`Leopard Catches Prey | S46 to Olifants. S93, S94, S44, H1-5 and H8 Roads

This morning I would leave Letaba Camp to head south to another of my favourite camps in the Kruger … Olifants Camp.

Map Letaba to Olifants Camp | Kruger National ParkThe Olifants Camp has probably the most magnificent view overlooking the river as it flows towards the world famous crocodile breeding ground known as the Olifants Gorge which is some 8 kms east of the camp. Unfortunately the gorge cannot be seen from the camp nor is it on a publicly accessible road. Personally I’d love to visit the area. i don’t know about you. Before leaving the Letaba Camp I visited the Elephant Museum which contains the tusks of the Kruger’s famous Tuskers and other great information about these giants. Rudy Sipple, a park employee, witnessed a remarkable elephant attack by a younger bull on an older bull elephant.
Lala Palms and Fruit Called Vegetable Ivory | Kruger National Park Inside Letaba camp are some very large Lala Palms which were fruiting. These brown balls are known as vegetable ivory in view of their extreme hardness. The fruits are used to make various carved ornaments and are eaten by Elephants. The camp is also well-known for its sausage trees under which cars park (a warning signs is provided) and I always wonder how many cars have been badly dented from a falling sausage fruit which grow to be large and heavy. The tree was leafless and had no sausages at this time of year.
Dry River Bed (Soil Appearance) | Kruger National Park Waypoint 434 marked the start of the S46 road. It was cloudy and cool as I left the camp just before 8 am. .Waypoint 435 was the Nhlanganeni (means “at the reeds”) dry river crossing of what appeared to be a soil-bedded river rather than sand. The river enters the Letaba close to Engelhard Dam.. In this apparent soil there were 3 large dug out impressions indicating a possible search for water by elephants. The junction of the S94 with the S46 is marked by waypoint 436 and shows that the distance from here to Olifants Camp is 20 kms turning left on the S46 leading to the S44 and S93and 24 kms via the S94 and main tar roads H1-5 and H8.

On a rocky outcrop running parallel to the road a was the first view of numerous Cassia Abbreviata trees along the route. These trees are quite remarkable I think. Many of the trees I saw during this 5 day trip were in completely different stages … some were bare with just the long empty pods (Cassia Abbreviata is known as the Sjambok Pod tree) other were bare with no pods but masses of the beautiful bright yellow blossoms. Yet other were a mixture of pods blossoms and leaves and others had finished blossoming and were resplendent in their amazingly beautiful bright green spring leaves. It was rare to see the trees in dense stands of any significant size unlike the Knobthorn which in this part of Kruger probably occupied between 5 and 10% of the ground space. The photos shown here indicate this amazing variation. Just before reaching waypoint 437 which is the H1-5 main road junction there was an unidentified brown eagle perched high on a dead tree surveying its kingdom for breakfast. I took the tar road back to Letaba in order to take the sand road S46 to Engelhard Dam. Waypoint 438 is the tar road crossing of the Nhlanganeni River.
Monument to Charles Engelhard Close to the Dam Wall | Kruger National Park Waypoint 439 is the road to the Engelhard Dam on the S46. At 440 the Nhlanganeni was crossed again. Small way-byes letdown to the Letaba River along the road where it was possible to observe the river, its sandbank and trees in total silence. Buffalo were seen in the reeds. Waypoint 441 is the southern end of the Engelhard Dam wall.
Darter and Egyptian Goose in Tree | Kruger National ParkWaypoint 442 is the low level crossing of a river …dry on one side of the crossing while the other was a nice mysterious-looking single pool inhabited by African Darters, An Egyptian goose was perched on a tree (never seen this before) and was joined by one of the darters. Some lovely trees and rocks surrounded the steep banks of the pool. There was also a wide variety of birds sounds in the area.
Downstream of the Dam were a number of superb views of the Letaba River and at way443 I turned left onto the S93 road heading south to Olifants some 17kms away. The Letaba flows through the Kruger Park west east between 4 ranger sections …Phalaborwa, Olifants, Letaba and Mahlangeni. It joins the Olifants upstream of the Olifants Gorge some 6kms from the Mozambique border.
First Sight of Leopard Close to Road. | Kruger National Park Waypoint 444 is about 500metres from the left bank of the Letaba and it was here where I saw a leopard catch an animal about the size of a Dassie (Rock Hyrax). I’d been driving down the road slowly and quite suddenly I saw the Leopard walking slowly away from the edge of the road. It was no more than 10 metres away from me and showed no immediate concern as it calmly strolled into the grassy vegetation. I was able to watch it for a while until blended in with the longish straw-coloured grass. Suddenly there was a rush from right to left and the long grass swayed over a length of some 20metres.
First Sight of Leopard Close to Road. | Kruger National Park I continued down the road to the point where the swaying had stopped. There I briefly got a glimpse and out-of-focus photograph of the Leopard holding the animal it had just caught in its mouth. What a wonderful and unexpected natural performance put on it seemed purely for my benefit. Such is the Kruger National Park … anything can happen at any time.
It wasn’t long after this sighting that I came across a small group of those beautiful and scented Cassia tress with their bright yellow flowers and strikingly green new leaves close to where a group of Hippo were relaxing on the banks of the Letaba.
Elephant Being Annoyed by Visitor Image 1 | Kruger National Park I was talking about Elephants and their potentially aggressive nature earlier. Well I came across the kind of behaviour that makes these animals possibly become aggressive. I turned a bend in the road and some short distance ahead of me was a blue bakkie reversing away from an Elephant that was quickly walking towards them.
Elephant Now Very Angry and Stressed | Kruger National ParkThen they stopped, turned the vehicle broadside on got out and photographed the Elephant who showed its concern by speeding up and waving its ears and trunk. The couple in the Bakkie repeated this performance two times more and at one stage the Elephant was very angry. Here’s the series of shots …
Elephant Chases Car | Kruger National Park The photo I took shows the reaction from the Elephant and also indicates how close this vehicle was to the animal. After a while the Elephant left the road and walked down to the river.
Elephant Continues Chase | Kruger National Park
The bakkie would stop and start almost enticing the elephaElephant Being Annoyed by Visitor Image 5 | Kruger National Parknt.

