19 January 2021
The Grassland Loop is the first turnoff from the main tarred road you reach after leaving Cape Vidal. And because we just love taking the backroads while exploring South Africa’s wild places that is invariably the route we opt for – it criss-crosses a variety of habitats (from forest to grassland to swamp) and skirts the shores of Lake Bhangazi, which always has something interesting to see.
This morning we were particularly lucky with what we found on the Grassland Loop – a pack of four Spotted Hyenas who showed just a mild interest in a few Plains Zebras and Blue Wildebeest grazing nearby.
The Grassland Loop completed and now heading to our breakfast spot, an extended family of Crested Guineafowl crossed our path – not something we get to see often and very excited at the pictures we got of them.
Passing through a forested patch we were entertained by a troop of Vervet Monkeys and, while watching them, a few other denizens of the forest also came into view.
We needed to stock up on our fresh food and drinking water supply today, so headed south to Bhangazi Gate and the holiday town of Saint Lucia.
Right at the Bhangazi Gate the Crocodile Centre is always a worthwhile place to stop and learn more about the Nile Crocodile – a key component of the ecosystem of Lake St. Lucia. The centre houses some really impressive specimens, many of them rescued from poachers’ traps or after becoming problematic in nearby communities, and their progeny are then released back into the wild. Furthermore there are two other species of crocodiles from equatorial Africa and American alligators on show, and a myriad of other animals and birds have also made themselves at home at the centre.
After a relaxed hour or so at the Crocodile Centre we tackled the 4km round trip hike from the parking area at Sugarloaf to the mouth of Lake St. Lucia. While the distance isn’t daunting at all the heat and humidity and trudging through the hot, deep sand proved more of a challenge than we anticipated, and the sight of a huge Nile Crocodile basking on a sandbank was all the convincing we needed not to dare cool our feet in the water. In the end the beautiful scenes we enjoyed more than made up for the heat-stroke risk though.
Our shopping completed we headed back to Cape Vidal. In the midday heat there wasn’t much to be seen along the way. Only mad dogs and Englishmen… and the de Wets… venture out in the midday sun. An outing to the beach was on the cards for the afternoon. Yellow-billed Kites flying overhead regularly swooped down to catch an unwary crab, but they knew better than to trifle with the bluebottles drifting in the waves.
Walking back to our cabin there was an enormous commotion in the tree-tops owing to screeching Vervet Monkeys and alarm-calling Hadedas. Looking up, we’re just in time to see a Crowned Eagle flying off with a large prize in its talons and an empty hadeda nest… We then noticed another Crowned Eagle surveying the area from high in a Cassuarina-tree and watched it until it flew off in the direction of the cabins. More about them tomorrow…