Mopani Camp: Kruger National Park ...
The Tshongololo Drive S142 West of the H1-6 Main Tar Road Between Letaba and Mopani
The Tshongololo drive is about 40 kms long taking us north west before turning
abruptly to come back in a north easterly direction to rejoin the H1-6 heading
north to Shingwedzi.
Before joining the S142 itself there was a short road off the main tar named
Tsendze loop ... this loop joined the S142 at waypoint 373 where we turned left
and headed for the bird hide at Pioneer dam. This dam is the same one that
residents of Mopani Rest camp enjoy. The Tsendze River ("one with many bends")
is one whose catchment is completely within the Kruger and it finds its way into
the perennial Letaba River about 5 kms above where the main H1-6 crosses the
On the way we crossed a low level concrete ford of the Tsendze River (waypoint
374) with full pools upstream of this crossing as you can see in the picture.
The Shipandane Sleep-Over Bird Hide is on the banks of this pool at waypoint 375
(look towards upper left corner of the picture and you'll see the roof of the
hide and also one of the crocodiles cruising at lower left. On the koppie across
the pool there were numerous young
Baobabs growing. Bookings to sleep over at
the hide can be made at Mopani Camp.
At the bird hide we were able to get close up views of crocodiles cruising up
and down the banks of the Tsendze River pool.
Hippos were also present. This
spot was extremely peaceful and we had the bird hide to ourselves.
Waypoint 376 ... is the second bird hide in the immediate vicinity and on the
banks of the Pioneer Dam itself. The picture is of Mopani Camp on the far bank
of the Dam. We spent a short time here before doubling back to the S142 and
taking a right turn at waypoint 377 which also marks the "private" road to the
Boulders Bush camp down the S146.
The drive was quite uneventful for some time until shortly after crossing a dry stream bed at waypoint 377 we came across the burning log ... a fire was burning in this area and we'd seen the smoke from quite a distance away. This fire had almost certainly been set purposely by Park staff as apart of a plan. Fire in the Kruger is extremely important and its interaction is generally beneficial ... the whole subject of veld fires in the Kruger is quite complex and despite many decades of fire research in Kruger all the answers are not yet known.
At a very simplified level fires promote a wider biodiversity and dense bushy
areas are signs of low fire frequency while heavily grassed areas (as around
Satara) are signs of frequent fires that have the effect of promoting grass
savannah as distinct from quite dense and poorly-grassed bushveld areas where
fires are not encountered too often and when they occur are generally of low
intensity because of the lack of grass fuel. In general fires occur more often
in the east of Kruger. Research into fire and its impact upon heterogeneity in
the Park are ongoing.
Waypoint 380 was close to Frazersrus at a dry river bed and broken down windmill. Frazersrus has remnants of the original Ranger's Post here manned by Major A A Frazer between 1904 and 1920.
Waypoint 382 is the Ntomeni Pan (meaning "At The
Jackalberry Tree") on the
watershed of the Shongololo Creek a a height above sea level of around 420
metres. The river was very very dry. There was a
Black-bellied Bustard or Korhaan nearby.
Waypoint 383 is the turn off to the Uitspan watering point (waypoint 384). If you take a close look at the accompanying photo you'll notice a few things ...
Fire in the background as I've just described.
A lone Saddle-billed Stork in the bit of remaining water.
Extremely dry grass except in the area surrounding the shallow pocket of water. The trees in the background are mainly Mopane in tree form rather than shrub form implying that fire is not too frequent in the area. As we left Uitspan we startled an Elephant (and the elephant also startled us in fact not too sure who/which was startled more) close to the side of the road just before the junction with the S142 ... This is so typical of what happens in the Kruger ... you've traveled quite a distance and seen little except Mopane scrub then suddenly unannounced an Elephant appears as if from nowhere.
At waypoint 385 we joined the H1-6 and headed north to Shingwedzi.