Shingwedzi to the Mphongolo River Loop on S56 in Kruger National Park
Not far from Shingwedzi there are two westerly loop drives alongside the H1-6 named the S56 and S57. The latter I drove yesterday.
I was late getting on the road today ... it was 08.00 and 12 degrees as I passed through the gate heading north again towards the 14 km Mphongolo loop on the S56.
Early morning and late afternoon is a time when driving quickly can result in a number of bird deaths because the birds are prone to stay on the road until the "last minute" and will sometimes fail to navigate the moving car. My average speed to date has been 21 km/hr. This average was raised by my traveling at the speed limit on routes that I'd doubled back on. My suggestion is that when planning a visit to the Kruger that you should work on an average speed of 20km/hr in planning a day's drive to the full.
Driving up the H1-6 I missed what seemed to be a small quail-like bird as it scampered into the long grass at the side of the road. This reminded me of the fact that in Kruger, an area of some 20,000 sq. kms. (the size of Wales in the UK) there have been recorded some 507 bird species. This is testimony to the unbelievably diverse habitats and fauna here in Kruger. Of course not all these birds reside here since many are migrants.
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. Here's the link to all Kruger birds.
Waypoint 092 ... the start of the Mphongolo route and I disturbed a grey mongoose just as I made the turn off. It quickly ran across the road.
Waypoint 093 ... large family of elephants including babies were blocking the road and a number of others were in the bush. On the other side of the elephants there were 2 vehicles also patiently waiting for the elephants to wander off and this they did within about 10 minutes or so. They trundled off to the right down a bank to the river bed after feasting on the long grass you can see in the photo.
I'd just passed a lone elephant so was aware of my relative position and kept an eye on my rear view mirror. By far the best thing to do when placed in a situation like this and there is no way forward or back is to sit very still and very quietly. In by far the vast majority of cases the elephants will pass right by your side and will mean no harm at all.
It is believed that there are too many elephants in the Kruger and numbers have grown dramatically since culling was stopped some years ago. The debate on culling has been re-opened. It is understandable that culling seems cruel and especially so when you know how it is carried out ... a whole family is selected from the air including babies. Every member of the family is then shot since to spare the young ones would leave indelible memories behind and the youngsters would become especially dangerous as they grew up.
Signs of lots of elephants on the road. This was first sighting of a family group of elephants ... up to this point I'd seen many lone elephants or groups of 2 or 3.
Waypoint 093 and 094 ... What a remarkable difference in scenery and habitat. On the one side luxurious growth while on the other a relatively barren bankside. Numerous bird calls could be heard.
Waypoint 095 marked the end of the loop and after about 7 kms reached the turn off to the 3 km Causeway loop (097) that led back to the Shingwedzi camp. Lots of dung as the Shingwedzi river was approached and at 098 was the 2000 flood level marking.