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.

Leopard tortoise photo Part4_Leopard_tortoise_zpsdc78620a.jpg
 photo Part3_Steinbok_zps6ab0cd86.jpg
 photo Part4_White_backed_vulture_zpscce87de4.jpg

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.
Giraffe fight3 photo Part4_Giraffe_males_fighting_zps407771a4.jpg Giraffe fight2 photo Part4_Giraffe_fighting3_zps30c1423a.jpg Giraffe fight photo Part4_Giraffe_fighting2_zps795421ae.jpg

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.
 photo Part4_Baboons_with_baby_zps72eb373a.jpg Three banded plover photo Part4_Three_banded_plover_zpsf598b553.jpg  photo Part4_Giant_kingfisher_zps06ba84c5.jpg

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.
 photo Part4_Hamerkop_zpsc254141b.jpg

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.
 photo Part4_Three_amigos_resting_zps13df385e.jpg  photo Part4_Hyena_close_up_zpsfb921ddc.jpg  photo Part4_Hyena_resting_zpse97b7aab.jpg  photo Part4_Hyena2_resting_zps5a2ae9e7.jpg

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.

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