Sally and I were planning a trip to the Caprivi in November when my sister, Natasha and her husband Dick took advantage of the half price offer for the full November month in the Kruger. As a result we changed our minds and decided to join them from November 7th onwards.
Malelane 7th November 2021
We began with an overnight stop at Malelane – a good resting spot after a nine hour drive from Howick.
We enjoyed a short drive around the area later in the day. Even managed to see a fully maned Lion.
A young Hyena entertained us and a Rhino had lost its horn. There were birds too posing for a shoot out.
As you may have noticed from the picture above, we had not put up our awning. We were only there for one night. So of course it rained that night. Half expecting this we put everything outside that we did not want to get wet into the boot of the car.
As I lay in bed the dribbles of rain started and my mind wandered to what else I had forgotten to do. Ah yes, I need to put the rain cover over the canvas roof over our bed. Up I got and managed to do that without getting too wet. Back to bed.
Almost asleep when it occurred to me that I should push the fridge and stove inside. Up I got again and went outside with the rain a lot stronger and did what I had to do. Back to bed fell asleep the rain now pouring down.
What was that poking me on the shoulder? Now alert and Sally asked me if I had put the rain cover on the power cable where the 2 cables met. Of course I had forgotten that too. Now it was pouring down. Not bothering to get properly clad (no neighbours) I hurriedly went outside once again and simply pulled the plug out from the Cheetah. Now fully drenched and a bit shivery, had a good rub-down and dried off and went to bed. Listening to the rain, thunder and lightening beating down and wondering what else I needed to do, I eventually fell asleep.
But not before I realised I had been bitten on the back of my neck by a bug which caused an intense burning pain. (Took over a week for it to abate). I nudged Sally to say I had been bitten. “Oh”, she said and went back to sleep. The next morning she realised how bad it was.
Satara 8th to 10th November 2021
The following morning we went to Satara to meet up with Natasha and Dick.
We spent 2 nights in Satara as that was all we were able to book at the time.
Natasha and Dick had a camp site along the fence line so we dined with them each night, watching the Hyena patrolling just outside the fence and an African Wildcat patrolling passed us inside the fence as we enjoyed dinner and a bottle of wine.
During the day we went our separate ways to explore what was out there.
The Sweni bird hide is one of our favourite places to visit around Satara. Again it did not disappoint us. There were a number of interesting birds to see. The hide outlook:
At the far end of the first photo above, a herd of elephants came down for a drink. Some young ones among them. As usual they were boisterous and enjoying quenching their thirst. Trouble was afoot. We noticed that a number of the pools hippos were unhappy with their presence and surprisingly advanced to within less than 2 metres with intent. To start with the ellies ignored them then feeling a bit nervous they moved off.
And the birds seen at the hide:
A Yellow-billed Stork was idly wandering about in front of the hide while an African Openbill had found a cosy spot to rest:
African Openbill posing as if it was nesting and then along came trouble and usurped him of the resting place:
In another location we came across a male African Jacana attending its chicks.
Photos taken around the Satara area:
And a Little Egret with its catch:
From Satara, Sally and I left a day earlier than Dick and Tasha and headed to Tsendze for 4 nights. Dick and Tasha joined us a day later for 3 nights.
Tsendze 10th to 14th November 2021
Tsendze is one of our favourite camps in the Kruger. It is well treed so owls are present and can be heard calling every night – Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl with its pretty pink eyelids, African Wood-Owl, African Scops Owl, African Barred Owlet and Pearl-spotted Owlet. In the morning you often wake to the sound of Southern Ground Hornbills. Magic place.
There was an interesting campervan in one of the closest sites to the gate – even had its own vehicle attached to it.
Mooiplaas Picnic site is right next to Tsendze and overlooks the Tsendze river. It has a big boma for shelter from both the sun and rain as well as a picnic spot overlooking the river. Like Tsendze it is also known for its owls. Unlike Tsendze camp it is not fenced.
On your way from the camp to Mopani there are a number of short loops to explore. In the past I have experienced a herd of elephant running across one of the tracks right in front of us. Sally and I have also seen a rather large and lame Civet.
Anyway at the end of the last loop you can turn towards a couple of hides. One overlooking Pioneer Dam and the other an overnight hide overlooking the Tsendze river. To get there, you cross a low level bridge. There always seems to be bird activity either side of the bridge. Black Crakes have always been seen there by us. Striated Herons, Hamerkop, Blacksmith Lapwings, Water Thick-knees and other waterbirds are often there too. This time I took several photos of Blacksmith Lapwing juveniles scurrying close by.
Blacksmith Lapwing chick
One of the loops we enjoy doing is to access the S49 from the H1-6 just before reaching Mopani, drive to Mooiplaas waterhole and cut across to the S50, head north following the wetlands then turn onto the S143 – Tropic of Capricorn – past the Tihongonyeni waterhole and back to the H1-6 to return back to camp.
At the Mooiplaas we always see Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Larks. This time was no execption.
Along the S50 it is worth popping into the viewing points overlooking the wetlands. There, Lions tend to hang around the waterholes.
There was a surprise for us at the Tihongonyeni waterhole along the Tropic of Capricorn S143. There were several Tsessebees including a new born at the waterhole. An animal we don’t often seen in the park and usually as a loner among Red Hartebeest.
Along the way we came across Red-crested Korhaans calling beside the road and we were lucky to spot a Lesser Grey Shrike.
The weather was hot hot so we spent several afternoons in the pool at Mopani.
And then there was this large scaly-backed lizard wandering between the bungalows.
The H1-4 to Phalaborwa gate is a scenic drive and one where we have seen hyena with cubs regularly especially along the first 20 kms from the H1-6. This time was no exception.
Further down there is a low level bridge crossing the Letaba River. It crosses a wide stretch of the river and has a “stop and view” parking area half way across. The last two times we visited we have seen two male Greater Painted Snipes and this time was no different.
A bit further along there are a couple of short loop roads going down to the river. On one of these loops we sighted a Groundscraper Thrush singing away.
We headed on towards the H9. About 6kms before the H9 we came across a large Kopje on our left. It was here that we observed a Southern Ground Hornbill nesting site. There were several on the ground and a couple few out of the nest.
And then we were on our way to visit Sable Dam just the other side of the H9. Relatively quiet except for a herd of what looks like sock-wearing elephants.
A couple of these elephants had a bit of a tussle.
Also seen there was a blue-tongued leguaan, a blue-headed lizard, a crocodile and a Three-banded Plover chick.
And around and about on our way down towards Phalaborwa we took a few snaps of other birds we saw.
And a Village Indigobird.
Tasha and Dick left for Punda Maria and Sally and I headed to Nthakeni – just outside the Pafuri gate.
Our time in the northern region of the Kruger follows in Part 2.
Sally and Paul