Kruger Part 9
Lower Sabie and Malelane
Report by Paul and Sally Bartho
4 to 7 December 2018
Our journey from Satara to Lower Sabie produced some exciting sightings.
Leaving early we headed to Tshokwane for breakfast. As we neared the picnic site we encountered quite a few cars watching lions sleeping. A quick squizz and we went through.
Within minutes, another bunch of cars watching a Leopard asleep in a tree. A little more time here to try and get a photo and then we were off leaving the mêlée behind.
Not much further along we noticed an animal slowly crossing the road. Our first impression was that it could be a mongoose of some sort. But it had a humped back. A quick look with our binoculars told us to get up there quickly. We arrived just as it was entering the scrub by the road.
At Tshokwane there was no monkey business with our breakfast this time!! Still a paucity of birds around – a few Starlings and one African Mourning Dove. However in the river bed we heard a Red-faced Cisticola. It was so loud it was unmissable. Eventually it came close and I got a snap.
From Tshokwane we decided to head down towards Skukuza instead of taking the direct route to Lower Sabie. All of the dams were dry and the journey passed quietly except for a Sable sighting. About five in the bush beside us about 30 metres away.
Once we had crossed the Sabie River we drove towards Lower Sabie with the river alongside us all the way. As expected there was much going on in the river. Elephants and Buffalo all the way along – sometimes in their hundreds. Hippo out of the water and many birds to be seen.
Even a Grysbok made an appearance – something we have found hard to spot.
Birds too were in the air and in the trees. There were dozens of Vultures and Tawny Eagles were seen in a couple of trees from the main Skukuza bridge over the Sabie River. In another tree we saw three Hooded Vultures, one of which was a youngster.
As the river “roared” down the rapids we also had a few sightings of other birds in the bushes.
Eventually we arrived and set up camp. By the time we were through the temperature had soared up into the 40s C. So after a lunch at Mugg and Bean we took the rest of the day off to enjoy a rest and the swimming pool.
At our site we found a couple of Grey Go-away-birds anting in the dust.
The heat was draining our energy and having had such good experiences over the past month we decided to only stay 2 nights at Lower Sabie and then head to Malelane for one night and return home directly from there. In other words we cut our stay short by three days.
The following day we took a drive along the river to Skukuza and Lake Panic hide. A stop at Sunset Dam first to watch the Hippos and Crocodiles and see what birds were around. On the round concrete tank close to the road there were Giant and Malachite Kingfishers as well as Green-backed Herons.
Then there was a Red-billed Oxpecker using a Hippo’s eye to perch on while it had a drink.
A Yellow-billed Stork was showing off its finery.
And not to be outdone a Black-crowned Night-Heron was seen in the territory of the Green-backed Herons.
Immediately after Sunset Dam the lions were seen feasting on a Buffalo. Some exhausted from eating were seen taking a rest nearby.
On one of the many loops we came across a gathering of White Storks much to our surprise.
At the Skukuza camp we had a quick look at the river – seeing very little of interest – and hurried to get out of the bedlam.
Lake Panic Hide had had some rain and there was a lot more water in it compared to when we visited a month earlier. There were even elephant cavorting and getting stuck in the mud. Trying to get out of the mud involved kneeling down to push itself out. Eventually it succeeded and actually pushed too hard resulting in it falling over onto its back.
A number of birds arrived and some were photographed. The star of the show in our minds was the Woodland Kingfisher.
At the deck of Mugg and Bean we had a sundowner and watched the activity in the river below us. There were some excessively large Crocodiles making a meal of a Hippo. And Lions on the opposite bank in full flow chasing Wildebeest without much joy – giving up and resting under the shade of the large trees.
Of course the pair of Western Barn Owls were still to be seen in the rafters. We spent some time at the reception entrance bird bath hoping to see the Olive-tree Warbler which Jane had told us about. No luck. However it was good to watch all the activity and inter-action between the different birds. Also it was a pleasure to listen to the call of the White-browed Robin Chat.
From the M&B deck we noticed a Black Heron doing its thing in fishing mode.
Then there was this beauty. which really confused me the first time I had ever seen one.
In the Lower Sabie area we identified 131 different bird species. Click here to see the list.
We spent most of our last morning getting to Malelane. Once there our goal was to try and find the Egyptian Vulture which Jane and Mike had seen along the S25 a few days earlier. No luck. So we returned via Berg-en-dal. The dam had water in it unlike our first visit four weeks earlier. Sally noticed some Ducks flying around and we went to investigate. They had landed beside the water. I think we counted thirteen Knob-billed Ducks. Several males were showing off their colourful finery. Notice the yellow feathers near their vent.
And in the short time we were in Malelane there were 46 birds identified. Click here to see the Malelane list.
Despite the heat and dryness we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Kruger. Hopefully the next time we go the Park will have had pleanty of rain to fill up all the dams.
We hope you have enjoyed these reports.
By request we shall make one final report summarising our highlights. Kruger Part 10 – Summary.
Sally and Paul Bartho