7 Weeks in Kruger: Electric Skukuza!
Happy New Year to all our readers and followers!
Thank you for following our little project over the last few months of 2018 and all the best to you all for 2019.
In our last post we shared lots of amazing bird photos from the Lake Panic Hide but while I invested a fair amount of Skukuza time at the hide, I was also fortunate enough to have some other superb sightings on the roads around the rest camp!
Game viewing can be outstanding near Skukuza and the variety of animals supported by the waters of the Sabie River is brilliant.
This first video and series of photos was one of my favourite experiences from the trip – up close and personal with a family of spotted hyenas!
I was actually on my way to the Lake Panic Hide and these hyena parents and cubs emerged from the large culvert under the road that leads into the staff village. As soon as the adults came to inspect the car, the cubs were emboldened and became very inquisitive.
The play fighting was very interesting too - the adult seemed to make itself prone which the little guys took advantage of, before finding the tables turned in a gentle grip around the neck. Perhaps a lesson in how to attack prey but avoid being assailed in return?
I always have the windows open when on a game drive but once they started sniffing the car and looking up at me I very rapidly did them up to add a layer of safety! At one point, an adult started biting on a car tyre so I quickly tapped the horn to scare her off – I’m never a fan of deliberately surprising animals in the park but I think making an exception in this case was the right call!
I also saw the same adults late one afternoon and love the shot I was able to get – a major alert for the impala!
One of the downsides to the area around Skukuza is how busy it can get at amazing sightings. A pair of male lions had taken down this huge buffalo late the afternoon before and by morning had eaten virtually the whole thing!
I was able to get close and take a few shots after waiting in a queue but decided to move on to let others get in and see too. Ideally, I would have staked the situation out to see if the lions moved (or even just turned towards me for a better photo!) and to observe the vultures moving in for a feed, but the sheer number of vehicles meant sharing the sighting a bit more and moving on was the right thing to do.
Buffalo are very common around Skukuza and are the Big 5 animal most frequently seen in this part of the park. This 'daggaboy' (old male buffaloes that roam outside of the breeding herds) didn't seem too annoyed with the constant pestering of the red-billed oxpecker...
While oxpeckers have a symbiotic relationship with large herbivores, eating ticks and other pests found in the fur and hide of the mammal, there is also some evidence of them keeping wounds and injuries open for longer because they also eat the blood. Given this increases the chances of infection, it sounds more like the behaviour of a parasite than a friend!
Chacma baboons are common in this area of the park too, supported by the array of fruiting trees. This youngster was particularly interested in my vehicle as a troop passed by...
Baboon and impala also have a fairly symbiotic existence. Both are frequent targets of leopards and pythons and will respond to each other’s alarm calls when such a threat is seen. Baboons are also messy eaters and drop lots of fruit as they pass through tree canopies, which impalas then collect on the floor. This female baboon is eating a huge sausage tree fruit...
The baboon-impala dynamic changes dramatically during impala lambing season though. Like humans, baboons are omnivorous, eating both meat and vegetation, and will gladly turn on the impalas to capture and kill the lambs for food. The lambs have little defence other than fleeing as best they can.
While I was staying in Skukuza, some rains finally arrived, making for dramatic skies and electrical storms. Even the shortest of videos easily caught the lightning!
The cloud formations in this photo are called ‘mammatus clouds’.
The name comes from the Latin for mammary and it's pretty easy to see why!
They are pouches of moisture that hang below the main body of cloud and are caused by cold air sinking from high altitudes and hitting rising warm air from the ground below.
They often accompany dramatic rainfall – and that is exactly what happened after seeing them!
And of course, dramatic afternoon skies can offer beautiful lighting when the sun is able to peek through, while also encouraging aquatic species such as hippos to venture out of the water during the day.
After seeing this hippo in the bushes on the H12 bridge over the Sabie River, I killed the engine and waited for him to nervously emerge into the open just a few metres away from me – wonderful stuff!
I’ve fallen well behind with sharing my route through 7 Weeks in Kruger but should be able to catch up in the early weeks of 2019. The final stages of the trip covered the far south of the park, travelling between Lower Sabie, Crocodile Bridge, Berg-en-Dal and Pretoriuskop rest camps.
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All the very best for 2019.
Danny & Charlotte
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