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Mission Impossible! An epic road trip in search of some of South Africa’s rarest mammals


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Been following along, and I have to admit, my jaw dropped with the baby porcupine. Wow. Just wow.

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Yes it was one of the best sightings of the trip! 

8 hours ago, lmonmm said:

Been following along, and I have to admit, my jaw dropped with the baby porcupine. Wow. Just wow.


Yes it was one of the best sightings of the trip! This property is just amazing for the nightlife, somewhere I would definitely like to revisit. If anyone does get keen on following in our footsteps via a self drive tour or something like that and fancies some company, please do let me know! 

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Loved your picture of the riverine rabbit, Jo. Glad you saw enough of it to reproduce it. 

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It must have been so frustrating,the problems with the guide and an almost impossible situation as to how you would play it - on the one hand he was providing the transport and you couldn't just tell him to go leaving you in a worse situation and delays on the other you just want to get very very angry! But ....that baby porcupine! That is the cutest thing in cute land @kittykat23uk 

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That baby porcupine makes all the difficulty worth while! 

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Just have to echo---Baby porcupine!!! Awwwwww! 


I can just imagine your frustration on arriving and finding your guide flatly refusing to drive--knowing that the rabbit was one of the main objectives of the trip! I would have been in tears!

So glad that you did get to see it.

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11 minutes ago, janzin said:

I would have been in tears!

So glad that you did get to see it.


I was. I  was absolutely furious! 


I am grateful that i got a glimpse of it but do not feel that I saw it well enough to not want to give it another try at some point. 

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@kittykat23uk if you do not mind, can you comment further on the accommodation at  Dunedin ? do you rent out the whole place or just a room/rooms? do you have to stay there to do a night/sunset  drive? the information sheet and your report are very mouth watering!

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Hi you can rent the whole property or, I believe,  pay for individual rooms. I guess we just paid for rooms but we were the only guests there in any case! The owners do not usually run drives on the property you are expected to be self sufficient. There is no phone line or phone signal at the property. The Moolmans popped by now and then and obviously,  thanks to our situation, helped us out with taking us out a couple of times in the evenings. I don't think you can take this for granted though as its a working farm and they have other duties. Also, you would have to stay on the property, as there are only farms around the area and no other tourist infrastructure. 


The living room may be disquieting for some as there are a range of taxidermy animals there, including a caracal. Some predator control is also carried out on the property as they farm sheep. That said, there is a wide variety of wildlife that is thriving on their land so please don't let that put you off. 



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Thanks very much for your helpful reply

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Like everyone else, have to say the baby porcupine is just the best!  

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@kittykat23uk, I've waited to start reading your TR for a couple of weeks, so I could do it all in one go! What a fantastic display of knowledge, with added excellent photography. We have covered much of the same route in January (Cape Town to Karoo) and now I will have real problems with how to add anything extra to our TR. The most striking difference was how the recent drought has changed the landscape and the mammal sightings. But I am jumping ahead too  much. The quality of Olympus is excellent, and its total weight just so much easier to carry around in comparison to DSLR. Do you have any birds in flight photos also?

Related to your "guide&driver", how much did you tip him at the end of the trip?!

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@xelas Thanks, I think I posted a gull BIF a little while ago. There were not so many BIFs on this trip. Suffice to say I need to practice more with the new OMD and BIFs, I have noticed some distortion/lack of clarity whether that is simply due to atmospheric distortion on hot Kalahari days, or due to the IS in the camera and the Panasonic lens causing it, I have yet to determine but I expect that Japan might present me with some opportunities to practice.


As for tipping the first guide, to be honest this was a source of heated discussion between Mum and I. You can guess how much he got from me.  Mum had a lot more sympathy for the guide, being of a similar vintage, and felt that he deserved some recognition, at least for the driving he did do.


In contrast, we were more than happy to tip the rest of the guides we had (i.e. at Dunedin, Marrick, and the sanparks night & sunset drives). 

