Sunday, 5 June, 2011
Back to the Bush: Letaba to Bateleur Bush Camp
Our plan was for everyone to get up at 7:00 a.m.
today, but I woke up at 6:15 and ran out the door to
catch sunrise. I had a very nice walk. There were loads
of waterbuck down by the river and lots of bushbuck
activity inside camp, including one bushbuck mama
nursing her baby. I watched a lone hippo walk about a
mile along the riverbank before it moved out of
home after a long night
nursing her young
At 8:30 we dropped off our keys and left Letaba for the
last time. Our route: H1-6, S48 a/k/a Tsendze Loop,
H1-6, S50, S49, H1-6 (plus many unnumbered side loops),
to Mopani Rest Camp, H1-6, southern S52 west, Red Rocks
Loop, across the Shingwedzi dry riverbed to the
northern S52 west, stopping at Tshange Lookout and
Silwervis Dam, and on to Bateleur Bush Camp.
For the first part of the drive this morning, all we
saw were giraffes, buffalo, buffalo, and more buffalo.
Then on the S50 we hit the jackpot. Not only did we see
a bunch wildebeest and zebra, but we spotted two
animals we hadn't yet seen, the tsessebe antelope and a
pride of ostriches. It's fun to find new things!
A pride of
their important ostrich
sleeping, I hope
We stopped at Mopani Rest Camp to use the picnic area
and to fill the car with petrol. Mopani is a large,
peaceful camp with a quiet picnic area just inside the
At latitude 23 degrees, 26 minutes, 22 seconds south,
we alighted from our vehicle at the Tropic of Capricorn
monument, marking the southern boundary of the tropics,
for the requisite photos.
Jana at the Tropic of
The traffic in Kruger, sparse at all times, became even
more sparse as we traveled from south to north in the
park. At times it seemed like we had the whole place to
ourselves. Well, us and the wildlife!
Turning onto the southern S52 west, in the direction of
our next camp, we then turned up the Red Rocks Loop.
“Leopards are commonly spotted in the Red Rocks area,”
or so says our book. Well, we looked and looked, but
darned if we could spot any. It was a nice view,
Crossing the Shingwedzi riverbed, between the southern
S52 and the northern S52, we watched a pair of
saddle-billed storks and admired an African
At the Tshange Lookout, we were again authorized to
leave our vehicles. There was no game visible, but it
was a nice long view of the surrounding countryside. I
perhaps wandered a little further from the car here
than I should have, but I live to tell the tale.
Jana at Tshange Lookout
No one is allowed past Tshange unless they are staying
at Bateleur Bush Camp, as we were, so the guests of
Bateleur have two dams all to themselves, Silwervis and
Rooibosrand. The side road to Silvervis Dam was pretty
overgrown and obviously little used. We braved the road
in our rental sedan anyway, startling a pack of banded
mongoose, who quickly scurried out of our path.
At 3:25 p.m. we arrived at Bateleur Bush Camp, where
we'll be staying for two nights. We were greeted at
reception by Freida, who checked us in and, this being
our last camp, after determining we had no outstanding
fees still owing, (our finally having successfully paid
the last of our fees at Letaba), issued our exit
permit, which we'll be required to show to exit Kruger
two days from now.
Bateleur, located in the northern region of Kruger
National Park, is the smallest and oldest of Kruger's
bushveld camps. It has only seven guest cottages. We
were assigned cottage number 1, next to the hide. Our
cottage has three bedrooms and two baths, and the
kitchenette is outside on the stoep. We were told they
don't have monkey or baboon trouble here, but still we
kept the non-refrigerated food in the spare third
bedroom, just in case. This is our first accommodation
of the trip with a double bed instead of singles. I was
beginning to wonder how South Africa stays
At 4:10 we left on an afternoon drive to Rooibosrand
Dam. Our route: 9 kilometers south and west from
Bateleur and 9 kilometers back. We shared the dam with
one other couple for a few minutes, until they left and
we had it to ourselves. Cool! We saw several birds and
a hippo and the beginning of sunset. Just before the
sun touched the water, we left and zoomed back to camp
with only five minutes to spare on our 5:30 curfew.
As we prepared dinner, Bateleur's camp manager, Lazarus
Lehuleni, came by to welcome us and see if we needed
anything. A very nice touch!
For dinner we cooked cheese-stuffed beef sausages,
baked beans, and Linda made french fries. For
sundowners tonight we had brandy and coke, a favorite
drink of Afrikaners, I understand.
Tom in our open-air kitchen
As we were sitting on the stoep in the evening, an odd
creature skittered by that looked like a cross between
a rat and a mongoose, with a splotchy body and ringed
tail. Tom and I then sat in waiting for two hours with
our cameras, but it never returned. Later, our
rat-mongoose was ID'd as a spotted genet.
Well after dark, Tom and I walked the camp fence. It
was fun and spooky, but we had no animal sightings. We
did hear elephants moving around and breaking trees not
too far away, but we couldn't see them by
You must be wondeirng at this point, but, Jana, what
was the high temperature today? I will keep you waiting
no longer. It was a sunny, mild 84 degrees. And we were
hoping for a mild night as well, because not only does
this cottage have no heat, it also has no real front
door, only a screen. We are in the tropics now, after