Kirkman’s Kamp – January 2011

On our drive into the reserve to get to the camp, we saw a juvenile brown snake eagle, a dark chanting goshawk, impala, nyala and kudu. We arrived at camp and were shown around. There were buffalo to be seen from the camp at this stage. 

Ranger: Anton; Tracker: Victor
Butler: Cynthia

Lunch was turkey and we had Fontina cheese for dessert. The cheese was delicious! While we were eating, we could hear a fish eagle calling.

From the back of our room we saw a bushbuck and then we saw some elephant while we were having tea.

Sunday, 23 January – Evening Drive

We discovered that Kirkman’s no longer shared traversing rights with Mala Mala as they had in the past, but they now shared it with Lion Sands. We were interested in seeing how this worked out as in our previous stays at Kirkman’s, various Sabi Sabi camps and Lion Sands we had noticed a definite animosity between Lion Sands and the others. Our vehicle had us and 2 American groups. The first was a mother (Florida) and daughter (Washington DC) and the second a honeymoon couple from Atlanta.

The drive was a strange one. We had two heavy downpours with a break in between them. They were both almost like mini flash floods! During the first rainfall we came across a male lion, which had come across from the Kruger Park. He was lying in long grass with his head up. He didn’t look too happy with life. We started making our way back to camp after the rain as we were all drenched. And we were reasonably close to camp when the second rainfall happened. We did stop to enjoy part of a breeding herd of elephants. They were standing in the lee of a copse of trees to shelter themselves from the rain. In between this, when it wasn’t raining, we saw a scrub hare in daylight. It was tucked into the grass on the side of the road. It did not move so that we wouldn’t see it. But its tactic didn’t work!

After seeing the elephants, though, we were so badly soaked, despite the rain ponchos and the rain suits that Terry and I had bought to take with us, that we all agreed that returning to camp early was not a bad idea. We were wet through to our underwear! We had a hot “dirty” bath – they warned us that with all the rain, the water was a little muddy. Unfortunately, when Terry checked his camera which he had put into a special waterproof bag, he discovered that zips aren’t waterproof and that his camera and lens were sitting in an inch or two of water. He tried to dry the camera and batteries out but to no avail. Fortunately he has a backup camera and, so, for the second time at Kirkman’s he was reduced to taking photos with only one camera for the rest of the trip!

Other sightings – leopard tortoise, terrapin on the side of the road, giraffe, waterbuck, warthogs, impala and a hippo in the strongly flowing Sand River

Birds – grey-hooded kingfisher, African hawk eagle, red-headed weavers, white-crowned helmet-shrike and African green pigeon

Dinner was a pear and blue cheese salad, followed by impala loin. We thoroughly enjoyed both.

Monday, 24 January – Morning Drive

The clouds were much higher in the sky and we had a pleasant, cool morning. It did rain a little but it was more like a soft mist. We saw a leopard – a skittish female – in the road for a short while, but didn’t try to follow her any further due to the wet ground. The male lion was in the same place that we had seen him the evening before but this time he was nothing but a brown smudge in the long grass as he lay sleeping. We moved on and came across a lion pride lying in the road. There was a male, 2 females and a 14-month old female cub. They would get up, move about 50m and then flop down again. We followed them for a while, but then left them to their slow journey! As we drove along the tracker heard a bushbuck barking so we drove into the area to take a look. We drove past another vehicle that was also looking to see what had startled the antelope. They then radioed us to let us know that a female leopard had popped out into the road behind us. We turned around and moved in waiting for her to come towards us. It was a wonderful sighting as she stayed on the road and walked past the vehicle.

Other sightings – nyala males, a lone female wildebeest (unusual to find one alone like this), grey duiker, impala, a snouted nigh adder and hippo

Birds – paradise flycatcher, Wahlberg’s eagle, Retz’s helmet-shrike, Natal francolin on a tree, crested francolin, water thick-knee, violet-backed starling and Burchell’s coucal

Lunch was ostrich kebabs and a chocolate fondant.

Monday, 24 January – Evening Drive

We drove down to the Sand River to see how the rain from the day before had moved through causing the river to rise even further. We saw a dagga boy (buffalo) lying in a small pond/dam. There were plenty of impala about and we managed a brief sighting of a male kudu with marvellous horns. We also saw a small herd of elephant. When we stopped for drinks the ranger chose a spot where we could listen to frogs and he pointed out the calls of the bubbling cassina, the banded rubber frog and the painted reed frog. It was a wonderful experience and really great to put a name to some of the sounds that we heard driving along in the bush. On the way back to camp, we saw a southern white-faced owl.

Birds – white-faced ducks, a glimpse of a pearl-spotted owlet (J) just before it flew off, paradise flycatcher and crowned hornbill

Tuesday, 25 January – Morning Drive

We saw a flock of about 15 amur falcons. The other highlights of the drive were 2 specks we could see in the Sabie River. On closer inspection, it was two hinged tortoises that were fighting. One was on its back. We also saw a leveret (young hare) with a snake after it. They were on the road, but the leveret moved off into the bush.

Other sightings – giraffe, kudu, impala and rhino

Birds – martial eagle (first a juvenile and then two adults near a nest), Wahlberg’s eagle, lizard buzzard, African cuckoo, Eurasian bee-eater, purple roller and golden-breasted bunting We had breakfast and then the ranger took us out for a special birding drive. We saw the following birds: white-back vulture, white-headed vulture, tawny eagle, bateleur, thick-billed cuckoo (L), white-fronted bee-eater, southern carmine bee-eater, icterine warbler (L) and burnt-necked eremomela

Once we got back to camp we realised that we were seriously sunburnt! We skipped lunch and decided to rest instead.

Tuesday, 25 January – Evening Drive

First we did a little bundu-bashing in order to get in close enough to see an elephant. We then came across a scrub hare in the road in broad daylight. I think that someone has forgotten to tell the ones in this area that they are actually nocturnal animals! We then spent some time with 6 rhino that just continued munching the grass and wandering really close to the vehicle. While trying to move off, we realised that we were actually stuck in some mud, so we had to wait for them to wander off even further so that we could climb off the vehicle in order for them to get it out of the mud. Once we were back on track we came across a leopard on the road between Kirkman’s and the Kruger National Park. We then drove to a tree that had a champagne bucket and glasses hanging from it and we were treated to champagne in the bush.

Other sightings – lunar moth and scorpions that we could see using a UV light (they were bright yellow in the light)

Birds – thick-billed cuckoo again, comb duck in a tree and village indigobird

Dinner was kudu loin.

Wednesday, 26 January – Morning Drive

It was a drizzly day so we put on our full rain suits again, but it didn’t rain too hard this time and we remained reasonably dry. Our first sighting was a bronze-winged courser in the road. We then went tracking leopard. They could see tracks going in and out and no one had found any coming out on the other side of the block, so we drove up and down the same road four times and on the fourth she just popped out onto the road. We followed her and she picked up a leopard tortoise, but dropped it when we she noticed some impala up ahead. She moved from bush to bush taking cover and tracked the impala. They seemed to be totally unaware of her. She then settled under a bush to wait for them. We spent about an hour with her but then we had to leave her to do things at her own pace (as she was) in order to return to camp, and ultimately to make our way home.