if the male lion would appear, but he didn’t.

After that there wasn’t much new on the S100, but after it ended we turned south on the Gudzani (S41) Road towards the bird hide on the Sweni River. The setup was similar to the Lake Panic blind, an enclosed pathway leading to the hide building. The first birds we noticed were storks, Yellow-billed Stork and African Openbill, sunning themselves directly across from the opening. Then we heard a lot of grunting and to our right we saw about 8 hippos submerged in the waterhole. We spent about an hour there increasing the bird list by several new species, including four kinds of kingfisher. It was quite busy with people coming and going.

By this time it was noon, so we backtracked to the picnic spot at N’wanetsi. This one was very well run; the tables were all under cover and you could rent skottels for R10 per hour. And it looked as if the custodian had a kettle permanently boiling for anybody who wanted tea, but we didn’t have any tea fixings with us. So we just ate our buns with jam and drank our cans of pop.

After lunch we decided to head back to camp for a relaxing afternoon, so we set off west along the Satara-N’wanetsi (H6) Road. It was a tarred road, so we could go up to 50 km/h. We came across several herds of zebra, giraffe, and impala, but nothing much new. We stopped at one of the waterholes and watched a giraffe drinking.

Before long we were back at camp having a cup of tea. We went up to the gift shop to check out their reptile books, to see if we could identify the lizards and turtle that we had seen. However the shop was sadly lacking in that sort of book, so instead Rosemary bought a Kruger T-shirt and three art cards made of elephant-dung paper. We also found the waterhole where the webcam is located (just outside the fence behind the administration building), but as usual there were no animals at it. For dinner we cooked up potatoes, beans, carrots, and onions, and added the honey mustard sauce. Dessert was canned pears and custard.

After dinner we went up to the parking lot for our scheduled night drive. It started at 8:30 pm and we went out on the roads in a big game-viewing truck. Our first sighting was a pair of spotted hyenas and what the guide called a broad-tailed mongoose. (Probably he meant “white-tailed”.) But that we really didn’t see anything of much interest—a scrub hare and a porcupine and some impalas—until near the end, when there were some giraffes and a bushbuck. We got back to the hut about 10:45 pm and brushed our teeth to the whoo-oop call of the hyena.

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