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Travel in the Time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Moving Day

Thursday 19 November 2020

It is quarter to five. I wake to the sound of the dawn chorus and drag myself off to the ablutions. Today is moving day. It takes just under an hour to pack up and get ready to move. Maureen and Jim drop round to say farewell. They will continue on at Satara and we arrange to meet at Olifants Camp for breakfast tomorrow.

It is already quite hot when we leave at five past six. We stick to the tar road as we are towing.

The first creatures to greet us are some wildebeest and zebra. A car up ahead is looking intently at them. We pass by and I say, “He’s looking rather intently – perhaps he is seeing something else. The Earl obediently stops.

You nearly missed me

Yes we nearly miss her but we watch and follow as she continues on her mission. The other car drives off.

And this is who we see.

Thanks to the other car for alerting us to a lovely hyaena sighting. Sorry he missed the second one.

Soon we find ourselves in the land of mopane trees. Spotting game in amongst them is not easy but they are very pretty. In some parts we are next to the Letaba River and from time to time we spot a few things.

Mr Saddle-bill Stork
Waterbuck in their favourite habitat
A lovely Fish Eagle

I am sitting next to the back left passenger window. My head is down checking my photographs. The Earl comes to a sudden halt. Terrified, I look up and see Horace Hyaena staring me straight in the eye.

As I lift my camera, he saunters off.

The Earl is laughing. “I didn’t realise I was looking at a creature until this rock moved!” Next we come upon a herd of buffalo crossing the road and slipping behind the Mopanes

Bartholomew studies me and apologises for the fright Horace gave me. Hyaenas are like that, he says.

It’s eight o’clock when we arrive at Letaba. We check in and find a suitable campsite under the shady Mopanes. We need to fill the caravans water tanks and there is a tap nearby. The Earl un-hitches the caravan, takes out the hose and finds it is not long enough! But he is a man with a plan and although the roof is already up and the stands are down he decides to tow the caravan into position to reach the tap. He lifts the stands, hitches up again and I guide him forward. He then fills the tanks and reverses back to our original spot. I am most grateful as this will save me going to the camp kitchen to wash up.

With the setting up complete we are now thirsty and hungry. We go to the restaurant for breakfast.

The usual Covid protocols are strictly adhered to

Letaba’s Tindlovu restaurant has a wonderful view across the valley. Sadly it is quite dry and much rain is still needed.

View from the deck
The breakfast is excellent

The internet is down and the card machine does not work. The Earl leaves his name and number and promises to come back later as we don’t have cash.

We go for a game drive and decide to stop in at Olifant’s camp, 32 km away. Letaba’s shop burned down a few weeks ago and has still not been rebuilt. We can shop at Olifant’s and get cashback if they’re unaffected by the internet disaster. How reliant we have become on modern technology, even in the African bush!

We do not see much on our drive there – it is already very hot – 41 degrees C. At Olifants we buy a few groceries and get some cash from the check-out. Then we go to the deck where you can look down on the Olifant’s River

Spot the hippo out of the water

We then go to the petrol station to refuel. The attendant notices the left front tyre looks a bit soft. He checks it and finds it has a puncture which he plugs for us. What a star for noticing.

On our drive back we have a few interesting sightings but mostly in the distance making photography tricky. Here are just a few I can’t resist showing you.

William Waterbuck is wondering what Gregory Goliath is doing.
Sammy Southern Black Tit has caught his lunch
Not a wonderful photograph but the sun catching Mr Violet-back is quite beautiful.

There is a workshop at Letaba and when we return the Earl takes the car there so they can properly fix the puncture. Our spare is a ‘biscuit’ and we don’t want to drive in the park on that! The Earl is very impressed with the service he receives from the workshop.

Letaba is a beautiful, shady campsite and the facilities are the best we have had so far.

Shady Mopanes
Gecko 81 all set up
Camp Kitchen
Four two-plate stoves and a microwave as well as boiling water syphon
Two sinks
Coin op Laundry
Adequate sized shower, a bench and three strong hooks for hanging clothes and towel
Big basins
Make-up and hair-drying area

Letaba camp is famous for its owls especially the Scops Owl which resides in the mapane trees. This morning a neighbour who was about to leave told us that they had seen the owl in the tree under which we set up.

This evening as we prepare our braai we hear an owl but it is not the call of the scops.

The braai is on the go when we hear the owlet call
Other campers hear the call too and one of them finds the pearl spotted in our tree and points him out to me (Correction – it is a barred owlet)

Later we hear the Scops but it is too dark to find him. Tomorrow we shall look again.

Gecko #81 Goes to Kruger – Satara to Skukuza

3 December 2019

If we thought moving south was going to be cooler, we were wrong. It is just as hot in this half of the park.  This morning at 04:30 it was already 25 degrees C and it got up to 43 by 14h00!

