Crocodile Bridge  

27 November

We were both awake very early and so got on the road before 5:30am. The trip was pleasant and uneventful and we arrived at Malelane Gate just before 10am.

Birds: Cape crow, pied crow, western cattle egret, common fiscal, spur-winged goose, helmeted guineafowl, black-shouldered kite, pied starling, long-tailed widowbird

We drove from the gate to Crocodile Bridge via the S25 along the Crocodile River. Despite the heat, we saw a number of animals – elephants, giraffes drinking and lots of impala (with a few lambs here and there, but lots of pregnant ewes). One of the highlights was a white rhino lying in the mud alongside the road. It was quite relaxed and not ready to move from its cool spot. We also saw a number of warthogs having a mud bath too. All these pools of water lying around and the green bush told us that the park had recently had some decent rains.

We saw a hippo out of the water just before 12:30pm – it was 33 degrees!

The bird activity was also good, with a number of raptors to be seen.

We checked in when we arrived at Crocodile Bridge and made our way to cottage 9 – right in the corner with a view over the river. It was too hot to cook, so we had a light lunch and unpacked everything before settling in to relax in the air-conditioned room!

We opted not to go out for another drive and instead cooked our pork steaks on our new bush baby gas hob. It worked really well. And supper was delicious!

Mammals: Baboon, bushbuck, elephant, giraffe, hippo, impala, kudu, vervet monkey, white rhino, steenbok, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: White-fronted bee-eater, red bishop, dark-capped bulbul, golden-breasted bunting, reed cormorant, Diederik cuckoo, Cape turtle dove, fork-tailed drongo, tawny eagle, little egret, western cattle egret, Egyptian goose, hamerkop, grey heron, hadeda ibis, yellow-billed kite, crowned lapwing, sabota lark, red-billed oxpecker, black-backed puffback, green-winged pytilia, red-billed quelea, lilac-breasted roller, magpie shrike, grey-headed sparrow, Natal spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, wattled starling, red-breasted swallow, black-winged stilt, little swift, kurrichane thrush, white-backed vulture, African pied wagtail, blue waxbill, green woodhoopoe

Other: Dung beetle, crocodile

28 November

Since the gates opened really early (4:30am!) we decided to set an alarm for 5am and then get out as quickly as we could. But we were both awake at 4:30am anyway so we made our way out shortly after 5am instead.

We had a lovely drive with plenty of general game and good birding. We watched a zebra foal gambolling about in the grass (with mom close by) and two Swainson’s spurfowl tussling in the road. We saw 8 Egyptian geese walking through the grass and 3 guineafowls sitting in a tree. They were all lovely sightings of something a little different to normal.

We stopped and watched a Burchell’s coucal calling from a tree. It was lovely to watch its throat move as it created its lovely bubbling sound.

We noticed that the temperature was already 27 degrees just before 7am and realized that we were in for another hot day.

We came across a lovely herd of buffalo. Most of them had crossed the road already, but the final two eventually made their way across. They were covered head to toe in mud!

The one sound that we had been looking forward to was the call of the Woodlands kingfisher. And we heard it from the gate when we arrived the day before. But, unusually, they seemed very shy and we hadn’t managed to see one. We eventually found one and from then on (for the rest of our stay) they were out and about everywhere.

Back at camp we managed to cool down – once the electricity came back on and we had air-conditioning again. Even Kruger was affected by load shedding!

At lunch time we braved the heat and Terry set up the new PotjieKing braai. He cooked two lots of lamb chops (one for the next day) and some roosterbroodjies. We had a lovely lunch. After cleaning up, we escaped back to the cool of the room.

We went out for a drive just after 5pm, making our way to the hippo pools. There we did see one hippo and an elephant. We then drove further along the S25, turning back in order to make it into the gate on time.

Mammals: Baboon, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hippo, impala, kudu, slender mongoose, vervet monkey, white rhino, steenbok, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: Arrow-marked babbler, crested barbet, yellow-rumped tinker barbet, bateleur, yellow-eyed canary, rattling cisticola, Burchell’s coucal, Cape turtle dove, laughing dove, fork-tailed drongo, Steppe eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, western cattle egret, grey go-away-bird, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, grey heron, grey hornbill, red-billed hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, hadeda ibis, malachite kingfisher, woodlands kingfisher, yellow-billed kite, blacksmith lapwing, crowned lapwing, sabota lark, speckled mousebird, African pipit, three-banded plover, red-billed queleas, lilac-breasted roller, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, grey-headed sparrow, crested spurfowl, Natal spurfowl, Swainson’s spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, wattled starling, barn swallow, hooded vulture, white-backed vulture, blue waxbill, red-billed buffalo weaver, green woodhoopoe

Other: Dung beetle, grey foam-nest tree frog

29 November

We were out just after 5am again. Not far from camp we came across two vehicles and found two young male lions on the move. We turned around and headed back to the road we had planned to take, thinking the lions would eventually cross that road. And they did. We were the only vehicle in the vicinity (the other two had continued on the main road). We watched two spotted hyenas moving around in the background, but the lions took no notice. They eventually flopped down – one on either side of the road. A crowned lapwing was screeching – obviously not very happy to have the lions on its turf!

We watched a dung beetle rolling its ball of dung only metres from the one lion. While we sat and watched them, we decided to eat our breakfast and enjoy our time with them. We were eventually joined by another vehicle and moved out as a third one joined the sighting. Not too much further along though we encountered another male (older) walking in the road in the direction of the other two. We assumed (obviously incorrectly, as we discovered later) that he was going to join up with his two “friends”.

And then we came across another lion sighting. This time two females with a cub. It was definitely a lion morning!

As we drove along, we first spotted a lilac-breasted roller displaying briefly. And then we came across another one calling – an unusual occurrence. Mostly, they are silent.

It was also another hot day – 29 degrees by 7am. The warthogs were wallowing in the mud again.

Once back at camp, we were able to successfully book a night drive. We had tried the previous day – at reception, by phone, online – but had had no success!

