South Africa 2017

Kgalagadi Park map

Kruger Park map

Video clips, Cape Town area

Video clips, Kgalagadi park

Video clips, Kruger park

This was a seventh trip to South Africa for me, I love this country. Four years since the last trip, we wanted to repeat going to both Kgalagadi and Kruger parks. The dates were set by a project at work ending September 15, so we were on a plane the 17th, coming home the weekend before Thanksgiving. Yes, that makes the trip 9 weeks long! I went a little nuts on the planning this time. For the first time in 7 trips we spent a few days in Cape Town at first, followed by 22 days in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and then 5 weeks in Kruger. Originally I booked 5 of the wilderness trails in Kruger but we cut that back to 4, making the itinerary:

17-Sep 8:55 PM LAX-London

18-Sep 4 hours in London, fly to Joburg

19-Sep Joburg-Cape Town, 12:30 arrive, drive to Muizenberg

20-Sep The Muize. West Coast national park

21-Sep Penguins, cape, Road Lodge at the airport

22-Sep Early flight to Upington, get vehicle, shop, Twee Rivieren camping

23-Sep Mata mata camping

24-25 Sep Rooiputs 4

26-Sep Kalahari Tented Camp


28-Sep Rooiputs 4

29-Sep Nossob camping

30-Sep Mpayathutlwa 1

1-3 Oct lesholoago 1

4-Oct Nossob fancy camping

5-Oct Gharagab

6-Oct Grootkolk

7-Oct Polentswa 3

8-Oct bitterpan

9-10 Oct Kielekranke

11-Oct Rooiputs 3

12-Oct Urikaruus HM

13-Oct Twee Rivieren chalet

14-Oct fly, JNB City Lodge

15-16-Oct Punda maria

17-Oct Shingwedzi

18-20 Oct Nyalaland walking trail

21-22-Oct shimuwini

23-Oct shipandani hide

4-Oct Olifants

25-27 Oct Olifants walking trail

28-Oct Tamboti

29-30 Oct Gomo gomo

31-Oct satara

1-3-Nov Sweni trail

4-7 Nov talamati

8-10 Nov Mathikithi trail

11-Nov lower sabie

12-13 Nov skukuza

14-Nov berg en dal

15-17 Nov biyamiti

18-Nov late flight to London

19-Nov London-LAX

New airline this year, Virgin Atlantic. I got a great deal on Priceline including our 3 internal flights in South Africa. I had to pay extra to reserve seats but I would fly them again. The two connections were on time, the remodeled JNB airport was nice, we picked up a Ford Ecosport in Cape Town and drove down to Muizenburg, known for its beach and surfing. The Muize bed & breakfast was very comfortable, and a short walk to several restaurants. We tried the Striped Horse that night, but crashed pretty earlier after our long flights. Wednesday the 20th was a beautiful day, TOO beautiful – every tourist around tried to go on the cable car to Table Mountain that morning, after several cool windy days. Rather than wait an hour to buy a ticket and then 2 hours to get on a cable car, we instead drove to West Coast National park. A woman in line in front of us scoffed at that plan “if you’ve already seen animals”. Well yes, that’s the whole reason we fly to this country! We saw the famous mountain, and Lion’s Head, we decided not to go for a hike though. After a stop at a farmstall for bread and lunchables we arrived at the park at 11:30 am. It was spring, and a section of the park (Postberg) is only open in August and September for wildflower viewing. Our first wildlife was a beautiful male eland, not shy at all like in the big parks. At the Atlantic viewpoint, a mole snake was swallowing a rodent, fascinating to watch

More eland were seen as we drove north, and a new species for us – bontebok. Flowers, tortoises, waves, and birds all added to the scenery. Another new species was mountain zebra. Springbok, wildebeest, ostrich, and steenbok were found, but alas no caracal. We visited a few bird hides, with flamingo and some other colorful birds, and a locust. We got back to the Muize as it was getting dark, seeing a large fire nearby. Dinner was at the Tiger’s Milk restaurant. More birds the next day, the famous African penguins at Boulders Beach and Foxy Beach. We walked on the sand with them and then checked out the boardwalks. The only hyrax we saw all trip were here as well as a very colorful caterpillar. Next we drove to the Cape of Good Hope and enjoyed the ocean spray and short hike up the rocks. The lizards and cockroaches were entertaining. More eland and ostrich were seen, and then the infamous baboons at Buffleshoek Beach terrorizing some picnickers. We went back to the Tigers Milk for dinner, watching surfers. Then it was a drive through the settlements to the airport for a night at the Road Lodge, as we had an early flight.

