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Thanks to everyone for their kind comments and apologies for the slow response time, work has been unrelenting.


Drive no. 2


Our second night drive was significantly quieter than our magnificent first drive. I don't really now why but we think it was a combination of temperature and timing (leaving and coming back earlier).


Still we saw the usual hares, springhares and in the far distance a few bat-eared foxes. Much closer we got a nice close up of a porcupine.






We also saw a pure bred African Wildcat, again this time much closer to the vehicle.






We then went searching for the "three aard's" but to our guides amazement we came up almost totally empty handed until we came across the mother black-spotted cat from last night. This time she had stashed the kittens out of sight.




She didn't hang around very long as she was hunting and we didn't want to disturb her so we didn't follow.


The night before we hadn't got a chance to check out the toppies near the lodge. So when we returned from our drive we did so via the toppies to look for Elephant Shrew (unlikely to find given the ground cover in Feb) and Smith's Red Rabbit - which was quite easy to find (less so to photograph!).









Even though it was much quieter then last night, it was still pretty special by my normal standards!



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awesome first night drive!! those kittens are just adorable - makes me want to jump on the plane just to see them, and of course the aardvarks and aardwolves!


i might have missed it in the beginning - is it an easy relatively short drive from capetown?


also you went in the beginning of the year - i was told that aardvarks don't come out early in the night during that time of the year because it would be too warm. so a late late night drive would be better in that case?


BTW - your night photos are so clear. :)

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Thanks @ImSA84 for your help.We were thinking of Aardvark hunting in the Eastern Cape as well as Marrick-originally Samara a private reserve but they have a new website thta downplays the Aardvark sightings .We have been to mount Zebra and really liked the reserve but at the time the vehicle was out of action so no night drives. so many options, so little money and time! My wife is a little worried now about my Aardvark obsession as we have just seen a play in the West End called "The Goat or who is Sylvia" (wickedly funny) about a happily married man who, with tragic results, falls in love, physically and spiritually, with a goat. I have reassured her my Aardvark interest is purely platonic.........

looking forward to your next installment

Edited by Towlersonsafari
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Incredible night drives, especially the first one! The second one may have been a little quieter, but not bad either!

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@@Kitsafari - thanks for the kind comments. The drive from Cape Town to Marrick would be very long - about 9.5hrs. We travelled there as a part of our two month road trip around South Africa.


If you were interested in travelling there via Cape Town I would recommend splitting the trip into two legs with a stop over in Beaufort West / the Karoo National Park. The fastest route though would be to fly from CT to Kimberley and from Kimberley Airport it is about a 20min transfer.


Your completely right on the Aardvark timings. In winter they appear to emerge between 7-7.30pm (they didn't mention any daytime sightings to me) and in summer they will emerge around 10pm-12.00. We saw ours at about 11.30pm.

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@@Towlersonsafari - haha :lol: . Nothing wrong with falling in love with Aardvarks!


That is an interesting observation on Samara - we were considering a trip in the hope of finding Pangolin but they appear to have downplayed those chances as well (understandably).


It might be worth also considering Mokala for Aardvark. The below link is to an excellent photography blog, which also has some photos of daytime Aardvark in June.



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The Marrick book ends


Marrick is well worth a dedicated trip but if you would like to bolt-on other trips you have numerous options, including:


  • Benfontien Nature Reserve - another excellent location for night safaris and black-spotted cats
  • Kamfers Dam - bird watching and year round flamingo sightings
  • Mokala National Park - good for rare antelope
  • Witsand - a stop off on the way to Upington with good Sandgrouse and scenery

We weren't able to take in all these options but we did visit Mokala and Witsand.


Witsand Nature Reserve


Witsand is a 3,500ha reserve located about 45kms north of the N8 which connects Upington and Kimberley. It's roughly equal distance between the two cities, a ~2.5hr drive of which the last 45km is on a rutted dirt track road.


The reserve is famous for and named for it's large white sand dunes. These contrast with the typically red dunes of the surrounding Kalahari. It's claimed that in the right conditions these dunes will roar when the sand is disturbed - we gave this a go but got nothing, so I remain to be convinced.


The other thing that's wonderful about this reserve, is the freedom! The reserve is predator free and completely open to guests - you are allowed to walk where ever you like and may drive on the roads at anytime of day or night.


