The Skukuza area proved to be a little disappointing after the bounty of game we had become accustomed to during our sojourn at Satara Camp. The vegetation is bushier, so the animals are not as easy to see, on some days the temperature peaked at 40°C, and – as happens periodically – perhaps luck was not always on our side. There is more to enjoy about a trip to a game reserve than spotting wild animals though. We revelled in the picturesque rocky outcrops.
On one of them we saw a klipspringer surveying its kingdom.
The multi-hued trees and waterholes, such as Transport Dam, are magnificent to behold.
It was at the bird hide at Lake Panic that I was able to watch a Giant Kingfisher from close quarters.
The Water Thick-knees were easier to see there too as they were so close in comparison to my previous sightings along river banks much further away.
It was on a circular trip from Skukuza to Berg-en-Dal and back that we saw ten white rhinos in different locations.
The waterhole at Berg-en-Dal attracted elephants and blue wildebeest while we were there as well as hosting at least one resident crocodile and several terrapins.
Picnic sites such as Tshokwane and Afsaal make good stopping points when embarking on a long drive. Both of these places appeared to have relatively tame bushbuck on the periphery – as well as the inevitable visits by vervet monkeys and baboons. Bearded woodpeckers announced their presence with their tap-tapping on the bark of trees.
Having grown up in the Lowveld, I enjoyed being amongst trees so familiar from my youth: leadwood, appleleaf, jackalberry, and especially the kiaat trees. Their peculiarly shaped pods fascinated me as a child and the sight of them unlocked many fond memories from that time.
Helmeted Guineafowl and Blue Waxbills are birds that I grew up with.
As I usually struggle to see the African Green Pigeons in the thick foliage of the fig tree in our garden, it was interesting so see them close by and out in the open for a change.
We saw more ground Hornbills in the Skukuza area than had been evident around Satara. The largest group we came across included young ones in various stages of maturity.
Although I have mentioned them before, it was good to see how prolific the Red-billed Oxpeckers were – always clearing their hosts of ticks with no place being too much trouble for them to ‘service’.
Zebras are naturally photogenic. This one sports particularly dark stripes.
Among some of the less common creatures we came across were several mountain tortoises
Large fruit bats hanging from the eaves outside the shop in Skukuza
And the pale geckos that feasted on insects attracted to the lights outside the ablution blocks.
It was at Skukuza that I went on my first night-drive through the Kruger National Park. The spotlights showed up scrub hares, bush babies, a grey duiker and several spotted hyenas. The highlight for most visitors though was seeing three lionesses on a rock dome. They were so sated they could barely move so the multitude of camera flashes worried them not a bit. Having been on the lookout from day one, it was only on our way out of the Park that we eventually spotted a leopard lying in a dry riverbed far below the level of the road. The closely packed vehicles made it impossible to capture it in my viewfinder, so I will cheat by showing one we saw three years ago!
A morning spent at the camp afforded me the opportunity to observe some of the many birds that flitted through the thick foliage hedging our campsite. These included the rather raucous Purple Turaco and the very attractive Red-capped Robin Chat.
How can I leave the Kruger National Park without mentioning either that ubiquitous bird, the Yellow-billed Hornbill or the golden orb spiders!
Just for the record, here is my bird list for April- May:
Acacia Pied Barbet
African Fish Eagle
African Green Pigeon
African Grey Hornbill
African Hawk Eagle
African Mourning Dove
African Yellow White-eye
Bearded Scrub Robin
Brown Snake Eagle
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Turtle Dove
Common Ringed Plover
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Red-billed Buffalo Weaver
Red-capped Robin Chat
Southern White-crowned Shrike
Spotted Eagle Owl
White-browed Robin Chat
White-browed Scrub Robin