Cat House

Nancy Vandermey, Author
South Africa Trip October/November 2013 part 6

Today we were going on the Metsi Metsi wilderness trail, but the trail camp is being refurbished. We had been told in advance the temporary fly camp would be on the Nwatimwambu River, and we assumed the experience would be similar. WRONG, they picked a horrible place for the fly camp, do NOT do the Metsi Metsi trail until it's back where it belongs! The bush is much too think for walking near the camp and all along the nearby road. For evening game drives you end up on the regular roads with everyone else. The rangers were great and tried to make up for the poor walks with long game drives, which was nice. There were only 6 people in our group, which made the game drives even better (3 rows of 3 seats each in the vehicle). Heading to the fly camp, we saw skink at Skukuza Got to take a private road along the Nwatimwambu river Saw elephant And were appreciative of the large tent But the chemical toilet was nearly full from the previous occupants, and the rangers were expected to clean them, not cool! The dinner area and campfire The dinner was a tasty stew. It was raining lightly, we hoped it would stop before the morning November 11, there were thunderstorms overnight but it was just overcast at 5 am. During our hike Andre described the plants And we saw hingeback tortoise, birds, snails, bugs, bones, rhino middens, and frogs Towards the end of the hike Andre heard a white rhino, and we got a glimpse of it in the thick bush. We got back to camp around 10 am, showered, and had a siesta. At 3 pm we went for an evening drive, ending up at Lower Sabie for sundowners. We saw many eagles on this drive (martial, bateleur, fish, brown snake, tawny) along with elephant and rhino. During the night we could hear distant lions. On the 12th we drove a little bit before hiking, but the bush was still very thick. We did see some elephant We headed out at 3 pm for a long game drive. Andre and Ronnie took us almost all the way to where the Metsi Metsi camp is, a much more open area! We saw baby elephant Blackbellied korhaans Buffalo (several large herds actually) Zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, kudu - this would have been a great area to walk in (which is why I booked the Metsi Metsi trail). And a total of 29 rhino in many many sightings! But, no cats. Andre was determined to find us lions! After taking a big loop - H4-1, H1-2, private road, S128, H10, H4-1 - we passed Lower Sabie heading home at 6:20 pm. A guy in a small white car stopped us and said there were 13 lions 5 km in on S21! Off we went, and sure enough there they were 2 lionesses, 10 cubs of a few ages, and one skinny male We followed them down the road, then they went into the bush Oh, and we saw two porcupines while heading to the lions. And then with perfect timing, we left the lions, started down the Nwatimwambu road, and there in the headlights was a leopard! Many thanks to our rangers, who are frustrated by the location of the fly camp but are trying hard to please their guests! We also set up our trail camera here, capturing steenbok, porcupine, and a curious civet The last morning, you just eat breakfast and get driven back to Skukuza, no hike. But it was to be a memorable drive - wild dog! A pack of about 10 (or more) had just caught an impala fawn and through the bushes we watched them rip it to pieces. Then the rangers led us over to the kill site, with dogs barking at us, and one leg had been left behind Closer to Skukuza, a boomslang snake slithered across the road too fast for a photo - beautiful snake! After being dropped off, we tried the S114-S21, but it was quiet - birds, general game, and a warthog with a Mohawk A water monitor lizard with Egyptian goose at a pan off the S21 Then we took the tar road all the way to Crocodile Bridge, to go shopping in Komatipoort, seeing wildebeest, impala, zebra, elephant, and giraffe along the way. I was happy to find the community shops at several of the gates, as the wares in the Kruger giftshops did not impress me. On the way back north we took S28, seeing a decent tusker off S107 At the new view site/hide Nhlambanyathi, we found snapping turtle, yellow stork, and hippos. A newborn impala was very wobbly! Checking in at Lower Sabie, we had safari tent #18. It was time for our afternoon braai, with buffalo and hippo in view, and frogs by the refrigerator We saw a nice sunset and watched a cape rat in the grass after dark Overnight I heard lions at least 4 times in the distance. On the 14th we were again out at 4:30 am, heading south to the H10/S128. It was very quiet, we got excited if we saw a single impala! Eventually we found some rhinos, and elephants Just before Nkumbe viewpoint was a rare reedbuck The viewpoint was hazy, but with binoculars we could find elephant, rhino, and wildebeest Next up was a comfort stop at Tshokwane. We had planned to turn around here but a fellow heading south mentioned lions at Kumana dam, so north we went. Just above the picnic area a single hyena crossed the road and a brown snake eagle posed An antipoaching plane kept circling near Mazithi dam, and a truck of soldiers was nearby, we hope there was no recent kill there. Just past Kumana dam we found the lions, a young adult female and a sickly looking subadult male At the dam we found lots of game (waterbuck, impala, and wildebeest), and a juvenile saddlebill stork On the road to Orpen dam we found a great herd of zebra in the sun And a hippo at the dam itself Heading south on H10 someone else pointed out lions under a bush, with some patience and good glass we made out 2 adult females and 4 cubs More rhino and elephants entertained us after that, before we headed in for a break and to do laundry. Heading back out at 4 pm we found yet more rhino and elephants and a cooperative African hoopoe All in the area where the 6 lions had been that morning, we couldn't relocate them. We did the Salitjie road (S30), which had nice open areas but just impala to look at. There was lots of general game on the way back to Lower Sabie, including some slender mongoose, which became my animal for this trip to see but not get a photo of. Back at the tent we watched as 9 hippo came out of the river. On the 15th we headed north at 4:30 to S21 looking for lion, but only found sparring impala At the H12/H1-2 intersection two young hyena were hanging out, one with a bone to play with, the other looking sorry for itself Along H4-1 we found a giant kingfisher goliath heron white egret python and ground hornbills We returned to Lower Sabie at 9 am to shower and pack. We took the H10 again north, watching some elephants play in the water just before Tshokwane

Part 1 - Planning and Kgalgadi: Twee Rivieren
Part 2 - Kgalgadi: Urikaruus and Kalahari Tented Camp
Part 3 - Kgalgadi: Nossob, Grootkolk, Mata Mata
Part 4 - Kgalgadi: Twee Rivieren and Black Footed Cat group
Part 5 - Kruger: Berg En Dal and Skukuza
Part 6 - Kruger: Nwatimwambu Walking Trail and Lower Sabie
Part 7 - Kruger: Satara
Part 8 - Kruger: Sweni Wilderness Trail
Part 9 - Kruger: Olifants
Part 10 - Kruger: Tamboti and Biyamiti
Part 11 - Notten's Bush Camp