Elephant Being Annoyed by Visitor. Man Out of Car | Kruger National Park
Sheer Rock Face | Kruger National Park Waypoint 445 is a very striking rock face running down into a gulley and was some way down a koppie. The catena was sloping from right to left and I was driving along a point half way down the slope with the river to my left at the bottom of the slope.20metres or so lower down.
It was close to this point where I once again came across the bakkie close to a beautiful old Baobab tree (waypoint 446) and couldn’t believe my eyes when the wife or girl friend jumped out of the car sprinted to the edge of the road and posed for a photograph under the Baobab tree before sprinting back to the vehicle and they sped off. I didn’t manage to get a photo unfortunately. And the irony was she was wearing leopard skin tight trousers and a leopard print top to match. It wasn’t possible to confuse her with a Leopard though. The vehicle had a Mozambican registration.
Hippos on the Banks of The Olifants River | Kruger National Park We seemed to be leaving the Mopane behind (I’m tempted to say at last) around this point. From here almost all the way north Mopane shrubs and/or trees are very much the major species of tree or shrub.
Knobthorn Trees in Blossom (About 10% of All Trees) | Kruger National Park Waypoint 447 was the turn off to the S93 … however I decided to complete the loop that would bring me back to this point a bit later and I continued along the S44. The road continued along the river and a large number of Hippos were seen at the edge of the river. There many Knobthorns in the area and with the trees in blossom it was possible to get a photo which shows how prevalent these trees are in the area.
Olifants River View Looking Upstream. Camp is on Hill Top Right | Kruger National Park Waypoint 448 is about the closest a visitor can get to the Olifants River Gorge. It is the Olifants River lookout point offering truly impressive river views up and downstream. You can see the Olifants Camp in the distance looking upstream.
Olifants River Loking Downstream in Direction of Gorge | Kruger National Park I think it’s at this lookout point that the Astronomy activity takes place and which can be booked at Olifants Camp.
Olifants River Rapid. | Kruger National Park Waypoint 449 is another view of the Olifants worth stopping at to admire this truly great river. For some reason one of the rocks in the stream seemed to have pained a silver colour. Maybe it was marker to indicate river level. Shortly after this point the road takes an abrupt 90 degrees turn towards the south west and almost immediately the veldt changes.
One of Best Known Views in Park. Looking Upstream from Olifants Camp | Kruger National Park Waypoint 450 is the junction with the S93 and I turned right to complete the loop before turning around … a family of Elephants crossed the road in front of me. I startled one of the members who was a distance from the main herd without seeing it at the point where I stopped to let the Elephants cross..

Very shortly after this I saw a Leopard cross the road 100 metres in front of me. The animal then hesitated at the roadside before walking off. By the time I had driven the short distance I got a split second glimpse of it walking into the grass then it was gone, not to be seen again even though the land was reasonably open. I drove up and down the road in close proximity but could not find this master of disguise or camouflage.

Waypoint 451 was the junction with the H8 tar road leading up to the Olifants Camp. At waypoint 452 there is a superb viewpoint over the plains and looking upstream of the Olifants River. This photograph is is one that is very well known, has been admired maybe by millions of people over the years. It is the view looking upstream from the covered viewing spot just below the restaurant at the Olifants Camp. To the right of the river in the distance is the loop road S91.

Waypoint 453 was bungalow 58 at the camp. You can arrange any of the following activities at the camp …

I took a short break before starting a new drive south of the camp.