In Upington we were met by Pieter of Kalahari 4x4, and he and his son got us all set up for our 3 weeks camping in KTP. The Toyota Hilux double cab with rooftop tent and camping gear was everything we needed. After shopping at the Pick N Pay and bottle store we left for KTP at 11:30, arriving at 2:30, plenty of time for a game drive! We reduced tire pressures for the sandy roads and set off. It was hot, we saw a lot of jackal and ostrich, plus gemsbok (aka oryx), springbok, wildebeest (aka gnu), squirrels, and birds (including the ubiquitous Pale Chanting Goshawk aka PCG, secretary birds, and crimson breasted shrike). We were camping at Twee Rivieren that first night, we tried to make chicken poike but it was cool & windy and didn’t go so well. We were up early ready to go (the rooftop tent was super easy to set up and take down) BUT we had a flat front tire! The technical department took care of us quickly, it was just a bad valve stem that they replaced for free. We went up the Auob side, seeing black shoulder kites, ostrich, lots of oryx, noisy Northern Black Korhaans, swallow tailed bee eaters, springbok, our first Cape fox and a very gorgeous juvenile Martial Eagle we would see many times over the next 3 weeks.

At Mata Mata we saw the resident meerkat (suricate) troop and chose a campsite and headed back out at 4, seeing spotted eagle owls, kestrals, more jackal, African hoopoe, kori bustard, and yellow mongoose and a wildcat between Sitsas and Craig Lockhart waterholes. Back in camp we walked over to the blind, and there was another wildcat, very relaxed despite a lot of people watching it hunt. We braiied some delicious ribeye steaks, it was chilly again that night. We were out at gate opening (6:30 am) for a beautiful sunrise and then watched a big male lion posing on the ridgeline. A jackal was yapping at him. Further south two happy jackals were cleaning up some leftovers from a carcass, they took some to a den up the hill. A mole snake and tawny eagle posed. Between Montrose and Bataluma waterholes a cheetah (Hanri) was relaxing in the shade, we hoped she would go after some springbok but they were wary and moved off. So did we after an hour. In this park you can wait with a cat for hours hoping for a hunt. At Kamqua waterhole an adult martial eagle made a gemsbok too nervous to drink, they are silly flighty antelope. We were camping on the Botswana side, Rooiputs site #4, an open campsite (no fences) with just an A frame shade shelter and a long drop toilet and cold water shower nearby. We headed up to Kij Kij waterhole for our evening drive, with squirrels, a Lanner falcon, and then 4 lions up on the dune for entertainment. An oryx hung out by our campsite and almost came up to us. That night it was super hot, with lightning in the distance. The storm came in at 9 pm with lots of wind and some rain.

The next morning (25 September) we headed north, with a wildcat hunting and two lions posing at sunrise. Taking the Rooiputs road south we found a cape fox den (no pups out), a juvenile PCG, had a nice long honey badger sighting, a male lion at Leeudril waterhole, and a pride of 5 lions (2 moms 3 cubs) north of Samvoelung. After a pit stop at Twee Rivieren we headed up the Auob side, with a great Cape Cobra sighting, yellow mongoose fighting at Auchterlonie, and then Hanri the cheetah again on a springbok kill south of Bataluma. We spent a few hours watching her eat, then over the lower dune road to Kij Kij and south, quiet except for flying kori bustards and tawny eagles. The 5 lions were still near Samvoelung, with a KTP traffic jam of 10 cars. We ended the night with ostrich at Rooiputs waterhole. That night it got COLD and windy, we didn’t sleep at all. We headed north in the morning a found a small blue car with a shredded tire, two Italian men spent a cold night in it, we drove them down to Twee Rivieren. They were staying outside the park and needed to reschedule their flights. We headed up the Auob with another cobra, a purple roller, more meerkats and crimson shrikes, the remains of the springbok, and a bunch of giraffes including two males necking, which we watched for quite a while.

There were more snakes and birds on our way to Kalahari Tented Camp, where we got Tent #9. Lucky for us, as there was a jackal den between 8 and 9 and the puppies came over to investigate! My husband didn’t mind that I woke him up from a nap when the puppies were by my feet. We did a quick evening drive, besides the usuals I summoned our only cat of the day by yelling HERE KITTY KITTY and a wild cat appeared. We went back to camp to watch puppies some more before the parents came to get them. It was even colder that night, I used two of the big fluffy park blankets. We were out at 6:25 am Wednesday the 27th, with more giraffe, wildebeest, a lilac breasted roller (LBR), and then as we watched a cape fox digging by its den near the end of the 14th borehole loop we were told of a cheetah just ahead. Driving south we arrived just in time to see the cheetah going up over the ridge, but we soon noticed the steenbok under a tree that the cat was hunting. This cheetah is known as Corinne, Hanri’s sister. She tried to stalk closer but had to start running, chasing the bok down the hill, across the road, and into the riverbed. She gave up on the far side of the riverbed and rested in the shade. After walking north a bit, she came over to the road and crossed it to walk right next to us before going up the hillside to find more shade. We did a loop down to Twee Rivieren and north to the upper dune road and across, very quiet. We reached Urikaruus at 4:30 pm and called it a night. Unit #3 has a great view of the waterhole. Camp attendant Erick helped us set up our camera trap on the “tree” holding the waterhole’s light, and let us borrow a big blanket for the next two weeks, which helped us sleep in the rooftop tent in the cold, thanks Erick! A brown hyena visited the waterhole at 7, followed by a cape fox, two wildcats, jackal, another brown hyena, oryx, and eland.

