Satara N’wanetsi Road (H6)
The Satara Nwanetsi Road (H6) heads south-east from the rest camp through the open savanna grasslands along the Shishengendzini watercourse. There are water holes at Shishengendzini and Sonop, which is on the southernmost edge of the Olifants Rugged veld.
As one moves eastward the bigger woodland trees are restricted to watercourses and the knob-thorn and combretum bush become increasingly stunted as a consequence of the drier climate. Although the H6 has sweet grazing along most of the route, this is not the most reliable road for seeing game.
There are times when one comes across itinerant herds of buffalo, zebra, impala and wildebeest but often the landscape appears devoid of animal life. Wild dog sightings have on occasion been reported around Sonop Water Hole. N’wanetsi River Road (S100)
The N’wanetsi River Road (S100)
This road is usually more interesting than the H6 because there is more riverine woodland along the road, and consequently a better chance of seeing game. There are more lion sightings reported along this road compared to the H6 a few kilometres to the south. Many of the grazers are found in mixed herds of wildebeest, zebra, impala and waterbuck, collaborating in keeping a look-out for dangerous predators.
Kruger author Wilf Nussey once watched a cheetah kill an impala right next to the road along the S100. He described how the cheetah, exhausted by the chase, was frightened off the kill by the arrival of several cars. In the confusion, a large leopard dashed between the cars, grabbed the fresh impala carcass and made off into the riverine bush, leaving behind a bunch of disbelieving tourists and a hungry, tired and disappointed cheetah.
The S100 marks the divide between the open grasslands to the south and the rockier Olifants rugged veld, which lies to the north. There are often herds of buffalo in the grassland around Shibotwana windmill and Nsasane Water Hole. Nsasane is the Shangaan word for the umbrella thorn tree and was named after a nearby grove of these acacia trees.
The N’wanetsi River Road joins up with the Gudzani Road (S41), which takes one south to the edge of the Lebombo Range towards Singita Lebombo and the N’wanetsi and Sweni Water Holes. A curious sight at Gudzani Dam is a regular fishing expedition by birds. Herons, egrets and hamerkops line up on the concrete dam wall to catch fish washed down the shallow spillway. This is a favourite water hole for waterbuck.
Hongonyi the Blue Wildebeest
The blue wildebeest – also known as the brindled gnu – is often seen in the open grasslands north of Satara, as well as the mopaneveld and the grasslands around Lower Sabie.
Unlike the Serengeti where thousands of wildebeest come together for mass migrations, Kruger’s wildebeest are generally non-migratory and usually occur in small herds of between three and six animals – although herds of up to 20 have been recorded. Wildebeest calves are usually born in summer and can stand within minutes of birth. They adapt from mother’s milk to solid food within two weeks.
Wildebeest are often found in association with impala, giraffe and zebra. They can go without water for days but prefer to drink daily. Other grazers often rely on wildebeest to find fresh grass and water.