Kruger Part 3
Report by Paul and Sally Bartho
14 to 18 November 2018
The next morning we left Malelane on our way very early to Lower Sabie for 4 nights.
We had not gone far on the tar when we were accosted by the same pack of 10 Wild Dogs that we had seen the previous evening. Again a lovely sighting with them surrounding our vehicle on their way to somewhere.
Our journey was mostly on the dirt roads – starting with the S25 towards Byamiti before heading north to Lower Sabie.
Animal sightings were few and far between. No Buffalos, no Rhinos and a paucity of Elephants. A remarkable contrast to the previous two days.
We beetled along the S25 reaching the Byamiti bridge in quick time. On approaching the bridge a large male Leopard strolled towards us in the river bed. Our bit of excitement for the day – very unexpected yet it was not for long before he had disappeared into the bush and gone before anyone else came along.
Once we were on the tar of the H4-2 (Croc Bridge to Lower Sabie) we headed north and on approaching the S82 shortcut on a dirt road, we noticed a pile of cars not too far up the road so we went for a look see. More Wild Dogs doing one of their favourite things – sleeping in the shade.
Eventually we arrived at Lower Sabie and by 10h30 we had set up camp.
We had planned to meet up with some friends who were staying at Ngwenya lodge, Cecil and Jenny Fenwick and Dave and Jenny Rix. I gave them a buzz and they were at Sunset Dam right outside the camp. We enjoyed a very tasty lunch in the Mugg and Bean with a few tipples and caught up on their news of the area.
Lower Sabie is centrally based to explore a wide range of habitats. There are many special places to visit.
- Crocodile Bridge is south – often an excellent campsite to stay at. However, at the moment it is very very dry, parched with hardly a blade of grass. Taking the S28 backroad to Crocodile Bridge there is the Ntandanyathi bird hide. Well worth a visit as there always seems to be water there. It is comfortable and birds love it too.
- North there is the Mlondozi picnic site overlooking the dam – unfortunately now bone dry.
- Further north is Tshokwane Picnic site – a good stop off point for breakfast or heading north and checking out the birds in the campsite. African Mourning Doves very much darker than anywhere else.
- Then there is the main tar road to Skukuza following the Sabie River with numerous lookout points along the way. Very popular, justly so, as a wide variety of big game is often seen along the river. On the opposite side there is also a dirt road which is less used to follow the river.
- The bridges across the Sabie at Lower Sabie and near Skukuza are both worth a visit especially when there is lots of water.
- Mpondo Dam – a longer drive – always seems to have water and is good for both birds and animals. Pity that it does not have a place where you can get out of your vehicle.
- Then there is the Deck at Lower Sabie at the Mugg and Bean restaurant. A good place for sundowners and to watch the wildlife along the long open stretch of river. Often Lion, Leopards, Elephant and Buffalo are seen.
- Sunset Dam just outside the gate is special. The hippos are constantly noisy throughout the day and soak happily with the dozens of crocodiles. Of course, the bird life is also good and many unexpected animals often make an appearance.
Unless you book well in advance it is always difficult to get a campsite booking. November seems to be one of those months where bookings are possible. We spent four nights there.
During our time at Lower Sabie we visited most of the places listed above and had some very active birding – identifying 142 different species. Click here to see our list.
And birding in the camp and from the deck at the Mugg and Bean restaurant is always good. The water fountain as you enter reception has it seems resident White-browed Robin-Chats.
Then there are the Barn Owls in the rafters of the Mugg and Bean restaurant.
And then there are the birds found in the grounds.
Colourful lizards running around on the trees.
And lucky sightings off the deck.
On our first day we went to the Bird Hide on the S28. It was here that my bird expert, Sally, spotted a bird nearby with a pink bill. She called me over to see the Greater Honeyguide. Fascinating as four more turned up. It was only then that we realised we had made a big booboo. See photo below.
Also making an appearance was a wiggly snake in the bushes immediately in front of the hide. It had a dual bluish tone to it and was at least a metre long. Some suggested it might be a water snake – see what you think and let us know.
While on the S28 we took the turnoff to what was the Nhlanganzwani Dam – having been told by Cecil that there were 3 Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls in a tree part way down next to a large muddy area. Missed them all on the way to the dam but Sally’s sharp eyes found one on the way back.
The following day we took the dirt tracks S128 and S30 on the north side of the Sabie River towards Skukuza. The highlight of this decision was to have an excellent sighting of an Eurasian Golden Oriole.
There was very little water under the main Skukuza bridge. So we headed for the Lake Panic hide. There was water but much of the area was dry. However, the birds made their appearances and we enjoyed an hour or more in the hide.
Our trip back to Lower Sabie on the tar road turned up the usual sightings of many elephants and some lions – doing what they always seem to be doing – lying down!
On one of our drives we were fortunate in seeing a Cheetah with cubs. At first we thought there was only one but as they moved on another came out of hiding.
Sunset Dam is so close to the camp that it gets lots of attention. Birding is always interesting and animals are often seen drinking.
Some of the other animals seen around the area included many elephants and a good sighting of a leopard dozing in a tree.
Photos of other birds seen in the general area:
Eventually it was our time to leave. North. We headed for Tshokwane then on to the wild camp at Balule for 3 nights.
The sky had got a bit overcast and blustery but still there was no sign of rain.
Just after passing the Mlondozi Dam we noticed a bird flying just over the grassland. Fortunately it did not disappear behind us as there was no way to turn around while towing the campervan.
It was some way off but we recognized it immediately – a white Harrier with black at the end of its underside wings – a Pallid Harrier. How lucky were we!! Even managed a photo or two.
Tshokwane was quiet. Perhaps it was the weather as there were few birds about.
Breakfast time. I set up the table as Sally inspected the plumbing. Out came the coffee, tea, sugar, milk, water, hot water, mugs and spoon, a few biscuits and bananas. The next thing I saw was a ghost fly across the table and suddenly disappear. No more bananas – the monkeys enjoyed them as did the people watching !! They always catch you underwares.
Paul and Sally Bartho
And on to Balule for Kruger Part 4.