Trip Highlights S143 & S144: Elephants, Buffalo and Martial Eagle
Down the S144 to Join the S143... Waypoints 147 to 159
On my previous trip along the S50 I didn't have time to complete the
Tropic of Capricorn loop so I took this opportunity to go south again
down the S144 to the S143 loop section. I joined the old main road from Letaba to Shingwedzi at waypoint 147 and
headed in a south easterly direction. Once more I was in fairly dense
low growing Mopane shrubs country. Waypoint 148 was the Dzombo West borehole (there is one on the opposite or
eastern side of the old main road as well). There is an interesting meaning for
Dzombo in so much that it refers to "something slow in coming" and JJ Kloppers
in his "must have" book suggests that this probably refers to the water flowing
in Dzombo Creek which is on a very low incline flow path from west to east on
the Lebombo flats.
As I drove alone down the sand road. I remember vividly
at one stage how for quite a while a pair of
Blacksmith Lapwings (Plovers) rose from the road in front of me and
flew directly ahead of me down the road giving me a wonderful glimpse of
their beautifully controlled and smooth flight pattern. It was a real joy to follow the Lapwings for about 500 metres
before they decided to leave the road and fly off to the left. There
were lots of plovers on this drive for some unknown reason.
At waypoint 149 I reached the junction to the Tropic of Capricorn Loop. This
unusual plant was seen here. The large white seed head was so very prominent. On
the road there was at least 2 kms of dung both
elephant and buffalo indicating
that a massive herd of buffalo had probably walked down this road towards a
watering point close to the junction. On both sides of the road the land opened
up to be almost a grassy plain with few trees.
I'd just passed an Elephant that had obviously been for a bath down to the
watering point (maybe just a shower). I managed a good close shot as it trundled
off into the Mopane.
Just after waypoint 151 where there were a lot of
Zebra and smaller number of Buffalo the scenery again changed to Mopane and more Zebra were seen on the
road. It was about 2 pm just as I got back to the main H1-7 and headed north.
Waypoint 152 was a spot where it was possible to view the Tsendze River and
a very large crocodile was basking on the bank. You could also see a superb
example of communal weaver nests on a tree on the far bank. There were number of
Giraffes crossing the road as I restarted including 3 babies and 8 adults. They
were accompanied by a small family of Zebra with foals. The country here was
perfect lion stalking country.
Waypoint 153 was the Nwambu (Lowveld Milkberry Tree) bore hole driven by a solar
panel instead of a windmill. The name is based upon the adjacent dry creek of
the same name which is a tributary of the Tsendze River (river of many curves).
I had a nice view of a Woolly Necked Stork in silhouette perched on a dead tree
Waypoint 153 was just before the left turn off to the S142 loop. This loop would
have to wait for my next visit since time was running out and it was just a bit
too late to risk doing the 39 kms drive if I wanted to be sure of reaching
Shingwedzi Camp before they closed the
I was reminded, as I came across a small herd of
Impala, how few I had actually
seen over the last 4 days. In the
southern regions of the park Impala are seen
in their thousands alongside almost every road. Waypoint 154 is Olifantsbad water pan meaning, in Afrikaans, a bathing point for
Elephants. This was short drive off the main road. The pan is a natural one
(being in a depression) and is located on the high watershed that creates a
collection point for rain waters flowing into both the Shingwedzi and Letaba
Rivers. The broad swathe of flattened grass showed plainly the route the
Elephants take to the bathing spot.
Waypoint 155 ... A nice example of a Termite mound. The Kruger is littered with
termite mounds of all shapes and sizes. They play a vital role in the cycle of
life in the Park and provide not only food to animals like the
Aardvark but home
to many different creatures as well.
At waypoint 158 almost opposite the waypoint 157 that
overlooked the Shingwedzi river I saw one of the highlights of this whole trip.
I spotted a Juvenile
I was lucky ... I'd just passed a mound on the side of the road before I noticed
that it was possible to drive up it and use it as a view point. I turned around
and drove up to the top of the pound. In the distance I immediately saw a large
white face that I initially thought was that of an owl. The binoculars
identified it as a large eagle of some sort. The raptor stayed on the ground
long enough for me to identify it, from a bird book, as probably a Juvenile
Martial Eagle (big black eyes, black beak, grey mottled head, white throat, grey
mottled wing coverings.
It then flew off to a nearby tree so I was able to get a glance at the barbed
stripes on the tail feathers as it stretched it massive wings. This later
confirmed that it was a Juvenile Martial Eagle along with the other features I'd
taken note of. I could not tell if it had prey on the ground but it did not fly
too far away. This was my first ever sighting of a a Martial Eagle.
|I was pleased I'd bought myself a new pair of Bushnell binoculars which gave me such a detailed view to the young eagle even though it was quite a distance away and low down in the grass. How to choose the best birding binoculars You ideally need a pair more powerful yet light to hold steady than you do for game viewing ... How to choose the best game viewing binoculars This is the mound I drove up and where I saw the Juvenile Martial Eagle sighting from. I could so easily have just driven on and missed the great sight. This is again so typical of the Kruger. You cannot afford to miss anything.|
Waypoint 159 is a Shingwedzi River lookout point and it is where I took this
picture of a squirrel eating one of those spiky fruits I saw shortly after my
entry to the Kruger at
Punda Maria Gate some 4 days earlier. It made short work of the fruit.
Here's close up of the fruit that the squirrel is eating. The spikes did not
worry the small creature at all.
Tomorrow I would be driving down this road again on my way home via Phalaborwa gate and I was to get a first ever sighting of an African Python.