We woke up to a male lion in front of our chalet, and another one 100m up the riverbed. Male #1 drank a few times and then a 3rd male (with a blind eye) and 2 females came to the water. Finally male #2 woke up and joined them in the shade across the riverbed. Erick bravely retrieved our camera after they went to the shade. Birds entertained us as well. We headed north at 10 am, there was a male lion sleeping at Craig Lockhart with oryx snorting at him. Lunch at Kamqua was accompanied by mice and lizards. A drive back to Rooiputs found eagles and kudu. There were lion tracks at site #2, but we were in #4 again. At Leeudril waterhole we got our first good red hartebeest sighting this trip and more birds, then we sat at the cape fox den north of Rooiputs and saw 2 kits and a band of meerkats that didn’t mind the fox. Again we had oryx for company at the campsite, as well as kori bustard, jackal, and ostrich. In the morning we drive to Kij Kij but then had to return to Rooiputs when told of 3 male lion on the move. They were young adults, the blondest one had porcupine quills. It was quiet going north, with another cobra and spotted eagle owl. At Nossob we got the unpleasant news that they were “out” of diesel, not good when we were heading to the Mabusehube section for 4 days. We got 45L which was not quite full, and we couldn’t fill our jerrycan. So we didn’t feel safe going for an evening drive and booked the sunset drive instead, and did some laundry. Unfortunately I think this was a bit of a scam, as the next morning we filled up including the jerrycan and others were getting diesel as well. The sunset drive was OK, we saw a wildcat, brown hyena, bat-eared fox, and several owls. We were in the hide at 9 pm with 3 other people when a big male lion came to drink, when he walked away roaring that woke up the rest of the camp. He roared off and on throughout the night but wasn’t in sight in the morning.

Time to drive the Bosobogolo road! It was sandy but not difficult, didn’t even require 4WD for most of it. A cape cobra, molesnake, a burned out vehicle, some oryx, mice, rats, and steenbok were all we saw. Lunch at Matopi #1, unfortunately lots of people left trash in the bathroom, pigs! We drove around Bosobogolo pan and saw brown hyena tracks, then oryx with young and a group of eland that jumped across the road in front of us on our way to Mpayathutlwa pan. The lions had been hanging around site #2, but we didn’t see them, we were at #1. There were many camp pests, including spurfowl, crimson shrike, wagtail prinia, yellow and slender mongooses, and zazus (yellow billed hornbills). We could hear lions roaring at night, in the morning (October 1) we saw a big male south of site #2. Then it was off to Lesholoago via Khiding and Mabua pans. Our pan had a resident wildebeest plus a springbok herd we saw every day (we were here 3 nights). We did an evening drive to Mpaya and enjoyed a thunderstorm in the distance, just getting back to camp before it hit us, lots of lightning. It was too windy to sleep at first but at least it didn’t rain too hard. The next morning we hung out at Lesholoago #2 after the people there left, to take a shower and get water. We had company from a jackal and birds, and then returned to #1 for a lazy afternoon. October 3rd we drove down to Monamadi pan, with lots of bat eared fox, and leopard and caracal tracks. From there we went to Mpaya, and the people who just left #2 told us the lions were there, so we went and hung out at the A frame reading and playing cards until a French couple in a unimog (super high vehicle) came up and said they could see a male lion in the grass that we couldn’t see. Back to the car, and a swedish couple joined us to watch various pride members (2 males 2 females 3 cubs) come and go to get water. Around 4:30 we headed back to Lesholoago, a little worried we would run out of diesel the next day.

A jackal sat with us that night at our campfire (no, we didn’t feed him). Our camera trap caught a brown hyena coming to the water we set up. The next morning we headed out via Monomadi, with more bat eared fox, gnu, kori bustard, and the only spotted hyena we saw in KTP this trip. Heading south to Bosobogolo we saw a large herd of eland including young, they were very shy. Thanks to the cool temperatures and rain the drive back to the South Africa side was smooth and fast, only 4.5 hours from signpost to signpost. We got to Nossob at noon, luckily we could check in to the premium campsite already and take hot showers! It was raining a bit, but stopped for a game drive north. Just springbok and wildebeest at the waterholes, heading back south a wildcat ran across the road in front of us, then we found two lionesses in the riverbed. We got back to Nossob in time to head down to Marie se Draii loop, and found mating lions. It was raining again by then, and continued most of the night.

