Why Was this African Python Dead? H1-6 Kruger National Park South Africa
The Way Home via H1-6, H14 and finally H9 to Phalaborwa Gate... Waypoints 160 to 181
I started my drive home as soon as the
gates opened at 06.00 hrs. One
vehicle left before me and another one overtook me shortly after leaving
the gate. I would be driving about 130 kms to the entrance gate at
Phalaborwa. My Kruger drive would finish
some 5 hours later at S23 56 44.9 E31 09 53.5 and a height above sea level at
413 metres. I reached the Phalaborwa Gate at 11.02... (information by courtesy of my Garmin 60CS
From Phalaborwa I would head south west to where I live in Bedfordview via Lydenburg, Dullstroom and Witbank. The journey once outside the park would take about 4 and a half hours. Temperatures would have dropped from the high twenties Centigrade to 10 by the time I reached Dullstroom (more than 6000 feet above sea level) and I would have gone from around 300 metres above sea level inside the Kruger to 1600 metres at home. From the Lowveld to the Highveld.
The map gives an overview of the 181 waypoints recorded and tracks I drove
over the last 5 days. Each of these waypoints has been described and can be
accessed through these 2 web pages: drives from
Punda Maria and drives
At some stage I'll also produce a spreadsheet wit all waypoints on it with links
to the relevant pages using the new Google Spreadsheet programme. It isn't often that I get up to see the sunrise but today this was
co-incidental and I couldn't resist a few shots looking east. On the photo
you'll see a white spot ... not a flying saucer but an airplane on its way to
Waypoint 160 ... a dead
African Rock Python was lying in the road. To me it
appeared that it had only recently died. There was no sign whatsoever of
dehydration or skin discolouration of any kind. There was only one ting wrong it
seemed to me and that it had a badly damaged mouth or jaw. The snake was lying
there with its mouth wide open. See photograph.
A close up of the mouth area shows that there is definitely tissue damage and
blood loss from the lower jaw region. I couldn't imagine what had happened at
this stage but as I drove on and thought more about the incident I wondered
about the following ... what if the Python had been lying at the side of the
road (warmer than surrounding veld) when one of the 2 earlier vehicles had
passed. They had stopped to look at perhaps a motionless snake. On moving off
maybe the snake had "woken up" to strike at a revolving metal wheel and this had
caused such severe damage.
This was not the way I had hoped to see my very first African Rock Python
especially after the
tracks in the sand I'd come across the previous day. Take a close look at
the beautiful skin markings of this snake.
Waypoint 161 was where I think I would see my last
Baobab tree ... on that
beautiful hill not far from Mooiplaas that I've talked about on an earlier
drive. See the eagle in the dead tree above the Baobab. Shortly after a I saw a
hawk of some description being harassed in the sky by a massive flock of
The map shows the waypoints marked on the H14 and H9 to Phalaborwa Gate.
Next stop Mopani Rest Camp for some breakfast. Mopani is on the northern bank of
the Tsendze Dam and this early morning shot gives an indication of calm and was
a time to reflect on my Kruger experiences this last few days.
Waypoint 162 was the start of the 61 kms drive to Phalaborwa down the H14 and
which would include a crossing of the Letaba River. Very soon after taking this
road I saw a delightful family of
Dwarf Mongoose ... this picture shows a mom
The Dwarf Mongoose is a favourite of mine. They pretend to be shy but don't
stray too far into the grass and they remain inquisitive.
Waypoint 164 is the crossing of the Kaleka River. Shortly after crossing the
Kaleka the countryside turned to Mopane woodlands with some quite large
trees at waypoint 165.
At waypoint 166 a long series of Termite mounds started matched by a change in
shrubbery. Waypoint 167 marked the turn off the private road to Boulders Camp.
The area right down to the Shimuwini Bush Camp turnoff (waypoint 169)was heavily
wooded with Mopane mainly. I had caught a glimpse of a shy Steenbok as it hurried
off into the Mopane. The Shimuwini camp was 11 kms down the sand road and it was
still 44 kms to go to reach the gate. Shimuwini Bush Camp is in
and Buffalo country and you'll probably see lots of
elephants as well. There is
a dam on the Letaba River here. The word Shimuwini means "next to the Baobab."
Waypoint 170 and 171 marks the crossing of the great Limpopo River, one of the
Kruger's 5 perennial rivers. As much as there was not a lot of flow there were
still deep pools and in one close to the concrete causeway held about 6 or 7
Hippos. There was also a Blacksmith Plover (Lapwing) with a family of 3 young
chicks. The mother
Lapwing was jealously guarding her feeding area from a
Shortly after the Letaba crossing the turn off to drive to Letaba Camp was
reached at waypoint 172 and shortly after that at 173 the Nwgenyeni Creek
(crocodile in Tsonga) was crossed. At waypoint 174 there was a beautiful view of
a gorge that ran alongside the road and through which the Ngwenyeni Creek
passed. The bush was quite lush in this area.
The view you see in this photo indicates that the rains must have
been good in this area. Greens like this are unusual at this time of
year. Another evocative Kruger Park picture in my mind at least.
At waypoint 175 we crossed the Nwgenyeni Creek again and here it seemed to be
quite dry yet the banks were still green and quite dense with trees and shrubs.
The S131 road to Letaba was reached shortly after this stop marked as waypoint
|The Shikumbu rock formation at waypoint 177 rose above the countryside as the main road to Phalaborwa was neared. In the map below you can see the formation of Shikumbu with 2 other smaller hills in line with it. The top of Shikumbu is at about 480 metres. Shikumbu is treated as a special and highly respected place by local people. It has ancestral connotations. The name means "Unknown" implying a mysterious past.|
|I joined the main Letaba to Phalaborwa main road at waypoint 178.|
This photo was taken to show how sand is sued to reinforce the road
surface. Temperatures get very high in Kruger and the tar softens
considerably. Since the tar surface is quite thin it is not particularly
strong and the sand enters all small crevices settling directly into the
tar creating a very strong matrix. The sand is literally spread on the
surface as you can see here. It has not been blown onto the road by
Sable Dam at waypoint 180 has a sleep-over bird hide. If you make special
arrangements at Phalaborwa Gate you can arrange to stay inside the "boma" type
bird hide. There are basic ablutions and barbecue (braai) facilities. It is a
very spacious bird hide and is even supplied with cupboards. While I was there I
was able to watch a family of
Water Buck and
Impala on the far bank. A
also foraging in the shallow water of the eastern shore.
|With just a few kilometres to go and as I was leaving the Sable Dam I got one of my favourite photographs. There was a collection of Impala at the side of the road. On one of them there were 3 Red-billed Oxpeckers resting on the back of an Impala after a hard days feeding no doubt ... they accompany many types of animals and feed off ticks and other insects that choose mammals as their food source. They enjoy what is known as a symbiotic relationship ... You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.|
Well that was that ... waypoint 181 was the gate at Phalaborwa entrance. This
town is an important mining town sitting amongst some of the world richest and
most scarce minerals. The site of mine dumps as the end of the drive was reached
brought me back to reality. A splendid educational, exciting and memorable 5
days had come to an end.
I had traveled 1037 kms since entering Kruger at Punda Maria at an average speed of some 23 kms per hour ... and I had just touched the surface of the Eden called Kruger.
If birding is the objective of your visit to Kruger it is best to stop in different places and let the birds come to you. You will have many opportunities to do this on the Kanniedood drive and especially so since there are 2 "get out" bird hides on the route Here's the link to all Kruger birds.