Lower Sabie Rest Camp
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park
Today was a repeat of a drive we took just a few days ago. We were driving south to Skukuza and back, and we were going to make it an all-day trip. Who knew it would be one of our best wildlife viewing days yet? Hard to imagine with what we've seen so far.
It was a good thing we had an early night as we were up at 4:30 a.m. and ready for a 5:30 departure. We hadn't gone far when we saw a male lion.
Not far from the lion, a troop of baboons were in the trees.
Next was a Giraffe and a herd of Impala.
I couldn't resist a couple of Giraffe head shots.
Continuing south, we came to a water hole where we've spent quite a bit of time. And today, there was more wildlife than we've seen before. Giraffes, Zebras, Kudu, Wildebeest, Impala, Saddle-billed Stork, and more.
We sat and watched for a long time. It was amazing.
These unusual-looking birds are Hamerkops. The two on the right below were standing on a hippo that we thought might be dying as it appeared to be stuck in the mud and all alone.
Eventually, we moved on and found a new species for us - a Banded Mongoose.
Next we saw some eagles - a Tawny Eagle (below left) and Wahlberg's Eagles (below right).
Unlike the last few days, this morning's elephant sighting was distant, and then we came upon some buffalo.
After the buffalo, we made a stop at the Tshokwane Picnic Site for breakfast. We had already stopped there a couple of times before and enjoyed their "bush breakfast" as well as some of the wildlife and birds we found there. However, today the monkeys were being more aggressive than they had been during our other visits. They were stealing food from bags that weren't being watched, and they were being quite bold around tables where people were eating.
One started sneaking up and swiping opened jelly packets and toast off our table. After having enough of that, one in our party (who shall remain nameless) decided to take action. He filled a jelly packet with hot sauce and placed it where the monkey had grabbed the prior packets. Well, the offending monkey grabbed the packet, sniffed it, and flung it away. Almost simultaneously, it bit the nearest person, Jackie, on the upper thigh. Retaliation? It sure seemed that way.
Jackie said it was painful, but fortunately it wasn't serious. Linda supplied a bandage and some anti-bacterial ointment, and we were on our way to the one place in the park that had medical facilities if necessary. We reported the incident and finished our breakfast with large sticks leaning against the table which kept the monkeys away. Jackie was a trooper, and we continued on.
We learned that sometimes rangers have to shoot a monkey in a troop that has gotten too aggressive to set an example and scare the troop out of the picnic areas. We certainly didn't want that to happen, but we also knew park authorities couldn't have monkeys biting people.
Next, we came upon a one-horned Bushbuck ram and a Duiker ram.
As we approached Skukuza, a couple of cars were stopped. Scanning with binoculars, we saw a leopard lounging on a rock under a large Sycamore Fig tree in the distance. It took full zoom of "The Bazooka", but I got several photos.
What a gorgeous cat. It was really far away, but it was our first unobstructed view of a leopard, and we savored it.
We had already seen a lion, elephant, buffalo, and rhino, so that gave us the "Big Five" for the fourth day in a row.
At Skukuza, we had lunch, bought thirty minutes of internet time to check emails and upload some photos, and then did some shopping. Skukuza typically had a better selection of groceries than the other camps, so we picked up a few items there. Jackie decided medical attention to her monkey bite wasn't necessary, so we started our drive back to Satara.
Not far from Skukuza, we saw a Nyala.
All of our Nyala sightings have been in areas where there is more vegetation rather than the dry grasslands that surround Satara.
And speaking of dry grasslands, that's where we saw this female Ostrich and a pair of Secretary Birds.
As we had hoped, the Secretary Birds, in their black "knickers", were hunting. But, alas, we never got to see them perform their prey-stomping routine.
Next, we found a baboon with a tiny baby.
Surprisingly, our next sighting was another leopard. This one was in a tree facing away from us, but it was a leopard nonetheless.
We looked around in the tree for a kill as leopards will often drag their prey up into the trees to keep it away from lions, hyenas, and other opportunists. We didn't see anything.
Leopards are the fifth largest big cat in the world behind tigers, lions, jaguars, and mountain lions (aka cougars). And they are the most adept of the big cats in the trees, so we have been accustomed to searching the ground and the trees when it comes to wildlife spotting.
With our second leopard sighting of the day, we wondered if we might be able to see the "Big Five" twice in one day since we had the most elusive species under our belt.
We did see more buffalo, elephants, and a single distant lioness, and then it came down to a rhino which we finally saw very late in the day. It was indeed a "Double Big Five" day.
In between, we saw a couple of owls - the Pearl-spotted Owl (one of the smallest) and the Verreaux's Eagle Owl (the largest owl in Africa). The Verreaux's Eagle Owl, with its distinctive pink upper eyelids, was a new species for us and one we certainly didn't expect to see.
We were getting close to the end of the day, and we saw some more Zebra and Kudu.
And then, just as we were making our way back to camp, we spotted a pair of Ostriches with nine fuzzy little chicks. The female kept watch over the chicks, and Linda was more excited about this sighting than anything else today .... and that was saying a lot.
We watched the Ostriches until we absolutely had to leave to get back inside the camp before 6:00 p.m.
What an amazing day! We could have done without the "monkey bite incident", but as far as animal viewing, it was fantastic. Wow. That's going to be a hard one to top.