On a warm afternoon we set out with the specific intention of finding and appreciating some of the smaller inhabitants of the bush.
The Sand River was running strongly, and we tempted fate by fording it at the rocky Taylor’s crossing, a gamble in such high water.
As it turned out, the reward was well worth the risk, as right there at the crossing we interrupted a crocodile in the process of its infamous death roll, but the victim was not one that we were expecting; it was a hyena! How the croc had grabbed this carnivore we will never know. maybe the hyena drowned when the river was flooding, or maybe it simply came to drink at the wrong place and the huge reptile pulled it in.
This was only the beginning of what was in store for us for the rest of the drive. Continuing along the scenic river road, with the light streaming through the trees, we edged past a Torchwood tree that a guest asked to photograph. As they were setting up the shot, we noticed a tree agama impressively camouflaged against the bark. To our surprise, not too far from the tree agama was a bushveld gerbil, peering out of a flute in the tree. The two looked like an amusing and unlikely pair of friends enjoying the warmth of the afternoon glow. A few moments later though, each realised the presence of the other and dashed away in fright.
As we headed further downstream, Ranger Tayla Brown informed us that she had found the Tsalala lioness and her cub resting next to the the Sand River. We decided to go and join Tayla in the hopes that the lions would attempt to cross the river.
Just as we got there, the lioness got up and walked to a point directly across from us and drank. Building up the courage to wade in, the lioness hissed at the water and then reluctantly placed one paw after another into the shallows with her cub following closely behind. Her cub, of course being smaller than her mother, got swept slightly downstream in the current and made it to a small island in the middle of the river. The Tsalala female waited patiently for the cub to gather up the strength to wade through last small channel and join her on the bank.
Towards the end of the drive, and while were looking for a spot to have an afternoon drink, we drove past a muddy watering hole. There we found a hooded vulture slipping along the steepness of the water’s edge in attempt to get some water to drink, before flying off to find a dead Leadwood to roost for the night.
Delighted with the bush, and its never ending ability to show us something new, we crossed back South at the causeway and enjoyed the green glow of the flireflies dotted across the river, a classic scene of summer in the Lowveld.
As game drives go we hadn’t driven particularly far, but our afternoon had held a surprise in store for us around every corner. You simply couldn’t have scripted a more varied and enjoyable bush experience.