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This South African safari was preceded by an overland adventure from Dar Es Salaam to Livingstone.  The overland theme continued through South Africa, beginning with a flight to Richards Bay then overlanding to Tembe Elephant Park, south through Kwazulu Natal with a flight from Durban to George then overland again to the Karoo NP, Cape Town, West Coast NP and back to Cape Town via Franschoek. We flew Cape Town to Durban for a quick trip to Giant’s Castle then flew to JNB for a trip to Marievale with @Peter Connanfor some great bird photos. 

Five of the original crew who set out from Dar travelled to Marrick joined by @farin and @GnuGnu.  After Marrick, Jo, Noel and Sharn flew to Cape Town for a couple of days before returning home whilst 4 of us returned to JNB to meet Bobbie and Ray who arrived for Safari South Africa. 

Needless to say we had a wonderful time with highlights being Tembe Elephant Park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, the Karoo, getting to the top of Table Mountain in the cable car in August, the West Coast NP and Marievale Bird Sanctuary. 

The final South African itinerary booked through Lawson’s Safaris was:

·         Marrick Farm (3 nights)

·         Tembe Elephant Park (3 nights Royal Thonga Lodge)

·         Emdoneni Lodge (2 nights)

·         Manyoni Conservancy (2 nights Rhino River Lodge)

·         St Lucia (Avalone Guesthouse – 3 nights)

·         Karoo NP (2 nights)

·         Cape Town (3 nights at Cape Town Hollow)

·         West Coast NP (1 night Farmhouse Resort, Langebaan)

·         Franschoek (1 night Corner House)

·         Cape Town (1 night Airport Road Lodge)

·         Giant’s Castle NP (1 night)

·         Marievale Bird Sanctuary (2 nights JNB OR Tambo Airport City Lodge)












Edited by Treepol
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Just in time to learn more about St.Lucia and H/I and Drakensberg. And guided visit to Marievale is already "booked" :)

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Hurrah1 we have just this minute come back from a south Africa trip also through Lawsons-looking forward to hearing about your Kwa-zule exploits in particular as Tembe looks very attractive    @Treepol

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@xelas sounds like you have a similar itinerary to us - hope you find the TR useful.


@TowlersonsafariTembe was a real surprise with much more diversity than I expected, beautiful accommodation at Royal Thonga Lodge too. Looking forward to your TR when you have time.


The flight to Kimberley (the nearest airport to Marrick Farm) took 55 minutes over the dry north of RSA. I overheard the man in the seat behind me talking about riots in Kimberley and asked for more details. He explained that the Municipal Corporation  increased rates by 260 ZAR in what is already a highly taxed area. There have been scheduled strikes and riots for 2 weeks which have caused street closures and a shutdown in the city. Intumelang (our driver during the stay at Marrick) met us at arrivals and transferred us to the farm without any drama. Here is the welcoming committee. 


Kimberley is quiet today so Intumelang drove us back into the city so Sharn could go to the McGregor Museum to do some research on the Pollard's Lilliputian Opera Company, a children's group from Tasmania that performed in Kimberley for 5 weeks in 1899. The museum grounds were alive with birds - White-fronted bee-eater, weavers, immature Laughing Doves and a scurrying yellow mongoose.




We had also hoped to see the flamingos at Kamfers Dam, however the level of the lake had dropped and the birds had moved into a largely inaccessible area so we made do with a brief view over the railway tracks. 


We returned to Marrick for dinner followed by a very productive night game drive. Johnny September is a great guy with a spotlight and he has an excellent knowledge of the wildlife of Marrick. He and his father, who is the driver, make an excellent spotlighting team.  Scrub and spring hares, Bat-eared and Cape Foxes, African Wild Cat, a Spotted Eagle Owl and Pearl Spotted Owl, Double-banded Courser, Northern Black Korhaan, Aardwolf were spotted and then in the same beam - aardvark and zorilla. What a choice! Johnny decided to follow the zorilla with the spotlight and thankfully the aardvark was waiting for us after the zorilla disappeared. It snuffled around, feeding quietly and didn't seem phased by the spotlight and vehicle.





