White Rhino Middens and Rhino Horn Sharpening on the S1 & S3 Sand Roads

S1 Map of Drive to Skukuza The area around Pretoriuskop is well known for its high populations of White Rhino and if you look at the distribution map you'll quickly see that the S1 is in prime Rhino territory meaning the chances of seeing one are excellent. As it happened we didn't see any Rhino on this day but did see lots of evidence that they were around and in numbers too.
Waypoint 207 was the entrance gate at Numbi and 208 was the turn off to the S1.
The S1 heads north east becomes the S3 after it crosses the main tar road from Phabeni Gate (situated 12 kms east from Hazyview) before rejoining the S1 again via the S4 after traveling east along the Sabie river bank. Phabeni Gate is the newest entry point to Kruger and the gate was opened in 2002. It is named after the river on which it stands. The word means a shelter or a cave.
Close to Skukuza, a short ride off the main road took us to Lake Panic bird hide (waypoint 222) which is quite an amazing place and we spent some time there both today and the next day before heading off to Satara.
Dwarf Mongoose Kruger national park You meet the most delightful creatures on these sand roads ... like this cuddly Dwarf Mongoose shown here. When you see one you can be almost sure there's a family around too, probably lurking just behind the grass verge peeking out at you. They are amazingly inquisitive unlike their bigger cousins which are reluctant to stick around.
White Rhino Midden near Pretoriuskop The image here is of a Rhino midden ... in fact a White Rhino midden since it contains grass rather than twigs which is what you would see if the midden belonged to a Black Rhino. A Rhino midden is a communal toilet where the animals defecate then spread the dung around using their feet in order to make sure their feet are "soaked" with their scent that is then transferred to the ground along the paths the rhino takes. This scent marking allows other Rhino to understand what is about ... male or female, a member of the group belonging to the same area or an intruder and so forth. It is the males and not the female Rhinos that kick the dung around.
Mestel Dam Kruger Park Mestel earthen dam is the waypoint 210. It is fairly deep apparently and as you can see from the photo it is populated by a family of hippos (this group includes a small baby which is front left but hard to make out). If you look hard you'll also see a Woolly-necked Stork to the right and some Blacksmith Lapwings and on another section of the dam there were Spur-winged Geese  There was also an African Jacana in the water among the blue and yellow water lily plants on the far bank. Some 2 kms in the background rose the impressive and prominent granite-domed hill called Shabeni at just over 759 metres high (above sea level).
Malachite Kingfisher in Kruger Park Waypoint 211 was the crossing over the Phabeni Creek that skirts its way down (and just inside) the western side of the Kruger boundary. The Phabeni gate is named after this creek. That beautiful small Malachite Kingfisher shown in the image and that we saw here was a pleasure to behold showing off its remarkable colours and hues. Take a look at its over-sized bill.
Flat granite rock Kruger park Waypoint 212 just before the turn off to the S7 was an amazing large almost flat granite surface. It created a spectacular view in the afternoon sun and you can rest assured that this rock has witnessed many events over the millennia. For us all was quiet. We passed numerous Rhino middens and a small Kudu family came into view shortly after this point. Kudu are such majestic animals and the males especially somehow imply royalty. Waypoint 213 is where we crossed the main Phabeni to Skukuza road.
Beautiful Impala group Kruger Park So many people just drive past Impala groups because such sightings become numerous. Yet there is always something to observe even if you stop for a moment to admire these graceful antelope ... this picture is of a male or bachelor herd. Soon after passing the Impala and taking this photo I was amazed to see in my rear view mirror an elephant crossing the road shortly after passing that exact spot and not one of us (my wife, Patty and son, Gareth) had seen it. Deja vu?
Female Kudu in Kruger National park This female Kudu was intently watching something. Isn't she beautiful even if the ears are a bit on the large size ... and those gorgeous white lips are really something. On this trip we saw very many Kudu probably more than any other time I can remember.
Rhino horn sharpening on tree Waypoint 215, 14.30 hrs and 29 degrees Centigrade ... take a close look at this interesting picture of a tree with parallel trunks that has been subjected to some serious Rhino (I suppose) encounter and there was a second tree directly across the road that had similar damage. If you look carefully you'll see how the horn has scraped the bark away from the tree in an upward motion. This is probably one of the ways the Rhino sharpens its horn which is made from a dense hair-like or finger nail type material called keratin. About 2 kms later at waypoint 216 we crossed a small stream of which all that remained were small pools around which butterflies were fluttering. Shortly thereafter we crossed a tributary of the Sabie and this is where we got our first sighting this trip of a Buffalo grazing on the far side of the river.
Giant Kingfisher Kruger National Park Waypoint 217 is where the small tributary just mentioned joined the Sabie. On one of the trees we spotted a Giant Kingfisher which was patiently waiting on a branch for any passing fish, crabs or frogs to appear. It grows as tall as 40 cms.
Sabie River flowing nicely Kruger Park Waypoint 218 is a wide gently flowing tributary of the Sabie with signs of elephants prominent. The Sabie was flowing nicely as you can see in the picture. This is one of the 5 perennial rivers in the Kruger ... the others are Luvuvhu, Olifants, Letaba, and Crocodile rivers.
About 8 kms after waypoint 218 we turned right onto the short 4kms road that leads to the Doispane Road which in turn leads to a place where the legendary Harry Wolhuter (see image found on Google) camped along the western banks of the Mtshawu Creek. This is an area that was patrolled by Wolhuter and the first camps were created in this area. Along the road, although I missed it somehow, was a historical point referred to as Wolhuter's Outspan. At waypoint 219 which marked the end of the short road we were flagged down by a car to tell us that 3 Rhino were close to the road on the tarred S1 section. We continued for about 6 kms before returning back to the Sabie river road without seeing the 3 Rhinos. On the last day of this trip we visited the place where Harry Wolhuter was attacked by 2 lions, managed to kill one with his sheath knife and survived to tell the tale.
Crested Barbet Kruger National Park Waypoint 220 is a dry river crossing and at 221 we joined the main H11 road close to the Paul Kruger Gate just after disturbing a male Bushbuck much to the disgust of my son whose favourite animal is the male Bushbuck. Just before that I managed a poor shot of a Crested Barbet on the road in front. The Waterbuck, Zebra and other great sights we had did not console my son and his grief was made far worse by something that we discovered the next day.
Emerald Spotted Wood Dove I liked this picture I took of an Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove sitting atop a pile of elephant dung. At waypoint 222 we took the turn off to visit Lake Panic bird hide (maximum 8 vehicles allowed) and we were in for a wonderful treat. But I'll leave the discussion and sights we saw at Lake Panic for the next page ...