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Here's another painting of one of the little five, Round-eared Sengi (Elephant Shrew) that I didn't manage to photograph.



round eared sengi 1 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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23/09/17 Riverine Rabbit Retreat


I woke up at 4am to find mum was also awake, she’d had a disruptive night’s sleep due to her room having a little visitor. This was no siberian hamster, but a Namaqua Rock Mouse that was doing circuits of her room, unable to get out, it seemed. After spending a bit of time trying to photograph the little blighter, I eventually set to evicting mum’s little friend. The rodent gave us the runaround for a little while but I managed to secure its capture by herding it into the bathroom whereupon I managed to trap it in an upended waste paper basket on top of the bath mat.


37751288646_110c311b8b_c.jpgP9230417 Namaqua Rock Mouse by Jo Dale, on Flickr


37541362270_25e6364312_c.jpgP9230421 Namaqua Rock Mouse by Jo Dale, on Flickr



Rodent evicted, I knew I wasn’t going to get back to sleep, so I decided to try and find the rabbit on my own. I got dressed and headed out on the road before dawn, hoping to get to the rabbit’s habitat that we’d searched the previous night. I saw a couple of rufous-cheeked nightjars churring overhead on my walk out. In the beginning I struggled to pinpoint exactly where we had been looking, but as I slowly got the lay of the land I began to see familiar features and was able to focus my search on the most likely areas.


This did me little good however, as I failed to locate the rabbits on my own, despite clocking up over 40 Kilometers in two days. I was also conscious that I didn’t want mum to worry about me, so I did head back after a while, once the sun was firmly up, perhaps if I had continued searching I might have got lucky. Had I known that we would not do a night drive that evening, I might have given the search another hour. On the way back, I spotted a Ground Woodpecker, Karoo Chat and Yellow Canary.



P9230426 Karoo Chat by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9230435 Ground Woodpecker by Jo Dale, on Flickr


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On arrival I had a cooked breakfast before taking a walk with my mum down the pumphouse track to the dam. On the way, we spied many Dassies foraging on the cultivated fields, who seemed to be associated with a pair of Yellow Mongooses.  Lots of evidence of Cape Clawless Otter spraint at the dam, sadly we didn’t catch sight of the owner. On the water we could see a flock of Egyptian Geese and African Shelducks. We scanned the rocks looking unsuccessfully for sengis. Rock Kestrel and Jackal Buzzards soared above the clifftops.


Not sure what species this tortoise is:


P9230488 Tortoise


P9230499 Common Waxbill


P9230514 South African Shelduck & Egyptian Geese

When we returned to Riverine Rabbit Retreat for lunch, we heard from Johan that we couldn’t do a night drive that night. So mum and I made a plan to walk back out to the dam late afternoon, search for sengis until it got dark and then spotlight for rabbits on the way back.  African Stonechats were present in the cultivated areas, along with Streaky-headed Seed-eater and Karoo Robin-chat. We then came across the dassies again, one was rolling around in a little puddle.


P9230523 Karoo Chat


P9230525 Karoo Chat


P9230541 Rock Kestrel

Our plans didn’t really come to fruition as we dipped the sengis and the rabbits, but we did managed to spot a Porcupine on the way back. After dinner, I continued to spotlight close to the retreat looking for rock rabbits up on the Windmill Hill, behind the retreat- there was evidence of a midden, but no rock rabbits or sengis were seen. Eventually I gave up and headed to bed.



P9230564 African Stonechat


P9230573 African Stonechat


P9230580 Streaky-headed Seed-eater



P9230590 Karoo Scrub-robin




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A few more:


P9230609 Dassie having a bath


P9230881 Hadeda Ibis


P9230890 Dassie


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That should be a Homopus areolatus, the common, or parrot-beaked, padloper. The Cape/Karoo region has the highest diversity of tortoises in the world. I would love to see some of them!

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Ah thank you @ForWildlife I thought it was probably a Padloper of some kind. :)

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24/09/17 Riverine Rabbit Retreat

I woke at 4 am again and headed out to the Riverine Rabbit site in the dark, spotlighting as I went along. This was the R1 area as specified in Paul Carter’s trip notes. A hard copy of these notes was available in the Retreat. It was not especially rewarding again as very little of note was seen, a few Steenbok, a few Cape and Scrub Hares, but the sunrise was beautiful. I got back around 9am, after bashing the bush from 6-8am.



