Kruger National Park – Part 3 – Satara and Letaba

11th to 14th October 2020

Satara

Our friends went to Satara a day earlier than us. We arrived as the rain paused making our life easier in setting up in the campground. Our friends had experienced some rather heavy rain during a big storm that night. We don’t normally put our sides up but we did while here in Satara in case there was a combination of wind as well as rain.

Exploration round the campsite was limited due to the heavy rain. It seemed the lions were enjoying the cooler weather. There were 6 lions close to camp – as usual lying down – beside the road in a rather bedraggled wet state.

The following morning we decided to drive along the S100. However when we got there the road was closed. We later learned that our friends had got there at opening time and the road was open. So we headed along the H6 to the N’wanetsi picnic site with the intention of visiting the Sweni hide close by. Not to be, the road to the hide was closed too.

However we did get a slight (maybe more) fright as a lone bull elephant came crashing out of the bushes.

Having travelled thus far into the Kruger, we at last had our first sighting of a Black-backed Jackal.

From there we went to Gudzani Dam along the S41 and enjoyed having the place to ourselves.

Gudzani Dam and African Openbill

As we passed the S100 we noticed that the road was open so we went back that way only to find it was still closed at the other end much to our annoyance. Somehow we managed to drive round the blocked road.

It was along the S100 that we had some good sightings of a variety of birds.

There was even an African Harrier-Hawk searching for food.

African Harrier-Hawk

Driving along the H7 we stopped at the Nsemani Dam with Brown-headed Parrots flying alongside the road right next to us.

Further along on the Timbavati Road we were fortunate to see 7 wild dogs. They were lying beside the roar in all sorts of contorted positions. One rose and promptly flopped down again.

We had heard good reports about a locally run campsite in Manyeleti. A reserve adjacent to the Kruger near the Orpen Gate. The next day we all decided to check it out. We were under-impressed. Bare stony and open campsite. However there was a large dam close by with numerous Collared Pratincoles flying about.

On the way photos were taken of several animals and birds.

In the 2 full days we were there we did identify 106 different bird species. Click on the link below to review our records.

From Satara we went to Letaba for 3 nights.

Letaba

14th to 17th October 2020

Letaba

The campsite at Lataba was only half full and we camped on the fence line for a change with bushes either side so although it was not necessarily that shady it was private from neighbours.

Both game and birds were unusually scarce in the area.

One of the animal highlights at our time in the Letaba area was seeing inquisitive Hyena pups alongside the car.

The African Scops Owl called each night in the camp – a magic sound.

This was well before the recent floods so the rivers were not that full and the landscape was parched.

The roadsides were lined by bright yellow bushes creating a colourful impression especially in the early morning light.

There were few campsite birds. Not surprising perhaps due to C-19 and the closure of the camps and the birds having to forage elsewhere. No easy snacks for them.

Stopping at Mingerhout Dam for a tea break we noticed a Black Egret below the dam wall and loads of Hippos frollicking in the water below.

Mingerhout Dam

Here are a few bird photos from our time in Letaba.

Despite the lack of many bird sightings, Sally managed to record 111 different bird species – seen and or heard. Click here to see the list.

Cheers

Sally and Paul

PS Part 4 will follow soon with our stay at Tsendze.

Kruger Part 8 – Satara

Kruger Part 8

Satara

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

1 to 4 December 2018

Campsite Satara by the fence

Satara and the surrounds were very dry. None of the dams had any water. Only the N’wanetsi Dam had a little water in it. In which the Buffalo lay side by side with the Crocodiles.

The camp was empty. We had a choice of sites so elected to try one by the fence for a change. Choice spot under a shady tree we thought. Unfortunately it was also the choice spot for the birds to roost resulting in a lot of cleaning of the canvas when we decamped.

Definitely the best birding was in the camp and we did spend one of our mornings doing just that.

There was the Woodland Kingfisher in glorious vibrant colour.