After relaxing the rest of the morning, we had a lovely lunch of wraps with diced lamb and bacon bits. They were delicious. We watched the birds around our cottage and even saw a hippo out of water near the river. 

At the start of our night drive, we found the two young male lions lying in the road. One had oozing puncture marks on its back (either side of the spine) so it is possible that the male lion we saw on his own was the perpetrator. The guide, Jacob, told everyone that the wounds were probably from an older male trying to chase them off.

We had a lovely night drive with some good sightings of genets and hyenas. But the highlight was a pair of Verreaux’s eagle owls, calling to each other. We were right next to the tree that the one was sitting in and could see the second one up ahead. Another highlight was a sighting of a black-crowned night heron – our first ever in the park.

Mammals: Buffalo, bushbuck, elephant, small spotted genet, giraffe, scrub hare, hippo, spotted hyena, impala, black-backed jackal, kudu, lion, dwarf mongoose, white-tailed mongoose, vervet monkey, steenbok, warthog, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: Bateleur, European bee-eater, dark-capped bulbul, cinnamon-breasted bunting, Burchell’s coucal, Levaillant’s cuckoo, Cape turtle dove, laughing dove, fork-tailed drongo, knob-billed duck, African fish eagle, lesser spotted eagle, tawny eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, western cattle egret, cut-throat finch, African firefinch, grey go-away-bird, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, black-crowned night heron, grey heron, grey hornbill, red-billed hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, pied kingfisher, African wattled lapwing, blacksmith lapwing, crowned lapwing, Verreaux’s eagle owl, red-billed oxpecker, brown-headed parrot, African green pigeon, three-banded plover, red-billed quelea, lilac-breasted roller, wood sandpiper, crested spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, wattled starling, barn swallow, red-breasted swallow, brown-crowned tchagra, water thick-knee, white-backed vulture, African pied wagtail, red-billed buffalo weaver, emerald-spotted wood-dove

Other: Dung beetle, crocodile, water monitor, terrapin, leopard tortoise

30 November

Although we didn’t set an alarm, we were still awake just after 5am! Nonetheless we lay in and relaxed until it was time to get up and pack. We eventually left camp after 7:30am, knowing that we could only check into our next camp at 2pm.

We saw a number of white rhinos as we made our way north.

Mammals: Buffalo, giraffe, impala, white rhino, warthog, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: Crested barbet, Cape turtle dove, fork-tailed drongo, western cattle egret, Egyptian goose, yellow-billed hornbill, black-shouldered kite, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, crested spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, purple-crested turaco, white-backed vulture, emerald-spotted wood-dove

Other: Dung beetle

Lower Sabie

30 November

We drove the roads around Mlondozi Picnic site, stopping there for a comfort break. As we left, we found a young buffalo dead in the road. It had no wounds to indicate cause of death. It was strange that nothing had found it and started to eat it.

We made our way to Sunset Dam, somewhere we haven’t been in a long time although it was always a favourite. It didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of hippos and water birds.

It was too hot to sit there for too long, so we made our way to Lower Sabie just after noon. We checked in and then had a look at the shop, before making our way to Mugg & Bean to have lunch – delicious jalapeno, bacon and cheese toasties. The best though was the cold, iced drinks! There were elephants on the river and hippos out of the river a little further down.

I fetched the keys while Terry bought some cold water and ice. We then made our way to Tent 5. It was lovely – better than a lot of the cottages we have stayed in.

We settled in and then relaxed, enjoying the comforts of the air-conditioner.

Just after 5:30pm we made our way back to Sunset Dam. We watched the hippos and birds again, but eventually had to move as it was 40 degrees and there was no air movement.

We drove to the low water bridge and then made our way back to camp.

We sat outside with drinks listening to lions roaring and baboons grunting. There were also some hyena whooping in the surrounds. We eventually moved into the dining room for our cheese and biscuits though – the mosquitoes were biting!

Mammals: Baboon, elephant, hippo, impala, kudu, steenbok, waterbuck, zebra

Birds: Bateleur, European bee-eater, white-breasted cormorant, knob-billed duck, brown snake eagle, little egret, western great egret, Egyptian goose, grey heron, hadeda ibis, African jacana, pied kingfisher, African wattled lapwing, blacksmith lapwing, speckled mousebird, African openbill, lilac-breasted roller, common sandpiper, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, house sparrow, African spoonbill, crested spurfowl, Natal spurfowl, black-winged stilt, saddle-billed stork, yellow-billed stork, barn swallow, little swift, water thick-knee, African pied wagtail, red-billed buffalo weaver, southern masked weaver

Other: Crocodile, water monitor, leopard tortoise

1 December

We were out of the gate before 5:30am and we made our way to Sunset Dam. From there we continued north along the main road.

We passed a large troop of baboons in the road. It was lovely to watch their antics, especially the babies and youngsters.

We saw some cars up ahead and found that they were watching some wild dogs on the side of the road. We watched for a little while, but then moved on as they moved further into the bush.

The river beds were a delight from the perspective of seeing larger waterbirds – goliath heron and saddle-billed storks to name a couple. We also saw 3 ground hornbills walking across the sand.

We drove across the two low-water bridges near Skukuza, but there was not much going on unfortunately.

We then made our way to the main road south, where we saw a herd of buffalo, watched some Woodlands kingfishers displaying and came across a herd of impala with a full nursery of lambs – over 20 in total.

We drove to Transport Dam. The highlight there was a grey heron with a frog that it had caught. It kept banging it and turning it around in its beak, before eventually swallowing it. There was also an Egyptian goose pair with 7 goslings. They moved out of the water and then cuddled down under the shade of one of the adult’s body and wings.

We made our way back towards Skukuza, turning to Lake Panic. We drove past the hide first and found a martial eagle in the trees. We then went to the boardwalk alongside the nursery and golf course and had a lovely walk. It was hot though so there weren’t many birds to be seen.

On our way back to the hide, we saw a nyala bull – the only nyala we saw the entire trip! At the hide, we spent some time enjoying a squacco heron and a juvenile green-backed heron (it took us a while to identify it as another couple had told us to look at the bittern – they did eventually agree with our identification though).