Throughout the evening we saw other species that included steenbok, impala, bontebok and springbok. No Black-footed cat, but there is always tomorrow night. It was very cold tonight, the coldest of the 3 night drives and we were all pleased to get back to our rooms.

In the morning breakfast included game sausage, bacon, egg, tomato and potato cake after which Mike Datnow took us on a feeding round. Actually the animals had already been fed before we arrived in the individual enclosures known as camps. Mike explained that the additional food took pressure off the regular grazing. Here are a couple of landscape photos taken during the feeding round.



A large colony of ground squirrels played close to the main house, several young ones peeked over the top of a burrow which was very cute.  After the drive tea and coffee were served in front of the fire in the lounge and then Johnny walked us down to the bird hide. A group of wild meerkats soaked up the morning sun. Birds seen from the hide include Red-headed Finch, Yellow Canary, Cape Sparrow and Kalahari Scrub Robin.





Lunch today is chicken and rice eaten outside under the arbor.


Later Johnny took us to see a Karoo Rock Elephant Shrew which regularly sun bakes on a kopje late in the afternoon.



After this it was a quick trip back to the lodge to change for the night drive. Dinner was game stew and veggies with ‘red cake’ for dessert. We rugged up in extra thick blankets for the night drive - the first animal was an African Wild Cat. We were lucky to have an extended sighting of a female aardvark as well as giraffe, spotted eagle owl, Northern Black Khoraan, Black Wildebeest, Bat-eared fox and Scrub and Cape Hares. It wasn't as cold tonight although only @farin, @GnuGnu and I went spotlighting.

Next morning was an early start for a 4 hour game drive in Mokala NP. Intumelang transferred us to the park where Sanparks ranger Des drove us around the park in a comfortable 10 seater 4WD. The park was created in 2007 and is very scenic with red Kalahari sand, seas of yellow grass set against a clear blue sky.





Three kudu on top of a kopje were the first sighting, followed by giraffe, meerkats and many Yellow Mongoose scurrying head high through the grass.




A Scrub Hare crouched in the long grass was startled by the vehicle and later we were fortunate to see a couple of skittish female white rhino.  The park has a healthy population of various antelopes including red hartebeest, springbok, tssebe, buffalo, oryx, steenbok and Blue and Black Wildebeest. These meerkats kept a close eye on us.



The Plains Zebra at Mokala are very pale, especially around the rump. 


The warthog were very red from the Kalahari sand and had grown quite large as they have no predators within the park. Des mentioned that the park has an over-supply of grazing animals and that there are plans to introduce lions in 2019.  Mokala has a vulture restaurant where an eland had been placed recently. There were White-backed and Cape Vultures in trees around the carcass but no Lappet-faced had turned up to open the carcass.


The park staff aim to feed the vultures inside the park to reduce the risk of poisoning on nearby farms. A Sociable Weaver nest is balanced on a roadside tree with weavers and red-headed finches sitting nearby.  A large herd of buffalo staked out the water point where mineral licks had been placed. A number of calves suckled from the females and vervet monkeys skittered around the edges of the herd. 



Oryx paraded impatiently for a chance at the water, while zebra hung back and settled in for a long, thirsty wait.

The final night drive delivered 2 aardvark, 2 aardwolves, African Wild Cat, Black-backed Jackal, Spotted Eagle Owl, Porcupine, Cape and Scrub hares.  The quality of the sightings at Marrick has been outstanding with good views of the hard to see nocturnal possible over the 3 evenings. We dipped on Smith's Red Rock Rabbit and Black-footed cat. Oh well, something to go back for.



This is our last morning at Marrick, our last breakfast in the formal dining room with an open fire. We have all enjoyed the experience of staying on a working game farm and meeting nearly all of the people who live and work on the farm. Half the group stayed in the guesthouse which is a gracious family home. Our meals were served at the dining table in the lounge, although there was a formal dining room next door and a covered verandah with seating.




