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

Shingwedzi Map Kruger Park 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 unit).
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.
Sunrise in Kruger National Park 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 from Shingwedzi. 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 Johannesburg probably.
Dead African Rock Python Kruger National Park 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.
Dead Rock Python showing mouth damage Kruger Park 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.
Beautiful skin markings of African Rock Python KNP This was not the way I had hoped to see my very first African Rock Python especially after the intriguing snake 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 starlings.
Waypoints down to Phalaborwa gate Kruger National park The map shows the waypoints marked on the H14 and H9 to Phalaborwa Gate.
Mopani Camp early morning tree reflection in Tsendze Dam water 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.
Family of dwarf mongoose near H14 turn off Kruger Park 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 and baby.
Close up of Dwarf Mongoose Kruger National Park 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.
Crossing Keleka River Kruger Park Waypoint 164 is the crossing of the Kaleka River. Shortly after crossing the Kaleka the countryside turned to Mopane woodlands with some quite large Mopane trees at waypoint 165.
Unknown Flower near Boulders Camp turn off Kruger National Park. 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 Roan Antelope 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."
Hippos in Letaba River at Causeway H14 Kruger National Park 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 Blacksmith Lapwing was jealously guarding her feeding area from a Three-banded Plover
Ngwenyeni (Crocodile) Creek Gorge Kruger Park 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.
Near Ngwenyeni Creek showing lush bush in area of Kruger 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.
Dry bed Ngwenyeni Creek not far from Phalabora, Kruger Park 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 176.
Shikumba rock formation Kruger National Park 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.
Shikumbu Hills near Phalaborwa Kruger National Park I joined the main Letaba to Phalaborwa main road at waypoint 178.
Sand on road close to Sable Dam Kruger National Park 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 wind.
Family of Water Buck at Sable Dam 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 Hamerkop was also foraging in the shallow water of the eastern shore.
3 Red0Billed Oxpeckers on back of Impala Kruger National Park 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.
Kruger National Park Entrance Gate Phalaborwa Limpopo Province South Africa 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.