We made our way back to Skukuza where we went to the restaurant and met up with Terry’s cousin, wife and their friend (Gavin, Margie and Liz). We had realised that we were going to overlap in the park, although not staying in the same camps. So we organized to meet up for a meal one day. It was lovely to catch up with them. I had last seen them in March and Terry in October (both times at Kenton-on-Sea).

After lunch, they went to have a nap, but we still had to make our way back to Lower Sabie. It was very hot out and there were not too many animals to be seen. We did see plenty of impala and kudus though. We also came across a pair of klipspringer (we always enjoy seeing them).

We got back to the tent after 4pm, exhausted from our long day!

Mammals: Baboon, buffalo, bushbuck, wild dog, elephant, giraffe, hippo, impala, klipspringer, kudu, slender mongoose, vervet monkey, nyala, steenbok, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: Bateleur, dark-capped bulbul, black crake, reed cormorant, Burchell’s coucal, Jacobin cuckoo, Cape turtle dove, fork-tailed drongo, knob-billed duck, white-faced whistling duck, African fish eagle, brown snake eagle, martial eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, little egret, western great egret, grey go-away-bird, Egyptian goose, hamerkop, white-crested helmet-shrike, goliath heron, green-backed heron, grey heron, squacco heron, grey hornbill, southern ground hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, hadeda ibis, African jacana, brown-hooded kingfisher, giant kingfisher, pied kingfisher, woodlands kingfisher, black-shouldered kite, yellow-billed kite, red-crested korhaan, African wattled lapwing, blacksmith lapwing, speckled mousebird, red-billed oxpecker, three-banded plover, lilac-breasted roller, common sandpiper, magpie shrike, house sparrow, African spoonbill, Natal spurfowl, Swainson’s spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, greater blue-eared starling, black-winged stilt, saddle-billed stork, yellow-billed stork, barn swallow, lesser striped swallow, red-breasted swallow, wire-tailed swallow, little swift, water thick-knee, southern black tit, purple-crested turaco, white-backed vulture, red-billed buffalo weaver, southern masked weaver, village weaver

Other: Crocodile, water monitor, leopard tortoise

2 December

We left camp just before 5:30am again. Our plan was to drive to Tshokwane and back using two different routes.

Once on the H10 we first came across a spotted hyena and then a male lion lying under a bush a little further on. Four hyenas walked across the road, and we could see some more in the background. The lion ignored them and then flopped down – and he was invisible!

Further along we came across some more hyena – 4 adults and 2 cubs. Some of them were lying in the road and some of them were play biting. They were near a culvert. Further along the road we could see a red-crested korhaan pair. They moved towards us on the road. Their tails were up and they were almost dancing in step alongside each other. It was beautiful. They got closer to the hyenas and then turned around and moved back up the road. They did this a couple of times before moving into the bush.

Later on, we saw a tawny eagle and bateleur sitting on different branches of the same dead tree. They were being mobbed by a fork-tailed drongo, that then proceeded to sit on the branch next to the tawny!

Orpen Dam was really dry. There was less water than we have seen in the past couple of years.

At Tshokwane we bought some pies – kudu and buffalo – carrot cake, milk tart and an ice cream tub for Terry. We made our way to the lookout point over the river and ate the kudu pies for breakfast, followed by our treats (which we couldn’t finish!). We watched a baboon walk down to a pool of water to drink. It then started to walk around the pool and was mobbed by some blacksmith lapwings. Another baboon decided to give them a wide berth.

On the return journey we saw a number of elephant herds and a herd of buffalo. Most of the elephants were standing in the shade of trees.

We made a detour to look at Sunset Dam and then made our way back to our tent.

We had lunch at Mugg & Bean again – ordering a number of things from the sharing menu. They were delicious.

We went out again just after 5pm. We drove south on the main road until the S28 (where we turned back). There was a hippo on the side of the road in some bushes. We couldn’t believe it as the temperature was still 36 degrees.

We drove across the Sabie River bridge and back. One hippo was in a rocky pool where the water was fast-moving and churning over the rocks. It looked like it was in a jacuzzi!

We then made our way to Sunset Dam to enjoy the sunset. A grey heron seemed to think that the back of a hippo was a good place to stand. It hopped across to another hippo when that one went under water a bit later.

Back at camp we set up the gas hob and sat outside to cook some bacon and pork rashers. We made up some grilled sandwiches for the next day’s breakfast and then made quesadillas with some of the leftover bacon. We had those for supper.

Mammals: Baboon, buffalo, bushbuck, common duiker, elephant, giraffe, hippo, spotted hyena, impala, kudu, lion, slender mongoose, white rhino, steenbok, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: Arrow-marked babbler, bateleur, European bee-eater, bokmakierie, black-bellied bustard, mocking cliff chat, rattling cisticola, white-breasted cormorant, black crake, Diederik cuckoo, Jacobin cuckoo, Cape turtle dove, laughing dove, fork-tailed drongo, knob-billed duck, white-faced whistling duck, African fish eagle, martial eagle, tawny eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, little egret, western cattle egret, western great egret, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, goliath heron, green-backed heron, grey heron, purple heron, squacco heron, grey hornbill, southern ground hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, African jacana, black-shouldered kite, red-crested korhaan, African wattled lapwing, blacksmith lapwing, crowned lapwing, red-faced mousebird, ostrich, brown-headed parrot, three-banded plover, lilac-breasted roller, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, Natal spurfowl, Swainson’s spurfowl, Cape glossy starling, greater blue-eared starling, black-winged stilt, saddle-billed stork, woolly-necked stork, yellow-billed stork, barn swallow, red-breasted swallow, little swift, black-crowned tchagra, water thick-knee, white-backed vulture, African pied wagtail, lesser masked weaver, red-billed buffalo weaver, pin-tailed whydah

Other: Crocodile, water monitor, terrapin, leopard tortoise

3 December

We were out well before 5:30am and we drove the main road towards Skukuza, turning off to the bridge over the Sabie/Sand River confluence, before making our way back along the S30 to Lower Sabie. It was another hot day – 32 degrees by 7:30am! Many of the animals had already taken to the shade.

