Our First Lion (Pregnant Lioness?) of the Trip on the H1-3 to Satara.
We stopped at Tshokwane for a comfort break before continuing onto Satara Camp up the H1-3. On the way up we'd seen a Leopard with its Impala kill in a tree close to Mantimahle Dam. It's hard to beat sightings like this but when you see magnificent animals like Kudu and Waterbuck close to the roadside it is a completely different but stunning experience. The next image is of a magnificent bull Kudu.
Kudu are able to jump very very high and are able to clear game fences. They are large and therefore a favourite diet item for Lions.
Veld fires, sunsets and a lone lioness
Waypoints 239 to 251
Waypoints 239 to 251 are on a busy tar road in the Kruger. The distance between Tshokwane and Satara is about 50 kms and will normally take you at least 2 hours and possibly much more unless you're in a hurry to beat the gate closing times (5.30 pm in winter). Out of public sight at Tshokwane is the district ranger post ... it's on the other side of the river (N'waswitsonto Creek).
By the way on the day we arrived at Satara it was the shortest day of the year in South Africa (June 26th) and it coincided with the sun setting directly over the road close to the camp. While not a great photo I think you'll see what I mean by taking a quick look at it. We've all seen those marvelous professional sunset shots where the sun is massive, round and bright. Well maybe this is how they get those images. Notice the car in front of mine.
Waypoint 239 ... Close to here we saw a small herd of Waterbuck (on the trip as a whole I cannot remember ever having seen as many Waterbuck as I did this time) and there was at least one hippo in the waterhole at the waypoint. The Mazithi Creek watering place is driven by a solar powered pump donated in memory of Victor Cockcroft by his wife Elizabeth. The Mazithi Creek is a tributary of the the N'waswitsonto Creek which runs (upstream direction) close to the road from Tshokwane for about 20 kms before heading west at waypoint 243. The N'waswitsonto Creek enters the Komati River in Mozambique eventually after making a long and winding crossing of the Kruger in its middle section. The N'waswitsonto Creek covers about 100 kms in total. It is dry to a large extent with intermittent pools and spring fed sections that creates limited flow or underground flow. In fact this is the fundamental meaning behind the name N'waswitsonto. Some distance into the bush we saw 2 Rhinos.
Waypoint 240 ... Most visitors especially first time around want to see a lion more than anything else. It is the Lion that is the King of the Beast after all. It is a true symbol of power and Africa as a continent. We saw the first of 4 Lion sightings at waypoint 240 and were able to follow this lone Lioness up the main tar road for a few hundred metres.
It is unusual to see a lone Lioness and it appeared to me that she was pregnant. This time of year is a peak time for lion cubs to be born, although they are born all year round. Perhaps the time had been reached when the Lioness leaves the pride to bear her cubs in a secluded spot alone. Lion cubs in the first weeks after birth are vulnerable to being killed by (non-fathering) males in the pride. Look how easily the lion can blend into the surroundings. A couple of days later we saw another Lioness who was looking for her cubs.
After following the Lioness for a while we turned round and did the short loop starting at waypoint 241. The loop followed close to the N'waswitsonto Creek and is one of the truly "full of mystery and wonder" loops that you come across every so often in the Kruger. It's almost as if the whole world belongs to you, its like you're the first to ever explore this quiet haven. It's a gently winding sand road ever so close to the grass, shrubs and trees and close to the downward sloping river bank. It ended at waypoint 242 and we were accompanied for a while by an African Hoopoe , another of those very beautiful birds for which the Kruger is famous.
Shortly after coming out of the loop above we came across (waypoint 243) a beautiful large open pan called Kumana (close to the point where the N'waswitsonto turns south on its way to the Komati River. There were 23 Waterbuck grazing close to the northern edge of the pan. I have never seen so many Waterbuck in one place. In addition there were herds of Impala, Zebra, Giraffe and Wildebeest and at least one Hippo ... where were the crocodiles hiding?. This waterhole was donated in memory of William Venton "lover and painter of wildlife in gratitude for many hundreds of happy hours spent watching the wonders of this beautiful wildlife park". Also in memory of Joe and Catherine Farron-Hanford as indicated on plaques at Kumana.
Waypoint 244 ... There is a famous Baobab tree in the Kruger. It is massive (I estimated about 8 metres diameter)and has been visited goodness knows how many times. This Baobab is one of the most southern in the park. It's about 1 km to the actual tree along a circuitous loop and waypoint 245 is a dry stream bed you need to cross on the way there.
At waypoint 246 close to a stream we crossed there were a small group of White-backed Vultures perched in a tree. On cloudy days the thermals used by many raptors tend to be missing and on such days you will tend to see more perched Vultures and other birds that soar. Click this link to learn a it about bird flight. We passed a couple of Buffalo grazing very close to the road and quite unconcerned.
At the turn-off to Nkaya Pan, waypoint 247, there was a small family of Zebra blocking the road. These families are a delight to watch and normally allow fairly close inspection. Nkaya means Knobthorn Tree and this tree occupies very large tracts of land area west and south of this place. This point is an important geological site south of the Sweni River with the pan being in the Clarens Sandstone Formation discussed during the Shingwedzi Red Rocks drive.
Waypoint 248 is the bridge over the Sweni River, largest tributary of the N'wanetsi River. This is always an interesting look out and a location where you might spot waterlilies on the quiet bend. As we approached it we saw a family of Southern Ground Hornbills including a single Juvenile less than a year old (can tell from colourings ... see picture). Ground Hornbills only raise one chick every 9 years and is a reason why they are threatened. Normally 2 eggs are laid in a large hole in trees or rock crevices but the second chick which hatches about 5 days after the first one invariably dies through starvation. Read about the project to save these magnificent birds here and then read about the battle of the Sabie River bank Hornbill versus Monitor Lizard here. Numerous Ground Hornbills have been shot on farms ... they break windows thinking a reflection of themselves in the glass as an intruder. They then attack the reflected intruder Hornbill. They roam large territories and are carnivorous.
Waypoint 249 ... for the last few kilometres we've passed burned out veld and can see massive grass fires to the north east. The fire at this waypoint was close to the road. These fires are set periodically and are meant to mimic what happens naturally since the veld depends for true health upon periodic regeneration. They are known as cool fires and do little damage although I'm sure quite a few insects, and small creatures get caught up in the fire and perish. Birds patrolling these areas are testimony to that. The N'Wanetsi areas south east of Satara are specifically used for fire burning experiments.
Waypoint 250 is the bridge over the N'Wanetsi River another good lookout point. This river is a large tributary of the Rio Incomati (Komati River) in Mozambique. It drains the areas to the south east and west of Satara. he name stands for shimmer or shining. Don't forget to get that great book for Kruger Park Lovers .... "A Dictionary of Kruger National Park Place Names". As we approached waypoint 251, reception at Satara Rest Camp the sun was almost set. It was close to the end of another day in a Paradise called The Kruger.