The morning was misty, we went south again but just lots of lion tracks, fresh cheetah tracks too but no luck. Time to head to the far north, lots of general game, hartebeest carcass north of Grootkolk with a jackal holding off 30+ vultures. We heard of 5 cheetah at Unions End picnic site, by the time we got there they were farther in the bush and never came too close (Caster and 4 large cubs). We met a nice couple, Piet and Sandra, who were also at Gharagab that night We went to the Unions End signpost for a picture and then headed in to Gharagab, with oryx & hartebeest families with young at the waterhole. At camp we watched springbok, steenbok, and jackals at the waterhole, and could hear lions at night. On the way out in the morning we saw more baby oryx and bat eared fox but not much else. Heading back north there was no hartebeest carcass, and no cheetahs. At Unions End picnic sight we found a family trying to start a fire with a camera lens, they were grateful we had matches. Danie, Nola, Vikas, and Sunae invited us to join their skottle breakfast, it was very yummy! It turns out that they had cancelled one chalet at Grootkolk that night, which I had picked up just a few weeks before our trip started. Thanks again! Heading to Grootkolk we came across two young male lions in the road. Frankie the Grootkolk attendant said mom was trying to kick them out of the pride now that she had new cubs. We went out again at 5 pm, the two boys were still there, but now two females were further up the road and thinking of hunting wildebeest. At camp we were invited to dinner at the shared kitchen and brought our sloppy joes to share with the pap and braii feast the Theron family cooked up. It was our latest night the whole 9 weeks, we weren’t in bed until 11 pm. There were lions and hyenas calling at night but we couldn’t find them in the morning.

7 October - We headed south to more bat eared fox, Ludwig’s bustards, and jackal. We got to Polentswa #3 early, it was empty already so we hung out there. Lots of birds including violet eared waxbill. We drove to the lodge and had a drink, it was empty but they were expecting guests. The Botswana park guy said they were having issues with campsite hijackers. We did a drive south to Kwang with the usuals, best sighting was a brown hyena at Polentswa waterhole at 6:30 pm so not dark yet. We got back to #3 just before 7 and had to kick someone out of our site, he slept on the road just down from us, we reported him the next day. Heading south the next day we came across two big male lions north of Kwang. It was early so they were basking in the sun, we stayed until it got hot and they moved into the shade. It was too early to head to Bitterpan, at a pit stop at Nossob we heard of a cheetah at Marie se Draii so off we went. We were looking so hard for cats we found two lion far off under a tree! 2 km later we found the cheetah too, also far off. On the road to Bitterpan at first there was just a young male kudu and steenbok, but farther on we found groups of hartebeest and oryx. Camp was OK, not our favorite – small bed area, private bath but across a walkway, only a shared kitchen, waterhole not lit. We headed out via Mata Mata and found 2 male lion on a ridgeline posing near the former Strathmore waterhole.

Nearer the Auob we see steenbok, oryx, birds. Coming out at Craig Lockhart there is a wildcat in a tree. At Mata Mata we walk into Namibia to the farmstall (almost stepping on a dwarf beaked snake in the road) and pet their housecat. Leaving MM there’s another wildcat posing high in a tree. The photogenic juvenile martial eagle is still around, and a large group of male kudu and ostrich also pose. We go as far as Auchterlonie before heading to check in at Kielekrankie. Willem the attendant tells us of a cheetah that killed an oryx 2km south of Auchterlonie, so we head straight back out. We find the carcass on the hillside opposite the riverbed, 2 cars in attendance, no cat. We wait as cars some and go and finally the cat stands up at 4:30 pm and starts to feed. He eats and attempts to move the carcass, plopping at 5:30, so we head in. We return at 6 am and watch him for 3 hours feeding and keeping a jackal and crows off the carcass. He is a big male known as Fancy. We return to Kielekrankie for a relaxing afternoon of laundry and views, the chalet is very nice. Oryx, ostrich, and jackal come to drink, and a colorful bird caught bugs. We named it an Emerson’s Tinkerdink, about as good as the real name, Bokmakierie. At 3 pm we do a loop Kij Kij – Leeudril – Samvoelung – TR – cheetah, who is still there. A bat eared fox greets us on the way back to Kieliekrankie. Star photos are attempted that night. The next morning we check again but both cat and carcass are gone. Heading north, there’s both cape fox and bat eared fox, and huge springbok herds. We go south to TR and at Leeudril there is a ton of game – 20+ wildebeest, 30-40 ostrich with juveniles, 40+ oryx, and springbok. There is fighting, lots of action.