We came across a large herd of buffalo (500+). They were spread out on both sides of the road.

We also found a secretarybird wandering through the grass and stamping its feet as it walked. It missed a few times, but then caught something small. It swallowed it before we could even work out what it had caught.

By 8:30 it was 37 degrees already, so we didn’t stay out too much longer, getting back to camp before 9am. We were totally drained from the heat.

We had some sharing plates for lunch again – different to the ones we had the previous day. We also stopped at the shop to buy an ice cream before walking back to our tent.

There we spent the rest of the day relaxing in the air-conditioned room. Although it was so hot that we still felt like we were melting! The forecast temperature was 43 degrees plus there was a warm berg wind.

After a light supper, we got ready for our night drive. Our first sighting right out of camp was an African civet on the side of the road. We were thrilled.

The rest of the drive was reasonably quiet with only the usual suspects making a brief appearance.

Mammals: Baboon, buffalo, bushbuck, African civet, common duiker, elephant, small spotted genet, giraffe, scrub hare, hippo, spotted hyena, impala, klipspringer, kudu, slender mongoose, white-tailed mongoose, steenbok, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: Bateleur, European bee-eater, southern boubou, dark-capped bulbul, reed cormorant, Jacobin cuckoo, Levaillant’s cuckoo, Cape turtle dove, laughing dove, fork-tailed drongo, knob-billed duck, white-faced whistling duck, brown snake eagle, lesser spotted eagle, western great egret, grey go-away-bird, Egyptian goose, goliath heron, green-backed heron, grey heron, purple heron, yellow-billed hornbill, African jacana, brown-hooded kingfisher, pied kingfisher, woodlands kingfisher, black-shouldered kite, African wattled lapwing, black-backed puffback, green-winged pytilia, lilac-breasted roller, secretarybird, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, Natal spurfowl, Swainson’s spurfowl, Cape glossy starling, greater blue-eared starling, black-winged stilt, saddle-billed stork, yellow-billed stork, little swift, water thick-knee, white-backed vulture, red-billed buffalo weaver, southern masked weaver, emerald-spotted wood-dove

Other: Dung beetle, leopard tortoise

4 December

It had rained through the night, so it was cooler than it had been the previous mornings. Although we were awake before 5am, we managed to both go back to sleep waking up at about 6:30. We lay in bed and read until 8am and then got sorted out and packed.

We stopped to check our tyre pressure, handed in the keys at reception and then went to Mugg & Bean for a cooked breakfast. There was a herd of elephants on the river and we watched a number of different birds as we sat at our table looking out.

We eventually left camp after 10:30am in order to make our way to Biyamiti. By 10:45am the temperature was only 18 degrees. In fact, it barely made 19 before the day was over. What a change from the previous day! We even wore jackets!

We took a last drive to look at Sunset Dam and then over the bridge and back. The “jacuzzi” hippo was back in its spot (as it had been most times since we first saw it).

As we made our way south on the main road, we saw a very wet and bedraggled monkey and some southern ground hornbills (3 adults and 1 juvenile).

Mammals: Baboon, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hippo, impala, vervet monkey

Birds: Dark-capped bulbul, laughing dove, little egret, western cattle egret, western great egret, grey go-away-bird, Egyptian goose, goliath heron, grey heron, southern ground hornbill, African jacana, woodlands kingfisher, white crowned lapwing, red-billed oxpecker, Swainson’s spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, greater blue-eared starling, violet-backed starling, wattled starling, barn swallow, white-backed vulture, common waxbill, lesser masked weaver, thick-billed weaver

Biyamiti

4 December

We cut through to Biyamiti Weir, where we saw the single hippo just like the last trip.

We then made our way along the private road to camp (S139). Just before the turnoff to the camp (only a couple of 100 metres away) we encountered a bull elephant in musth and he was not interested in moving out of the road. In fact, he kept advancing which meant that we had to keep reversing. Every time we thought he could no longer see us, we would stop and wait – only to have him continue on towards us! Eventually another vehicle drove through and he obviously moved in a little deeper. So, we took our chance and made our way to reception to check in. It was well after 2pm when we arrived.

We discovered that the cottage we were supposed to stay in had sprung a leak and we had been upgraded to a family cottage – number 14. The only disadvantage of this was that it did not have a view of the dry river.

We unpacked and settled in. Val (our sister-in-law) had told us to look out for fruit bats and we found one hanging from the eaves on our veranda.

The buffalo pies that we had bought in Tshokwane a few days prior made for a good, late lunch/early supper and then we relaxed until it was time to go to sleep.

Mammals: Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bat, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hippo, impala, kudu, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: Crested barbet, cinnamon-breasted bunting, Cape turtle dove, laughing dove, fork-tailed drongo, white-faced whistling duck, African fish eagle, tawny eagle, helmeted guineafowl, green-backed heron, grey heron, blacksmith lapwing, African green pigeon, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, Natal spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, white-bellied sunbird, barn swallow, white-backed vulture, African pied wagtail, blue waxbill

Other: Leopard tortoise

5 December

We woke up to another grey, wet day, so, although we were awake at 4:30am we took our time getting ready. Nonetheless we were out just before 5:30am.

They say that the early bird catches the worm – we were early enough to find a lilac-breasted roller in the middle of the road enjoying its breakfast (not a worm though). We drove along the S139 to the weir (the same way we had come in the day before) and there was no sight of the bull elephant luckily.

We drove further north and found a klipspringer standing on a large rock. We then made our way back to the weir and the S139. There we saw some southern ground hornbills. (In fact, we saw a lot of them most times we drove the private road.)

Instead of an elephant in the road we encountered a large bull giraffe that stood chewing food, cheeks bulging, and watching us. He was much more amenable to moving on and letting us pass.

We drove past camp in order to drive the shorter section of private road on the other side. We came across some giraffe and zebra. They all seemed to be looking in one direction so we stopped. We looked around and next thing we knew there were no giraffe or zebra to be seen. Terry saw a wild dog in his rear-view mirror and called out at exactly the same time as I saw one walk into the road in front of us. A couple more were moving in the bush but then they all ran off in one direction.

