February in the Kruger Park

We left Hermanus on 10 February and spent three days driving to Hazyview, where we stayed for a week.  The Kruger Park Lodge is a very well appointed spot and we were comfortable in our thatched cottage, with plenty of bird life in the surrounding spacious grounds and golf course.  It is only a short drive to the Park entrance and we spent six days in the southern part of the reserve.  The area is in the grip of an extreme drought and, whilst there had been rain in the higher lying Pretoriuskop area, the whole park from there north was bone dry and very, very hot, with temperatures up to 45 degrees C!!

After our week at KP Lodge, we moved into the park and spent two nights each in Satara, Olifants and Mopane Camps.  As we moved north it became ever drier, with even the large rivers almost completely devoid of any water.  Luckily there were a few pools in places and the boreholes and associated water troughs are probably keeping many animals alive, although what they eat is anybody’s guess!  Bird life was also apparently compromised as we only recorded 240 species for the trip, against an anticipated 300 or more.  Of course, the heat kept many species out of sight, as they sought shelter from the daytime highs. Imagine not even seeing a Groundscraper Thrush!  Even at night the temperature did not drop below 30 degrees on one occasion.  Some light morning drizzle wet the tar roads sufficiently for the Leopard Tortoises to get a chance to suck up a bit of moisture, for which they must have been very grateful.

My grandson, Keagan often asks me, “Grandpa, what is your favourite bird?”  I have never had an answer, but after this trip, I think I can say that it is a Pallid Harrier.  We saw one swooping near to Satara and it was a really beautiful sight.  Unfortunately, I could not get a picture of it, but I will never forget the joy I had watching it fly.

For the first time ever, we were not sad to leave the heat behind us when we set out for a four day drive back to Hermanus.  Leaving home is always a good thing as one feels so relieved to return to the orderliness of Hermanus, after the decay of so much of rural South Africa.

Below are a few of the images I took on this trip.

Post Fire Monitoring

Today we walked with our post-fire monitoring group, up Adder’s Ladder and up towards Galpin Hut, before cutting back to the Jeep Track.  This afforded an opportunity to monitor any fynbos in flower after the fire.  We did not see many species, but there was a good showing of Moraea pyrophila throughout the area.  Remnants of Mairea coriacea were also in evidence with rare Drimia hesperantha on the lower slopes.  We found an unusual and unidentified Erica in one of the unburnt sections.  Recent rain meant that there was good seepage in places and much new growth is anticipated.