Shingwedzi to Mopani to Letaba on H1-6 Via Buffalo Kill 5 Metres from Roadside
I've recorded my drives up and down the road between Shingwedzi and Mopani on a few occasions so I start this description around Mopani and heading south to Letaba.
After a short stop at Mopani Camp we headed south to Letaba Rest
Camp. In view of the time of day we headed down the main road, the
H1-6, with the intention to return to do the Tsendze and other minor
loops the next day. The drive down took us to the Klein Nshawu borehole, waypoint 349
was the turnoff, some 15 kms or so south of Mopani and waypoint 350
was the actual Klein Nshawu Pan (further to the east are a number of
pans with the Nshawu name hence the Klein. Before we reached Mopani
we saw some sights and I've included a few below with short
a look at the photo of the
waterbuck (click to enlarge) and notice
how perfect nature is ... aren't the colours of the animal and the
surroundings just perfect?
And shortly after seeing the Waterbuck alongside the main
road was a tree full of
baboons actually. They were
eating the pale yellow blossoms from the tree.
A little further down the road on the right was a
full of Red Billed Weaver nests but what was truly wonderful was
the mix of colours at and around the tree. Take a look. I just
love this shot, its so evocative of
northern Kruger in winter.
Now for a contrast ... The next shot shows quite
dramatically the starkness that results, albeit it temporarily
from burning the Veld. This
elephant didn't seem to care too
much but he was obviously on his way to greener pastures
somewhere closer to the Shingwedzi River probably.
The family of elephants you see here came scuttling out
of the Mopane trees after a mudbath probably to help reduce the wrinkles in
the skin. These massive creatures always seem to give off an
air of insecurity and a sense of great urgency whenever they are in
groups with young and crossing the roads. Unlike the lone bulls or
small groups of bulls that hang around forever sometimes. We met one
of these bulls a bit later on the bend of a road and he was not
going anywhere while there was such sweet grass at the roadside. He
kept us waiting for about 15 minutes.
We called in at Mopani for a bite to eat and took advantage of the
beautiful Impala Lilies in full flower along with the aloe on which
White-bellied Sunbird and a
Dark-capped Bulbul were feeding.
This Impala Lily specimen was just outside the Fish Eagle
Terrace at Mopani and must be very old to have reached such a size.
Shortly after leaving Mopani camp on the way to Letaba we came
across a herb-like plant which reminded me of Rosemary (didn't smell
like it when crushed) or a type of Lavender. It had tiny purple
flowers and was abuzz with a whole assortment of butterflies. I
couldn't remember noticing the plant before yet later down the road
it occupied a very significant portion of the low-lying areas
(waypoint 354). In this lowland, or bottomlands to give it its
correct terminology, the plant had almost the whole area
to itself apart from some grasses. This went on for a few kilometres
before Mopane shrub took over again. I have made my mind up that I
need to become more familiar with the
landscapes of Kruger which are
so fascinating by virtue of their variety. I cannot hope to ever get
into a situation that I can identify most of the
trees, shrubs and
female Ostriches came into view on the left as we approached
Middlevlei (refers to the middle one of 3 such reservoirs in the
area) watering point at waypoint 351. Walking parallel to us on the
left were 2 elephants heading towards the concrete container and
when they got there they could hardly wait to siphon the water from
over the concrete wall into their mouths via the long trunk. A bull
elephant might drink in excess of 40 litres at a time.
Over the years the elephants of Kruger have shown a
distinct preference for drinking from these large round concrete
reservoirs and this has created a problem of trampling and
destroying thin soil layers which has resulted in species
depletion at these points. Many of these watering points have
been and are still being closed down. Soil erosion due to
trampling and over-grazing close to this type of water source is
one of the reasons for this action.
Waypoint 352 is the new road turn-off to the Giriyondo border
post officially opened by the Presidents of Mozambique Zimbabwe and
South Africa on August 16th and if to mark the importance there was
a massive herd of Buffalo grazing, drinking and resting just a few
yards down the road in a large open space at waypoint 353. I have
written a separate article which you can
Close by watching from the branch of a dead tree was a majestic Black-shouldered Kite.
The glorious Letaba River, waypoint 355, on its way to
join the Olifants is a wonderful site and makes a spectacular
view from the bridge (where you can get out). The river crossing
is about 6 kms or so from the Letaba Rest Camp ... we were to
get a major surprise just the other side of the bridge but for
the time being we'd stopped and gazed in wonder at the clear
slowly flowing waters winding their way through sandbanks
bedecked with sedge-type grasses. The Letaba is one of only 5
perennial rivers in the Kruger National Park ... one of these 5,
the Olifants stopped flowing for the very first time on record
for about 70 days last year signaling
the threat forces outside the Park boundaries can have upon a
There it was, lying 5 metres from the edge of the road. There was
a deep hole some 40cms wide on the right rump of the dead Buffalo.
The muzzle of the
Buffalo was completely raw ... I presume from a
struggle as the lions responsible (and there were 6 apparently)
dragged the beast down, while one kept the mouth of the fighting
doomed-to-die Buffalo closed to suffocate it. Other than for the
hole in the rump and the gruesome facial area the Buffalo was intact
and the lions were nowhere to be seen ... but they were close by for
certain. Gareth, my son took the evening drive and managed to get
of the lions enjoying their second feeding. When we drove by the next day the lions had managed to drag the
beast another 5 metres towards the bush ... now having been
lightened through 6 hungry lions having gorged themselves on this
And the day after ... it could not be seen at all. It was just as though nothing had ever happened at this spot ... yet only a few metres away, somewhere close by, there were stories acting themselves out in the presence of witnesses like vultures, jackals and Hyaena's. And you can check ... visit waypoint 356. That's where the dead Buffalo was lying.
The Letaba Camp, at waypoint 358, was a welcome sight and
was reached shortly after waypoint 357 where we had a wonderful
view of the Letaba River and a vast number of Egyptian Geese
(more than I've ever seen together before) in and around the
shallow waters of this great river.
|It had been a long drive from Shingwedzi, but a tantalizing and breathtaking, exciting and surprising view of Africa at its finest. Some of the photographs shown might just hint at the pleasures to be had here in the Kruger. Come along ... take a look yourself.|