We go to Rooiputs #3 and have lunch, at 1:45 we head up to Kij Kij and find lions mating. We stay with them quite a while, heading back to Rooiputs the cape fox is out but no kits. In camp are a herd of wildebeest, oryx, and ostrich. We hear hyena at night, our last night in the rooftop tent. We try sitting at Leeudril in the morning, just jackal, birds, springbok. We see both a mottled yellow and bright yellow cobra heading north. The mating lions are still together but lazing in the shade. We head over the lower dune road and find Hanri the cheetah feeding on a springbok at 12:22 pm just below Bataluma, she made the kill at 11 am. We then see our one and only warthog in KTP, the posing juvenile martial eagle again, check into Urikaruus honeymoon suite, return the borrowed blanket, and relax. At 5 we head south, with a pretty cape fox on the way to the carcass – no cheetah just yet. Some cars give up, she comes out at 5:45 to feed, we stay until 6:12. We see 4 white face scops owls, a cobra-crow fight, and then a PELICAN in a tree! Just a jackal comes to the watherhole during dinner. We plan to take shifts staying up hoping to see a caracal, at 10 pm there is noise – 2 leopards come to drink! We think it’s a mom & cub at first but really it’s a big male named Dakotah and an unidentified female.

Friday the 13th, our last day in the park. We head north, nothing at 13th borehole, at the top of the loop though we see tracks of more than one cheetah, heading south on the dune road. We love this park for the sand roads that allow you to track animals. We followed them to where they left the road in line with the waterhole, so we returned there to wait. In the meantime we were entertained by Lanner falcons hunting doves - both falcons think they caught the same dove at one point. The whole time we were sitting watching the birds, I could hear chirping noises that sounded like cheetah, except it was nonstop! It was coming from behind a small rise between the waterhole and the dune road. A car came from the north and said there was a cheetah in the riverbed 5 km up - but then my husband saw a cheetah right across from us briefly. We drove around and found two males on the dune road, then they walked south in the riverbed, still chirping. After marking a tree, one broke into a jog - they spotted something - a 3rd cat jumped into a tree! Was it a female cheetah avoiding the two males? Nope, it was a leopard, a 3 year female known as Itumaleng. She got comfortable, hissing at the boys. Not what the males were looking for apparently. They hung around but left shortly, heading back north. By this time there were 7-8 cars at the sighting, most followed the cheetah but 3 of us stayed with the leopard. She jumped down, marked the tree, ran across the riverbed, and went up into the dunes. Meanwhile the cheetah headed back north towards 13th borehole so we drove around and waited for them there. They drank for a while, then went back into the depression they had been chirping from earlier. We headed north, looking for the 3rd cheetah, and found it trotting south, also chirping. He went onto the ridgeline, then ran to his brothers. The reunion was anticlimactic, no head rubs like lions, they just laid down together in the shade, too tired to hunt the springbok and wildebeest around. There was nothing to the north, heading south there were 3 lion at Bataluma including the big male with the blind eye. At the Twee Rivieren waterhole were two male lions snoozing. We checked in and packed and did laundry, at 5 pm we checked on the lions and they had killed a wildebeest against the camp fence! It was quiet at Samvoelung, Leeudril, and Rooiputs, just the usuals. We had dinner at the restaurant, the springbok pie was very good. In the morning we just drove down to Upington for our flight to Joburg, spending the night at the City Lodge at the airport.

Good thing we got an early start because the drive to Punda Maria was 7 hours long, lots of 60 km zones. With a shopping trip in Polokwane we reached the gate at 2:30 pm, with impala of course the first game seen, followed by elephant. We booked the safari tents which are very nice but it was super hot so air conditioning would have been nice. Tip, getting your bedsheet wet works well with a ceiling fan. An evening drive on the Mahonie Loop found kudu, impala, buffalo, zebra, and water monitor lizard. At sunrise we did the Mahonie loop again, adding nyala and warthogs to the sightings. Klopperfontein drift was pretty with birds, and Nyala Drive had..nyala! And great baobab trees. Pafuri picnic spot also had nyala, more of them with kudu and elephants on the way to Crooks Corner (border of South Africa – Mozambique – Zimbabwe), two elephants had trunk injuries from snares. Poaching is bad near the Mozambique border. We then sat with a leopard in a tree for 3 hours just east of the picnic spot, it hit 46 degrees celcius (115 farenheit), hot! Elephants walked by, but when he jumped down at 3:20 he was out of sight. Our only python made an appearance soon after. We got back in time to do part of the Mahonie Loop and saw the tail of a leopard walking in the bush. Not much sleep that night due to heat, we redid a similar route as yesterday as this was our first time in the far north and the last time this trip. Then it was south to Shingwedzi, we found a dead impala ram in the Dzingiga loop but no sign of the killer. Lots of elephants, including drinking from the tank at Boyela. The Mpholongo loop was pretty, with nyala again plus kudu, elephant, impala, zebra. After checking into Shingwedzi we went out to Red Rocks, heading back with a few minutes to spare so we went up S52 and found 4 wild dog!