We continued driving, thinking that we had lost them, but they must have doubled back or we found another group split from the rest of the pack, as we found 7 wild dogs standing together in the middle of the road further along. We were near the end of the road and they ran across the intersecting road and along the high bank of the river. We were amazed that we had found them again.

We took a drive over the low-water bridge, before turning around and making our way back to camp. On the way we had a number of sightings of spotted hyena.

For lunch, we braai’ed wors, ribs and roosterbroodjies on the PotjieKing. We had bought the meat before we left Lower Sabie, and it was all delicious.

We had booked a sunset drive for that afternoon and walked to reception (the meeting point) despite the fact that it was raining lightly. We found that the other 4 people had cancelled and it was just us, so we decided not to take a chance with the rain and rather go the next day (we had booked both).

We walked back to our cottage and decided to still go out for a drive (in our own, more sheltered vehicle!) We drove the same direction that we had seen the wild dogs in the morning (not expecting to see them in the area still). We saw buffalo on the way and took a quick look at the river from the low-water bridge.

We then drove back along the S139 to the weir. We found some monkeys with 3 small babies. Later we found 3 ground hornbills, followed by another on in the road with a second one in a tree next to the road. On our way back from the weir we saw 3 of them fly up into a tree (probably the same ones we saw on the way out).

Back at camp we prepared food for the morning drive and then had a supper of leftovers.

Mammals: Baboon, buffalo, wild dog, common duiker, elephant, giraffe, hippo, spotted hyena, impala, klipspringer, kudu, dwarf mongoose, vervet monkey, tree squirrel, steenbok, waterbuck, zebra

Birds: Black-collared barbet, crested barbet, bateleur, European bee-eater, white-fronted bee-eater, cinnamon-breasted bunting, Cape turtle dove, fork-tailed drongo, knob-billed duck, white-faced whistling duck, brown snake eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, grey go-away-bird, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, hamerkop, grey heron, African hoopoe, red-billed hornbill, southern ground hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, hadeda ibis, African jacana, woodlands kingfisher, black-shouldered kite, blacksmith lapwing, crowned lapwing, Senegal lapwing, speckled mousebird, red-billed oxpecker, three-banded plover, green-winged pytilia, lilac-breasted roller, double-banded sandgrouse, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, southern grey-headed sparrow, crested spurfowl, Natal spurfowl, Swainson’s spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, greater blue-eared starling, barn swallow, lesser striped swallow, water thick-knee, southern black tit, white-backed vulture, white-headed vulture, African pied wagtail, red-headed weaver, emerald-spotted wood-dove

Other: Crocodile, leopard tortoise

6 December

It wasn’t raining when we woke up just before 4am. The birds were obviously happy to be dry because there was a cacophony of bird songs that kept us from going back to sleep. We eventually got up and made our way out of camp shortly after 5am. It was still grey and overcast though, and cool.

We made our way towards the weir (our favourite drive) and came across two young male lions that crossed the road ahead of us. We stopped to watch them as they continued far into the river bed. Shortly after, a female and two more young males crossed the road too. We continued to wait in order to see if there were any more and after a long while two more females strolled out – not in nearly as much hurry as the first youngsters. We later found out that the pride has 8 lions in total – so we either missed one up front or there was a straggler that we didn’t get to see.

We saw a number of rhinos on our drive – two adults, then a mom and calf, two more adults and then a single adult. It was turning out to be a good rhino drive.

We made our way around and back to camp, where we relaxed until lunch time.

We cooked bacon and pork rashers on our little gas hob, making sandwiches for breakfast the next day and for our lunch.

Later on, we made our way to reception again for our sunset drive. There was a Swedish couple on the vehicle with us. Our guide was Simon and he is definitely one of the better guides that we have had in the Kruger. It turned out that he was a tracker at Londolozi and we then understood the difference in how he interacted with his guests.

We saw a hippo running on the bank on the other side of the river – this time it was at least cool enough to understand that it was out and about in daylight. We then came across a pair of rhinos – male and female. The Swedish woman was over the moon – she had never seen one in the flesh before, so we spent a little time with them.

While Simon was telling us about them and their mating – he used the analogy of being ready to go shopping and going shopping. We had a good chuckle. It definitely is a politer way of talking about this when there are children present!

A special sighting was that of two dwarf mongoose on an anthill. As we sat and watched, two small heads popped out next to the one – there were babies! That is not something that we have seen before.

We came across a large herd of buffalo just before the intersection with the main gravel road.

We stopped at the weir and spent some time with the hippo and watched some birds, including a jewel-coloured malachite kingfisher. While telling us about the hippo, Simon asked whether we know why the hippo opens its mouth so wide. He told us that it was not allowed to eat fish although it lived in the water, and it opened its mouth to show God that it hasn’t eaten any fish. That is the same reason he says it sprays its “poo” – so God can see that there are no fish bones!

We then turned back and made our way to camp. We heard a ground hornbill calling and then found 3 in a tree, getting ready to roost for the night.

We didn’t see too much once we started using the lights – scrub hares and a white-tailed mongoose. We also saw two different nightjar species and a pearl-spotted owlet. We also smelled the buttered popcorn scent of leopard urine a few times, suggesting that one was marking on the road, but we never actually found it.

Mammals: Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bat, buffalo, common duiker, elephant, giraffe, scrub hare, hippo, impala, lion, dwarf mongoose, white-tailed mongoose, vervet monkey, white rhino, tree squirrel, steenbok, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: Arrow-marked babbler, black-collared barbet, crested barbet, bateleur, white-fronted bee-eater, dark-capped bulbul, cinnamon-breasted bunting, rattling cisticola, Jacobin cuckoo, Cape turtle dove, laughing dove, fork-tailed drongo, knob-billed duck, white-faced whistling duck, African fish eagle, martial eagle, tawny eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, grey go-away-bird, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, hamerkop, grey heron, red-billed hornbill, southern ground hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, hadeda ibis, malachite kingfisher, woodlands kingfisher, yellow-billed kite, blacksmith lapwing, crowned lapwing, speckled mousebird, fiery-necked nightjar, square-tailed nightjar, pearl-spotted owlet, red-billed oxpecker, brown-headed parrot, three-banded plover, lilac-breasted roller, common sandpiper, common scimitarbill, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, crested spurfowl, Natal spurfowl, Swainson’s spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, violet-backed starling, saddle-billed stork, water thick-knee, hooded vulture, white-backed vulture, African pied wagtail, blue waxbill, common waxbill, emerald-spotted wood-dove, green woodhoopoe, golden-tailed woodpecker

Other: Dung beetle, water monitor, leopard tortoise

7 December

Although we were awake just after 5am, we lay in – dozing and reading. We then packed and had breakfast, leaving camp shortly after 9am.

