|Chameleon, they have the strangest way of "walking", hovering back and forth at each step|
We were up and about quite early and headed off to breakfast, this time going through the garden route rather than back round and through reception. The sprinklers were on so it was a matter of dashing through to try and not get wet. What I’d though was a sprinkler that went clockwise in a circle turned out to be one that waves through a 180 degree angle so I got my second shower of the day. Breakfast was as good as dinner last night and again we both ate far too much. We had a friendly welcome at reception as we checked out from the same lady who had checked us in yesterday and she confirmed they did have availability tonight if we needed it.
Within a few minutes we were back at the park gate again and this time managed to get through. We signed up for a Wild card, which costs us about four times as much as South African residents. It gives you unlimited access to all about twenty different national parks throughout the country and for a couple you only need to visit for about 6 days to get your money’s worth. We drove up to Skukuza camp to find that their systems were still not working today so they again could not confirm where there was accommodation available in the park. Stef was making very sarcastic comments under his breath about what a “Mickey mouse” outfit it was. I gave him my standard lecture about how hard it is for front line service staff when their computer systems let them down and they have to put up with rude and obnoxious customers. It soon shut him up.
We checked the sightings board to see what had been seen and where yesterday. There seemed to have been lots of activity on the main road so we decided to head that way. Before setting off though we went to the shop to see if they had vacuum flasks expecting a shop selling basic supplies as we had encountered in the National Parks in Namibia. Lonely Planet also says the shops only sell essentials and that if you are self catering it is better to stock up outside the park, hence our stop in Hazyview yesterday. Nothing could be further from the truth. The shop was like a mini supermarket selling a wide range of food (fresh and tinned), camping supplies, a full off licence and a large selection of souvenirs. We needn’t have stopped at Hazyview at all!
Finally we made it out onto the road. For about the first 15km the road followed the Sabie River and every now and again there were places where you could pull off to have a look at what was going on in the water. Here we saw our first hippos of the day, usually nothing more than the hump of their backs sticking out above the water but every now and again they came up for air as well. At one point on the far bank one was lying on the ground sunning itself, a hug black creature that was easily mistaken for a rock.
Further on we saw some people had pulled up to the side of the road and stopped on a nearby bridge over the river. Here we were treated to a fabulous display as a herd of elephants made its way along the riverbank. These are really graceful and majestic animals, slowly and gently making their way and stopping to munch at the same time. We were captivated for a while, as were many others. It was a fabulous sight to see but also showed what Kruger was going to be like. At Etosha in Namibia the roads through the park were all gravel and traffic was pretty thin on the ground. At Kruger, you don’t need to leave a tarmac road if you don’t want to but you do have to accept that there are lots of other people around. AT the hotel this morning they had told us that on the Easter weekend the Kruger Gate park gate closed at 10:00am as they had already let in their daily quote of 1,000 people.
As we watched the elephants a group of hippos emerged from the depths of the river. They seem to be able to stay underwater for an incredibly long period of time but frustratingly you don’t get to see much more of them than their snout and the hump of their back. Next up were giraffes and then a buffalo, our second Big Five animal (buffalo, rhino, elephant, lion and leopard). We saw quite a few different birds before a couple of warthogs put in an appearance, still glistening with wet mud from a recent trip to a watering hole. A bright green chameleon and more birds rounded off our morning’s viewing before we made it down to Lower Sabie.
|A massive white rhino, and he's certainly seen us!|
Rather than coming along the main tarmac road we had taken a slightly longer route on a gravel road. It was a very good road, better by far than most we had been on in Namibia, and it was also good for wildlife spotting as there was less traffic about. Impala were a steady companion throughout the morning with lots of young animals all starting to find their feet and create new herds.
At Lower Sabie we checked on the accommodation front only to find that as expected they were fully booked. It seems to be a very popular camp and the lady at reception said that some people book eleven months in advance to guarantee they have a space. Although we couldn’t stay here she was able to book us into Skukuza for tonight and Olifants for tomorrow. We stopped here for a break from driving and to have a drink although I abandoned my Sprite as it was attracting a healthy supply of wasps. In the river a couple of tortoises were perched on rocks watching the crocodiles further upstream. They in turn were simply lazing about enjoying the sun.
Stef had checked the sightings board here and saw that further south people had seen rhinos both yesterday and today. We saw none from the main road but turned off onto the Gomondwane Loop, a gravel road but unlike the nice smooth ones Stef drove along this morning this one, now that I was behind the wheel, was a pretty lumpy affair. After a few kilometres I saw what I though was a hippo but it turned out to be a white rhino with a baby rhino nearby. They are huge creatures and pretty scary with it. I was fine while it was busy munching away but after a while of us watching it is seemed to get a bit fed up and turned to face us straight on. When it started to come towards us I wanted to go but Stef, ever the budding nature photographer, wanted more shots. As it seemed to pick up speed I pulled rank as driver and headed off, not wanting an argument with a rhino.
A little further on we stopped to tell people coming the other way that there were rhino a little way ahead. They seemed a bit perplexed that we were telling them and we soon realised why as three rhino’s crossed the road behind us - we hadn’t even seen them! They are immense animals and certainly not something you want to mess with. Time was starting to run out on us and we had to start to make our way back to Skukuza. Although the distances are relatively short, speed limits in the park are low so it takes a while to get around, especially as you can’t help but stop to look at things as you pass them by.
|Elephant, only a few short metres away from us|
As we passed the Sunset Dam, a family of monkeys were out playing on the road with a couple fighting quite aggressively. Further on we saw baboons wandering along the road near one of the rest stops looking as if they were on the scavenge for food. For most of the rest of the journey back to camp I refused to stop so that I was sure we would make it back before the gates closed at sundown. As we got to only a few kilometres away though I suddenly stopped and reversed surprised that Stef asked me why. Just off the side of the road, no more than a few metres away, a huge elephant was munching away. We sat and watched it for quite a while before time forced us to move on again.
Back at Skukuza we checked in to our accommodation, a rondavel that could sleep three people. Outside is a small kitchen, with a braai down the steps in the garden. Inside it is pretty basic with beds, a bathroom and a cupboard but it was all very clean and the beds were incredibly comfortable. We sat outside having a belated sundowner and a G&T enjoying the night air. A couple walked past asking if we knew where the shop was so we pointed them in the right direction. It turned out they were Dutch and we chatted for a while.
With a bit of difficulty we got the braai going, for some reason the charcoal didn’t really want to catch, and had a very tasty dinner of sausage and smash. Even though the rondavel came fully equipped we opted to use our own newly bought camping gear, more than anything so that Stef could justify why we had had to buy them. Sleep soon caught up with us and by about 9:30 we were tucked up in bed at the end of what had been a good day’s wildlife viewing.