Close

Tag: Crocodile bridge

Sable Dam & Satara – Taking the scenic route home

We had decided not to do the obvious and leave via Orpen gate, but to rather drive all the way down and exit at Crocodile Bridge gate. The map told us that Satara Camp to Crocodile Bridge is 127 km, so we calculated that we would be at Crocodile Bridge between 11 am and 1 pm. We should have known better!

We started the day by driving through Satara Camp with our GoPro camera, recording the look and layout of the camp.

After dropping off the keys, we turned the car South, towards Crocodile bridge.

Giraffe skeleton

The sightings for the day were not spectacular – the usual general game, baboons, and elephant roadblock. We rounded a corner, and saw something in the road that looked like the usual elephant dinner leftovers, but on closer inspection, turned out to be much more interesting. It was a giraffe skeleton, still with some skin left on the head, lying halfway into the road. Not elephant dinner leftovers – lion dinner leftovers!

Happy to have kept up our record of always seeing something unique on our way out of the park, we continued on towards Tshokwane, stopping at the Southern-most Baobab, pausing at water holes, trying to identify birds, and generally not focusing on getting to the gate. We pulled into Tshokwane around noon, and had a delicious lunch of Kudu wors and pap.

After lunch, we drove the spectacular section of the H10 between Tshokwane and Lower Sabie, over the so-call “Roof of Kruger”, past the Mkumbe lookout. Wow, what a sight! Unbelievable, on our 12th trip to Kruger, it was the first time we saw this stunning part of the park.

Beginning to realize that time was ticking and the road back to Gauteng was still far, we started pushing on a bit more, and finally crossed the Sabie river – with more water in the river than we had ever seen! Regardless of the time, we also couldn’t resist stopping at Sunset dam for a few minutes. Even though there wasn’t much going on at Sunset dam, it is always a magical place to sit an relax for a few minutes.

We reached Crocodile bridge just before 3pm, and quickly ran into the shop to stock up on Ginger beer and Marula cool drinks, leaving the park over the low-level bridge. Like the Sabie river, the Crocodile river also had more water than we had ever seen. After slowly crossing the bridge, we hit the long road to Pretoria with heavy hearts, and plans for a quick return to Kruger.

Crocodile Bridge, August 2013 – part 2

KrugerParkMist_IMG_6452The third morning brought with it thick mist that restricted the view to 10 meters or so, and infused the bush that the magical quiet so unique to misty mornings in the African bush.

As the sun started to burn through the mist, we made our way to the Hippo pools, where we met Daniel, the ranger in charge of looking after tourists in this spot for the last 18 years! Incredibly, he has been cycling the 10km through the bush from Crocodile bridge to Hippo pools every morning, and back again at night, every day for 18 years, and even though he has had some rather nerve-wracking experiences, he has never had to use his gun. He escorted us into the river bed, where we spent a few minutes drinking in the beauty and photographing the hippos. We will definitely go back to hippo pools whenever we stay in the region!

HippoPools_IMG_6460

 

 

 

After hippo pools, we idled slowly up the H4-2 towards Lower Sabie. Shortly after re-joining the tar road, we found a little pearl-spotted owlet. After giving us the run-around for a few minutes, it finally settled on a dry Acacia-tree and allowed us to take a few shots.

Owlet_IMG_5167

 

The bridge at Lower Sabie was as fabulous as ever, but unfortunately the light was no longer conducive to good photography. That failed to make the experience of simply being in this very beautiful are in the Kruger Park any less enjoyable.

After hanging around Lower Sabie and the Sunset dam for a while, we made our way back to the Ntandanyathi hide, where we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the silence and photograph any visiting birds, while the resident Crested Barbet tried his utmost best to get us to share our mini-cheddars with him!

On our way back to the camp, we had one last sighting – two beautiful Kudu bulls.

Having made the decision not to rush the packing of the car, we got out of camp on our way to Malelane gate rather late on our last morning. This turned out to be the best thing that we could possibly have done, since we had hardly tuned off the tar road and onto the S25, than we met a stunning specimen of a Black Rhino, walking (uncharacteristically) in the open, right next to the road. There could be no better end to our brief trip that the opportunity to photograph one of these magnificent, and badly threatened animals, up close, in the open, and in sweet light.

We found out a few weeks after the trip that the sores on its sides were not, as we had guessed, battle scars, but rather skin lesions caused by the filaria parasite. This parasite is passed on from one Rhino the next when visiting communal dung heaps, and as a result almost every black rhino will sport these large, inflamed and often septic sores on their sides. (More information)

Crocodile Bridge, August 2013

Trip Gallery

So, after two years spent exploring the north of the park, we found ourselves longing to see the South again. So, with our eyes filled with visions of the awesome big-5 sightings that the southern regions are famous for, and with considerible trepidation that we will spend too much time stuck in some of the infamous Kruger traffic jams, we booked 4 nights in Crocodile bridge.

Having pre-arranged for late entry, we arrived at the gate after 7pm, having lost over an hour to roadworks on the N4. We drove across the low bridge over the crocodile river in pitch dark – an experience that was over much too soon – and were met at the gate with a friendly smile. A few minutes later we were escorted to our bungalow, where we were finally able to relax and have dinner on the balcony with the sound of the water rushing over the weir in the background.

Having the check in the following morning, we missed the best light, but still had a lot of fun, driving down a surprisingly quiet dirt road, checking off all the usual Kruger suspects. Impala, Giraffe, Zerba, Warthog, Elephant, Hornbills – both red and yellow-billed, Lilac Breasted Rollers, Fork-tailed Drongos, Magpie Shrikes, etc, etc, and best of all – wonder of wonders! – several different groups of White Rhino! Seeing these magnificent creatures have become even more special in recent years, because one cannot get the nagging thought out of your head that some day soon there may not be any Rhinos left…

We spent some time relaxing in the …. hide, and as we left, we were rewarded with our first great photo opportunity – a herd of Zerba with red-billed oxpeckers everywhere! The little birds with the bright red bills and yellow eye-rings are photogenic in general, but when contrasted with the graphic black and white of the Zebra, the scene was simple irresistible.

With the basic portraits done, I decided to get playful and experiment a little with different levels and depth-of-field.

Unfortunately, the Ntandanyathi hide is just too far from Crocodile bridge for us to completely relax, and all too soon we had to leave. We did, however, have time to pause and take some shots of a flock of Helmeted Guinea fowl settling down for the night.

The second day dawned with think clouds blocking the sun, but we decided to head out anyway, and make what we could of the rather poor light. Our first goal was Biyamiti Weir. Although the weir itself didn’t offer any great rewards, we did come across a family of dwarf mongoose on our way there.

Rhino_1D__6720

From there, we went on to Afsaal, where we had a delicious breakfast of Kudu word, pap and gravy. Highly recommended! With our tummies full, we made our way down to Renoster Pan on the H3, we – surprise! – we were met by three beautiful White Rhinos, and a handful of buffalo.

Jacana_IMG_5112
Oriole_IMG_5095

With the persistent cloud cover continuing to thicken, we pressed on to Mpondo dam, where we were rewarded with, well, not much really – only a few small waders pecking around in the shallows out of reach of even our long lenses, and an African Jacana. At least we were rewarded with a nice sighting of a black-headed Oriole on the way.

 

 

Our final sighting for the day, was well worth waiting for – an African Civet, jogging along the H4-2, a few meters from into the grass. Sadly, the light was too low to get any pictures worth keeping.