Tag Archives: Letaba Rest Camp

Early Bird

Being out and about at first light is often richly rewarded in South Africa’s wild places, as was the case with this memorable encounter with a spotted hyena near Letaba Rest Camp, in  the Kruger National Park.

Early Bird

Early Bird” is the theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge

 

Scale

The Elephant Hall in Letaba Rest Camp, in the Kruger National Park, allows a deeper appreciation of just how big the African elephant really is…

Scale” is the theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge

Our 2014 in pictures

Looking back at the fantastic places we stayed at while exploring South Africa’s wild places in 2014…

Adventure!

The de Wet clan exploring the wilderness of the Kruger National Park on foot (and safely guarded by two experienced, and armed, rangers).

Adventure” is the theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge

Letaba, February 2014

Following our explorations of the paradise that is Pafuri, in the far north of the Kruger National Park, we headed towards the central regions of the Park, for a two-night stay at Letaba Rest Camp.

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.

Letaba sunrise

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.

Fish eagle

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…

Letaba Sunset

Lacewing

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

Letaba, February 2014

From Pafuri, we travelled southwards towards the central section of the Kruger National Park, spending two nights at peaceful Letaba Rest Camp and exploring the mopane country between the Letaba and Olifants Rivers.

Letaba 17Feb14

We had some great sightings – including wild dogs! – and will share some more photos from our visit to Letaba in an upcoming installment of de Wets Wild.

Our 2013 in pictures

As the year is rushing to its end, we’re looking back at all the wonderful places we stayed at in South Africa’s wild places during 2013:

Kruger National Park, September 2013.

Yes, we’ve been to the Kruger National Park again…

Our Heritage Day long weekend in Kruger started early, on the morning of Friday the 20th of September, waiting at Phalaborwa for the gate to open. Formalities completed, our chosen route took us along some of the less traveled gravel roads in the area to Letaba Rest Camp, where we’d spend our first night in the Park.

We spent the afternoon traversing the roads around the camp, soaking in the peaceful atmosphere and spending some time with our favourite Letaba resident, the big tusker Masthulele, and Hlahleni, one of the pretenders to the throne.

Come Saturday morning, we were on our way to Punda Maria, Kruger’s northern-most rest camp. A cold front was heading for the lowveld, and strong gusts of wind accompanied us all the way. Good sightings of elephants and some of Kruger’s rare antelope species, and a variety of other animals and birds, kept us entertained on the long drive northwards, and we arrived at “Punda”, where we were joined by Marilize’s parents and would be staying for the next three nights, just in time for the 2PM check-in time.

(We’ll dedicate a special post to Punda Maria soon – the camp and the area around it has a rich and fascinating history and plenty to offer nature lovers)

No visit to the north of the Kruger National Park would be complete without a pilgrimage to magical Pafuri. And so, despite the cold front having Kruger now firmly in its cold and wet grasp, this is where we headed on Sunday. Pafuri is a lush tropical paradise next to the Luvuvhu River, a bird watcher’s heaven, with regal nyala antelope around seemingly every corner.

That evening, a herd of elephant spent a lazy hour or two at the floodlit waterhole next to the camp fence. You’ll understand why I blame the waterhole and the hide that overlooks it for losing quite a bit of sleep this weekend – who can sleep when there’s this much action right on your doorstep!

Elephant herd at Punda Maria's waterhole

Elephant herd at Punda Maria’s waterhole

We decided to visit recently re-opened Shingwedzi on our last full day in the Park. Shingwedzi Rest Camp and its immediate surroundings was hard-hit by the January 2013 floods, and we were curious to have a look at how our favourite Kruger camp has bounced back (some photos in our “Shingwedzi after the flood” post). Along the way an extremely aggressive elephant bull showed two buses and several SUV’s exactly who is in charge of this piece of wild Africa!

Elephant roadblock on the way to Shingwedzi

Elephant roadblock on the way to Shingwedzi

The Shingwedzi area is teeming with game at the moment. We had our first ever sighting of an albino impala, and a massive eland bull spending some time in the almost dry Mphongolo River was a welcome surprise, as these large but skittish antelope are rarely seen by visitors to the Kruger Park.

Almost back at Punda Maria that evening we had a thrilling encounter with a young lion walking past a herd of elephant on the Dzundwini Loop (photo here).

See the lion?

See the lion?

Dinner was followed by some more time spent photographing Punda Maria’s nightlife instead of sleeping…

Genet, Punda Maria

Genet, Punda Maria

Milky Way

Milky Way above Punda Maria

But all good things come to an end and Kruger said goodbye with a magic sunrise on our way to Punda Maria Gate and back to Pretoria. Wouldn’t a scene like this also just convince that you need to get back here as soon as possible? Yes, we are already planning our next visit to Kruger National Park…

Punda Maria sunrise

Punda Maria sunrise

Back in Kruger: 20 September 2013

We bid you good evening from Letaba Rest Camp, in the Kruger National Park!

We arrived through Phalaborwa Gate early this morning and will spend one night here at Letaba before moving on to Punda Maria in the morning.

We had a fleeting late-morning sighting of a leopard on the prowl, but the highlight of the day unquestionably has to be the time we spent with the magnificent old elephant bull Masthulele, currently the biggest of Kruger’s tuskers, where he was feeding in the Letaba River not far from camp.

Edit: SANParks announced in September 2017 that Masthulele died during 2016.

Masthulele_20130920

Companion

Exploring South Africa’s wild places is always nicer when the experience is shared with good company!

Companion

Pictured here is Joubert and his friend Louw getting acquainted with one of the bushbuck that have found a safe, predator-free home inside Letaba Rest Camp, in the Kruger National Park.

“Companionable” is this week’s photo challenge from WordPress