As I dropped off to sleep last night I heard the gruntings and snortings of hippo grazing in the grasslands next to the fence of campsite six where our Gecko caravans were parked. It was a lovely lullaby to doze off too. But a few hours later the incredibly loud shrieking laughter of a spotted hyaena jerked me from my slumbers. And they say the city is noisy! Well, these sounds are preferable to the shrill of police sirens, the angry hooting of cars, and the bee baa bee baa of ambulances racing to some horrible accident scene. I checked the time to find there were still a few hours to sunrise and I soon dropped off again. It was just before six when the sound of the neighbour’s car alarm awoke me. Oh dear, even in the bush civilization creeps in.
The Earl awoke too and was eager to get packed up and on the road to our next destination. “Hurry, hurry,” he said. “We must get to Satara. The “Early” bird gets the best spot!” By Ten to Seven we were packed up and ready to go. “Go work your magic,” said Alec. “Get us a good caravan site! You can do it!” Oh, the pressure, Alec, the pressure!
“We’re not stopping for anything!” said the Earl as we drove down the H1-5, and for several kilometers, there was not a thing to be spotted among the Mopani trees.
We were slightly delayed when we saw some cars up ahead looking into the mess of Mopani. We came alongside one of the cars and asked, “What have you seen?”
“Wild Dog,” came the reply and pointed but we couldn’t see anything. Other cars were reversing to where they probably were but of course, that was not an option with the caravan in tow so we carried on.
It was an hour before we hit our first roadblock. “You’re going to have to stop,” I teased. “Guineafowl crossing the road” What funny creatures they are. Although they’re perfectly capable of flying they prefer to walk and we have seen huge flocks of them strutting about the park.
When the H1-5 changed to the H1-4 the mopane trees started to thin out and the vegetation changed to grass and scattered trees. No more mopane trees limiting our view to 25 cm into the bush!
Baboons entertained us on the Olifants bridge. We weaved our way through them and the traffic and did not stop to look for waterbirds or any other creatures that might be about. We just snapped the baboons and continued our race to Satara. After all, the pressure was on. Get to Satara – find a camp spot. I’d checked the website the night before to see how booked up it was – no vacancies in the campsite at all!
“What now?” the Earl was in a panic. “Seven cars stopping for zebra?” Only one was crossing the road so the Earl started to pass the line of stationary cars.
“I’m sure they’ve spotted something else,” I said. And a second later – “Stop! Leopard!” I saw a beautiful leopard lying in the grass. The Earl edged forward so I could look back through a gap. The leopard had already stood up and was walking off into the bush. “Too late,” I cried. “He’s gone!” But I saw him – and he was wonderful.
From then on we saw more and more game. The open plains revealed the creatures of the Kruger National Park in large numbers. What a change it was from the north. We saw elephants, buffalo, impala, zebra and wildebeest, and of course, the elegant giraffe. “We’re not stopping for photos,” said The Earl. “Time is running out. We have to get that special site!” But he did indulge me for just a few. Alec and Cathy were a little way behind us and took photos too.
We arrived at Satara at five minutes past nine and found the campground was pretty full. At first, it looked like no perimeter spots were available so we drove around looking for good shade, near the ablution block, close to the camp kitchen and not on top of other campers. Then right in the left-hand corner of the park, we found a vacant perimeter site!
“It’s too small,” I said. “Two caravans can’t fit here!’
“Of course they can,” the Earl replied. “With movers anything is possible.” We got out of the car and examined the site. Yes, it would do. I had shade. It was not far from the ablutions and both caravans could certainly fit comfortably. Our right-hand neighbour welcomed us with, “Isn’t this a lovely spot.” “Yes,” I replied. “Has it just been vacated?”
“No, they left a few hours ago. But look, you’re just in time. Here comes another caravan seeking a spot. Lucky indeed! The other caravan had to settle for a site without shade on the other side of our left-hand neighbour.
We were just starting to set up when Cathy and Alec arrived. “Wow,” said Alec. “You’ve worked your magic again. This is a fabulous site!” Phew – we did it!
Once we’d set up and settled in we went to the restaurant for breakfast. By midday, the temperature was well in the thirties. Cathy and Alec decided to do a short late-afternoon drive on the Orpen Road while the Earl and I left a little earlier and did a longer route that included a visit to Sweni Hide and the S100.
On the H1-3 we crossed a bridge and spotted some ellies enjoying a drink in the river.
We then took the H6 and stopped when I spotted two kori bustards. One of them posed quite nicely.
Then just ahead a car was stopped and when we came up to them they pointed to a baby hyaena resting under a shady bush. There was no sign of Mom or any other of the clan.
Next, we took the S37 and stopped at Sweni Hide. This is one of my favourite hides in the park as it is very pretty and usually produces something interesting to see. Today I was not disappointed.
At four o’clock we made our way to the S100 for the final leg home.
Our last bird of the day was very special.
Earl got a lovely shot of the sunset as we neared home.
Cathy and Alec also had some lovely sightings on their drive. I am particularly jealous of Cathy’s amazing Pearl-spotted Owlet
Cathy and Alec arrived back a few minutes before we did and Cath took a lovely sunset photo
Supper tonight was a delicious spaghetti bolognese cooked by Cathy. After a very hot day the wind got up slightly and it may rain tonight. While we enjoyed our meal in the cool of the evening a stealthy hyaena patrolled past the fence.