The Sweni River is more of a seasonal creek than a traditional river. It rises in the west of the Kruger National Park and flows almost due east to join the Makongolweni River (another seasonal creek) close to the eastern border, where it turns due north and joins up with the N’wanetsi, yet another seasonal creek, before flowing through the Lebombo Mountains in a rugged gorge and out into the flat lands of Mozambique. Most of the time the Sweni consists of a river of dry sand interspersed with a few deep pools, some of which can last through the dry season. Occasional heavy rains turn these seasonal creeks into raging torrents, the evidence of which remains for years in flood debris stranded high up in trees lining the banks. In dry times however the deep, semi-permanent pools are a haven for birds and animals and attract a steady stream of visitors through the day and night. Overlooking one such pool close to the junction with the N’wanetsi, the Sweni Bird Hide can provide some fantastic wildlife viewing and is definitely worth a few hours, especially for the avid photographer. I usually visit the hide in the mid-morning, as the day begins to heat up. Recommended gear includes a bean bag support, a long lens to capture the action on the far bank, and perhaps a second body with a wider lens to capture more of the scenery and context. Birds such as Yellow-billed Storks, African Openbills, Green-backed, Grey and Goliath Herons, Blacksmith Lapwing, Pied and Giant Kingfishers will provide plenty of opportunity, with lots of scope for some awesome in-flight shots. On my last visit there I was in-tune with animal behaviour enough to spot a golden opportunity when an African Fish-Eagle appeared high in the sky overhead. Realising that is would probably put to flight the twenty or so Yellow-billed Storks which were resting on the sand bank opposite the hide, I told my photographic safari clients to get ready for some action, and sure enough the twenty large white birds took to flight suddenly and flew straight towards us and up and over the hide. After the Fish-Eagle had moved on they came back to roost on the sandbank, and I captured this shot with a herd of Elephants drinking in the background. Needless to say this session in Sweni Bird Hide was one of the highlights of the safari, and kicked off a day which saw one of my clients taking around 80GB worth of images! Now that’s a few images to sort through! Check out the Flickr album for more shots.
Photo of the week: Incoming Stork.