A short while after we got onto the road, we stopped. We had heard a bird calling “victor” and we wanted to find it. It took a while to find it, but we did! It was great to see a greater honeyguide again.

We also saw a lion under a bush in the distance. There was only one that we could see, but once she flopped down we couldn’t see her – so there could have been more.

Over our time in the park, we had seen a number of raptors (most of them wet and bedraggled sitting in the tops of trees over the past few days). Now we were treated to a lovely sighing of a martial eagle in the fork of a tree, eating on its catch.

We made our way through to the tarred road (the first one we had seen it some time!) and then drove to Afsaal picnic spot for a quick break.

Mammals: Buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hippo, impala, kudu, lion, vervet monkey, tree squirrel, steenbok, warthog, zebra

Birds: Arrow-marked babbler, bateleur, Jacobin cuckoo, fork-tailed drongo, knob-billed duck, white-faced whistling duck, martial eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, Egyptian goose, green-backed heron, grey heron, greater honeyguide, red-billed hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, woodlands kingfisher, lilac-breasted roller, magpie shrike, Swainson’s spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, barn swallow, little swift, white-backed vulture, emerald-spotted wood-dove, green woodhoopoe, golden-tailed woodpecker

Other: Crocodile

Bergendal

7 December

From Afsaal we made our way south on the main road. We came across some lions under a bush – with plenty of cars parked in the road. We had a quick look and then continued on our way.

A little further on we stopped to see what someone else was looking at – it was a woodland kingfisher eating a scorpion.

We arrived at Bergendal camp just before 1pm and checked in. They even gave us our key. We decided to have lunch first though and made our way to the restaurant, where Terry had a chicken schnitzel and I had a BBQ chicken breast.

After a quick stop at the shop, we made our way to cottage 14 and settled in. Although it was grey with rain looming, it was hot and humid so we both had cold showers once the unpacking was finished!

We went out for a drive at 5pm, making our way to Matjulu waterhole. Just after we had turned onto the gravel road, we found a number of cars with two male lions lying in the bush. We also saw some rhinos deep in the bush.

At the waterhole we were told that we had just missed a leopard, although the number of impalas calmly walking around suggested that it couldn’t have been that recent. It felt like we were doomed to not see one this trip!

Once everyone had moved on, we stayed on to watch for animals coming down to drink. We were rewarded by two elephants who ran down to the water. They first tried the reservoir but the water level was obviously too low. The bigger of the two, though, went back for another try and he obviously found a spot where he could just reach it. He looked really funny with his head over the side and the concrete pushing under his tusks. The other male tried again too, but he was a little smaller and not successful.

As we drove back to camp, the lions were still lying down under the bush. So, not much had happened in our absence.

Mammals: Buffalo, bushbuck, elephant, impala, lion, white rhino, wildebeest, zebra

Birds: Bateleur, white-fronted bee-eater, fork-tailed drongo, tawny eagle, grey go-away bird, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, red-billed hornbill, hadeda ibis, brown-hooded kingfisher, woodlands kingfisher, black-headed oriole, red-billed oxpecker, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, southern grey-headed sparrow, Natal spurfowl, Swainson’s spurfowl, purple-crested turaco

8 December

It was raining when we woke up so we had a slower start than normal, leaving camp shortly before 6am.

Just out of the gate, we found two spotted hyenas. A little further along there was a major traffic jam – caused by a large bull elephant that was determined to stand in the road while he munched on branches! Cars on both sides were reversing and staying out of his way. We stopped and moved to the side, where we were out of the way but could still see the elephant. And we ate our breakfast! When the elephant eventually decided to move into the bush, everyone went on their way.

We drove on the main road up to the S118 (we have decided that this is one of our favourite roads in the area). It follows the Mlambane River and is very scenic – joining the S114 (another favourite) just before a low-water bridge.

There was lots of water everywhere and it looked like it had rained through the night (it is not easy to hear the rain with the thatched roofs at the cottages). In fact, there was so much water lying in the road that we even found a terrapin in a puddle on the road.

At the low-water bridge we stopped to listed to all the frogs calling. It was lovely.

Just after Biyamiti weir, we found a terrapin walking in the road at the intersection just beyond the weir. It was really bizarre.

We turned around and found bullfrogs in pools on the side of the road. It was fascinating to watch them call. There were a number of them in one or two large puddles. We sat and watched them for some time.

We also had a lovely sighting of a rhino, sleeping just beside the road. He didn’t even open his eyes to see what we were doing!

Back at camp, we relaxed before walking down to the restaurant. We both had burgers for lunch and it was cool enough for me to enjoy a cappuccino. Luckily, we could still sit outside. We had a great time watching a trumpeter hornbill move around the trees, garden and even the lower stairs.

When we left camp just after 5pm, there were vehicles parked on the tar road and on the gravel road to the waterhole. I asked one couple if it was the lions again and the woman answered that it was a male leopard. We were thrilled and manoeuvred the vehicle until we could just see him. The couple let us know that they were moving on a little bit later and we moved into their spot – we had a great sighting. We spent about 15 minutes there before indicating to someone else to come into our slot.

We continued on to the waterhole, but there was nothing to be seen. After turning around though, we came across 4 spotted hyenas in the road. The leopard had obviously moved on as there were no cars around any longer.