It rained that night, we tried to go to Kanniedood but there was a tree down over the back road. We walked on the bridge, the 4th one in Kruger we've been on. We did Red Rocks again and the viewpoint, then the Mpholongo Loop again on the way back north, with no sign of the impala carcass, before checking in for the Nyalaland Wilderness Trail at Punda Maria. 5 Swiss joined us, 3 sisters raised in South Africa and the husbands of 2 of them, plus guides Christopher and Alfred and cook Herbert. We were at a temporary camp only 40 minutes from Punda Maria, at a beautiful location on the Luvuvhu River with safari tents. There were leopard tracks nearby, and we heard on the first night, but no cat sightings. We walked up a valley from camp and back, with impala and buffalo besides colorful butterflies and birds. It got very hot, we had birds to watch during siesta time at least. I can’t nap in the heat, at least there’s a bit of breeze in the lapa. The evening walk saw buffalo and a nice sundowner spot. We had set up our camera trap hoping to get the leopard but an elephant knocked it over. The morning was cloudy, much nicer for walking. Painted snipe were seen but eluded a picture. Some of us went for a “swim” in the river while Chritopher threw rocks to ward off crocodile (the hippo were much further upstream). He took a water sample, hopefully it came back NOT poisonous! That night we looked for pennant winged nightjar but no luck. We did see genet, springhare, scrubhare, and some antelope by spotlight. Saturday October 21 was still overcast and humid, after breakfast we headed back to Punda Maria and drove south via Red Rocks to Mopani, with our first Kruger tssesebe. On the way to Shimuwini there was a cute hyena family, one cub tried to chew on our car. The Letaba river was pretty and full of game, with impala, hippo, waterbuck, buffalo, elephant, and lots of birds. At unit 13 we watched waterbuck sparring.

Sunday was a drive to Letaba via Tsende and Engelhart overlook, lots of game but no cats. The North Klein waterhole had 5 species at once, wildebeest-buffalo-zebra-tssebe-warthog. Later, elephant too. South to the Letaba River bridge that night, and in the morning a big loop south and east on dirt roads to the Letaba River Road, finally coming north there was a single lioness at the waterhole. We liked the grassy valley along the SXXX. We had dinner at the Mopani bar, before heading to the Shipandani Hide for the night. We were surprised they didn’t give us the linens and things, promising they would be delivered by 6. Well it was close to 7 before they arrived, good thing we weren’t planning to braii! It was hot and humid, but at least not too buggy. We had elephant and kudu and klipsringer on the rocks near the hide, and more elephant across the river. Plus birds of course, and the fireflies were neat after dark. In the morning we returned to Mooiplaas waterhole (jackal) and the grass valley, with baby tssesbe, and about 10 hyena spread around 2 waterholes, and ground hornbills. We spent the night at Olifants #2, great view, with lots of elephants when we arrived. The causeway by Balule was open, first time in my visits it was! We watched a giant kingfisher catch a large fish there. From the viewpoint there were 9-10 lions very far away. In the morning we went south, lots of game and then 9 or so lions south of Nswawu waterhole. On the dirt roads to Letaba we found a buffalo carcass with lots of vultures, 4 species – cape, whiteback, white head, lappet faced.

Checking in for the Olifants Wilderness Trail we found we were the only 2! With guides Aaron and Absalom, and Herbert was our cook again. It’s a long drive to the camp, and the last bit is over horrible roads in very dry areas with little game. The camp at least has a view of the river. And the first scorpion we saw this trip. The A frame huts get no breeze, the trees are overgrown, so I didn’t sleep at all in the heat. We drove to the nearest river with water and saw game there, and set up our camera trap. It was a nice walk, first tracking lions (didn’t see them), ending with a large group of giraffe and an elephant. Colorful birds during siesta at the waterhole – blue waxbill, green winger pytillia (melba finch), spectacled weaver, marico sunbird. Plus a shy Sharpe’s grysbok. For the evening drive we saw the location of an old rest camp (Gorge Camp) and had sundowners with hippos. Overnight there was thunder and rain, yay cooler weather! We had a nice long hike the next morning, along the river and then over the hills. It was getting chilly that evening so after a drive we returned to camp for a bonfire. Leaving the next morning we came across a giraffe carcass with 5 lions – 2 young male 2 female and a tiny 8 week old cub. Plus 3 hyena in the area. Aaron got excited by an Egyptian vulture at the causeway, the first in Kruger since 1979 I think. We headed south via the lions again, then off to Tamboti tent #40, recently remodeled but the bed was horrible. We had hyena and bushbuck just outside the fence, genet under the tent, and we heard lions that night.