@farin, @GnuGnu and I were up in the chalet, very comfortable but not as grand as the guesthouse.



We made the most of our time with night drives, feeding rounds, a special trip out to see the elephant shrew and the day trip to Mokala NP. A group of semi-habituated meerkats visits the kitchen most days for a snack, and today are warming their bellies in the empty dog pen waiting for breakfast.






There are 3 or 4 other groups of wild meerkats living near the guesthouse, but only this one comes close to the house. We said goodbye to the meerkats and the farm dogs and headed back to Kimberley where we had time to visit the Big Hole before the flight to JNB. The Big Hole is viewed from a cantilevered walkway and there are some interesting facts and figures regarding diamond mining on this site prior to 1914. The complex has a number of upmarket jewellery shops and a small reconstructed mining town with shops and services typical of the time such as a draper, undertaker, pub, miner's cottages and churches.




The group splits up here with Sharn, Noel and Jo (all of whom started in Dar) heading to Cape Town and @GnuGnu and @farin, Jane H and I returning to JNB to meet Bobbie and Ray who are joining us for the South African sector.  The flight to JNB is about an hour and we get to the City Lodge in good time for showers and a return trip to the Arrivals Hall. Tomorrow we have an early flight to Richards Bay folowed by a drive north to Tembe Elephant Park.




Edited by Treepol
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2 hours ago, Treepol said:

@xelas sounds like you have a similar itinerary to us - hope you find the TR useful.


Similar ... but sadly only the KwaZulu Natal portion for us :(

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Hurrah for Aardvarks!

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Great report! It’s bringing back a lot of memories for me. Sorry to see that you dipped on the black-footed cat but a Zorilla is a heck of a consolation prize 

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@lmSA84 the zorilla sighting was a real prize, I may never see another one! Shame there are no photos. :(


Today was an early start at 0445 for the 0700 flight to Richards Bay where we will meet Gavin Sims, our guide for the next 3 weeks.  Gavin collected us from Richards Bay airport in a Quantum (groan) - our wheels for the next 18 days. After an almost 4 hour drive we arrived at Royal Thonga Lodge on the boundary of Tembe Elephant Park.



Birds seen along the way included a pair of darters, common mynah, egrets and fiscal shrikes. A delicious hamburger was served at lunch after which we had a short rest before the 1430 game drive. Bronze and Red-backed manikins, Dark-capped bulbuls and blue waxbills drink from the water feature outside the dining room. We have a private vehicle for our group of 6 and set off to discover the wonders of Tembe with lodge guide Vezi. Gavin and I occupy ‘birder’s roost’ at the back of the vehicle. 


The first sighting was a tree squirrel followed by a common duiker, then a glamorous Pink-throated Twinspot.


Vervet and Samango monkeys (aka Blue or Sykes Monkeys) are also around. Other birds that showed included Crowned Hornbill, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Burchell's Coucal, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and Cardinal Woodpecker.



I spotted a couple of eles through the trees that turned out to be a small herd with a few calves of varying ages, one was less than 12 months old. They slowly approached the vehicle with the calves at foot milling about, the adults throwing dust. I looked into the eyes of the closest ele and saw curiosity and contentment.




It was an up close and personal moment that I won't forget in a hurry. Moving on from this magical experience we found a giraffe in perfect light complete with a Red-billed Ox-pecker. 



We arrived back at Royal Thonga in time for spicy chicken with vegetables and Brownies and ice-cream for dessert. I took the opportunity for an early night, read for a short time and was asleep before the electricity was turned off at 9 pm. I think the light coming on woke me before the alarm at 0520. Time for a quick cuppa before the morning game drive which departs at 0600.

