A Week in Kruger – Satara to Nwanetsi

The Route

The next drive during our stay in Satara was also one of my Kruger favourites – the drive eastwards from Satara to Nwanetsi picnic spot which lies close to the border with Mozambique.

We had planned to do a circuit, first taking the S100 gravel road eastwards, which branches off the H1-4 tarred road just south of Satara camp. This becomes the S41 to Nwanetsi and we would return via the H6 tarred road back to Satara.

At Nwanetsi there is a dam which can be viewed from a roofed viewpoint on the ridge overlooking it. The Sweni hide, overlooking a small dam, and the low water bridge can be accessed on the return trip by taking the branch left at the S37 and travelling for a few kms

Habitat

The S100 meanders through open tree savanna with mostly Marula, Knob-thorn acacia, Leadwood, Sickle-bush and Russet bushwillow trees. The H6 tarred road is more direct but passes through similar habitat

An extract from the Kruger Park map book shows the route :

Best to go out on the yellow S 100 road and return on the H5 red road
Best to go out on the yellow S 100 road and return on the red H6 road

The Drive

An early start saw us driving the S100 – always good for plains game and today was no exception as we came across a selection of game in quick succession.

Waterbuck, Satara - Nwanetsi S100
Waterbuck, Satara – Nwanetsi S100
Impala, Satara - Nwanetsi S100
Impala, Satara – Nwanetsi S100
Black-backed Jackal, Satara - Nwanetsi S100
Black-backed Jackal, Satara – Nwanetsi S100
Blue Wildebeest, Satara - Nwanetsi S100
Blue Wildebeest, Satara – Nwanetsi S100

Signs of battles for dominance amongst the game were present – both Impala and Waterbuck were clashing horns. Nothing serious – more like a playful enactment of an ancient ritual as they butted each other lightly and tried to twist the opponent’s horns so that they would “bow” in submission.

Impala males
Impala males
Waterbuck males
Waterbuck males

As we watched this we noticed a few cars gathered up ahead and immediately knew it was a “cat” sighting as no other event attracts so many cars in a short space of time. It turned out to be two Cheetahs some 150m from the road, lying and then standing, the one clearly pregnant judging by the heavy-looking belly.

Cheetah, Satara - Nwanetsi S100
Cheetah, Satara – Nwanetsi S100

Cheetahs are probably the most sought after sighting so we were really pleased to have been in the right spot for them.

Further along more excitement awaited, this time tinged with some tension as we rounded a bend and came across a fallen tree partly blocking the road, with the remaining opening  ominously guarded by a large tusker. To add to the tension another large bull elephant was eyeing us from the bush to one side.

Elephant road block, Satara - Nwanetsi S100
Elephant road block, Satara – Nwanetsi S100

With no way through we waited …….  and waited, but the two elephant guards showed no inkling to move along as they fed on the fallen tree. Eventually one motorist behind us braved the bush and looked for a way past without disturbing the ellies. They emerged on the other side and waved, so we followed suit and found a well-trodden game path running through the bush which they had used – we were soon speeding along to Nwanetsi for a much-needed toilet break!

All the while I was continuing to atlas the bird species we came across – so easy with the Birdlasser App which uses gps to automatically pinpoint the position of each sighting and allocate it to the correct pentad (5 x 5 minute block of co-ordinates which is about 8 x 8 km in size)

Bateleur
Bateleur
Crested Francolin
Crested Francolin
Goliath Heron
Goliath Heron

Nwanetsi

Time for a brunch and some birding around the picnic spot. I walked up the small hill to the viewpoint over the dam below and the bush stretching into the distance and found a number of species

  • Pied Kingfisher
  • Pied Wagtail amongst the rocks on the river
  • Great Egret flying between the ponds looking for the best fishing spot
  • Spectacled Weavers moving about busily and calling their sharp call
  • Green=backed Cameroptera calling from the bush
Nwanetsi Viewpoint
Nwanetsi Viewpoint
Nwanetsi Viewpoint
Nwanetsi Viewpoint
Lizard, Nwanetsi Viewpoint
Lizard, Nwanetsi Viewpoint

After brunch we left the picnic spot and headed firstly to the low water bridge on the S37 but found it dry and returned to the Sweni bird hide along the same road for a better view  of the dam. There we found some Impala, warily approaching the water where a large crocodile was resident.

Crocodile, Sweni Hide
Crocodile, Sweni Hide
Wary Impala, Sweni Hide
Wary Impala, Sweni Hide

The resident bird population were going about their business while we watched from the comfortable hide

  • White-faced Ducks
White-faced Duck, Sweni Hide
White-faced Duck, Sweni Hide
  • Black Crake
  • Water Thick-Knee
  • Red-capped Robin-Chat (unusual in this habitat)
Red-capped Robin-Chat, Sweni Hide
Red-capped Robin-Chat, Sweni Hide
  • Waders such as Wood Sandpiper and Three-banded Plover
  •  The ubiquitous Egyptian Goose
Egyptian Goose, Sweni Hide
Egyptian Goose, Sweni Hide

The rest of the journey back to Satara was on tar and with less game visible so we did not dawdle too much, nevertheless we enjoyed seeing Zebra close up with a juvenile whose stripes were still fluffy and brown – looking cute enough to want to pat him.

Burchell's Zebra, Satara - Nwanetsi S100

On the birding side we did spot a Brown Snake-Eagle and Red-crested Korhaan not far from the road

The rest of the day was a relaxing mix of our typical Kruger activities – some resting, enjoying the quiet of the camp, a swim late afternoon and closing out the day with a braai with the family.

Sources :

Sanparks Guide to Kruger National Park

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