Mammals: Elephant, giraffe, hippo, spotted hyena, impala, leopard, white rhino, tree squirrel, waterbuck, zebra

Birds: Red-chested cuckoo, Cape turtle dove, laughing dove, fork-tailed drongo, Steppe eagle, tawny eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, Egyptian goose, grey go-away-bird, helmeted guineafowl, grey heron, grey hornbill, trumpeter hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, hadeda ibis, woodlands kingfisher, three-banded plover, green-winged pytilia, lilac-breasted roller, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, crested spurfowl, Natal spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, water thick-knee, Kurrichane thrush, lappet-faced vulture, African pied wagtail, red-billed buffalo weaver, emerald-spotted wood-dove

Other: Bullfrog, crocodile, giant land snail, terrapin

9 December

We were awake really early, but we lay and dozed as we could hear that it was raining much heavier than the previous day. We ate breakfast at the cottage and eventually left camp just before 8am.

We drove to the S118 again. There was a small terrapin crossing the road. It looks like there was so much water that they were abandoning it!

Once on the S114 though we drove south in order to take another loop back to the main road. We saw some general game, but it was very quiet otherwise. And the animals that we did see looked wet with their fur ruffled against the cooler weather.

We made our way back to camp cutting through on the gravel road. Close to camp, we found the male leopard sleeping under another bush (not too far from where he had been the previous day).

Lunch was buffalo pie for Terry, and I had BBQ chicken breast again.

We left camp again at 5pm and found that the leopard was gone again. We drove to the Steilberg road. It was a lovely scenic drive. We saw a number of sightings of elephant and a rhino.

There was nothing to see at the waterhole, so we made our way back to camp, where we had cheese and biscuits plus ice creams (that we had bought from the shop) for supper.

Mammals: Buffalo, bushbuck, elephant, giraffe, impala, leopard, dwarf mongoose, white rhino, tree squirrel, steenbok, zebra

Birds: European bee-eater, dark-capped bulbul, orange-breasted bushshrike, yellow-fronted canary, rattling cisticola, Jacobin cuckoo, laughing dove, fork-tailed drongo, tawny eagle, grey go-away-bird, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, grey heron, Eurasian hobby, grey hornbill, red-billed hornbill, trumpeter hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, hadeda ibis, pied kingfisher, woodlands kingfisher, crowned lapwing, red-billed oxpecker, brown-headed parrot, tawny-flanked prinia, red-billed quelea, lilac-breasted roller, common sandpiper, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, southern grey-headed sparrow, Natal spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, violet-backed starling, black stork, barn swallow, purple-crested turaco, hooded vulture, white-backed vulture, African pied wagtail, blue waxbill, emerald-spotted wood-dove, green woodhoopoe

Other: Dung beetle, giant land snail, terrapin

10 December

We were awake early again but stayed in bed because it was raining. We ate breakfast at the cottage and left camp at about 8:15am. We decided to drive the S118 again and go up to the weir to see if the rain had changed things up there in any noticeable way.

As usual, we saw elephants along the road once we were out of camp.

As we drove along the Mlambane River, we saw a couple of groupings of marabou storks – our first of the trip. There was also a pair of very wet bateleurs sitting at the top of a tree on one of the loops to the river.

We stopped to watch some vervet monkeys on the side of the low-water bridge. Some of them were sitting on the rocks and another was eating mushrooms that had come up as a result of the rain. It looked like it was having a feast. The one young monkey was wet and scraggly – and it looked like the monkey version of “grumpy cat”. It obviously was not impressed with the rain any longer!

We had enjoyed seeing impala and their lambs most of the trip, but this time we came across a mother with a really tiny lamb. It couldn’t have even been a day old.

We had commented to Simon when we were in Biyamiti that we were surprised that we hadn’t seen any European rollers about. He said that he had also not seen any yet. Well we saw our first (and only) one as we made our way to the weir.

Although there were still puddles on the road, there were no signs (or sounds) of any bullfrogs. They must have moved on to more permanent waters (or at least we hope so for the benefit of their tadpoles!)

Nothing looked very different at the weir, although there were definitely more puddles on the rocks. The rain had obviously not been enough or in the right place to start the Biyamiti river flowing (Simon had told us that Pretoriuskop is the area where the river originates from).

After a brief stop at Afsaal, we continued back to camp on the main road. We saw some warthogs – we hadn’t seen any since we got to Bergendal. We also saw some rhino – one on one side of the road and a mom and calf on the other side.

Back at camp, we went straight to the restaurant as we were later than normal and it was still raining – we would have been soaked if we walked from the cottage. In fact, it was raining so much, that we ate inside for the first time. We both had steaks for lunch.

We went back to the cottage to relax, and didn’t go out again because of the rain.

Mammals: Baboon, elephant, giraffe, impala, kudu, vervet monkey, white rhino, warthog, waterbuck

Birds: Bateleur, Cape turtle dove, laughing dove, fork-tailed drongo, lesser spotted eagle, tawny eagle, Amur falcon, grey go-away-bird, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, grey heron, southern ground hornbill, brown-hooded kingfisher, malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher, woodlands kingfisher, black-headed oriole, red-billed oxpecker, three-banded plover, red-billed quelea, European roller, lilac-breasted roller, magpie shrike, crested spurfowl, Natal spurfowl, Swainson’s spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, marabou stork, barn swallow, water thick-knee, lappet-faced vulture, white-backed vulture, white-headed vulture, African pied wagtail, red-billed buffalo weaver, green woodhoopoe

Other: Leopard tortoise

11 December

We were awake very early again and, although we lay in for a short time, we eventually decided to get up and get going. We left camp at 5:30, dropping our keys in the box before the gate. It was misty and overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining (for the moment, anyway).

There was not much other than elephant and impala to be seen as we made our way towards the gate. We did however see warthog just before we arrived there at 6am.

We stopped and sorted cameras, etc. out, before crossing the bridge over the Crocodile River and making our way to the highway.