Woodland Kingfisher

Squabbling Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers.

And many others.

Knobbly roots of a fever tree in the grounds by the reception.

Crocodile Roots

Driving around the area we came across some a giraffe with its new born, the odd Kudu, a Scrub Hare and a spotted Hyena relaxing on the road with its back feet neatly tucked in.

Some other birds seen:

Common Scmitarbill

At one of the pumped waterholes just north of the camp there were dozens of Vultures – perhaps waiting for bath time. Mostly White-backed.

A drive down to the Muzandzeni picnic site for breakfast one morning proved to be a potentially scary experience. On arrival two cars drove out as we drove in to the empty picnic site. We chose a shady table and enjoyed our breakfast. Then as we were about to leave an army truck with soldiers drove in. Quite casually they asked Sally if she was aware of the lions under a tree not 100 metres away!! Hmmm no!

The lions

As we watched so the Impala approached the lions cautiously to keep a beady eye on them and their potential movements. As I said, we had enjoyed our breakfast but we could easily have been theirs.

We had planned to be here for five nights. The heat and dryness of the area led to our change of mind. Three nights was enough. We changed our itinerary to go to Lower Sabie for two nights, two nights at Skukuza and finally 2 nights at Malelane before heading home.

On our last day there we over-lapped with some other friends from Durban – Mike and Jane Roseblade. We had an evening braai together and a good chinwag. As we returned to our campsite the heavens started to brighten – lightening everywhere around us yet no thunder. Eventually the much wanted rain came. Enough to cool things down but not nearly enough to quench the parched soil.

In the morning we left early and headed for Lower Sabie.

Next Installment – Kruger Part Part 9 – Lower Sabie to follow.

Paul and Sally Bartho

Zululand and the Kruger – Part 3

Satara 26 to 30 October 

Paul & Sally Bartho

Leaving Crocodile Bridge we drove to Lower Sabie, crossed the Sabie River and headed for Satara via Tshokwane arriving early afternoon.

Stopping for tea at Tshokwane we noticed this unusually dark African Mourning Dove.

African Mourning Dove - dark form
African Mourning Dove

After setting up camp we had a message on Trevor Hardaker’s Rare Birds report that a Green Sandpiper had been seen at the Sweni bridge just south of the camp. We went to have a look and it did not take us long to find it. This would have been a lifer for me had I not seen one a month earlier at Darvil sewerage works in Pietermaritzberg.

The following day we drove along the S100 to the Sweni Bird Hide near the N’wanetsi picnic site. Along the way we came across what we thought was a pair of Red-necked Spurfowls – however on advise from Trevor Hardaker they are in fact hybrids – Red-necked and Swainson’s. As there were two together, we hope that they are both of the same sex!

The Sweni Hide was one of the highlights of our trip. We were entertained there for hours not only by the crocodiles and hippos camouflaged by the weed but also by the variety of birds which visited the hide – including a pair of what we think might be Dwarf Bitterns (possible Green-backed Heron juvenile but for the heavy black streaking on the front – unfortunately not shown well in the photos) and several Black-crowned Night Herons.

Hippos resting in peace
Hippos in repose

The following morning we set off really early to get to the Sweni Hide as we had enjoyed it so much the day before. On the way as we crossed a bridge and looked down we saw 2 elephants digging for water. There was a pool nearby but it was obviously not to their taste. What was interesting was that the hole they dug with their trunks was perfectly round and several feet deep. The elephants knew the water was there and that the sand would filter the water for them.

Elephants searching for water
Elephants searching for water

 As we reached the hide we first went to the river crossing and looked back up to the hide. What a good decision. In the closest part of the river Sally noticed an unusual bird – the first of four different sightings of this bird.

Some of the other birds and animals we managed to photograph in the area include:

Altogether we found 140 different bird species in and around Satara.

Next we moved on to Tsendze – the satellite camp to Mopani. It is situated next to the Mooiplaas picnic area. See Part 4 of this series.