It’s been an incredible few days here in the north of Kruger. From Letaba, I headed north to Mopani Camp and then Shingwedzi, and now I’m at Punda Maria.
A lot of people think there are fewer animals up here in the north. The vast mopane veld does tend to reduce grazing opportunities for antelope, so you don’t tend to see large herds of zebra or impala. But wow, there’s certainly plenty of everything else, including lots of predators!
Near Mopani Camp, we were treated to some fantastic sightings, including the famous Mooiplaas buffalo herd, numbering in excess of 1 000 animals. We also saw plenty of ellie, as well as hyenas on one of our night drives with our very friendly field guide Amos Gazide. (Thanks very much to Garth Holt, manager at Mopani, for organizing the drive for us!)
Then at Shingwedzi, I went out on an early morning walk with field guides Bishop Shilowa and Abel Maluleke. On our drive to the walking area, we bumped into a pride of 5 lionesses with their cubs. We watched them stalking a lone male buffalo, but they didn’t follow through on the kill. Perhaps they had eaten already, because one of the lionesses had blood on her paws. Incredible sighting, and made all the more special by being the only people there as the sun rose in the cold morning light.
Bishop also took me on a sunset drive, and we came across a den of hyenas, with pups. The mother was suckling them on the road. Hyenas generally don’t have good PR image, but to me, they are devoted mothers, and the pups are very cute.
The north of Kruger is very different to the south…but to me, it’s wilder, and I always feel like I’m a frontier adventurer when coming here. There are far fewer tourists, and that’s part of it. Then there’s the romantic scenery. The mopane trees have their own beauty, while the riparian forest of sycamore figs, leadwoods, jackal berrys, nyala trees and Natal mahoganies shelter a diverse array of bird life which one generally doesn’t see in the south.
Mopani Camp is one of the newest main camps, and is beautifully located on the Pioneer Dam, onto which most of the bungalows look out. There are plenty of crocs, hippos and water birds to admire, while waterbuck make a regular appearance. Plus the staff are some of the friendliest I’ve encountered, and Garth and duty manager Winston Nthlamu did their best to accommodate our needs.
I’m now at Punda Maria, the most northerly camp in Kruger, and one of the most historical. It’s near the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and the hilly scenery is spectacular. There are lots of baobabs…and despite what those in the south say, plenty of animals. More to come soon, including photos of a leopard kill I witnessed with guide Thomas Mathebula and Themba Mnisi.
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