Stories Of The Kruger | Orpen Gate To Paul Kruger Gate In One Day
Balule To Orpen To Paul Kruger Gate
Orpen to Paul Kruger Gate – Orpen Gate it is! We toyed with the idea of driving back to Johannesburg through the Kruger National Park after our weekend stay at the beautiful Leopard’s View Lodge in the Balule Private Game Reserve. Eventually, Aimee and I decided it was not even an option to say no! After a 30-minute drive from Balule we started to drive through the Klaserie Nature Reserve before entering the Kruger through Orpen.
We hadn’t even driven through the first gate when we came across a Bull Elephant. In musth, he was not even concerned about us while he was grazing and picking away at bushwillows. Just before we reached Orpen Gate itself we stumbled upon Impala and Burchell’s Zebra. What a start!
We did all the necessary paperwork and then found some beautiful Butterflies close to the car. There were about 20 of them, all white with orange tips on their wings. Possibly Common Orange Tip Butterflies?
Onto The H7
We started our journey into the park, and I must admit, we were driving 40 km/h as we were hoping to leave via the Malelane Gate. There was so much to do and see that we eventually ran out of time and headed home from the Paul Kruger Gate.
We drove the H7 and saw quite a few Impala, Wildebeest and Zebra. We also saw some more Bull Elephants. After Bobbejaankraans we herd this screaming kind of noise. We crept closer and closer to see something truly amazing, something you very rarely see. There was a flock of over 100 000 Red-headed Queleas! They were drinking out of a small pool, and the noise was unbelievable. There were birds as far as the eye could see, and they took turns to drink (Must have been 5000 at a time – no exaggeration). Normally you see these huge flocks fly overhead, which is why this sighting was so amazing!
A Few Lions…
Further down the H7 we found a small herd of Elephants, where just before a Slender Mongoose and Tree Squirrel crossed the road. A car stopped next to us with much excitement. They told us there were Lions on the S112 (Read about Orpen Lions here). We had seen Lions the previous day at Leopard’s View in the Balule Private Game Reserve, but we are always excited to see more!
We drove past a Red-crested Korhaan and 2 Giraffe on our way. We eventually got to the spot where we found at least 3 Lions (2 Lionesses and one young male) about 25 meters away from the road. Unfortunately their backs were towards us. After admiring them for a few minutes we were back on our way, and shortly thereafter we joined the H1-3. This was going to be an amazing road. The Impala and Wildebeest were plentiful, with a few Zebra in between. We saw the beautiful Bateleur Eagle and African Fish Eagle soar over us and we were stopped in a small marsh are where we watch 2 beautiful Saddle Billed Storks (There are only around 20 breeding pairs in the Kruger last time I heard). We went on to see 3 more of these beautiful birds.
3 Amazing Sightings… One Had Cubs!
We stopped at Kumana Dam to witness a breeding herd of about 60 Elephants, with tiny babies, swimming and frolicking. It was very pleasant to watch. There were also Hippo’s a few Impala and about 10 Black Storks. I had never seen more than 2 at one sighting before.
Before Kumana we watched a herd of about 50 Buffalo.
We then made our way to Tshokwane. As we reached the area where a non-perennial river occurs, there were a lot of cars stopped. After waiting our turn and finally getting in line we found out that there was a Leopard with her 2 cubs! They were far off, on the other side of the riverbed, and we were told the mother was lying down and the cubs were in a thick Fig tree. We scoured the trees to try find them, but as Aimee and I were just watching a beautiful female Leopard emerged from the thick undergrowth and walked to another resting spot. That was an amazing sight, and we were in the right place at the right time to see her. We unfortunately didn’t find the cubs. I have seen Leopard a few times in this same spot before, so it must be a good area for them.
There were more Buffalo!
Another herd of about 50 Buffalo, we were having an amazing big game day, seeing 4 out of the big 5 thus far. We were going a bit fast (40km\h) to do any decent bird watching… We did see some White-backed Vultures soaring overhead, Lilac-breasted Rollers, a Tawny Eagle and the 3 species of smaller hornbills you can normally expect to see: Yellow-billed, Red-billed and Grey.
Tshokwane To Home…
We passed Silolweni Dam and we saw another huge herd of animals! It could be something to do with the dry season, because we had seen some large herds of animals on this day trip. There must have been at least 100 Elephants (Breeding herd) they were at the dam, in the thickets and all over the road. A young Elephant, maybe 2/3 years old, took a liking to a BMW. For some reason he did not like this car and mock charged it 3 times. The BMW driver seemed unphased.
We moved onto the H1-2 and headed to the Paul Kruger Gate. We saw Steenbok, Kudu, Baboons, Impala and a few waterbirds. The game was still plentiful, and I was hoping to catch a glimpse of my favourite antelope, the Bushbuck, but I didn’t unfortunately.
At the end of the road, if we call it that, we saw a lone Bull Elephant, Aimee’s favourite animal. It was almost like he was saying goodbye to us. What an amazing day, one for the books and one we wont forget… It does beg the question though… Did we see the big Five?
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