A SUNSET DRIVE IN NORTHERN KRUGER
During my recent visit to the Kruger Park with Anton and Elaine my 70th Birthday present from them was a sunset drive on the famed Mahonie Loop circling Punda Maria camp. What a truly memorable experience this turned out to be. Elaine and I were the only two 'customers' and we left camp at 16h00 with Thomas as our highly recommended Tour Guide – and of course also accompanied by the kri-trrrrrr song of the ever present Woodland Kingfisher. We had done the same drive in a clock-wise direction earlier on in the day and had experienced some outstanding birding and game viewing. Thomas took us in an anti-clockwise direction and although the birding was somewhat disappointing we did have magnificent sightings of generally scarce and beautiful Mosque Swallows, Grey-headed Parrots, Shaft-tailed Whydahs and African Scops Owls.
Tree at dusk
End of day
The light started to mellow with the gradual dipping of the sun towards the western horison and the bush started taking on pale hues of pink, yellow and blue. Our main aim was to see the Pennant-winged Nightjar and although Thomas knew exactly where they roosted he warned us that it might be too late in the season to see them. He took us to a large open grassland area surrounded by Miombo bushveld, parked the vehicle and we settled down in great anticipation of seeing and hearing the swish of this elusive species of the night. Sadly they were no longer there, but the soul enriching experience of sitting quietly in the bush, smelling the veld and hearing the sounds of nightlife coming alive – the peace and tranquility of it all is difficult to describe and the experiencing thereof is a memory that will live with me forever. We sat there for at least 20 minutes watching the sun slowly saying goodnight and the colours of the evening sky gradually descending on the darkening bush while listening to Thomas relating stories of previous encounters with nightjars in this exact same location. By this time it was almost dark and it was time to return to camp.
Lonely old man
Thomas however had another surprise in stall for us. With the aid of his spotlight and his tremendous night sight vision we were able to experience an amazing display of Fiery-necked and Freckled Nightjars frolicking around us - sitting on tree stumps, flying around or settling in the road in front of the vehicle. Closer to the camp there were huge herds of impala and a very lone and sad looking old buffalo grazing by the side of the road. We wondered whether he was mourning the death of his friend who was killed by lion not very far from the gate of the camp just the previous morning.
Meanwhile back at the ranch Anton had prepared our evening braai and we settled down with our meal and a glass of red wine, mellow and relaxed, wonderously and gratefully cherishing our memories of another truly magnificent day in Northern Kruger.
To quote Jan Smuts 'The emotional appeal of nature is tremendous. Sometimes more than one can bear'