Skukuza - Early Morning

Day 19 – Skukuza, Kruger National Park – 27 September

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On our second day in Skukuza I woke up quite early, but unlike loads of the other people around us, we weren’t driving out as soon as the gate opened at 6am. I took a quick walk down to the river in the camp to see whether there were any animals drinking (there wasn’t) and then just chilled with a cup of coffee, before getting ready to head out. We were still out fairly early and decided to drive a loop to Pretoriuskop, starting with Lake Panic Bird Hide, where I saw lots of hippos the day before. This morning we could only spot their noses sticking out so soon moved on again.

Over the next few days we became more and more aware of the bird life in the park – a little bit through necessity as in some areas that is almost all you see for miles and miles, but also because it is amazingly diverse! We saw a vulture, and lots of other birds I don’t know the names of (even though I bought a guide!), as well as the usual collection of elephants, giraffes, buffalo, impala. It was a quite a successful excursion to Phabeni Gate, where we turned towards Pretorius Kop. The drive was good as there was at least water in a lot of the dams and waterholes, so there were animals around them, and we saw some elephants mucking about in the water, basically running in and pushing each other around, and then all running out again, before running into the water again. It was a very hot day so I think they must have needed to cool down, and every now and again another elephant would come running down the hill to the water, clearly very thirsty and hot! We also saw some fish eagles, water buck, crocodiles, zebras, and more birds! The highlight of the day was undoubtedly when we spotted a couple of lions next to the road, and I immediately commented that as it was a male and female on their own together, they must be up to no good! Sure enough, after a short while of watching them they got up to mate, though unsportingly they walked off to find a bush to hide behind for some privacy! All I can say is that you have to be very, very quick if you want to take pictures of lions mating as it is all over very quickly!

Brian was knackered after that and I left him at the camp, while I went on to explore the Skukuza to Lower Sabie road. It is a really good road to drive as it runs along the Sabie river and there are multiple turnoffs to get you closer to the river; even though the river is very low there is still enough water for the animals to attract them. I just missed a leopard kill and the people who were there said the leopard killed an impala, and then ran off, leaving its kill – which is odd. Lower Sabie is another lovely camp on the banks of the river with a deck overlooking the river and I stopped briefly for a snack and some pictures before heading back towards Skukuza. In each camp they have a sightings board on which people indicate what they saw and where during the day, and though I was at first quite obsessed with checking what people saw I quickly got disillusioned with them as of course what people see is a snapshot in time and the chances of you seeing the same thing hours later are very slim, unless it is a kill of some kind, and close to the road.
On the way back I stopped at Nkuhlu Picnic spot, which is another great spot to have a spot of lunch or breakfast at, though it was very quiet when I was there, with only a big troop of baboons in attendance. I got back fairly late and we took a walk down to the Cattle Baron for something to eat before having an early night.

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