Gecko #81 Goes to Kruger – Letaba

01 December 2019

It was really hot last night and somehow a cicada got into the caravan and woke me in the middle of the night.  It hit me!  I yelled for my hero to rescue me.   He didn’t even complain but calmly captured the offending creature, opened the screen on my window and threw him out!

So when I woke up at quarter to five this morning, I was in no mood to face an ablution full of screeching insects.  I was in luck!  Nobody had left the lights on during the night.  There are only about eight campers here and all seem to be the responsible type.  There was not a single gogga in sight!   The camp kitchen was also free of them when I went to fill my flask with boiling water which is always on tap in Kruger campsites.

In other camps, I have had to take my cleaning kit to the bathroom to deal with the devastation from the night before. It was such a pleasure to find everything pristine at Letaba.  We were also very impressed yesterday to find six women with rakes cleaning up leaves and fallen branches from the entire campsite.  They arrived at about 5:00 pm and it was Saturday!  They didn’t leave till about 6:00 pm – what stars!  Well done to Letaba for such excellent service.

After enjoying our morning coffee we set off at twenty to six and did the S47 (Mingerhout Loop)   “I just want to see birds this morning,”  I told the Earl and listed Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, Temminck’s Courser and Orange-breasted Bush-shrike as possibles to add to our holiday list.   It was still cool at 23 degrees C so we hoped that there would some life before the temperature rose to the predicted 39!

IMG_6048 Laughing Doves 2019-12-01 6-05-22 AM
The first ones we saw were these darling little laughing doves – very common – but I couldn’t resist snapping them perched in this tree in enjoying the early morning sun.
IMG_6059 Red-breasted swallow 2019-12-01 6-23-49 AM
We have seen the Red-breasted Swallow flying about but today he obviously wanted to be featured on WordPress!

The scenery was really beautiful and we heard birds and stopped to look but how frustrating when they flit into the leaves and disappear.

“Look,” said the Earl “A Yellow-billed Kite, flying low.”   We watched him fly into a tree where he was greeted by a cacophony of small bird objection. He decided to leave for a place where he would have a friendlier reception but now we had spotted a few feathers that we wanted to investigate further.  And wow, what fun we had.  We found six different species including the kite in the tree.  Retz’s Helmet Shrike was awesome.  We watched him catch a worm and have a Fork-tailed Drongo try to steal it from him. I snapped some photos but they are not even remotely good enough to publish.

The Common Scimitarbill was another special and we enjoyed watching him flit about with one or two friends.

IMG_6071 Common Scimitarbill 2019-12-01 6-44-07 AM
The best I could get of a Common Scimitarbill

We also saw a Hoopoe and a Grey-headed Sparrow.

I was certainly getting to see what I desired although these weren’t the ones I’d mentioned on my wishlist.  Perhaps, they will come later in the trip!

As we continued we saw more avian life.

IMG_6089 Emerald-spotted Wood Dove 2019-12-01 6-57-16 AM 2019-12-01 6-57-16 AM
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
IMG_6105 Double-banded Sandgrouse by Earl 2019-12-01 6-59-55 AM
Double-banded Sandgrouse – male
IMG_6098 Double-banded Sandgrouse female 2019-12-01 6-59-02 AM
Double-banded Sandgrouse – female

On we went and then the Earl yelled, “Look at that! ” I just managed to snap his bottom as he ran into the bush and back to the river after a night out grazing.

IMG_6107 Bum shot of Hippo 2019-12-01 7-06-58 AM
The hippopotamus grazes on land at night and returns to the river for the day.  This one was running at quite a pace – perhaps his wife was waiting up for him?
IMG_6111 Tree in Rock 2019-12-01 7-15-28 AM.JPG
Now, why would a tree grow out of a rock!

It was at about 07:30 that we approached the Nawanedzi causeway.  Ahead we saw a white bakkie parked to the side.  We pulled up next to it and spoke to the lovely young couple inside.   What they told us got the adrenaline going.  “Just go on a little further and look to the left.  We’re waiting for them to come down to drink.”

