A new five

Kruger National Park in August was busy and we just managed to get a couple of cancellations that matched with our son’s visit as well as our annual medical check-up in Nelspruit, a hang up of our days at Maputo.

The park, even with low occupancy rates, is normally busy as it offers a large number of beds to the visitors in the various rest camps and other available facilities. For this reason, it is extremely difficult to find a corner where you can be on your own. Imagine how it was in August when the park is full!

It is interesting to note that visitors move a lot within the park and its roads are busy. Some entering or leaving the park, some moving from one camp to the next and most of them looking for animals, mainly for the big five! The consequence of the latter is that, once you find one of them, there will be a constant flow of cars that would watch the animal in question for a few minutes and then move off, in search of the next one! I have already covered this issue (see: https://bushsnobinafrica.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/kruger-national-park-report/)

We were aware of this situation and decided to leave the big five for the next visit and focus on exploring a few less used roads and to improve our bird watching skills. In this department, I am pleased to inform you that we managed 99 species, about one fifth of the total number of species of the park!

Fishing was not in our plans as this is forbidden in the park. However, we crossed many rivers where wildlife can be observed! Normally this includes water birds and other creatures that come to drink or nibble tender grass associated with water. So we always stop and watch at river crossings!

One of the best places is the bridge over the Letaba River on the H1-6 road where you are allowed to get out of the car and have a look around while stretching your legs.

The Letaba River from the bridge.

Waterbucks drinking by the Letaba River bridge.

We have seen many interesting things in this place so it is an obligatory stop where we usually spend some time. You just need to be patient, unlike most motorists that drive past, some of them quite fast!

Green-backed heron fishing.

Green-backed heron fishing.

We surprised this pied kingfisher from the bridge.

We surprised this pied kingfisher from the bridge.

As soon as we got out we were literally hit by the pungent smell of bats, stronger than we remembered. The stink seemed to be emanating from the bridge’s cement joints, together with the bats’ high pitch calls. Although we tried hard, we failed to see them through the cracks so we investigated the outside of the bridge, also unsuccessfully. We were engaged on this task when we heard splashes in the shallow water so we forgot the bats that were not cooperating and went to look for the fish.

The area preferred by the fish.

The area preferred by the fish.

These were shoals of tilapia feeding on the water plants. There were many fish of various sizes. While watching the tilapia feeding we came across a lone and slender fish lying immobile a couple of metres away from the tilapia. It was a tiger fish sunning itself but clearly waiting for prey. Further watching revealed a few catfish as well. The latter were more abundant when we looked at the river on the other side of the bridge. There we saw several catfish of various sizes lying at the bottom of the river, all pointing in the direction of the current and being disturbed by the occasional terrapin passing by.

Interestingly, having polarized sunglasses helped me to see the fish clearly while my companions needed to strain their eyes until I decided to share my glasses with them (just before they tossed me over the rails!). Photography was, however, another matter as we did not have a polarizing filter and our attempts at taking pictures through my sunglasses proved fruitless!

Despite the bad results, we did take a few pictures that were forgotten in the memory card until we returned to Harare. Then, when sorting out the photos of the journey I saw a bunch of what appeared to be uniformly brown images. They were our “fish pictures” and the fish seemed to be immersed in murky water and only just visible! I tried a few of the options that Picasa offers and failed. I was about to delete them when I pressed the “I am feeling lucky” option and then as if by a miracle the fish became very clear as if the command would have sucked out the water!

I present you with an example of a non processed cloudy picture to show you what they really looked like as well as some of the processed ones as I believe are worth viewing as they are a demonstration that not only the big five are worth watching.

The fish to the naked eye.

The fish to the naked eye.

The picture above after the "magic" of Picasa!

The picture above after the “magic” of Picasa! Catfish are seen at the top while the tilapia are on the bottom left.

A large catfish.

A large catfish.

Catfish disturbed by a terrapin.

Catfish disturbed by a terrapin.

The tiger fish stalking.

The tiger fish stalking.

Before I end this post I would like to propose a new group of animals to be seen in Africa: the “Slippery Five”. I propose the crocodile, the hippo, the python, the catfish and the terrapin as its members in an attempt at persuading visitors to pay more attention to the water courses and its inhabitants -both outside an inside the water- in the national parks!

 

 

 

 

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