Winter in the lowveld in Kruger Park is not cold. It gets cool in the evening and early morning but not icy. By midday the temperature will rise to around 30 degrees centigrade. So winter is a good time to visit the lowveld if you are one of those people who melt in the heat.
“The raw materials of photography are light and time and memory.”
~ Keith Carter
We tried the Phabeni gate in south west Kruger Park again, being eternal optimists, but we got another lengthy queue and some “agro” from a park official handing out the entrance forms. We eventually got close to Skukuza by mid-morning. So we decided to stop in at Lake Panic which is about ten minute drive from Skukuza. We tried the hide the previous day but it was full. We always visit the hide at Lake Panic with great expectation. This time it turned out to be exceptionally quiet. We saw a few hippos wallowing in the section of the dam that stretched out to the east. There was a family of Water Dikkops roosting by the water’s edge. The Water Dikkops do not have spots and have greyish-fawn colouring on their secondary wing feathers with a black and white stripe on their greater wing coverts. The Water Dikkops also have a quite a different call to the Spotted Dikkops and tend to be found close to water. These are also nocturnal birds so were quite sleepy by mid-morning.
“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.”
I can not resist photographing water lilies. Their symmetry and shape fascinates me and is an example of the nature’s perfection. There were no jacanas to trot on them and flatten some of that symmetry. In the mornings the area around the hide is covered in shadows. The Lake Panic is essentially an afternoon hide.
“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”
~ Dorothea Lange
We have seldom seen crocodiles around the hide but this time there were two crocs and they were intently watching the dikkops and a grey heron which were resting close to the water’s edge.
There are a number of tantalizingly good perches on the south side of the hide. Perfect for kingfishers, weavers and even goshawks but alas these perches remained statues for potential use.
A family of White-faced whistling ducks came to visit and bath next to the hide. The two youngsters caught a mid-morning nap in the warming sun after bathing while their parents kept watch.
Lake Panic was frustratingly quiet but nature has her own rhythms. We travelled past Skukuza on our way to Leeupan which is approximately half way between Skukuza and Satara, traveling north. In the past, we have had some productive mornings at Leeupan. It is a morning pan, as the sun is behind you as one predominately faces west when looking across the pan. As photographers we start to categorize the various dams and pans into morning and afternoon locations according to the direction of the sun. From Skukuza you have to cross the Sabie river on the way to Leeupan. We took the H1-2 which crosses the Sabie river just downstream of Skukuza. It was a wonderful sight to see plenty of water still flowing in the Sabie, especially after the severe drought six months before.
During the morning we had noticed numerous flocks of queleas flying around. Sometimes small flocks combine to form one large flock and the sweeping movements of the flock become a murmuration.
It is quite a spectacle to see hundreds of thousands of these little queleas all stopping to drink at the same time and then flying off together in what looks to be one big organism.
We were not very successful at Leeupan as it had mostly dried up with only odd shallow pool of water remaining. There was one lone elephant bull quietly drinking from a pool on the far side of the pan. Despite the lack of wildlife action, it was very pleasant just sitting listening to the peace and quiet. It is a million times better than the drone of the traffic, barking dogs and house alarms in town.
“Paint your picture by means of the lights. Lights define texture and color – shadows define form.”
From Leeupan, we decided to travel back to Skukuza and then on to Transport dam via Waterhole road which was on our way back to the Phabeni gate. On the Waterhole road there is a concrete causeway across the wide N’waswitshaka river. There we saw this two year old kudu bull, one of two, which were browsing on the vegetation along the side of the river.
Just further along Waterhole road is a water reservoir supplying water to a drinking trough which is always a magnet for game. We found about seven giraffe hanging around the reservoir. I am assuming they can can drink directly from the full reservoir which is why they were there. Close to the reservoir is a small pond. I took this photograph of a flotilla of terrapins sunbathing on what looked to be a boulder in the middle of this pond.
“Minds need the unusual, because the unusual has the power to shake the mind!”
~ Mehmet Murat ildan
The boulder turned out to have a snout and ears. This lone hippo was providing much needed support for the community.
The hippo did not seem to mind the congregation on its back.
This White-crowned Shrike just sat there begging for its photograph to be taken….and I obliged.
“There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
Further along the Waterhole road toward Transport dam there are two granite kopjies, one either side of the road. On the west side, we found this male Klipspinger warming itself on a boulder.
As you can see from the colouring, these Klipspringers blend in well with their surroundings.
Only male Klipspringers have horns and they have very coarse hair which acts as good insulation on cold nights up on the kopjies. Klipspringers’ dense, coarse coats consist of hollow hairs which rustle when shaken or touched. This coat of unique hair is tough enough to cushion their bodies from any abrasion from sharp rocks.
Eventually something or some noise disturbed him and he jumped up and dashed off on the higher boulders.
“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.”
This is a typical view as you are driving south along the Waterhole road.
We went on down to Transport dam but it was also very quiet so drove back along Waterhole road and down to the Phabeni gate. Around nine kilometers from Phabeni gate is the Nyamundwa dam where we found a pair of fish eagles perched next to their nest. It looked as if they were in the process of re-establishing their nest as they usually breed in the winter.
Another view of the hills in the distance as you are driving down towards the Phabeni gate in the mid-afternoon.
“Travel light, live light, spread light and be the light.”
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.