Zululand and the Kruger – Part 7

Balule 11 to 14 November 2014

Paul and Sally Bartho

From Shingwedzi we headed south for Balule – a small rustic campsite without power – paraffin lamps for lights at night, kitchen area with a gas freezer. Gas for hot water. The camp has reasonable shade.

To check in we had to go to Olifants (we believe you can also check in at Satara). From Olifants to the camp site is normally only about 11 kms. However the causeway crossing the Olifants river is being refurbished after the floods earlier in the year (expected to be complete next April).

This meant going the long way round – 30 kms. It also meant no choice of direction when leaving the camp.

The campsites are along the camp fenceline with a well treed and grassy area in the centre – where the kitchen is located. Hyenas patrol the fenceline every night – forever hopeful. Often lying just a few metres from you staring at you with pleading eyes.

Hyena and suckling cub
Hyena and suckling cub

Despite the nuisance of the bridge being closed the alternate route to the camp gave us some pleasant surprises.

A trench for cables extended the first 4 kms- along the S91- from the main road towards the camp. On several occasions we came across elephants trying to get across without success – fortunately for us they were on the other side of it.

Birds as well as animals. A pair of Malachite kingfishers misidentified by a tour guide as African Pygmy Kingfishers.

African Fish and Martial Eagles with rather full crops:

A back view of a Martial Eagle

Martial Eagle - juvenile
Martial Eagle – juvenile

The main bridge across the Olifants River was surprisingly quiet birdwise on each occasion that we crossed it. We did have an unusual sighting of a pair of Saddle-billed Storks lying down in the riverbed below. Surprisingly Saddle-billed Storks were seen on numerous occasions – despite their depleting status.

We took a drive north of Olifants along the S44 one misty damp morning – following the Letaba river. It is a very scenic drive with good views over the river.

North of Olifants camp along the S44
North of Olifants camp along the S44

Further along just after it joined the S93 we had our fourth sighting of Greater Painted Snipes. This time there were three and one was a female.

Did you notice the tree in the last photo. It appears to be upside down and coming towards you.

Mystical Tree - where is it going.
Mystical Tree – where is it going.

Here are some of the other birds we saw in the area.

Altogether we observed 120 different bird species in the 2 full days we were there.

Then it was down to Skukuza. See Part 8 to follow.


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