From a wildlife perspective the the highlights are the Sandgrouse hide and night safaris.


Sandgrouse Hide


Three of the four South African sandgrouse (Burchells, Double-banded and Namaqua) can be seen at an excellent sunken bird hide (i.e. you are at the level of the water). Unfortunately, the heavy rainfall had scattered the birds while we were there so we had no chance.


Sunken bird hide




Still I got some good shots


Southern Red Bishop




Namaqua Dove




Night drives


The freedom to roam in the park allows you to conduct your own night drives! :ph34r: This coupled with the rumours of potential pangolin sightings was the main reason why we stopped here.


Our dreams though never quite came true, not least of all because the spotlight torch which I had been carrying around for 6 weeks for this very purpose failed on the evening of our drive. :angry: Sods law!


Still we gave it a go by the lights of the car. We unsurprisingly didn't see too much, a few duiker, Springbok, lots of Springhare and a nice Fiery-necked Nightjar.






During the day, Witsand is all about the walking and enjoying the tranquility.


View from the top of the white dunes




The white dunes are well worth the trip alone, although the walk up to the top is seriously steep.


Trying doing this with a 6 month old baby strapped to your chest.




The view from the top is well worth it.








Other than the dunes there are the usual Kalahari antelope - Grey Duiker, Gemsbok, Steenbok and Springbok.


Grey duiker are everywhere but I just couldn't quite get a good shot












Many of these we saw whilst on a poorly signposted nature walk near the visitor centre. The area is covered in game trails so you just wind up making your own path to get back.




The area is also littered with aardvark holes, so whilst we were unsuccessful I can see why others claim that it can be productive.




Finally, a note on the accommodation. We rented one of the chalets which are very spacious but unusually laid out. They are effectively three bedroom chalets, with one living room / kitchen and one bathroom all centred on a shared courtyard. What's weird is that there is no interconnection between any of the rooms so to get to the bathroom you need to go onto the courtyard. I can see how this isn't normally an issue but whilst we there, we had a plague of moths (billions) so at night when you went to the bathroom you just got swamped by them.


The offending moths




Accommodation layout





Edited by lmSA84
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Thanks for the info @ImSA84 we are thinking about Mokala with Marrick and KTP just debating whether to add Samara and My Zebra which is a lovely park

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If Witsand was one book end to Marrick, the other was Mokala.


Mokala is San Parks newest park and serves to replace the Vaalbos National Park which was closed following a successful land claim. Mokala's selling point isn't the conventional big five, in fact it has no large predators. The focus is instead on rare antelope, including: Roan, Sable, Tsessebe, Black Wildebeest, Mountain Reedbuck, TB free Buffalo and a pale rumped version of Burchell's Zebra (it's an attempt to isolate the genes of the extinct Quagga).


Purists might argue that the range of some of these antelope is being expanded, particularly the Sable's, but I don't mind. I haven't seen a wild Sable for nearly two decades and I've never seen a wild Roan, so Mokala was always going to be on our road trip list.


When describing Mokala it seems to be best to think of it in three sections.


Section 1. Would be the Matopi area, located in the South. It's an area characterised by Acacia Thornveld and it holds the parks rhinos and buffalos. It also has the best amenities. We didn't get a chance to visit this section.


Section 2. Is the Doornlaagte section, which connect sections 1 and 3. As seen below, it's a valley nestled between extensive koopies.




Section 3. Is Lilydale, an area of wide open grassland. It reminded me of the Orpen section of KNP. This area has most of the Sable and Roan - this is because they were first introduced into this section of the park. I was also told that they temporarily feed them in this area during the height of the drought.


Given our focus was on Roan and Sable we chose to stay in the Lilydale section of Mokala.






We didn't have much time in the park - only the one night but for me it really delivered with excellent antelope sightings and wide open vistas. We spent our time in the Lilydale section with one small foray into the Doornlaagte section. It's so small though that in two days you could easily cover the whole park.


Black Wildebeest









Common Tsessebe, sporting Marbella's latest range




Red Hartebeest are common and I think always so majestic




Gemsbok are similarly common




The pale rumped Zebra




Sadly not all of Mokala's game are doing so well. They have been hit very heavily by the drought and have lost a good portion of their game.





