Kruger After the Floods 2012 – Satara to Letaba

On Saturday, I headed up to Letaba from Satara via Olifants. Another 4.20am wake-up to get the best part of the morning.

Just up the road from Satara, the car in front of me spotted two hyenas sniffing around to see what they could find.

 

I decided to take the dirt road (S90) to see what that was like. It’s such a great road to take and I highly recommend it for a morning drive from Satara. It has a very similar feel to the S28 between Lower Sabie and Crocodile Bridge. Sunrise was beautiful with an ele standing in the foreground. This road also produced jackal and higher up, a lioness! I realised this was my first lioness on this trip – for once, I’ve seen more male lions than females. That’s not the norm in my experience.

There’s not a lot of water on this road as it does not run along a river but there are a few small streams that all have water at the moment.

The road to Balule was open so I drove up that way. I managed to get up to the camp fence but the gate was locked and no one was around. The rondawels all look fine from the outside but I know everything inside was washed away. The army is helping the Park sort this camp out apparently.

I tried to carry on along the S90 to Olifants but the river is still flowing very strongly over the low-level bridge, so I had to do a u-turn and go back around via the S89 (Ngotso Weir Road).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ngotso Weir is lovely and full with some happy hippos bathing.

 

 

The high-level bridge over the Olifants river on the H1-5 has some damage from water – it was covered by the river at the peak of the floods. There is quite extensive damage to trees along the riverbanks and a lot of the big ones have gone, so it looks quite bare and open. The river is still flowing wider than normal.

 

 

The road is damaged just south of the t-junction of the H8 and H1-5 and so to get to Olifants and up north, you have to take the dirt roads (S91 and S92) along the bottom and back up to the H8. I chatted to a guy from Eskom working with his team repairing the damaged electricity lines. The ones that run overhead across the river were swept away in the floods – the reason Satara had to run on a generator. It’s apparently a big job that took over a week to repair.

 

I popped into Olifants camp. This camp must have had the best and yet safest view of the floods, with being so high above the riverbed.

 

I was so keen to head up the dirt roads to Letaba, following the Olifants and Letaba rivers and to the Engelhard dam, but all dirt roads in that area were closed and there is no access to the dam at the moment. So I had to drive up the H1-5 instead. Along the first section, you can see a lot of debris from the floods.

 

It’s hard to believe that it was the small river in this pic that caused the flooding in Letaba. The swimming pool was full of mud but that has now been fixed. The petrol station and its offices were in water as well as the first few huts in group F. Some of the staff spent the night in the camp as their houses back in the staff village were flooded and they had to wait for the water to recede. There was also water around the main restaurant. The Letaba river however stayed within its banks.

I took a short drive up the H1-6 tar road, taking the S95 loop and onto the Letaba River bridge.

I then headed back down south, stopping at the N’wamanzi view point on the H1-5. That’s as far as you can go down this road. To get south you have to take the H8 and then the S92 and S91 back onto the H1-5. The road is damaged just past the lookout and needs to be repaired. The view from the lookout is always good and a nice photo to get.

I did the detour and then carried on down the H1-5, deciding then to take the Timbavati Road (S39) south as it follows the Timbavati river which was one of the major flooding rivers this time round. It’s a beautiful road with a lot of viewpoints to stop at. This river is normally relatively small and is almost back at the original size again, but you can see from the debris and flattened trees just how wide it flowed and can imagine how much water there must have been..

The Piet Grobler Dam is full to capacity. I then stopped in at Timbavati Picnic Site. It’s not very high off the riverbed so you can understand why it was flooded. This is where the caretaker had to be rescued from. The official statement from SANParks says this picnic site is still closed but it looked open to me. I got there after 4pm so the caretaker was not around but all the facilities were in working order.

I then made my way back to the H1-5 along the Ntomeni road (S127) which doesn’t have a lot of water but it still a nice drive.

On the way down the waterholes are both full which is great. I did see two ostriches with 15 youngsters which amazed me! I never knew they had so many babies at once.

I was still a bit early for gate closing time so went down the S100 again. Just missed a leopard that was on a carcass. I sat there for about half an hour and from time to time I could hear rustling in the thick grass but never saw her. Apparently she had been on the same carcass for a couple of days.

Back at camp, the hyenas were very active along the fence. I love seeing them in the evenings although I know the only reason they are there is because campers feed them and I would really prefer them not to.

That night, I went on a night walk around the camp. I love doing this – just make sure you take a fully-charged spotlight and watch where you are walking. I got to see and awesome encounter between an African wildcat and cobra. Unfortunately, with the poor lighting I wasn’t able to get any photos of this. The wildcat was very interested in the snake and would come up behind it and try touch its tail. The snake would then rear and the two would sit staring at each other until one gave up. This happened several times. I’m very glad neither got injured!

Just as I was falling asleep in my tent, I heard a strange sniffing sound nearby and wondered what on earth was going on. Unzipped my tent, shone my spotlight and found some buffalo grazing along the fence right in front of me. Camping definitely makes one feel more at one with the bush!

Tomorrow, I will be posting more on the road between Satara and Orpen.

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