Part 5- First ever trip to Africa-Final forays from Skukuza

Our final days and nights in Kruger National Park were spent in and around Skukuza. There was plenty of drama. I was awoken on the first night by a bat which upon colliding with the ceiling fan was flung onto my hand. In a half sleepy, fumbling haze of fears about rabid bats I leapt off the bed. The sheet still had hold of my foot and I went flying horizontal across the room. Fortunately my fall was broken by the other bed; unfortunately my daughters were in it and had an almighty fright. What a lot of midnight pandemonium!

Nevertheless we were up at dawn and headed out along the H1-1 to Pretoriuskop. Our first new animal sighting was a Klipspringer, perched daintily amongst huge boulders. It posed for a few minutes then nimbly hopped up and away out of sight.
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It was very wet but this was an unexpected sighting far from the sea. A species of freshwater crab decided to take advantage of the recent deluge and get out and about.
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Further onwards we came across a devastating scene. There was a clan of hyenas on the road and two dead baby hyenas. An adult hyena was gently tugging at the neck of one of the babies as if encouraging it to stand up. Another closer hyena caught my gaze, we looked into each other’s eyes and I felt challenged for intruding on this grief. In our naivety about Africa we thought the cubs had been hit by a car but later discovered that the hyenas had been attacked by a pride of lions.

The landscape views along the S10 from Pretoriuskop were some of my favourite. We also spotted a zebra with very different markings and wondered if it was a Burchell’s zebra.
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We had a wonderful view of the Sabie River and old bridge from our cottage. This banded mongoose was scooting around nearby.
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We went out on a sunset tour as a huge storm was rolling in. This battered white rhino was one of many we saw on our travels.
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I recorded the sounds of frogs while on the tour. What a joyful cacophony as they celebrated the huge volumes of rain we had in those last few days. I have an unusual ringtone for my phone.

In the evening a painted reed frog (Hyperolius marmoratus) visited while we were eating our braai.
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Throughout the night lightning flashed, the sky roared, mumbled, cracked and groaned and the rain drummed as the Sabie river marched higher up its banks. We awoke to find the Sabie twice as wide. Unfortunately the rain meant significant deterioration of the unsealed roads and they were closed for everyone’s safety. We decided to visit Lower Sabie camp via the H4-1. The Sabie in flood was mesmerising. Huge logs and great clumps of vegetation floated and dodged round snags as if they were canapés on an expert waiter’s tray.

The weather seemed to suit some birds. We got a long distance shot of a hamerkop at the torrent’s edge, a goliath heron and a saddle-billed stork.
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The wall of the toilets at Lower Sabie had a great collection insects including a marbled emperor moth (Heniocha dyops), whose larvae feed on Acacia spp, and my favourite was a yellow moth with a very fluffy head. I’d be grateful if there is someone who can identify it.
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We headed out on our last evening for a sunset tour hoping desperately for a lion sighting but it was not to be. We watched a crocodile catch his dinner instead.
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I couldn’t resist putting in ANOTHER hamerkop – this one I love because of the shadow, the branch, the relatively uncluttered surrounds and the hammerkop’s feet in the shallow water.
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The next morning we left Kruger National Park via the Paul Kruger gate. We caught our final glimpses of impala’s, kudu, giraffe and zebra but sadly no lions. Ah well that just means it is crucial that I visit again.

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Part 4: Southward from Orpen to Skukuza

We left Orpen and took the H7 for a short way then back along the S106 to the S140. We watched a pair of black backed jackals for a short while but the morning light was a bit too dim for our cameras to get good photos.

We wondered whether grumpy ellie would be there again and stopped on the crest of a hill to look at the road ahead. He WAS there again sauntering along the road- a huge gatekeeper. However we were at least a hill and valley away with good vision of most of the road ahead. We waited patiently until he turned into the bush and had wandered quite a way in. Then without delay drove steadily by – there may have been leopards, servals, lions, wild dogs, an aardvark, sable antelope, a yeti… but we did not pause until well past the spot where he had turned off the road. Is there a South African equivalent of a yeti or bunyip? I guess there are so many real enigmatic creatures that Africa doesn’t need a mythical one.

I think we were a little weary of taking photos on this stage of the journey. We did capture a leopard tortoise foaming at the mouth, a male steinbok and a white-backed vulture. I did a quick web search on foaming mouths in tortoises and in pet tortoises it indicates a respiratory infection such as pneumonia.

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The most memorable scene on the drive to Tshokwane from Orpen was this pair of duelling male giraffes. We were horrified at the violence and power in their blows. They have hitherto seemed such docile, gentle creatures.
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We stopped for a while on the bridge across the Sabie near Skukuza to watch a family of baboons and a very cute baby. Other visitors to the river at the bridge were a three banded plover and giant kingfisher.
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The next morning we took a trip to the edge of the park, the Albasini ruins, via the S1. It was drizzly. A hamerkop was striding out along the road.
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We saw some impalas and relatively small elephant who seemed agitated. It was swaying, throwing branches about, trumpeting and doing short charges at something we couldn’t see. However when we returned along this road there were three hyenas resting in the vicinity of the place we’d seen the elephant.
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I confess that prior to this trip I’ve never been particularly enamoured with hyenas. My favour has fallen on cats. This close encounter with hyenas changed my impression. They would have been about 1.5-2m at the most from my window. I think I was bewitched by them. They are beautiful now- absolutely magnificent creatures.