Edited by lmSA84
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Whilst it was heart breaking to see a few suffering animals, I'm glad to report that the Sable and Roan are doing well. All of these were seen on the Vaalbos Loop.








Edited by lmSA84
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Other then the Sable and Roan, the views and birds are what would keep me coming back.


Early morning on the Lilydale plains...




...will give you excellent game views...




...and excellent birdwatching


Fawn-coloured Lark




Ant-eating Chat




Spike-heeled Lark




Orange River Francolin




Eastern Clapper Lark




And once it's all done you can kick-back, enjoy the view from your balcony...




...and the sunset



Edited by lmSA84
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ImSA84 not only your section on Marrick,but all of your report has given me so many ideas for places which I'd love to visit in South Africa. My only problem is that due to my inability to take stress I can't drive in Africa.I'd have to hire a driver. I drive in the US,but in Africa it's simply not an option.

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@@optig - great to hear that it's giving you ideas. Hopefully I'll inspire you with a few more places. For what it's worth the driving is very easy, certainly compared to the UK but I understand that it's not for everyone.


Thankfully, Marrick is only 20mins from Kimberley Airport and Mokala is an hour. Witsand is a bit less accessible but numerous tour operators stop there on the way to KTP.

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@ImSA84 thanks for your advise I'll have to hire a vehicle and driver from a South African travel agent. On my first safari I tried driving in South Africa and ended up hitting a parked vehicle.

I paid for the damage and of course apologized profusely,this incident taught me that it's simply not worth trying to drive anywhere in Africa because I can't take the stress. I have Attentional Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Anyways, I prefer not driving. I'm sure that you'll inspire me with more places.

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@@Treepol we haven't booked yet but sadly we are aiming to get there in the second week of August. Still if you could ask the Aardvarks and Black Footed Cats not to leave on their holidays that would be much appreciated!

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We are going in September! I can't wait! Is it easy to do a day trip from Marrick to Mokala?

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@@kittykat23uk - it's very easy.


Mokala has two entrances:


1. Lilydale (Sable / Roan / other plains antelope) is about 40-50mins away - it's an easy drive with mostly tarmac and then maybe 15km of dirt track.

2. Mosu / Matopi (Rhinos, Buffalo etc.) and it's about 1-1.5hrs away (mostly highway and then ~20km of dirt track)


If you get there early and leave late you could traverse the whole park arriving at the Mosu gate and leaving via the Lilydale gate which is closer to Marrick.

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Ah that's great. It's probably our only chance for my mum to see some rhino on our trip and I would like to see roan and black wildebeest. We have 3 nights at Marrick and two night drives pre-booked - we will probably do three altogether though. We are also going to Dunedin Farm to look for the riverine rabbit. Your Red Rock rabbit is also high on my list. :)

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@@kittykat23uk do you have your own car? If not, Trevor at Marrick Farm has a local guy who does local trips into Mokala NP and also out to Kamfers Dam for the flamingos at reasonable rates.

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We could all form a club,led by @ImSA84 who got there first and as long as we all see Black Footed Cats and Aardvarks and I don't know why but seeing a gerbil in the wild seems like a fun thing to do as well @@kittykat23uk without interfering in this trip report, where else are you going @@Treepol?

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We are doing fully guided throughout. No way would I drive in south Africa with my mum. Self driving with my dad was bad enough! :)

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@Kiitykat23uk I'm looking forward to seeing your trip report especially since I simply can't drive in Africa!! It will also help my discover some

some superb places which are out of the way.

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@@kittykat23uk - Sounds like a wonderful trip! I hope that it delivers.


Speaking of Riverine Rabbit we think that we found one in Montagu. It certainly had the size, habits (resting in a scrap in the day, solitary) white eye ring and black chin mark - all be it a bit faint.


For those who haven't heard of a Riverine Rabbit, it's one of South Africa's rarest animals with ~250 in the wild, all of which are located in it's specialist Karoo habitat.





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Hmm, the markings aren't very distinct. Did you get a look at it's tail? The riverine rabbit has a brown tail, the scrub hare has a black and white tail. https://www.ewt.org.za/DCP/Rabbit%20CARD.pdf there's a name you can contact on the form to be sure or try Bonnie Schumann: Senior Field Officer bonnies@ewt.org.za

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