Kruger Part 9 – Lower Sabie

Kruger Part 9

Lower Sabie and Malelane

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

4 to 7 December 2018

Our journey from Satara to Lower Sabie produced some exciting sightings.

Leaving early we headed to Tshokwane for breakfast. As we neared the picnic site we encountered quite a few cars watching lions sleeping. A quick squizz and we went through.

Within minutes, another bunch of cars watching a Leopard asleep in a tree. A little more time here to try and get a photo and then we were off leaving the mêlée behind.

Leopard trying to snooze off his dinner

Not much further along we noticed an animal slowly crossing the road. Our first impression was that it could be a mongoose of some sort. But it had a humped back. A quick look with our binoculars told us to get up there quickly. We arrived just as it was entering the scrub by the road.

Pangolin

At Tshokwane there was no monkey business with our breakfast this time!! Still a paucity of birds around – a few Starlings and one African Mourning Dove. However in the river bed we heard a Red-faced Cisticola. It was so loud it was unmissable. Eventually it came close and I got a snap.

Red-faced Cisticola

From Tshokwane we decided to head down towards Skukuza instead of taking the direct route to Lower Sabie. All of the dams were dry and the journey passed quietly except for a Sable sighting. About five in the bush beside us about 30 metres away.

Sable Antelope

Once we had crossed the Sabie River we drove towards Lower Sabie with the river alongside us all the way. As expected there was much going on in the river. Elephants and Buffalo all the way along – sometimes in their hundreds. Hippo out of the water and many birds to be seen.

Even a Grysbok made an appearance – something we have found hard to spot.

Grey Duiker

Birds too were in the air and in the trees. There were dozens of Vultures and Tawny Eagles were seen in a couple of trees from the main Skukuza bridge over the Sabie River. In another tree we saw three Hooded Vultures, one of which was a youngster.

As the river “roared” down the rapids we also had a few sightings of other birds in the bushes.

Sabie River rapids

Eventually we arrived and set up camp. By the time we were through the temperature had soared up into the 40s C. So after a lunch at Mugg and Bean we took the rest of the day off to enjoy a rest and the swimming pool.

At our site we found a couple of Grey Go-away-birds anting in the dust.

Grey Go-away-birds anting

The heat was draining our energy and having had such good experiences over the past month we decided to only stay 2 nights at Lower Sabie and then head to Malelane for one night and return home directly from there. In other words we cut our stay short by three days.

The following day we took a drive along the river to Skukuza and Lake Panic hide. A stop at Sunset Dam first to watch the Hippos and Crocodiles and see what birds were around. On the round concrete tank close to the road there were Giant and Malachite Kingfishers as well as Green-backed Herons.

Then there was a Red-billed Oxpecker using a Hippo’s eye to perch on while it had a drink.

A Yellow-billed Stork was showing off its finery.

Yellow-billed Stork

And not to be outdone a Black-crowned Night-Heron was seen in the territory of the Green-backed Herons.

Immediately after Sunset Dam the lions were seen feasting on a Buffalo. Some exhausted from eating were seen taking a rest nearby.

On one of the many loops we came across a gathering of White Storks much to our surprise.

White Storks

At the Skukuza camp we had a quick look at the river – seeing very little of interest – and hurried to get out of the bedlam.

Lake Panic Hide had had some rain and there was a lot more water in it compared to when we visited a month earlier. There were even elephant cavorting and getting stuck in the mud. Trying to get out of the mud involved kneeling down to push itself out. Eventually it succeeded and actually pushed too hard resulting in it falling over onto its back.

A number of birds arrived and some were photographed. The star of the show in our minds was the Woodland Kingfisher.

At the deck of Mugg and Bean we had a sundowner and watched the activity in the river below us. There were some excessively large Crocodiles making a meal of a Hippo. And Lions on the opposite bank in full flow chasing Wildebeest without much joy – giving up and resting under the shade of the large trees.

Of course the pair of Western Barn Owls were still to be seen in the rafters. We spent some time at the reception entrance bird bath hoping to see the Olive-tree Warbler which Jane had told us about. No luck. However it was good to watch all the activity and inter-action between the different birds. Also it was a pleasure to listen to the call of the White-browed Robin Chat.

From the M&B deck we noticed a Black Heron doing its thing in fishing mode.

Black Heron in fishing mode

Then there was this beauty. which really confused me the first time I had ever seen one.

In the Lower Sabie area we identified 131 different bird species. Click here to see the list.

We spent most of our last morning getting to Malelane. Once there our goal was to try and find the Egyptian Vulture which Jane and Mike had seen along the S25 a few days earlier. No luck. So we returned via Berg-en-dal. The dam had water in it unlike our first visit four weeks earlier. Sally noticed some Ducks flying around and we went to investigate. They had landed beside the water. I think we counted thirteen Knob-billed Ducks. Several males were showing off their colourful finery. Notice the yellow feathers near their vent.

And in the short time we were in Malelane there were 46 birds identified. Click here to see the Malelane list.

Despite the heat and dryness we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Kruger. Hopefully the next time we go the Park will have had pleanty of rain to fill up all the dams.

We hope you have enjoyed these reports.

By request we shall make one final report summarising our highlights. Kruger Part 10 – Summary.

Sally and Paul Bartho

 

 

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Kruger Part 8 – Satara

Kruger Part 8

Satara

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

1 to 4 December 2018

Campsite Satara by the fence

Satara and the surrounds were very dry. None of the dams had any water. Only the N’wanetsi Dam had a little water in it. In which the Buffalo lay side by side with the Crocodiles.

The camp was empty. We had a choice of sites so elected to try one by the fence for a change. Choice spot under a shady tree we thought. Unfortunately it was also the choice spot for the birds to roost resulting in a lot of cleaning of the canvas when we decamped.

Definitely the best birding was in the camp and we did spend one of our mornings doing just that.

There was the Woodland Kingfisher in glorious vibrant colour.

Woodland Kingfisher

Squabbling Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers.

And many others.

Knobbly roots of a fever tree in the grounds by the reception.

Crocodile Roots

Driving around the area we came across some a giraffe with its new born, the odd Kudu, a Scrub Hare and a spotted Hyena relaxing on the road with its back feet neatly tucked in.

Some other birds seen:

Common Scmitarbill

At one of the pumped waterholes just north of the camp there were dozens of Vultures – perhaps waiting for bath time. Mostly White-backed.

A drive down to the Muzandzeni picnic site for breakfast one morning proved to be a potentially scary experience. On arrival two cars drove out as we drove in to the empty picnic site. We chose a shady table and enjoyed our breakfast. Then as we were about to leave an army truck with soldiers drove in. Quite casually they asked Sally if she was aware of the lions under a tree not 100 metres away!! Hmmm no!

The lions

As we watched so the Impala approached the lions cautiously to keep a beady eye on them and their potential movements. As I said, we had enjoyed our breakfast but we could easily have been theirs.

We had planned to be here for five nights. The heat and dryness of the area led to our change of mind. Three nights was enough. We changed our itinerary to go to Lower Sabie for two nights, two nights at Skukuza and finally 2 nights at Malelane before heading home.

On our last day there we over-lapped with some other friends from Durban – Mike and Jane Roseblade. We had an evening braai together and a good chinwag. As we returned to our campsite the heavens started to brighten – lightening everywhere around us yet no thunder. Eventually the much wanted rain came. Enough to cool things down but not nearly enough to quench the parched soil.

In the morning we left early and headed for Lower Sabie.

Next Installment – Kruger Part Part 9 – Lower Sabie to follow.

Paul and Sally Bartho