We were on the road to Skukuza with the Gecko in tow by 05:30.   Remember the sun is up really early in this part of the world and it was shining brightly at this hour.

We were greeted by the usual gang – impala with their gambolling lambs, zany zebras expecting us to wait patiently as they strolled across the road and grumpy wildebeest turning their heads snootily away from us.

IMG_6436 Whalberg 2019-12-03 6-20-05 AM

A Tawny Eagle glanced sideways at us

Being in the right place at the right time is what it’s all about when seeking creatures in an African game reserve.  This morning Kruger decided to reveal some of her drama to us.

First, we saw two or three stationary cars.  Then we saw a scattering of about nine or ten hyaenas.  “There must be a kill,” I said and scanned the scene. “Lion – I see a lion under that bush.  Wait, there are others!”   Altogether I counted five.

 

As we watched one hyaena after another snatch a bone and run off with it, vultures suddenly dropped down from the sky.

One by one four of the lionesses left the scene, crossed the road in front of the cars and disappeared into the bush.  We think they went to find a pond to quench their thirst.

IMG_6519 Hyaena and vulture scene 2019-12-03 6-40-13 AM

Hyaenas and vultures everywhere

P1190061 Hyaena getting close to lion's kill 2019-12-03 6-55-56 AM

This hyaena is not afraid of the lioness – she is waiting patiently to grab a scrap.  She is blocking the view to the lioness

P1190059 Lioness on kill by Earl 2019-12-03 6-55-50 AM

Munching on the carcass of a Waterbuck, I think – see the horn

IMG_6568 Lioness on kill 2019-12-03 7-04-59 AM

Those hyaenas and vultures must wait their turn.

P1190052 Lioness 2019-12-03 6-51-06 AM

Off to find a drink

IMG_6565 Two Hyaenas 2019-12-03 7-03-51 AMIMG_6558 Three Hyaenas 2019-12-03 7-02-02 AMIMG_6552 Lioness and Vulture at kill 2019-12-03 7-00-38 AM

IMG_6545 Hyaena carrying bone 2019-12-03 6-48-34 AM

Hey, look!  I’ve got a bone!

IMG_6543 Vultures 2019-12-03 6-47-36 AM

Patiently waiting for their turn

IMG_6532 Vulture with wings spread 2019-12-03 6-42-51 AM

Might as well show off while I’m here

IMG_6526 Hyaenas with bone 2019-12-03 6-41-59 AM

IMG_6525

Nobody’s paying any attention to my beauty

IMG_6523 Hooded Vulture 2019-12-03 6-41-16 AM

Hooded Vulture, I think.

IMG_6515 Hyaena 2019-12-03 6-39-44 AM

When is that lion going to leave!

IMG_6509 Lioness 2019-12-03 6-38-43 AM

All right, my subjects, I’m leaving now.  The scraps are all yours.

That was quite a lot of excitement for 6:30 in the morning!  Luckily it was at a place where we could stand with the caravan and even though it was next to a tar road there were only about four cars there.

We continued our journey and stopped at Tshokwane for breakfast.

At Skukuza, we found a lovely shady spot for the caravan.   I needed to do some washing but when I checked out the laundry found that the washing machine was missing!   There were two groundsmen about so I asked if there was perhaps another one close by.  Fortunately, there was one near the safari tents not far away.   After putting on a load, the Earl and I went to the pool to cool off.  After the 45 minutes, I walked to the laundry and hung the washing and then we went off for our afternoon drive.

We enjoyed watching our close relatives having a picnic under the trees, noted that the impala lambs were multiplying and there were lots of baby zebras about too.

IMG_6595 Female Kudu 2019-12-03 4-04-06 PM

These ladies were trying to keep cool in the shade

IMG_6603

I cannot resist photographing every steenbok I see.   They are quite shy but often stay still long enough for a photoshoot

We ended our drive with a visit to Lake Panic which is my most favourite spot in Kruger. Even at 17:00, it was very hot and the Earl could only take it for fifteen minutes before having to return to the air-conditioned car.  I stayed a minute or two longer but as there was not a great deal more to observe, and I didn’t want him to get lonely without me, I left too.

IMG_6612 Hippo at Lake Panic 2019-12-03 4-58-45 PM

Hippos enjoying a swim but was this yawner bored or tired?

IMG_6624 Female Kudu drinking at Lake Panic 2019-12-03 5-01-58 PM

Lovely to see kudu come down to drink

IMG_6638 Paradise Flycatcher Lake Panic 2019-12-03 5-08-48 PM

A Paradise Flycatcher took a sip and then flew onto a branch and actually posed!

IMG_6639 White-faced Ducks 2019-12-03 5-10-22 PM

White-faced ducks were visiting too

Clouds started gathering as I brought in the washing and a gusting wind began to blow.  I decided it would be better to cook in the Remoska rather than braai tonight.  We fully expected a thunderstorm during the night.