Friday, 3 June, 2011
Semi-Civilization: Talamati to Letaba Rest Camp
I got up at 6:20, went to the hide for sunrise,
and then walked the fence line. Monkeys and impala were
the only movement besides my own. Our relatively late
start today was on purpose, so everyone could rest a
bit and we wouldn't have to rush as we packed the car
and left Talamati for the last time. Still, we all were
up by 7:00 and headed out the gate at 8:20.
monkeys, early in the morning
Our route: S145, S36, S39, Timbavati Picnic Spot,
Sasol-Ratelpan Hide, continuing S39, S89, S90 south to
Bangu waterhole and then north, S91, H1-5, S46, S94 to
Letaba Rest Camp.
Tons of game this morning, most of the usual suspects -
elephants, zebras, giraffes, buffalo, baboons,
warthogs, kudus, impalas, and other antelope - and a
few newbies, such as the kori bustard, one of the
world's heaviest flying birds. Some say it is THE
heaviest flying bird, but I have no opinion. In any
case, it was only walking when we saw it.
Sasol-Ratelpan Hide overlooks a waterhole on the
Timbavati River surrounded with lush vegetation,
giraffes, enormous crocodiles, and hippos.
A bloat of
hippos at Ratelpan
Had there been any traffic, Tom might have caused an
accident swerving out of the way and slamming on the
brakes when he spied a chameleon crossing the road. It
was certainly taking its sweet time. Apparently, it was
trying to mimic a leaf blowing in the wind. I took
photos, but you have to see Tom's video to
We took an unnamed loop off the S39 down to the almost
dry Timbavati River, near the Roodewal Bush Lodge, and
were rewarded with a striking pair of saddle-billed
storks, the tallest of the various storks.
Saddle-billed storks at the
Just before we crossed the Oliphants River, a large cat
crossed right in front of our car. It moved so fast and
was so unexpected that it eluded not just our cameras,
but also any positive identification. Tom and I saw a
lioness, but Linda saw a leopard. We all agreed on one
thing: Big Cat. It was out of sight so quickly it was
almost like a dream.
The N'wamanzi Lookout affords an expansive view over
the Oliphants River, where we saw elephants, hippos,
crocs, buffalo, waterbucks, impala, and a close-up view
of vervet monkeys. You can alight from you vehicle at
your own risk, but you better guard your things. A guy
arriving right after us had his door open for only a
second before a monkey jumped in and stole his
At 3:30 p.m. we arrived at Letaba Rest Camp, our home
for the next two nights. As we checked in, they
immediately saw that Linda had not yet paid her daily
conservation fees, at which point they quickly
processed her credit card, and that was that. Fifth
time's a charm!
By the way, I checked Letaba's ATM during our stay, and
it was out of service, apparently its normal state.
This was the only ATM we came across in Kruger. Just a
reminder that it's vital to carry plenty of rand when
visiting Kruger, as all petrol in South Africa must be
paid in cash, and there is no reliable source to
replenish your cash while you are in the park! (The
exception is if you are South African, in which case
you may pay for petrol with a garage card.)
Nicely situated on the Letaba River, Letaba Rest Camp
is one of the largest camps in Kruger National Park.
After the peace and solitude of Talamati, I've been
dreading coming here, but I admit it's a lovely camp.
Plus, we thought it would be good to break up our
self-catering nights with a couple of days at a camp
with a restaurant and a store where we could replenish
The view of the river from camp is fantastic, and much
wildlife can be viewed at the river and even inside of
the fence. We're in guest cottage 109, which has two
bedrooms with three beds each, two bathrooms, a
kitchen, large living room, and a large stoep
overlooking the river. It's very, very nice, and way
more than we need.
cottage at Talamati
We had a snack after check-in, then Tom and I spent
sunset walking along the path from our cottage to the
restaurant at the far end of camp, watching the
elephants, hippos, kudus, and impala in the river
below. Inside the fence perimeter, we observed monkeys,
bushbucks, and guineafowl.
Tonight we ate in the restaurant. Linda had fish and
chips, and Tom and I split a bacon cheeseburger with
chips and a one-person pizza topped with venison wors
(sausage), bacon, rump steak, onion, and barbecue
sauce, washed down with Castle beers. Very good.
Before dinner, we went into the shop, where we still
could not purchase the Kruger map and guidebook that
we've been seeking and that's allegedly available
everywhere. I bought a few snack foods, and Linda got