Lower Sabie Rest Camp
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park
Today was a combination game drive and camp relocation. We were going to drive about 220 kilometers (around 135 miles) to our northernmost camp - Olifants Rest Camp. The first third of the trip would be a repeat of yesterday's game drive up to Skukuza.
From Skukuza, we would continue northeast and stop at the Tshokwane Picnic Site and then head north past the Satara Rest Camp (where we would be spending the most time) and on up to Olifants Rest Camp.
The maps below show more detail of the route sections. The map insets show our progression north.
Note: Credit to Siyabona Africa website for the maps above.
I got everything packed into the van, the windows were clean, and we were ready to leave Berg-en-dal when the gate opened at 5:30 a.m.
This morning, we didn't see as much as yesterday and we also by-passed some of the animals we did see yesterday. The first call of "Stop" was for a bird. We wanted to get a photo of a Lilac-breasted Roller. Well, we got a shot, but I still want one of this multi-colored bird in better lighting and without obstructions.
Next, we found a troop of Chacma Baboons.
Male baboons have canines that are as big as a lion's, so they can most certainly be dangerous if provoked. This group wasn't very active, so we moved on after watching the dynamics for a short time.
Next we had our first large herd of Cape Buffalo crossing the road.
Cape Buffalo are one of the "Big Five" which consists of the buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, and rhino. The term was coined by hunters that considered these five African animals the toughest/most dangerous to hunt on foot.
The term exists today more as something that tourists want to see when they come to Africa. It's a goal of many to see the "Big Five" while visiting Kruger. Yesterday, our first full day, we saw four of the five missing only the leopard, which is the toughest of the five to see. But we saw Cheetahs, so that's not a bad substitute.
Watching the Cape Buffalo closely, especially the older bulls, their eyes seemed to indicate different personalities in addition to "I dare you to mess with me".
With calves in the herd and seeing a baby elephant and a couple of baby rhinos yesterday, we were three fifths of the way to seeing the "Small Five" which would be the babies of the "Big Five", of course.
About half way to Olifants, we stopped at the Tshokwane Picnic Site for breakfast. Again, the designated picnic sites are some of the few places you are allowed to exit your vehicle in the park.
There are tables and chairs under the trees and under the lapa. We ordered at the takeaway off to the left, and found a table while waiting for our food. The lapa was under a huge Sausage Tree which bears large fruits that look like ... well, sausages ... according to whoever named the tree .
Our food arrived, and the gang was into it. They have a very good breakfast at Tshokwane and it wouldn't be the last time we stopped here.
This picnic site also has restrooms and a retail shop with gifts, snacks, and beverages.
After breakfast, while the others relaxed, I walked around and took photos of the birds and wildlife at the picnic site. From left to right below, we have the beautiful Laughing Dove, then a Cape Glossy Starling, and then a Natal Spurfowl or Natal Francolin
On the edge of the picnic site was this Bushbuck mother and her son.
And this Vervet Monkey was keeping watch over the patrons hoping for an easy snack.
Moving on from Tshokwane, we entered the drier, more open grasslands where the terrain is more stark, but animal visibility increases.
There are many natural waterholes and man-made tanks and "pans" near the roads, and they are always a good place to spot wildlife with multiple species congregating at the same time. They are marked on the maps in the park's booklet.
We stopped at one such waterhole where there were elephants, a hippopotamus (hereafter referred to as "hippo"), Saddle-billed Storks, Marabou Storks, and an African Fish Eagle in the dead tree on the left in the photo below.
And out of frame, walking away from the waterhole, was a giraffe.
We watched for a while hoping for more wildlife to appear as the elephants sprayed themselves with mud and water.
Alas, no new wildlife showed up, and we had to move on.
Next we found a herd of Wildebeest, our first good look at those interesting antelope.
Then we came across a few Zebra and a herd of Impala taking refuge in the shade.
About 25 kilometers (about 15.5 miles) south of the Satara Rest Camp, we took a left onto a side road to visit Africa's southernmost, naturally occurring Baobab Tree.
The distinctive Baobab Tree is also known as the "tree of life" due to the support it provides to a variety of animals. I'm sure that support is increased exponentially when it leaves out later in the year.
We reached the Satara Camp where there is a waterhole right outside the fence. Here's a shot of a Zebra with the bungalows (and more Zebras) in the background.
We pulled into Satara for a restroom break, and I got a couple photos of a Dark-capped Bulbul.
Continuing on, I took this shot a huge bull elephant (a "Jumbo" as Tony called them) approaching Linda's side of the van.
Being a former ranger in the park, Tony reads the animal behaviors very well, and we quickly moved on.
Soon, we came to a pan of water and another elephant cooling himself off.
Soon another one joined him.
Eventually, as we neared Olifants Rest Camp, we crossed the Olifants River. The bridge had signs that indicated we could exit as long as we stayed on the bridge.
Not seeing much there, we drove to the N'wamanzi Lookout which was on a high bluff on our left just before our right turn to Olifants. The views from there were great looking up and down the Olifants River.
And there were lots of elephants ("olifants") up and down the river. We counted three distinct herds.
We finally made it to Olifants Rest Camp. Our friends' bungalows had views of the river far below.
Having booked three months later, our bungalow was across the road, off the river.
In the photo of our bungalow porch above, you may notice that our refrigerator is turned to the wall. At Berg-en-dal, our fridge was inside, but here it's outside, so based on the advice of Jackie & Tony, we turned it around so that the monkeys can't open the door.
After we got settled, we hauled ourselves across the road and set up shop in the yard. I mounted "The Bazooka" on the tripod to get photos of the hippos in river below (and whatever else we might see).
The hippos were pretty active and I now have way more long distance, low light hippo photos than anyone needs.
Hippos are considered the most dangerous of Africa's large animals and probably should have been added to the "Big Five" to make the "Big Six". As for today's "Big Five" report, we only got three of them - buffalo, elephant, & rhino. No lions today and we're still looking for the elusive leopard.
We took time out from the hippos to do a little bird-watching. I only got a couple of shots that are decent enough to post (the other sightings will be listed at the bottom of the page).
Below left, we have another Natal Spurfowl. Below right, we have a White-bellied Sunbird (top) and a Blue Waxbill.
And that completed the wildlife viewing and bird-watching for the day.
By the time we finished wandering around the camp, it was time for Happy Hour and dinner. Not long after our leisurely dinner and spending time with our friends each night, we go to bed. Now, when we're out in nature, we're used to sleeping to the sounds of crickets and frogs, but tonight we'll try to sleep to the grunts, groans, and bellows of hippos.
It was another wonderful day in Kruger National Park.