After the busyness of Christmas, we needed to take a break and so we recently spent three days in the Kruger Park, just over the South Africa/Mozambique border. This was probably our 20th or 21st visit to the park – but our first since returning to Mozambique last September.
We were really looking forward to this visit because we have rarely seen the park in the height of summer: our visits have more usually coincided with the African winter months of July and August. We knew that visiting in the summer would probably mean more flowers and more bird sightings, such as Woodland Kingfishers and Bee-eaters (both are summer visitors). The downside would be that increased foliage and longer grass would result in fewer animal sightings. However, despite this, we saw an amazing array of both birds and animals including all the “Big 5” (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo).
There are only around 120 cheetahs in the park and we have never seen one before, but this time we caught a brief glimpse of a hunting group, though they were only identifiable by a zoom-lens-magnified shot of their coats and their tails. Similarly, our sighting of a leopard, who came to drink at the Lake Panic bird hide, was very brief: he or she was only fully visible for about 2 seconds before drinking just out of sight and then lying underneath a tree in long grass. You will have to take my word for it.
We were very glad that our little car bore up well against some scary and sizeable elephant herds. I had been a bit anxious about this, as we have only ever visited with a big 4×4 and in contrast, our Nissan March seemed very … how can I put it? …squashable. But when it came to those inevitable moments of being confronted by a huge wall of grey flesh emerging from the bushes, the car proved to be very nippy and in some ways I felt safer.
So, here are some of the wonderful creatures we saw on our travels. First, some very colourful birds: the Southern Carmine Bee-eater, the European Bee-eater and the European Roller.
Next, some birds we had never seen before: a White-crested Helmet Shrike, Wattled Starlings and Red-billed Queleas.
You know how much I LOVE Kingfishers! Well, here is a Woodland Kingfisher, three Pied Kingfishers and a juvenile Striped Kingfisher. We also saw a Giant Kingfisher but didn’t manage a photo.
Next up, some reptiles: a monitor lizard and a crocodile.
A few herons: a Goliath heron, a Green-backed heron and a Squacco heron.
Some slightly larger and more familiar animals:
I will finish with a herd of elephants. Actually, it is half a herd. How do I know this? Well, as I was looking out of the left hand window to take this picture, feeling all safe and calm, I suddenly heard Paul say “uh-oh” and there, on our right, was the rest of the herd, heading straight for us. They wanted to join their friends but we were blocking their path. This is how I know that our little car is extremely nippy and that my husband is a very good driver.
PS – If you’d like to see my other blog-posts about the Kruger, with lots more photos taken in different seasons, they are as follows: