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  • David Bough

Heavens Gate.

I can’t exactly remember the first time I came into the park through the Crocodile Bridge Gate: I should really have written it in my diary but I think it was 4 or 5 years ago.

Since then I have been lucky enough to spend most of my time in the Kruger in the southern sector of the park with Croc’ Bridge as my base.

I’ve come to know Stephen and his team at the gate quite well and am always greeted with a smile and a warm welcome however busy they are before entering through “Heavens Gate”.

This is where the problems start…which way to go. The S25 towards Malelane for Wild Dog and Leopard, the S28 for the Cheetah and Lion or up towards Sabie and Skukuza on the tar road. We often sit for a while pondering the choices and debating the previous days sightings that we have gleaned from the OSV guides while waiting to enter.

The decision is often taken on a whim but we do have a regular route we take that gives us hopefully the best chance of seeing the wonders of Kruger.

Heading up the H4-2 we often catch the Vurhami lions hunting, on a kill from the previous night or just lazing in the morning sun as lions do. Our local pride, they are growing in numbers and with so many little mouths to feed have become consummate hunters. Hyena are also common on the few kilometres as we head towards the Vurhami bridge along with the resident zebra, Wilderbeest, impala and plains game.

We stop briefly to say hello to the huge crocodile who sunbathes on the sand by the bridge and the Fish eagles who roost in the trees by the sprait.

Over the bridge and we swing right onto the S28, “Cheetah Road”. This is perfect Cheetah territory and over the last few months we’ve been blessed to see two Male siblings hunting and a proud mother of four beautiful cheetah cubs trying her best to keep them all under control and feed them at the same time.

We often see Secretary birds, Ostrich, Cory Bustards and a plethora of avian life while scanning the grass and mounds for the cats. The Vurhami pride often also patrol the first few kilometres of the S28 in search of prey for their growing numbers.

We often turn down the S107 towards the broken dam and were graced, a few weeks ago, by the presence of the Gomondwane coalition. 5 massive Male lions with two younger males looking to join the gang. These are truly impressive boys and I believe the larges coalition in the Park.

More decisions as we reach the”Duke” turning. Left to visit the waterhole or do we push on toward Sabie. We decide to stay on the S28 scanning the trees for a fresh kill from the elusive and very shy leopard who leaves signs of her presence for those who can see and visit the hide at Ntandanyathi to stretch our legs and watch the birds and Elephant.

Soon the Sabie river joins the H4-2 and we scan the banks for Hippo, Elephant and signs of the Sabie “mega pride” and check the road mileage markers for signs of Cheetah marking their territories.

A quick pit stop at Sunset Dam to Watch the crocodiles and resident Malachite Kingfishers and then time to relax at Sabie with a coffee and blueberry muffin. Enjoying the spectacular views from the deck and watching the Hippo, Buffalo, birds and the camp bushbuck.

Now for the return leg heading back towards Croc’ bridge. On the H4-2 we head south again before our first dilema. Gomondwane to look for lion and leopard and see our favourite Leadwood tree or push on to the H5. We often decide to do both and amble down the Gomondwane road before heading briefly North again to join the H5.

This is defiantly leopard territory and we have had the thrill of seeing many of these beautiful cats at close quarters over the last few months. A stunning road which for me epitomises the beauty of the Kruger.

Turning south again we head briefly down the S108 before joining the S25 to head east. Another road that teams with wildlife. Leopard, Elephant, Hyena and one of our favourites, the African Wild Dog. These elusive and highly endangered animals are one of our great joys to see. Greeting each other with their signature “chirps”, hunting or just lazing under a tree in the heat of the day they never cease to thrill and entertain.

Closer to home now as we drive with the Crocodile river on our right we stop at the few waterholes and visit the Hyena.

This section of the Kruger is blessed with the highest density of predators and general game, a true “heaven” for any lover of wildlife. Stunning roads and views set a perfect backdrop for a day of wonder and excitement.

David

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