The creatures were not visible from their parking spot.

IMG_6112 Lion Cubs 2019-12-01 7-39-56 AM
This was the first thing I spotted and it was on him that  I trained the camera.  Only when I downloaded the photographs did I see the other one.  Can you spot him?

There were other cubs too and further up on higher ground we could see some adults hidden among the Mopane.

IMG_6134 Lions trying to hide away 2019-12-01 7-50-07 AM
Hiding in the shade

Then I looked down from my window and what did I see?

IMG_6128 Lion Mom 2019-12-01 7-47-17 AM
This gorgeous lady right next to my open window.
P1180983 Lioness licking by Earl 2019-12-01 8-09-39 AM
I really need a salon treatment

There was another one just a little higher up.

IMG_6144 Lioness 2019-12-01 7-59-29 AM
She was full of curiosity

They all seemed to be enjoying the shade and we wondered whether they would, in fact, go down to the water.   The young couple were still waiting patiently.  The Earl turned the car around to go back to the river.  In a most unladylike manner, I climbed over the seats to the back so I could be on the right side to see the lions.  Soon we noticed the adults get up and move through the trees and down the embankment.  We moved to the causeway to see if they would emerge and they did.

On their way to get a drink
IMG_6215 Lost cub 2019-12-01 8-19-13 AM
This cub came to the edge of the ridge and started to whimper.  He’d lost his mom and seemed to be asking for us to help him.
IMG_6227 Scared cub 2019-12-01 8-23-10 AM
He couldn’t climb down so he turned around which was the right thing to do as he was soon reunited with the rest of the pride.

We then spent the next hour watching the pride drinking, playing and enjoying the morning.   I will let the photographs tell the story.

IMG_6223 Lions playing biting leg 2019-12-01 8-22-23 AM
Come on, let’s play!
IMG_6232 Playful lions 2019-12-01 8-24-01 AM
You’re such a charmer
IMG_6234 Playful Lions 2019-12-01 8-24-11 AM
I’m telling you, that’s what she said!
IMG_6240 Lions at the pool 2019-12-01 8-26-09 AM
Join us for a drink
IMG_6244 Lions at waterhole 2019-12-01 8-26-29 AM
It’s a great watering hole
Two adult tails and a baby tail

To add to the excitement two vultures flew onto the scene.  First, they settled in a tree and then they too found a spot to take a drink.

IMG_6250 Hooded Vulture 2019-12-01 8-30-23 AM
I think this is a Hooded Vulture
Perhaps they’ll hang around in the hope the lions will make a kill.

After spending more than an hour with the lions we continued and then went back to camp arriving at 09:00.   We went to the restaurant for breakfast.

IMG_6268 View from Letaba Restaurant 2019-12-01 9-22-19 AM
This spurfowl wanted to be in on the scene

Back at camp, I saw somebody taking photographs and asked what she’d seen.  She pointed to a Golden-tailed Woodpecker.

IMG_6273 Golden-tailed Woodpecker 2019-12-01 10-13-46 AM
Golden-tailed Woodpecker – Female

IMG_6271 Golden-tailed Woodpecker 2019-12-01 10-13-36 AM

The temperature was already rising but it was not as hot as yesterday.   Today’s high was 35 degrees C and there was a breeze blowing.

We went out again at 15:30 and saw a few of the usual suspects.  In the evening we went to the Letaba restaurant for dinner.  The Earl had pork ribs and I had chicken escalada.  Both were excellent.






Published by puppy1952

I am making the most of the South African Lifestyle and hope with my blog to share some of the adventures my husband and I are having in our retirement. We live at the Southern Tip of Africa in the small coastal town of Struisbaai. Earl and I have a Gecko off-road caravan and we travel around South Africa frequently. We are bird and wild life enthusiasts so are often in game reserves.

6 thoughts on “Gecko #81 Goes to Kruger – Letaba

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