We quickly realised that we won’t get many sightings of large game around the camp, due to the extreme drought. The only real opportunities close to the camp were the water-birds that frequented the remaining pools in the river-bed, and the resident troop of baboons.
We drove up the the S52 towards Red Rocks, checking on a water-hole where we had photographed Buffalo and Elephants on a previous trip, but all that was left of the water-hole was a tine pool of green, stagnant water. The veld towards Red Rocks was bone-dry and the only sightings on the entire S52 was a family of wart-hogs and a single troop of baboons. So after that one trip, we decided to rather spend out time between the Shingwedzi causeway, driving up to the wet area towards Babalala, and hunting for small birds and trying to tick off as many species as we could. This included one day where we spent most of the day sitting under the large trees on the confluence look, just looking for new species and ticking them off! The “birding” is something that is very new to us, but something we intend to pursue more in future.
Due to the drought, bird-sightings outnumbered large animal sighting by far, but we still got to spend several very entertaining hours with the resident baboon troop.
And chasing after the dragon flies that seemed to be everywhere!
On the 27th, we decided to drive up the S56 (Shingwedzi river road, and all the way to Mopanie. We started off at a leisurely pace, checking every little loop and river viewpoint along the way. At one of these viewpoints, we stumbled upon a very picturesque pool among some rocks in the river bed, hosting a staggering variety of birds. From where we were parked, we could see different heroin and egret species – a goliath heron, a grey heroin, a black-headed heron, a green-backed heron and a great egret. We could also see saddle-billed, open-billed and yellow-billed storks, bee-eaters, red-billed buffalo weavers, Pied Kingfishers, Francolins and, to crown it all, a fish-eagle! Needless to say, we spent more than an hour at that spot.
Our next stop was Grootvlei dam. And what an experience we had there! A herd of about a dozen bull-elephants, playing, wrestling and generally lolling about in the middle of the dam! Without a second thought, we broke our rule of never shooting in bad light, and started clicking away, trying to capture this amazing sighting.