Summer heat at Lower Sabie

We knew our December 2015 visit to the Kruger National Park was going to test our personal thresholds for high temperatures. It is general knowledge that South Africa’s Lowveld region has sweltering summers, confirmed by the weather forecasts in the week before our departure. On our early morning way, descending into the Lowveld along Schoemanskloof on the N4-highway, we were amazed at how quickly the outside temperature our car was registering was climbing upwards. By the time we arrived at Malelane Gate just after 08:00, we had reached 33°C, with the sun blazing down relentlessly. And yet, we couldn’t think of any place we’d rather be; we were back in South Africa’s flagship National Park, one of our favourite wild places, and we had ten days to explore the length and breadth of it to look forward to!

We were heading to Lower Sabie, and instead of following the tar roads via Skukuza we opted for the more direct route, along the gravel S25 and H5, from Malelane. Of course we had wonderful sightings along the way, most especially of some sleepy elephants! Early December is lambing season for the impalas, and each herd we passed had a few new members, all ears and long legs, to broaden our smiles.

By the time we checked in at Lower Sabie Rest Camp for our 3 night stay, the temperature had soared to a searing 43°C. Our cottage (unit 93), with a lovely view of the Sabie River in front of the camp and surrounded by huge, shady trees, provided welcome respite!

But of course no amount of heat was going to keep us indoors for long when there’s Big-5 country to explore outside! Our afternoon drive took in Gomondwane, Duke’s waterhole and a section of the Nhlowa-road to the south of Lower Sabie, after a quick visit to Sunset Dam just outside camp. Highlights of the drive included an unusually relaxed black rhinoceros, our best sighting ever of a side-striped jackal, and the cutest little warthog piglets you could imagine!

The itinerary planned for Sunday 13 December meant that we would be out of camp all day: a slow early morning drive (the camp gates open at 04:30 in high summer) to Skukuza along the Sabie River, visit with good friends at Skukuza over lunch, and then back to Lower Sabie via the Sand River, the Salitje road, Muntshe Mountain and Mlondozi Picnic Site. Covering that big an area is sure to deliver some unusual sightings; apart from a skittish leopard and all the more commonly seen game animals, we even found an African Rock Python along the way. Our final wildlife encounter of the day was with a pair of mating lions, within sight of Lower Sabie, resulting in sightings of all the Big-5 on a single day!

That wasn’t the end of the day however, as we were booked for a guided night drive after supper. Unfortunately strong winds sent the nocturnal animals into hiding, and the drive did not yield much more than a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl and enormous scorpion to get excited about.

We had one more day to explore the Lower Sabie area, and headed for Crocodile Bridge along the Nhlowa Road as soon as the camp’s gates opened. About halfway we met a large pack of hyenas at their den, and after spending some time with them our grumbling tummies told us that it was time to go enjoy our picnic breakfast at Croc Bridge. More great sightings on our way back to Lower Sabie along the Gomondwane Road, including a herd of elephants coming to drink from the Sabie River. We also noticed a male lion lying on the river bank and after slaking their thirst, the elephants started crossing the river. This was the lion’s cue to vacate his spot, and we were thrilled that he chose to head into the bush straight past our vehicle!

Lower Sabie is a wonderful place to while away the hot midday hours as there’s a constant stream of animals coming to drink from the river and birdlife abounds in the camp grounds!

There’s no better way to spend your last afternoon at Lower Sabie than slowly driving along the river, and spending some time at Sunset Dam. So that’s exactly what we did!

With that, our final night at Lower Sabie had arrived. Next morning we’d depart for Olifants Rest Camp, further north in the central regions of the Kruger National Park. We’ll share more about our time at Olifants next week, and will dedicate a special post in which we’ll tell you all about Lower Sabie and surrounds in an upcoming edition of de Wets Wild.

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58 thoughts on “Summer heat at Lower Sabie

  1. Pingback: Summer heat at Shingwedzi | de Wets Wild

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      As Mufasa en Sarabi nie so bietjie by mekaar gekuier het nie, is Simba nooit gebore nie, het Timon en Pumbaa nou nog goggas in die woud gevreet en het ons nooit “The Lion King” oor en oor moes kyk nie…

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  2. Pingback: Summer heat at Olifants | de Wets Wild

  3. Spokie sny spoor

    Pragtige reeks fotos! Ja, die hitte het ons ook nie weggehou nie. Selfs die kampery was nie so erg nie.

    Die slang is besonders. En die kleinkies is pragtig hierdie jaar. Ek sien die olifante is baie verminder by Satara. Was die projek geslaag, of het die olifante getrek na waar meer waters is?

    Eks bekommerd oor die droogte. Dis erg hierdie jaar . Jou leeus is ook pragtig, net jammer die liewe Luiperdjie het ons weer ontduik hierdie jaar … (sug) Ons beste oomblik was ‘n maanhaar wat in ons kar se koelte kom rus het. Ons kom sy asemhaling hoor en hom ruik…

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Ek sien so uit daarna om als van jul onlangse besoek op jou blog te lees Spokie! Om die groot kat so naby te he moes n wonderlike ervaring gewees het!

      Dit het ons ook opgeval wyl ons by Olifants gebly het dat daar glad nie so baie olifante rondom die Letaba en Olifants riviere was as wat ons sou verwag het nie. Maar toe ons bo by Shingwedzi gekom het, waar daar klaarblyklik bietjie meer reen geval het, was hulle regtig volop. Miskien het hulle maar agter die reen aangetrek na beter weiding. Selfde geld vir die buffels.

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  4. Pat

    I’ve been in Death Valley when the temperature hit 47. And no shade. And no wonderful animals, either. Well, some. That giraffe looks like it’s mugging for the camera. Great pics!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks for coming along, Ilex! Kruger Park has an astounding variety of birds – almost 500 species! It also protects the biggest variety of mammals in the country, with 145 recorded species. Add to that the diversity of trees, grasses, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and you’ll see just why this place can seem like paradise!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      To me Kruger’s most beautiful in summer, Jennie, despite the heat. And yes, we take malaria prophylactics very seriously; we’ve had family members suffer from malaria before and mosquitoes seem to have a liking for the taste of de Wet blood, so we don’t take any chances.

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