At 5:40 am we headed east and saw two male lion, they crossed the road right next to us. There were baby hippo in the Nsemani Dam, we heard the lions were still on the giraffe carcass and we saw 8 more at the S90/S91. Heading west there were hyena on an ancient carcass, then we left the park for 2 days at Gomo Gomo in the Klaserie (greater Kruger park). Bathtub, laundry, someone else cooking and driving, ahhh. Too bad the Sabi Sands places have gotten too pricey. We shopped in Hoedspruit before heading back in the park at Orpen. There was a leopard in a tree we sat with before checking in at Satara. The S100 was its usual plethora of game including a poor sighting of 4-5 lions and the first impala baby of the season, very early on October 31! The next morning gate opening moved to 4:30 am, which is ridiculously early (and still dark out). It was also quiet, until 20+ giraffe and waterbuck/crocodile/yellow stork at Sweni hide and some big elephant and 100+ buffalo at Sweni bridge. We returned to the leopard in the tree, this time seeing his zebra foal kill.

We checked in for the Sweni wilderness trail and found we had the same team as 4 years ago, Job, Obert, and James. Job and Obert remembered us. They had a brand new Land Cruiser, which wasn’t quite so clean and shiny after our trail. The other 6 people on the trail with us were friends from Joburg, younger men. We saw buffalo, elephant, and rhino on the way to camp, and 3 lions greeted us on the plains in front of camp when we arrived. Job drove us all over to see the lions, and set up our camera trap in front of the mud hole. There’s a muddy waterhole on the plains, and a large pool of water just in front of camp in the riverbed. In the morning it was cloudy, good hiking weather. We walked along the river, with general game, elephant, jackal den with pups, and at the end 5 lion (1 male 4 female), which we drove back to to admire some more. Back at camp there were lots of zebra on the plains plus elephant, warthog, baboon, wildebeest, and impala to watch. We drove that evening and saw the same 5 lions, plus 4 more on an impala kill, and after a short walk and sundowners at Marheya dam one more female lion at night. We skipped the morning hike and enjoyed a spectacle of hundreds of animals coming to the waterhole and riverbed pool – besides lots of zebra, wildebeest, and impala, there were unmentionables (which are in the background of many photos, hard to hide them!), a herd of 150 or so buffalo, and two herds of elephant (over 50 total). Plus mongoose, colorful birds, and a monitor lizard. When the hikers returned we saw two female lion in the bushes as well. Sundowners were up on a koppie that night, with a male lion on return to camp and 4 more lioness at the waterhole during dinner. We left early on 4 November, after retrieving our mud-encrusted camera trap (thanks elephants! The videos are great), with a shy leopard jumping out of a tree as we approached.

Next up was 4 nights at Talamati, a new camp for us. On our way to Talamati camp it was quiet, there was a zebra trying to give birth but it was a stillbirth so we didn’t stick around. Chalet #4 was lovely, we went back out at 4:30 to the Shimanguaneni dam for buffalo, ground hornbills, posing duiker, and awesome fig trees. The next day we tried the dirt road south which was horribly corrugated, with a few elephant and rhino sightings. We cut over to the tar road and were rewarded with 6 lion (3 female 3 cubs) in the riverbed, and a sickly old leopard nearby. Also 2 more antipoaching rangers. A kudu was busy eating a sausage fruit at Kumana dam, we headed back to camp to have elephants trumpeting at the waterhole. In the morning we looked for cheetah but only found tracks. At Muzandzeni picnic site we met a nice couple (Martin and Sarah) who showed us a resident Scops owl. On the way back to Talamati we found 4 cheetah, and stayed with them for a while. They were in the same place in the afternoon. On Monday the 6th of November we looked again for the large wild dog pack near Orpen with no luck. Heading south from Satara we found lions on a wildebeest kill, and north of Kumana dam a leopard resting in a tree. We headed down to Tshokwane via some dirt roads, saw 6 more lion in the bushes, several elephant herds, and returned to the leopard, who had just left the tree. He wanted to hunt some impala but mostly wandered around and then left the road area. More elephant, rhino, giraffe, and ground hornbill as well, and one more night at Talamati. It got windy overnight, and was heavily overcast Wednesday morning. We saw some new flowers, bushbuck, 2 male lion in the rain, more elephant, rhino, more baby impala, colorful European bee eaters, and 6 hyena at a den north of Satara.

Then it was time for our last wilderness trail, Mathikithi, with a German couple and guides Ronnie and Joas. The morning walk was nice, with general game on an overcast day. The evening was a game drive, to the Sweni river with rhino, elephant, and a lion pride (10 or 11 total). We also saw two ostrich families with young and a large herd of buffalo with a hovering black shouldered kite nearby. More genets driving back after dark. Our final walk was back down by the Sweni river, after seeing the lions again first (3 big males this time plus females and cubs), we walked to Marheya Dam, seeing footprints of poachers in the bush which Ronnie reported, we hear 3 men were arrested later that day. That evening we climbed Mathikithi Hill, then walked near 200+ buffalo and visited the lions again, about 19 total: 3 big males 3-4 younger males 5 adult females and cubs of various ages. That night we heard hyena close by, and distant leopard.