This morning we and a couple of other game drive vehicles are looking for the lions that were seen yesterday morning. An Ezemolo 4WD has 6 students in the back and they are driving up and down, up and back searching for a collared lion. Gavin said that the lions were probably having a good laugh leading the researchers backwards and forwards. We did see one lioness briefly before she melted away into the morning shadows. The morning mist adds mystery to the morning as it hangs low over the trees, filtering the soft rays of the morning sun.

A Common Duiker crouches in the morning dew, while impala and nyala stand close together waiting for the sun to break through. A Burchell's Coucal is also waiting for the sun.


Golden-breasted Bunting and Lesser Striped Swallow are out and about and a Red Duiker disappears quickly as the vehicle approaches. Driving along a swampy area we see this magnificent Long Crested Eagle keeping a close eye on the water's edge. It swoops down and lands closer, posing for photos.


A Grey-rumped Swallow sways on a reed and a flock of Lesser Striped Swallows flutters around the bridge where we stop for morning tea.  Close to the swamp Gavin sees a lioness walking purposefully towards the bridge. A pair of Wattled Lapwings fly above her, shrieking and squawking an alarm. She walks close behind us and settles in the shade of a palm, while the lapwings make for the shrinking waterhole.




Vezi starts a Ferrari Safari back to the lodge as we are already late for breakfast, however he does stop for a Black-bellied bustard, some zebra, a Yellow-throated Longclaw and the ubiquitous Lilac-breasted Roller.




At this point, we discovered we had a poet in our midst as Ray spoke (he is very modest and claims that this is doggerel):


To breakfast we were flying,

Being late would be a crime,

We found the track of lion

And lost the track of time.

After breakfast there is time for showers, catching up with notes and enjoying a quiet moment on the deck of my chalet where blue waxbills and a sunbird come to drink. Lunch today is samosas and salad and then it's back in the vehicle for the afternoon game drive. Red-backed manikins drink from the bird bath in front of the dining room.



A Wood Hoopoe is the first bird seen en route to a hide that overlooks a waterhole where bull elephants come to drink. We watched a collared senior lord it over a younger male that waited patiently for a turn at the outlet valve.


A woolly-necked stork, Gymnogene, Cape Turtle Doves and Dark-capped bulbuls also witnessed the stand-off.



Other birds seen this afternoon include Jacana, a pair of Egyptian Geese, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Crowned Hornbill, a pair of Red-billed teal, Spotted Thick-knee and Hamerkop.


A buffalo and then a rhino, both seen on the return to the lodge completed 4 of the Big 5 for us. A scrub hare and a Spotted Eagle Owl were the final sights of the day. The owl had made a kill on the ground but it was too dark to see what it was eating. It flew alongside us and perched on a boundary fence post, making a beautiful silhouette in the moonlight.

Next day the morning game drive started quietly with a Rattling Cisticola, impala, nyala and Common Duiker.


Gavin heard a Gorgeous Bushshrike calling and this time was determined that we were going to see this elusive beauty. After much manoeuvring of the vehicle most people glimpsed the brilliant red and orange of this bush beauty.


Bearded Scrub Robin, Crested Guinea Fowl, Brown Snake Eagle and Southern Banded Snake Eagle followed quickly.



We stopped for morning tea at a hide which was very quiet so we packed up and got back on the road. Vezi was surprised to see lion tracks over our tyre tracks from the drive into the hide.  Sure enough, a male lion was meandering down the road and seemed in no hurry to move over. 




He eventually cut through the bush down to the waterhole emerging on the road behind us near where we saw the lioness yesterday. He wandered around a bit and then rolled on a stained patch of grass that no doubt smelt wonderful to him, before making a Flehman face and mooching off, weaving in and around bushes, definitely on a scent trail.Throughout this excitement the Lesser striped swallows dipped and dived over the bridge and marsh.  A large flock of Black-bellied Starlings is calling from a tree while further along a Stone Chat sits on top of a spindly stalk. A Lilac Breasted Roller caught everyone's attention before a small herd of buffalo drew us away. These guys were lying peacefully in the sun chewing cud, while an ox-pecker worked at an ear.



