A Kruger Getaway

August 16th, 2010 by Thinus Leave a reply »

Pretoriuskop Camp, Kruger National Park
Near: Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, South Africa
GPS: -25.16949, 31.26876
When: 2007-06-23

Highveld Sunrise

Highveld Sunrise

Driving through a before-sunrise white wonderland of, well, frost, we made our way east to the Kruger National Park. We are very fond of our birthday getaways there and making this the new RAV’s first one, we’re sure that it would be as special and memorable…

We decided to enter the Kruger at Phabeni gate, which turned out to be no hassle at all (only have your Wild Card reservation number at hand). We immediately saw our first swallows of the season (wire-tailed swallows) and a few other regulars.

One of our favorite places in the Kruger is the Lake Panic bird hide just outside of Skukuza.

Lake Panic

Lake Panic

Last year Lake Panic hosted several species such as goliath herons, green-backed herons, darters and Diderick cuckoos. This year it played host to a large herd of hippos! We also had sightings of darters, water thicknees, grey-headed heron and black crakes at this hide, among others.

On the H1-1 road leading to Pretoriuskop, which would be our home for the next three nights, we had our first breath-taking experience of the weekend. Right on the side of the road we saw the elegant stature of a cheetah.

The First Cheetah

The First Cheetah

Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals. They can accelerate from 0 to 103km/h in 3 seconds, reaching speeds of between 112 and 120km/h. This magnificent creature was staring us right in the eye. Thinus heard it chirping and purring as I was wiping tears of joy from my eyes. What a special and wonderful day! That was Friday the 13th.

Saturday morning had us still riding high on a wave of awe and excitement as we discovered two pearl-spotted owls in a tree close to our hut. This little owl reaches a height of 19cm and has a very distinctive, aggressive cry.

Pearl-spotted owl

Pearl-spotted owl

It was surrounded by a band of crimson-chested sunbirds who were noisily (albeit unsuccessfully) trying to defend what they believed was their tree.

We peacefully made our way east across the Kruger to Lower-Sabie, feasting our eyes on nursing elephants, stately African Fish-Eagles, Bateleurs and a fat iguana. We left Lower-Sabie at about 15h30, which would give us two and a half hours to get back to camp…

But then we had to wait for him

Africa Elephant

Africa Elephant

and then them

Baboons

Baboons

and while looking at him

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena

we saw him

Leopard

Leopard

oh and then these guys played in the street for ever

Playing Wild Dogs

Playing Wild Dogs

before we got mock chased by these fellows

Angry Whit Rhino

Angry White Rhino

which translated into: WE WERE LATE! Also along the way we encountered a serval and (another) cheetah, but we were too delayed and it was too dark to stop and photograph.

So that was Saturday…

Pretoriuskop

Pretoriuskop

Transport Dam

Transport Dam

Sunday morning we explored the circular roads around Pretoriuskop, stopping at a dam that was tranquility itself. The route also housed the rare Tsessebe, which we saw with a mixed herd of impala and waterbuck.

Leopard

Leopard

The rest of the day saw us with more rhinos, hippos and elephants. We also stopped at Afsaal picnic site to visit an African Scops-Owl. The Scops-Owl is even smaller than the Pearl Spotted Owl mentioned earlier!

We stopped a while on the way back to camp to appreciate the crimson sunset, when we noticed a small convoy of cars transfixed in the middle of the road up ahead. Upon approach we saw that a leopard was making his way between the cars from one side of the road to the other. His eyes stared disinterestedly ahead and he took little notice of any of us. It was an exhilarating experience to see him walk across the road right in front of the car, his tail nearly brushing the bonnet!

Leopard

Leopard

We stayed with him a while and then headed on to camp for some relaxed camp-fire time.

On Monday we packed up all our stuff (and almost included two vervet monkeys that stole a bag of peanuts from my car!) and headed for the Malelane gate the long way around.

After experiencing out of control  ‘controlled’ fires both sides of the road for 20 minutes, we paid a visit to all the waterholes along the way and found a welcome surprise on the sandy bed of the Biyamiti water hole – two woolly necked storks were preening in the sun, accompanied by a grey heron and a hamerkop.

After a second visit to the African Scops-Owl at Afsaal, we came across four baby hyenas on the side of the road. While three of them were rather content and untroubled to lie on a bed of grass in the sun, a fourth baby was inquisitive enough to approach the car. He gave us a few curious looks and then went about being a baby hyena as usual.

Pretoriuskop

Pretoriuskop

Apart from hundreds of antelope and impala, for the 3 days we saw 2 cheetahs, 3 leopards, 10 white rhinos, elephants, hippos, baboons, 5 hyenas, 12 wild dogs, 1 serval, 1 tsessebe, iguanas, squirrels, terrapins and a small tortoise. We also saw 104 different bird species, of which 17 were added to our birdlist for the first time!

The trip home was a long but satisfied one and we both agreed that the Pretoriuskop 2010 birthday getaway will be one to remember and cherish for years to come.

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