It’s a long drive down from Pafuri to Letaba and, at game viewing speeds with regular stops for photographs and leg stretches at the camps and picnic spots along the way, it took us the entire day to cover the distance of 250km, reaching Letaba just before the gates closed. Covering such a distance in a national park like Kruger, you’re bound to come across some great sightings and some thrilling experiences, but we didn’t count on getting growled at when we stopped at Mooiplaas picnic site for a bit of a break. We were back in the car in a flash, and still have no idea what it was that was so irritated by our presence…
When you’re hoping for great wildlife sightings in any wild place, you have to be out-and-about at the times that the animals are most active, being the early morning and late afternoon, to maximise your chances.
We set out early from Letaba the next morning, heading towards Olifants Rest Camp along the gravel roads that follow the courses of the Letaba and Olifants Rivers. We were soon rewarded with a great sighting of a spotted hyena, followed shortly afterwards by the highlight of our trip: an encounter with wild dogs! The dogs came running along the road in the opposite direction we were travelling in, and passed us in a flash. We had to make a u-turn and followed them a couple of hundred metres, before they decided to take a bit of a break right in the middle of the road. These animals are so rare and sightings so infrequent that we spent quite a bit of time with them before moving on.
Shortly before reaching Olifants we crossed a small stream and noticed lots of terrapins and a lone juvenile crocodile sharing a pool next to the road. It soon became apparent that these animals have become accustomed to being fed by passing tourists as they started moving towards our vehicle the moment we came to a halt. This aberrant behaviour is exactly the reason why the park authorities are so strict about visitors not being allowed to feed the animals, but some choose to ignore it nonetheless. We didn’t stay long, fearing that the terrapins would end up beneath our vehicle preventing us from driving away.
We spent the hot hours of the day walking around the Letaba campgrounds, enjoying the peace and quite and the company of Letaba’s resident bushbuck and birds.
Our afternoon excursion focused on the riverine drives to the north of the camp. Again we were not disappointed, seeing two waterbuck bulls sparring, herds of other game, including elephants, hippos, impalas, nyalas, bushbuck, giraffes, buffalo and baboons, various bird species, even some fish at a river crossing, and of course beautiful scenery.
A fascinating but gruesome sighting of a ground hornbill using its massive bill to kill and devour a tortoise in its carapace was a reminder that this is still wild Africa after all…
With the sunrise the next morning it was time to pack up and head to our next destination, the Forever Swadini Resort in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. It wouldn’t be our last taste of the Kruger National Park however, and as we were heading towards the Orpen Gate we could console ourselves in the knowledge that we were planning one last day visit for later in the week.
We’ve previously dedicated a special post to Letaba – have a look here if you’d like to read more about this peaceful rest camp