Thursday, 2 June, 2011
Lionpalooza: Game Driving Near Satara Rest Camp
I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and couldn't go back to
sleep. Delayed jet lag? Maybe I've just been running on
adrenaline for the past few days. While I lay awake, I
heard dogs yelping - hyenas, I presume. They were all
over the place in Botswana, but we haven't seen any
here. Maybe we'll get lucky. I got the others up just
after 5:00 so we could be through the gate at 6:00. We
made it out at 6:15. Good enough.
Today we're going lion hunting. Thus far, we've been
denied, so last night Tom and Linda checked our book,
Cameron Ewart Smith's “Getaway Guide, Kruger National
Park, 3rd Edition,” and chose a route in the area of
Satara Rest Camp, known for its prolific wildlife and
some of the highest lion densities in the park.
According to the book, “Satara must be one of the best
places in Kruger to spot the big cats.” If we don't
find them today, we are big losers.
Our route: S140, S106, H7, S12, S40, H7, S100, S41
north to Gudzani Dam and then south to N'wanetsi Picnic
Site, H6, H1-4 to Satara Rest Camp, H1-4, H7, S106,
S140 to Talamati. We packed big giant breakfasts
(boiled eggs for Linda and me, leftover sausage with
bread and cheese for all) and a bagful of snacks
(Pringles, crackers, Goldfish, fruit) for our lengthy
Right outside the gate, a cute little black-backed
jackal was waiting for us to take its photo. Yes, it
did remind me of my dog Spike, who was unceremoniously
dumped at camp so I could make this trip. The jackal
was distressed by a brown snake-eagle in a tree right
beside him. I wonder if the eagle could have snatched
up the jackal, if it wanted to. The jackal seemed to
worry that it could.
A big obstinacy of buffalo blocked our path on the H7.
After a few minutes, Tom passed some other cars that
were waiting and eased our way through the stupid cows.
There's no telling how long they'd stand there in the
road. We preferred looking at the giraffes further
along the way on the S40.
Then, near the intersection of S40 and H7, we had our
first lion sighting! There were two lionesses laying in
the tall grass about 100 yards off the road on a knoll
overlooking a waterhole. While we were watching, one of
them got up and sauntered off.
Near the lions, we saw hippos and another jackal. At
this point, we've stopped being impressed by the
various antelope, they're so plentiful. Then we got to
the S100, also called the N'wanetsi River Road, where
we had some of the most rewarding wildlife viewing of
at a watering hole
Halfway down the S100, right beside the road, was
a MALE LION trying to take a nap. We were within six
feet of him. Awesome! At one point, the lion decided we
were annoying and gave a sleepy little half roar. It
wasn't terribly frightening, but if was enough that we
rolled up our windows!
Gudzani Dam, on the S41, was both beautiful and replete
with wildlife. I should explain, in South Africa, “dam”
doesn't refer to the barrier which impounds the water,
but to the impounded water itself. The hippos with
their babies were very cool, and there were also crocs,
giraffes, zebras, waterbucks, impala, and African
Leaving Gudzani, we headed south on S41 and soon came
upon a pair of lionesses laying in the road. Woo-hoo!
More lions! The cats weren't disturbed by all the
staring and photos. They just wanted to nap in the
Next we drove to the N'wanetsi Picnic Site, alighted
from our car, and walked from the picnic area to a
covered viewpoint overlooking the N'wanetsi River and
the ridge forming the border between South Africa and
Mozambique, a few kilometers in the distance.
Jana at N'wanetsi viewpoint
We finished our breakfast/lunch at N'wanetsi and headed
to Satara Rest Camp to refuel, since we were in the
neighborhood and petrol stations are few and far
between. Satara was like a city compared to the
isolation of our bush camp the past few days. No wonder
Satara is so popular, though. The wildlife viewing in
the area is fantastic!
Africa, the "Rainbow Nation"
At 2:30 we returned to Talamati, and Linda and I went
to reception once again to pay her conservation fees,
since it proved too difficult to accomplish yesterday.
I'd paid one day of her fees yesterday, so she still
needed to pay for seven more days. This time, Linda's
credit card wouldn't go through. The receptionist said
their system was probably down and to come back later,
but it was already late in the day, and we reminded her
that we'll be leaving this camp early tomorrow. So she
said no problem, just pay at our next camp, Letaba, and
if the credit card doesn't work there, we should get
money at Letaba's ATM and pay in cash. This was payment
attempt number four, in case you've lost track. Ha!
At 4:00 we went back out to try to find a leopard. The
tiny glimpse we had yesterday was just not satisfying.
This time we stayed close to Talamati. We slowly drove
a few kilometers west on S140, then turned around and
returned to camp at 5:20. No cats, just a few
Tonight I fried up some bite-sized beef, green peppers,
onion, tomato, and corn. Tom and I had chakalaka with
ours, of course. Tasty, if I do say so myself, though
the beef was a bit chewy and would have benefited from
the crock-pot treatment. The one gadget we forgot to
High temperature today was 80 degrees. Very pleasant.
Though it's gotten down in the 40s every night, the
cottage hasn't gotten below the low to mid 60s. With an
extra blanket, it's quite comfortable.