Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Kruger (part 1)

Elephant at Biyamiti Weir

Finally back in Kruger, after what felt like an exceptionally long wait, and man, is it great to be back! On arrival, one friendly gate assistant, two vehicles having a fight (one man sitting on the others bonnet with a stone) and we’re in. I barely have time to register the sound of a woodlands kingfisher, one of the most vocal summer residents, before we spot a cheetah casually sauntering through the trees on the right. Its not a great sighting, but it certainly gets the blood flowing to my brain, and wakes me up after the 2 day drive up from Cape Town…

The first camp on my itinerary is Pretoriuskop, a camp I have always stayed at first on any Kruger trips, which I guess has become a kind of tradition. All I want to do is get out on an afternoon drive, so luggage is quickly offloaded and the meat put in the freezer… that’s the theory anyway. The reality is that the only meat to speak of was a packet of boerwors. None of my carefully packaged into individual portion Ostrich steak, chicken fillet, lamb or boerwors has made it to Kruger. Its still sitting where it was left in the freezer, waiting for the holiday it was promised, that never materialized.

This is not as much of a problem as it sounds, as of course Bart (a beautiful bush green Landrover) will at some point give issues, and provide me with ample time in a mall where I can re-shop to my hearts content. It was day 2 when this happened, quick even by Bart’s standards. One of the joys of owning a Landrover is that whenever a trip to the bush is taken, it generously affords you the opportunity to explore the nearest town mall. I know the Nelspruit, Windhoek and Upington malls very well, and the Bloemfontein ‘waterfront’ far better than I had ever dreamed.

Hyena falling asleep in the water and blowing bubbles
European Bee eaters near the camp

Other than this minor set back - which turns out is a result of the handbrake lining ‘not being there' (“It looks like it fell out!” said the service manager) - Kruger is just as wonderful as I remember. This is only the second full day in the park, but I have seen cheetah 3 times already, as well as plenty of hyena, including a den site with around 6 youngsters.  The woodlands are out in full force, filling the sky with their calls, each one bringing a smile to my face. There are also many impala young around, their over sized ears and long stick-like legs a delight.

This morning, I had a fantastic sighting of wild dogs. It was not long after sunrise when I called a halt to look at what seemed to be a white bush blowing in the wind. My first thought was vultures on a kill, but reversing, it turned out to be a pack of wild dog, quickly finishing off the remains of that morning's kill.  As soon as it was down, they skipped excitedly onto the road infront of us, and began to trot away down it. We followed, trying our best to photograph  the quick moving animals. There were about 8 in the pack, only 3 adults and the rest this years pups (around 6 months old).

All of a sudden they began to bark agitatedly, and their tails went up as they do when alarmed or excited. The continued yelping eventually revealed a cheetah, slinking onto the road ahead. He was closely followed by another! What luck, I could hardly believe my eyes, and this, almost to ourselves!!
We stayed with the wild dogs as they ran away, barking and jumping, before they left the road. Then we returned to the cheetah, who after some scent marking and a brisk march, came to rest on a sandy patch, as did we.

It has been quite a hectic first few days, and I am so looking forward to the next 40 or so before I leave! We even saw a couple of lions, and a couple of hours ago a Long Crested Eagle, which I believe is a first for me. Not a great sighting photographically, but a clear indication of where he got his name! It made me a little giddy to see him, scared I am turning into a birder :)  Now for some dinner…

Long Crested Eagle- proof!


  1. Thank you for letting us share your experience like this. I am enjoying it, even second hand!

  2. Sounds like your trip has started on a high. 40 Days of nature. Wow.
    Reminds me of the couple times I have done N2S, or South to Shingwedzi.
    Have a great trip.