Day 5 – 8/08/2017 Phabeni Gate to Palaborwa
Today we headed off on our own for the first time, back into the Kruger National Park. Heading north to exit at the Phalaborwa Gate.
It was a lovely drive from the Phabeni gate to Shokwane where we made a quick pit stop before continuing north towards Satara.
Shokwane pit stop
The vervet monkeys are very mischievous and can be very agressive especially towards women!
Glossy Starlings patiently waiting for any little morsel
We turned off when we saw a sign for a large baobab tree. Winding along a dirt road we came upon a lovely breeding herd of elephants in close proximity to the road almost blocking the way to the tree. It didn’t look like they were going to move soon and were not upset by our presence. Cautiously we edged past them so we could get closer to the tree. After circling round the tree we headed back to the main road once again edging past the elephants quietly going about the business of filling their bellies.
The big baobab
Babies and juveniles, part of the breeding herd
We continued on our way towards Letaba with a pit stop along the way at Satara.
Another pit stop at Satara and a close encounter with an elephant!
We came to a large bridge where quite a few cars had stopped and the occupants were standing looking over the edge onto the river bed. Curiousity got the better of us and we decided to see what it was that had grabbed everyones attention. There was a large monitor lizard swimming in shallow water below. He eventually climbed up the bank onto dry land.
Monitor lizard swimming in a shallow pool of water
There was an Italian man standing next to me who asked me if I had seen the snake? He pointed down below the edge of the bridge and there nestled on debris that had washed up against the concrete lay an enormous python! It looked to be about 5 meters in length. Shivers went up my spine at the sight. A magnificent specimen curled up basking in the sun. I havent seen a snake that size since I was a child living on our farm in Rhodesia.
Huge python basking in the sun
A little further on we spotted two saddle-billed storks. Beautiful large birds with the most colourful beaks.
The next bird highlight of the day was spotting four secretary birds. I was so excited as this was the first time seeing these birds in the wild. Previusly having only ever seen them in books. Wow, what a spectacular bird. The wind was blowing and they put on a show with their crests splayed out. The only problem was they were quite far so my photos aren’t great! However it didn’t matter I was completely enthralled. What luck!
Throughout the day we spotted giraffe x 15, elephants x 40, buffalo x 50, wildebeest x 40, impala, crocodile, leopard, lioness with two cubs, duiker, zebra, steenbok, kudu x 12, bushbuck x 30, baboon, warthog and waterbuck.
A baboon just chilling!
Impala female, such a dainty and handsome animal
Unfortunately with the good also comes the bad and you see things that make you really sad. This happenned twice on this leg of the journey.
The first was when we came across the body of a giraffe. This is the first time I have seen this and it was so sad to see such a majestic animal who had recently lost his life. It wasn’t clear what had happenned. There was definate evidence that portion of the body had already been eaten judging by what we could see. The animal wasn’t long dead.
Then a little further, on the side of the road we spotted a small black-backed jackal that seemed to be dazed and confused. We stopped to observe him. On closer inspection it looked like he was suffering from malnutrition and mange. The poor animal was in very poor health. Can’t imagine what happenned to him.
At Letaba we turned left and made our way back out of the park into the town of Phalaborwa.
We exited the Phalaborwa gate at 5 pm after a very satisfying day of game viewing exploring the middle region of the park.
After locating our accommodation which was only about 10 km from the gate we had a quick look and everything seemed to be in order. The owner of the accommodation showed us where to go to do a bit of shopping at Checkers and Game and where we could have dinner. As it had been a long day we decided to go for an early dinner at the Big5 restaurant. Here we met the delightful owner Cheryl and her little puppy. Cheryl’s husband was the chef. The food was outstanding and proved to be one of the best!
By now we were both feeling quite weary and decided to get an early night. Well that’s what we thought???
As we walked back into our accommodation the most disgusting smell hit us between the eyes!! A ghastly sewerage smell permeated the air like a thick blanket! It was quite obvious there was a blocked drain exhaust and there was no way we could stay there! It was fowl and completely toxic. After discussion with the owner who admitted they had been working on the sewarage down the road, she agreed to find alternative accomodation for us. By now it was getting late and all I wanted to do was have a shower and sleep! Luckily she was able to find us alternative accomodation not too far away, even though it was at such short notice. Unfortunately it looked like it was in the industrial area but I didnt care, all I needed was a bed!
When we arrived at reception we couldn’t find anyone to check us in. They were all busy with the restaurant which was buzzing. We waited and waited, finally someone came to our rescue. At last a hot shower, bed and sleep!
The next morning an early rise to a beautiful day, a hearty breakfast and we set off back into Kruger Park for another day of adventure in the African bush.