Mammals: Elephant, impala, warthog

Birds: European bee-eater, white-fronted bee-eater, rattling cisticola, red-chested cuckoo, fork-tailed drongo, African fish eagle, western great egret, hamerkop, glossy ibis, sacred ibis, blacksmith lapwing, lilac-breasted roller, magpie shrike, African spoonbill, Natal spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, greater blue-eared starling, African pied wagtail, blue waxbill

Other: Giant land snail

Once on the road, we had some snacks. We stopped at the Engen after Milly’s and bought ourselves something warm to eat. The trip was uneventful and we were home just after 10:30am.

Mammals: Baboon, vervet monkey

Birds: Southern red bishop, common buzzard, pied crow, long-crested eagle, spur-winged goose, sacred ibis, giant kingfisher, black-shouldered kite. common myna, ostrich, pied starling, violet-backed starling, Cape wagtail, long-tailed widowbird

Lists

Mammals

1. Baboon

2. Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bat

3. Buffalo

4. Bushbuck

5. African civet

6. Wild dog

7. Common duiker

8. Elephant

9. Small spotted genet

10. Giraffe

11. Scrub hare

12. Hippo

13. Spotted hyena

14. Impala

15. Black-backed jackal

16. Klipspringer

17. Kudu

18. Leopard

19. Lion

20. Dwarf mongoose

21. Slender mongoose

22. White-tailed mongoose

23. Vervet monkey

24. Nyala

25. White rhino

26. Tree squirrel

27. Steenbok

28. Warthog

29. Waterbuck

30. Wildebeest

31. Zebra

Birds

1. Arrow-marked babbler

2. Black-collared barbet

3. Crested barbet

4. Yellow-rumped tinker barbet

5. Bateleur

6. European bee-eater

7. White-fronted bee-eater

8. Southern red bishop

9. Bokmakierie

10. Southern boubou

11. Dark-capped bulbul

12. Cinnamon-breasted bunting

13. Golden-breasted bunting

14. Orange-breasted bushshrike

15. Black-bellied bustard

16. Common buzzard

17. Yellow-fronted canary

18. Mocking cliff chat

19. Rattling cisticola

20. Reed cormorant

21. White-breasted cormorant

22. Burchell’s coucal

23. Black crake

24. Cape crow

25. Pied crow

26. Diederik cuckoo

27. Jacobin cuckoo

28. Levaillant’s cuckoo

29. Red-chested cuckoo

30. Cape turtle dove

31. Laughing dove

32. Fork-tailed drongo

33. Knob-billed duck

34. White-faced whistling duck

35. African fish eagle

36. Brown snake eagle

37. Lesser spotted eagle

38. Long-crested eagle

39. Martial eagle

40. Steppe eagle

41. Tawny eagle

42. Wahlberg’s eagle

43. Little egret

44. Western cattle egret

45. Western great egret

46. Amur falcon

47. Cut-throat finch

48. African firefinch

49. Common fiscal

50. Grey go-away-bird

51. Egyptian goose

52. Spur-winged goose

53. Helmeted guineafowl

54. Hamerkop

55. White-crested helmet-shrike

56. Black-crowned night heron

57. Goliath heron

58. Green-backed heron

59. Grey heron

60. Purple heron

61. Squacco heron

62. Eurasian hobby

63. Greater honeyguide

64. African hoopoe

65. Grey hornbill

66. Red-billed hornbill

67. Southern ground hornbill

68. Trumpeter hornbill

69. Yellow-billed hornbill

70. Glossy ibis

71. Hadeda ibis

72. Sacred ibis

73. African jacana

74. Brown-hooded kingfisher

75. Giant kingfisher

76. Malachite kingfisher

77. Pied kingfisher

78. Woodlands kingfisher

79. Black-shouldered kite

80. Yellow-billed kite

81. Red-crested korhaan

82. African wattled lapwing

83. Blacksmith lapwing

84. Crowned lapwing

85. Senegal lapwing

86. White crowned lapwing

87. Sabota lark

88. Red-faced mousebird

89. Speckled mousebird

90. Common myna

91. Fiery-necked nightjar

92. Square-tailed nightjar

93. African openbill

94. Black-headed oriole

95. Ostrich

96. Pearl-spotted owlet

97. Verreaux’s eagle owl

98. Red-billed oxpecker

99. Brown-headed parrot

100. African green pigeon

101. African pipit

102. Three-banded plover

103. Tawny-flanked prinia

104. Black-backed puffback

105. Green-winged pytilia

106. Red-billed quelea

107. European roller

108. Lilac-breasted roller

109. Double-banded sandgrouse

110. Common sandpiper

111. Wood sandpiper

112. Common scimitarbill

113. Secretarybird

114. Magpie shrike

115. Red-backed shrike

116. Southern grey-headed sparrow

117. House sparrow

118. African spoonbill

119. Crested spurfowl

120. Natal spurfowl

121. Swainson’s spurfowl

122. Burchell’s starling

123. Cape glossy starling

124. Greater blue-eared starling

125. Pied starling

126. Violet-backed starling

127. Wattled starling

128. Black-winged stilt

129. Black stork

130. Marabou stork

131. Saddle-billed stork

132. Woolly-necked stork

133. Yellow-billed stork

134. White-bellied sunbird

135. Barn swallow

136. Lesser striped swallow

137. Red-breasted swallow

138. Wire-tailed swallow

139. Little swift

140. Black-crowned tchagra

141. Brown-crowned tchagra

142. Water thick-knee

143. Kurrichane thrush

144. Southern black tit

145. Purple-crested turaco

146. Hooded vulture

147. Lappet-faced vulture

148. White-backed vulture

149. White-headed vulture

150. African pied wagtail

151. Cape wagtail

152. Blue waxbill

153. Common waxbill

154. Lesser masked weaver

155. Red-billed buffalo weaver

156. Red-headed weaver

157. Southern masked weaver

158. Thick-billed weaver

159. Village weaver

160. Pin-tailed whydah

161. Long-tailed widowbird

162. Emerald-spotted wood-dove

163. Green woodhoopoe

164. Golden-tailed woodpecker

Other

1. Bullfrog

2. Dung beetle

3. Crocodile

4. Grey foam-nest tree frog

5. Water monitor

6. Giant land snail

7. Terrapin

8. Leopard tortoise