Stories Of The Kruger | Orpen Game Watching | Circular Trip
The Challenging Journey
Orpen Game Watching: It was 5.10am and we had arrived at Orpen Gate. It had been a tough road trip driving through heavy rain and mist. It was some of the most challenging driving I had ever been exposed to. The 530-kilometer trip took us well over 7 hours. We drove via Lydenburg, through Graskop and onto the Orpen Gate road. We were tired, very tired, but excitement and adrenaline kept us going.
We were due to stay at Leopard’s View Game Lodge until the new year, so had decided to drive through the night and spend the day in the Kruger.
Orpen Game Watching: Full Of Life!
We entered the Kruger, it was packed – we know this because there was not one rest camp, bushveld camp or even a campsite available to be booked. We were not far along on the Orpen tar road towards Satara (H7) when we starting seeing Impala, Blue Wildebeest, Burchell’s Zebra and a lot of Grey Louries (Go-away bird) Helmeted Guineafowl and White-backed Vultures.
Then there was chaos. Unfortunately there was a vehicle not obeying rules as it came flying towards us, flashing its lights at us and turning onto the dirt road towards the N’wamatsatsa waterhole. We saw a few cars there already, and we presumed it must be a big cat or something. To our astonishment it wasn’t. We had struck gold again. Five Wild Dogs! Two were running around hunting while the other three lay right next to the road. The condition on these Wild Dogs was something to behold. They were so colourful and healthy looking, by far the prettiest Wild Dogs I had ever seen. I now fully understood their nickname “The Painted Dog”.
We watched them for just over 5 minutes or so before they headed off to look for some breakfast. What a great way to start our trip!
We then continued along and kept seeing good numbers of Wildebeest. We also saw some Elephants and Buffalo taking advantage of the early morning overcast and cool conditions.
The wildlife kept coming our way in terms of birds and mammals. We saw Tree Squirrel, Kudu, Giraffe, Hippo and Steenbok. There were all sorts of birds around and were hard to identify as a variety of bird species flew past us rapidly. I have listed the birds we did identify below:
- Yellow-billed Hornbill
- Red-billed Hornbill
- Grey Hornbill
- Laughing Dove
- Cape Turtle Dove
- Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
- Lilac-breasted Roller
- European Roller
- European Bee-eater
- Southern Carmine Bee-eater
- Crested Francolin
- Natal Spurfowl
- Swainson’s Spurfowl
- Magpie Shrike
- Dusky Flycatcher
- Burchell’s Starling
- Meve’s Starling
- Blacksmith Lapwing
- White-faced Whistling Duck
- Green-winged Pytilia
As we were closing in on arriving at Satara for breakfast, Aimee and I saw something special. Something none of us had ever seen, and something both of us have always wanted to see. An African Honey Badger! What an amazing creature. It was sad in a way because the Badger had been roughed up quite well. It was limping and had a huge wound on his/her back. We were one of two people who saw the Honey Badger and we felt so content, and even though the Badger had been through some hardships, we were so fortunate to see this busy little creature.
The photographs we took were unfortunately very bad, you can see one at the bottom of the page, the adrenaline made us a very shaky with the camera.
Did You Say Wild Dogs?
After breakfast we headed down the H1-3 towards the Sweni River Road, the S126. I had not driven this road for ages, and it is one of my favourite roads in the Kruger (My father loves this road as well, especially when there has been some good rains and everything is green).
On route, we saw a decent-size breeding herd of Elephants with some small babies. We kept our distance, as the matriarch of the herd did not look very impressed. We watched them browse and cross the road. It was a lovely sighting.
On the S126 we just missed some Lions that had been seen earlier, but we saw a lot of Giraffe, Wildebeest, Impala and Zebra. We also saw our first Warthog of the trip and another solitary Steenbok.
We approached Welverdiend waterhole where we saw an Open Safari Vehicle (OSV – privately owned vehicles that are allowed to enter the Kruger) parked and decided to have a look. Well… What we came across was the biggest pack of Wild Dogs we have ever seen. Two different packs in one day! This was the second time we had seen two different Wild Dog packs in the same day, and only the 6th time Aimee and I had seen Wild Dogs. On top of all this was that there were about 25 Wild Dogs, including sub adults, which winged and played while we watched. The adults sat out of the sun, spread out under 5 different trees.
It was such a pleasure to see these predators, especially in such large numbers! What was even more astonishing was that, at the waterhole there were a whole lot of unperturbed Impala, Wildebeest, Buffalo and Giraffe. The Wild Dogs did not seem to take any notice of them any way.
An Amazing Kruger Day – Orpen Game Watching
We moved along and continued to see good numbers of general game and common birds. We stopped at Muzandzeni Picnic Spot where we saw 2 bull Elephants drinking close by. We carried on the S36 past Shimangwaneni. There were all sorts of wildlife around: Hippo, Impala, Buffalo, Warthog and a beautiful male White-headed Vulture. A raptor we have seen quite regularly recently.
We turned onto the S140, driving past the Imbali and Hoyo Hoyo Private Lodges as well as Talamati Bushveld Camp. The road was very quiet in terms of wildlife, but it just felt like there was something around. We were really hoping to see one of the elusive Sable that occupy the area, but were unable to come across any.
We continued back to the H7 where we made our way back to Orpen gate and onto Leopard’s View.
What an unbelievable day, well worth the terrible drive to reach the Kruger National Park. This place never ceases to amaze us, and seeing the Honey Badger may well be a once in a lifetime sighting for us… What a treat!
While we are talking about Orpen, read about the Lions of Orpen here…
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