We finally headed to the south of the park the next morning, going past 10 or so of the same lions. There were lots of turtles and tortoises on the road after the rain. At Lubyelubye rocks we saw a male lion on a buffalo carcass across the river, with a giant crocodile nearby. The lion moved the carcass from a sandbar but couldn’t get it up on the riverbank. A large male elephant was being pushy on the road, luckily we could get around hime safely. We were not impressed with the “luxury bushview” tent at Lower Sabie, poor workmanship not enough screens no ceiling fan noisy sliding doors and NO view at all. Sunday the 12th we went north, no lion at the carcass, on S21 we found 4 female lions with 4 small cubs in the rain. And then got our first taste of OSV (outside safari vehicle) hell in the south, we left when 2 arrived and 10 more were heading in! Renosterkoppies found some klipsringer and more baby impala, then on the H1-1 were a mother cheetah and one cub, young enough to still have some white ruff. Sadly we were told there had been 3 cubs yesterday, and 5 two weeks ago. The cub was still chirping looking for siblings, but Mom wasn’t. Some kudu passing by didn’t generate much interest. They were far off but with good glass fairly visible, we were surprised how many people just had cell phones for cameras and no binoculars. Next was a 1st visit ever to Pretoriouskop camp and doing the circle and fayi loops, with elephants on the rocks. The cheetah were still there on the way back, the cub got scard by a warthog passing by. We went up on the “sand flea” hill before checking in at Skukuza. We did the night drive, starting off with 5 hyena right outside camp, then a pile of wild dog, lesser bushbaby, genet, hares, and owl. An early morning did not pay off at first (although Lake Panic hide was nice as always), until we wandered onto the S3 by the Sabie River and a male leopard. After a shower I went out again, 4 male lion and a female in the riverbed by the H12 bridge, and a sleepy leopard by the Nwatimhiri pan. In the evening the lions were still sleepy, but there were lots more impala babies.

On Tuesday the 14th we went south, with elephant and rhino, but we still reached Berg En Dal way too early to check in. We had breakfast there then headed into town to shop, with good timing – a male leopard was under a tree, then used a culvert to cross the road and (unsuccessfully) hunt kudo, then laid in the shade. He wasn’t there when we returned from shopping. From Berg en Dal we did a sunset drive, with a shy female leopard the highlight, plus elephant and about 16 rhino, plus jackal and hyena. A gray headed kingfisher that sat for a picture, more elephant and hyena the next morning, and then a leopard at the Matjulu River bridge, and then 3 sleepy male lion, more rhino, lots of impala, and 2 more lion on S28. A storm was coming in, we got to Biyamiti at 2 pm just as it started pouring. When it stopped we braiied some steaks, went for a short drive (several woodland kingfishers), and came back to another thunderstorm with great lightning (no pictures). On Thursday the 16th it was misty and cool, only 2 impala on the way to the weir. The crocodile there was shy, after that we found giraffe, elephant, and waterbuck. Past Transport Dam were 2 cheetah in the rain, and 2 sleeping lion on S65. We had breakfast at Skukuza, then south – missed a leopard near Afsaal, and returned to Biyamiti. On an afternoon drive we did the Mpondo Dam loop, finding buffalo and the usual game.

Our last full day was Friday the 17th, after a pretty sunrise we found 3 hammerkop with a frog kill, kudu and hyena and the usuals, 2 distant cheetah on S28, and part of a large pride near Lower Sabie but there were way too many vehicles to see much. A buffalo carcass at the low water bridge had a lot of crocodiles in attendance, and two hippo were fighting in the reeds along the Sabie River. A break at Biyamiti had duiker, bushbusk, waterbuck, and buffalo all visiting the river in front of camp. The evening drive had lots of big gray animals, and necking giraffes. Our last day we were up at 4 to shower and finish packing, out at 4:48 am to the weir seeing duiker, impala, waterbuck giraffe steenbok and dwarf mongoose. Around the corner was a beautiful male lion posing next to the road, I think we spent 45 minutes with him alone. There were several klipspringer pairs among the rocks, then on the tar road were 9 wild dog – alpha pair (male collared), 2 subadults, and 5 puppies. On the H1-1 I chose the Napi Rock loop as that was a new road for me and there was a leopard in a tree with an impala kill. Getting back to H1-1 we saw 2 cheetah walking into the bush, no pictures but still a nice sendoff. Last animal seen in the park was a young giraffe. We had lunch at Pretoriouskop before heading to JNB for the long journey home.

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In