20170924_062207 Sunrise by Jo Dale, on Flickr



20170924_060846 Scenery- view of rabbit habitat at dawn by Jo Dale, on Flickr



20170924_060856 Rabbit habitat by Jo Dale, on Flickr



20170925_062748 Sak river by Jo Dale, on Flickr


During breakfast I spotted a Small Grey Mongoose. Mum and I then took a walk to Eagle Cliffs to look for the nesting Verreaux’s Eagles. We had good views of the eagles and also spotted some smaller birds en route. These included, Cape Sparrow, Malachite Sunbird, Mountain Wheatear. We spent a bit of time just sitting on the rocks, taking in the view. Back around the retreat we saw Karoo Thrush and Cape Robin-chat, but not much else.



20170923_085300 Sak river near Riverine Rabbit Retreat by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9251268 Mountain Wheatear by Jo Dale, on Flickr


Later that afternoon we walked down towards the dam again, but we didn’t go all the way there. I spotted another of the Yellow Mongooses and on the way back a Small Grey Mongoose. We had an early tea before being picked up at 6pm by the Moolman boys for a night drive around the property. After hearing that I’d already been searching for the rabbits in the area closest to the Retreat, the boys decided to avoid searching that area and instead took us around the other parts of their property. This may have been also due to there being a lot of sheep now in that area.



20170924_062130 View of hills from Rabbit habitat by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9240892 Karoo Chat by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9240900 Karoo Chat by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9240914 Cape Sparrow by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9240964 Verreaux's Eagles by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241033 malachite Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241034 Mountain Wheatear by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241047 Cape Sparrow by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241072 Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241079 Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241081 Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241132 Karoo Thrush by Jo Dale, on Flickr



A huge electrical storm was also building up and we were treated to an amazing display of forked lightning. We were told by Johan not to leave the vehicle during the storm and we almost had to turn back. Thankfully there was very little rain and the storm moved away sufficiently for us to be able to continue our last night drive on the property.



P9241211 Sunset by Jo Dale, on Flickr

Not being able to search very much on foot in the R2 area certainly didn’t do us any favours when looking for Riverine Rabbits and sadly we didn’t see any at all. However we were able to cover a bigger area in the vehicle and as a result we found that this area was far more productive for Bat-eared Foxes, seeing so many of these cute little canines that we lost count.



P9241215 Bat-eared Fox by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241225 Rufous-cheeked Nightjar by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241226 Bat-eared Fox by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241231 Bat-eared Fox by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241235 Steenbok by Jo Dale, on Flickr


We flushed several Cape Hares and Scrub Hares. Several Steenboks, with their large rabbit-like ears caused some confusing moments. Distant eyeshine betrayed the presence of an African WIldcat and we also spotted an unwelcome Black-backed Jackal. Seen as a threat to sheep, these and Caracal are controlled on this property. Springbok were also seen.


Sighting of the night however goes to a stonking Aardvark, my first ever, as we returned up the track towards the Retreat, nearing the summit of the hill between the NW windmill and the Retreat. It was close enough to obtain an excellent, if brief view of this unusual looking mammal before it sauntered away over the brow of the hill and out of sight.



P9241236 Aardvark by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241237 Aardvark by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241239 Aardvark by Jo Dale, on Flickr



P9241241 Aardvark by Jo Dale, on Flickr



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Hurrah hurrah an Aardvark! @kittykat23uk   and I love the pictures of the nightjar and Eagles.And isn't fun just walking in a new area trying to see things, just taking in the scenery, enjoying being outside with always the promise of seeing something wonderful.

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Yeah! That's two of the Impossible Five in the same location!

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wow Aardvark! An unexpected consolation prize!


BTW just have to say that I love your paintings! Had no idea you were so multi-talented! :)


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Thank you @Janzin. :)

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