Travelling in the time of Covid – Kruger National Park Day 3 – Skukuza to Lower Sabie and Back

The question about when the best time to visit is a difficult one to answer. Any time is good. If you are a keen birdwatcher then summer is definitely the best because the migrant birds will be here. If you can’t take extreme heat then rather come between May and August. The days will be warm and dry but the nights will be quite chilly. Summer is the rainy season so it is very green and the grass is high making it a little trickier to see the animals. They are very good at hiding away. We have been at least once during each season and for us, in spite of the heat, we prefer summer. November is great because there are usually lots of baby animals too. It is the beginning of the rainy season and when it rains it cools everything down too.

Today it was clear and sunny with just the odd fluffy white cloud skidding across the sky. At 6 am it was 20 degrees C but by mid-morning it had risen to the hight thirties and even got as high as 40 at Lower Sabie! We cope with the heat because we have air con in the car and also in the caravan!

When I stepped outside the caravan this morning I was greeted by one of the locals.

I hope you’re enjoying your stay in my country!

We left Skukuza at six o’clock and returned at quarter to two. There is little point being out in the heat of the day as the animals and birds are not very active then.

We were really pleased the sun was out as the birds were really active during the first part of our trip. Their tantalising calls had us stopping and seeking and becoming really frustrated when they sang and sang but would not show themselves. Others show themselves but refuse to pose for the blog. Hower, we were happy to enjoy the speckled mousebirds, a green-winged pytilia (Melba Finch), crested francolin and swainson’s francolin before turning off onto the H4-1 at 6:25. These guys did pose for us.

Green Woodhoopoe – I prefer the name red-billed woodhoopoe
This chap has a tantalising call and is quite tricky to find! Today he posed beautifully – Black-backed Puffback
I can’t be sure but from the call I believe this one is a montonous lark

Before long, on the H4-1 we saw a small traffic jam ahead.

The king takes precedence. If he decides to take a nap in the middle of the road then suck it up. You just have to wait.
The Earl managed to make him pay attention
His brother, quite honestly, chose a far more comfortable spot

We had a total of three lion sightings today but one was so far away it would be embarassing to show the photograph. However, with our binoculars we could clearly see five on a buffalo kill. They were under a tree in the Sabie valley.

The other had such a traffic jam around them that we simply weaved our way through and drove on. There were also five there.

We were far more interested when we came across two vultures on a nest.

We couldn’t see any chicks so they’re probably still in the eggs!

At eight o’clock we stopped for a leg-stretch at Nkulu picnic site. It has beautiful views across the river and sometimes the trees hold some surprises.

A Vervet Monkey in a marula tree- eating his own fruit and not stealing for a change.

While looking for another puffback in one of the trees, I spotted a chinspot batis. He pretended to pose but just as I clicked he flew off and hid behind the foliage. I am sure he went off to tell his friends all about this crazy women chasing him with a camera.

The call of the fish eagle always gives me a thrill and we heard one several times. We saw a few of them too but none of the photos are worthy of being displayed here. I am sure the perfect one will present itself soon.

We continued our journey to Lower Sabie rest camp and came across a hyaena. He was pulling at some carrion but took off in the direction opposite than that in which we were travelling. I didn’t think it worth snapping his bottom through a dusty back window.

Instead I’ll show the cute grey duiker that did not run away.

The name duiker is from the Afrikaans word for diver and this is exactly what this small antelope does indeed dive for cover when he is startled. I was surprised to find him calmly lying here, quite unafraid of potential danger.

My favourite animal, the giraffe, never disappoints. He is a natural model and always poses beautifully.

Giraffe can grow as tall as five meters and they live to up to over twenty years.

Before entering the camp we stopped briefly at the famous Sunset Dam where we saw our first hippos and crocodiles of the trip.

None of the hippo were very active today. They simply wallowed in the cool water

A big treat for us was seeing both the male and female Diederick’s cuckoo

Male diederick is more colourful than his mate
The female is pretty in her own right
One of the many yellow-billed storks that reside at the dam
This dead tree supports both the red-billed buffalo-weaver and lesser masked weaver nests.
Lesser-masked weavers

Lower Sabie’s Mug and Bean restaurant overlooks the river and we found a table with a good enough view. I don’t usually like the Mug and Bean or Bug and Mean as I call it but this one is actually quite good. We enjoyed scrambled eggs, bacon and tomato and an excellent cup of coffee.

It was 10:45 and very hot when we started our return journey so there was not much bird or animal activity. Even so we had some interesting encounters.

Ground Hornbill
Young male and female nyala
Saddle-billed stork
Bathing buffalo – they really love to wallow on a hot day
Male Bushbuck – usually solitary and not at all territorial

When we got back to Skukuza, we went to the shop to get some R5 coins for the laundry. I also bought a new sarong as I had forgotten to pack one.

We are camped closest to ablution, laundry and camp kitchen number 6. Unfortunately Laundry 6 has lost its machines and so I had to go to number 7 which is a bit further away – at the tented camp to be exact. The machines take two new R5 coins. The dryer also needs two R5 coins. I don’t think R20 for a load of washing is too extravagant. Within an hour and a half it was all done a dusted. While it was in progress I edited my photos.The Earl had a nap while I did laundry etc, when he awoke we went to the pool for a swim and the decided to go there to Kruger Station for dinner.

The best pizza ever

The old station has been converted into a restaurant and it is really awesome. The staff are friendly and attentive and this evening it was not overly busy. We ordered pizza – warthog sausage, bacon, cheese and avo. I think it was R118 each. It was really one of the best pizzas I have ever had and I am fussy.

14 thoughts on “Travelling in the time of Covid – Kruger National Park Day 3 – Skukuza to Lower Sabie and Back

  1. Susan Glissman

    Hi Helen, we are enjoying your posts. We hope to be September 2021 in Kruger. Where is this station restaurant located? It looks wonderful!
    Your cruise buddies,
    Sue & Todd


    1. puppy1952 Post author

      Hi Susan Awesons to hear from you. The Kruger Station Restaurant is at Skukuza Rest Camp. You and Todd would love it. Please keep in touch re your SA trip. We would love to see you. Are you going to self drive in Kruger? We could give youlots of tips.


  2. bushboy

    Wonderful as usual. Such an array of birds I have never heard of and some that I am in awe you managed to get a few photos. I hope Earl didn’t get out of the car to get the Lions attention lol On to the next part of “our” adventure Helen. Thanks again for taking me along to Kruger 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. puppy1952 Post author

      Thank you Dries – photography can be frustrating especially after seeing superb photos like yours😁 Thanks for the compliment – I do enjoy my little Canon Powershot.
      Yes – Kruger is my favourite place in the entire world – any time of year. I love my home too, so no chance of moving closer😉

      Liked by 1 person


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