Randspruit Road (H5)
The Randspruit Road (H5) heads west from the main Crocodile Bridge, Lower Sabie tar road (H4-2) at Gomondwane Water Hole. At this junction, a few century-old bluegums mark the site of a trading store run by the infamous lowveld hustler Sardelli the Greek. In Lost Trails of the Lowveld, TV Bulpin describes Sardelli as "tough and brutal and cunning as a crocodile". Sardelli sold a brutally harsh form of liquor that he brewed himself. He also ran a gang of brigands who specialised in robbing mineworkers returning to Mozambique from the Witwatersrand. Sardelli is suspected of having murdered and robbed another lowveld storekeeper, Charlie Woodlands, while the two of them were on a trip to Delagoa Bay.
Sardelli served in Steinacker's Horse during the Anglo-Boer War, manning an outpost in northern Kruger. After the war, he set himself up selling the guns he'd confiscated from the Shangaans and the Sotho communities under his jurisdiction.
His mental and material circumstances deteriorated rapidly. According to Bulpin, he took a job as a cattle herder at Mica "for three pounds a month and a sack of mealiemeal. He eventually died in a lunatic asylum". The Randspruit Road follows the track of the old Selati railway line which ran along the top of the Randspruit watershed, linking Skukuza to Komatipoort. The rails have since been removed. In 1923, before the Park was officially opened to tourism, South African Railways offered a tourist service called "Round in Nine" – a nine-day scenic trip around the country. The most popular part of the trip was the journey along the Selati line which included stops for bush walks and an evening bushveld braai.
The area is characterised by low, rolling hills with rather coarse sandy soils on the hilltops where the grass is either sparse or a mixture of sweet and sourveld. The sweet grass generally grows on the darker clay soils on the lower slopes, so look out for game along the drainage lines that feed into the seasonal streams and rivers.
Photo: Burchell's Coucal. Nigel Dennis.
Knob-thorn acacias, bushwillows and marulas dominate this environment, which favours browsers rather than grazers. The more common browsers here are giraffe, kudu, and duiker, while impala – which are both browsers and grazers – are always around.
Klipspringer can often be seen on the occasional rocky outcrops, and there are often elephants in the riverine areas where there are wonderful specimens of leadwood, jackal-berries, sycamore figs and sausage trees. The herd size of grazers in this environment is generally smaller than on the open plains.
The Randspruit Road is one of the better places in the Park for spotting the rare black rhino. Black rhinos were reintroduced into Kruger after the original populations were shot out at the end of the 19th century. The reintroduced black rhino have gone for the same habitat as the original populations – the N'watimhiri and Gomondwane thickets north of Crocodile Bridge and south of the Sabie River.
Photo: Black Rhino. Nigel Dennis
The Randspruit road goes through the woodlands inhabited by another rarely seen animal – the sable antelope which has been known to kill lions with its long, graceful and deadly horns.
The S102 between the Randspruit and Bume Roads is a recommended detour. The road dips through the thorn thickets and gallery forests of the Bume valley woodlands past Mpondo Dam, a reasonably large water hole where there are often animals drinking. There are often kudu around Buffeldornsings Water Hole further along the S102.
The Bume Road (S26)
The Bume Road winds through the mixed knob-thorn and marula woodlands on the southern western face of the Bume watercourse. The Bume is a seasonal stream that feeds the Crocodile River. A good birding stop is at the Bume River weir. Sightings along this road are itinerant – the habitat suits browsers, particularly giraffe, elephant and kudu, while there are almost always small herds of impala along the roadside.
N’watimhiri Road (S21)
The N'watimhiri Road (S21) follows the river of the same name past the distinctive Siyalo koppie (341m), and on to two pans – the Nhlotini, the N'watimhiri – through the Sabie Crocodile thorn thickets on granite/gneiss. The bush on either side of the road is fairly dense so it's best to drive slowly in order to see game. Look out for both the black and white rhino in this area. There is a particularly good three-kilometre loop road off the Lower Sabie Road (H4-1),
The N'watimhiri Causeway (S79) which takes one through beautiful riverine bush at the confluence of the N'watimhiri and Sabie Rivers. Birders should keep an eye out for the African hawk-eagle in the tree canopies or circling above the road.
An elephant's teeth are used for grinding vegetation. Over an elephant's lifetime, six sets of molars are developed, but are used only one at a time. Arising from the back of the jaw, the teeth move forward and push out molars that are worn out or broken. When the last molar moves forward, at the age of 40 to 45 years, it must last the rest of the elephant's life (elephants live up to 70 years). If the tooth wears down completely, the animal can no longer chew effectively and will starve.