Despite all the traffic and the substantial increase of people in Kruger Park, it is a big and still, wild park. Away from the high traffic areas, there is peace, wildness and beauty.
“May the sun bring you new energy by day.
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries.
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk gently through the world and know the its beauty all the days of you life.”
On this particular day we did not go through the Phabeni gate but chose to travel the 40 kilometers outside Kruger Park to the Kruger Gate. The staff at the Kruger gate were pleasant and efficient. It could not have been a more different experience. We will not be going through the Phabeni gate in future. Once in the Park, we chose to drive the Sabie circuit which is the route from Skukuza down the H4-1 , turn left and travel 12 kilometers down that road along the banks of the Sabie river, then cross the high level road bridge across the Sabie river. Turn immediately right after the bridge onto the Salitje road and we made our way down to the Lower Sabie camp. This turned out to be one of our more productive photographic routes.
The Sabie River, an image taken from the bridge looking west up river. It is a beautiful lowveld scene, graced by plenty of water.
This is a wider view of the same scene as the previous image. You can plenty of water and lush vegetation showing space and magnificence of the area.
“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.”
~ Linda Hogan
Down the Salitje road there are a number of spots to view the river. You can stop under the big Jackal Berry trees which offer plenty of deep shade. One of our favorite things is to stop in one of these spots, take a break from the driving and have coffee and a rusk or hot cross bun while sitting quietly listening to the river gurgle below and all the wildlife around us. It is not quiet, but is so peaceful and soothing.
After our coffee break, we got back on the river road traveling south east. On the road was this Crested Barbet which had caught a large grasshopper.
It was fascinating to watch this barbet slowly dismembering this large grasshopper into bite size pieces until it had its meal down to a “swallowable” size. A great management technique and hugely satisfying, by the look of it.
A typical scene along a Kruger gravel road. You can see the Crested Barbet in the bottom right hand side in the road.
This was a female elephant and her calf in a dry river bed. The female had dug down in the sand until she got to the water. The female was almost kneeling to get at the water in the hole, so the calf had to get down really low to suckle. The calf looked almost too old to suckle. It was strange that this female did not go down to the main Sabie river to drink. It must have been only a couple of hundred meters away.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
~ Annie Dillard
A view of the river from another of the side road view points. It is always worth stopping to take a look, you just never know what you might see. Many of the view points offer shade which is welcome as the day starts to warm up.
“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy,
if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you,
if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand,
rejoice, for your soul is alive.”
~ Eleonora Duse
Sitting in the shade at one of the view points of the river, we watched a Hammerkop gathering sticks for its huge nest. I took the shot without adjusting my shutter speed but liked the effect the image created.
A little further on along the Salitje road from were we had seen the female elephant and her calf drinking, we found a part of the river which had been naturally dammed. It was a very peaceful scene.
“Land really is the best art.”
~ Andy Warhol
On the right hand side were sandstone rocks exposed right down to the water’s edge providing some interesting texture and colour to an otherwise flora dominated scene.
On the far side of the river lay this large Nile Crocodile. Those exposed teeth say it all.
Also in the pool of water were a few hippo. This character was getting a lot of attention from a group of Red-billed Oxpeckers.
“The beauty of the natural world lies in the details.”
~ Natalie Angier
Further down stream along the Sabie river we stopped to watch this Goliath Heron hunting from the rocks. We never saw it catch anything but we were just not patient enough.
There were many wildlife pedestrians along the gravel road. On this occasion, we stopped for a family of Dwarf Mongoose.
They are quite wary being so far down the food chain.
They also have Meerkat tendencies and are able to stand on their back legs for quite a while using their tails as a support.
These little characters are insect eaters and move in groups of up to 20 individuals. They all move together, much like the Banded Mongoose, to give the appearance of a much bigger being.
A Red-billed Hornbill is territorial. It defends permanent territory against its own species, but not other species. This Red-billed Hornbill was going through its courtship display, which includes “shoulder-shrugging” and ‘body-swaying”. During displays, they utter clucking calls with bowed head and slightly opened wings.
The adult African Long-tailed or Magpie Shrike has black and white plumage with a very long, graduated tail. Its head and mantle are glossy black. Their scapulars are white and they have greyish-white V-shaped colouring on the rump, which is more conspicuous in flight.
By midday we had got close to Lower Sabie camp. We crossed the Sabie River again. Looking down from the high level bridge, we could see a number of crocodiles out of the water warming themselves in the rising morning temperatures.
From Lower Sabie we traveled north beyond the Mlondozi Dam to the S129 and then back along the Salitje road because it is such an attractive drive. As we turned left off the S129 onto the Old Tshokwane road, this this large elephant bull was walking up the road towards us.
“We cannot command Nature except by obeying her.”
~ Francis Bacon
We always show these giants of the bush the respect they deserve and never have any problems with them as a result. They can see you but when you show some deference and back off and give them some space they are usually quite relaxed. He had given himself a good red dust bath after being in the river.
This is one sight you do not want to see when walking through the bush, a lone old “dagger boy”, a buffalo bull.
When alone they seem to be less willing to give you any slack. Just look at the size of his boss. He has survived this long in the bush for a reason.
Back along the bridge over the Sabie River below Sukuza. This time looking south-east. The huge fig, Jackalberry and Natal Mahogany trees give the river a sense of grandeur.
“To find the universal elements enough;
to find the air and the water exhilarating;
to be refreshed by a morning walk
or an evening saunter;
to be thrilled by the stars at night;
to be elated over a bird’s nest
or a wildflower in spring
– these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”
~ John Burroughs
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.