This afternoon we are going to Ndumo in search of water birds and wild dog.  The drive from a Royal Thonga to Ndumo took about 45 minutes. There was surprisingly little game around, red duiker, warthog, Nile crocodile and giraffe were about it.


There was a wonderful hide overlooking a large waterhole where a bevy of birds could be seen - Lesser flamingo, Caspian Terns, White-faced Whistling ducks, Glossy Ibis, Yellow-billed Stork, Spurwing Geese, African Spoonbill and Egyptian Geese.



We called into a lookout on the way out of the park where the view from the tower towards Mozambique and Swaziland was spectacular and made us wonder where the animals were hiding.



The morning game drive at Tembe next day was very quiet, with a few old favourites making an appearance - giraffe, Nyala, impala, Crested Guinea Fowl, Brown-headed Kingfisher, White-backed Vulture and Trumpeter Hornbill.






The first new face was a Purple Crested Turaco.  Back at the lodge I had a run of luck, scoring Yellow-breasted Apalis, Golden-tailed Woodpecker and Bronze Manikin on the short walk from my chalet to breakfast.



I tried in vain for a picture of the gorgeous Pink-throated Twinspot.


We have to pack up and leave this morning which is very sad. The drive to Emdoneni Lodge is just 2.5 hours, so we stop at the popular Fig Tree Cafe for a light lunch where house sparrows, Black-collared Barbets, Village Weavers and non-breeding Pin-tailed Whydahs flitted amongst the trees.  We arrived at Emdoneni in time to settle in and then attend the nightly feeding round at the onsite Cat Project. African Wild Cats, Serval, Caracal and Cheetah are rehabilitated and bred at Emdoneni, whilst fit animals that can survive in the wild are released. Dinner is a smorgasbord of roasts, bobotie, vegetables and salad. Tomorrow we have decided to hire an open safari vehicle for a full day in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi NP as no-one feels like game-viewing from the Quantum.

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We left Emdoneni with a packed breakfast and met William from Dinizulu who is our driver/guide today. Wild dog right at Memorial Gate was an auspicious start to the day.


About 5 minutes later the pack was lined up on the road eyeing off a herd of impala.


All of a sudden the chase is on and impala leap, scattering across the road where they are driven onto a hillside and we lose sight of predators and prey. The dogs are very smart using the clear, open road to provide an advantage in the hunt. Further along buffalo grazed close to the road and a White-backed vulture waits for the day to warm up.



Eles are descending to the river trumpeting their way down the hillside.


A breeding herd with 3 small calves moves slowly to the road and some curious individuals come to within a metre of the vehicle. 




William turns down a side road where Egyptian Geese paddle peacefully on a waterhole.


Amazing - the dogs are stretched out in the roadside shadows, some have blood on them indicating a successful hunt.









After 15 minutes with the dogs William heads off to a picnic site for breakfast, stopping for photos of this obliging warthog.


Brown-hooded kingfishers, a striated heron and an African Paradise a Flycatcher are all seen here.  


A lookout further down the road gave good views over the park.



Along the river, the muddy banks were home to a marsh turtle and a few birds.


The second ele encounter of the day occurred along this road at a waterhole where females and youngsters were drinking, wading and rolling in mud. It was such a joyful scene I was surprised to hear the matriarch's "let's go" rumble which caused all but 3 animals to jump to attention and move off.




Cape Glossy Starlings hopped around the edge of the fun.



Taking yet another side road, William pointed out a White-backed vulture’s nest and a warthog, while Gavin spied a Sabota Lark, a Tree Frog and then a Tambourine Dove.



We enjoyed toasties for lunch at Hilltop Camp and were fortunate to spot an Eastern Nicator at the exit gate.


This was followed by a sighting of a solitary rhino. The afternoon went a bit quiet after lunch until William saw 3 rhino eating their way uphill towards their midden.




These zebra came to say goodbye as we were leaving, however Hluhluwe still had one surprise for us.



The 'Tembe sisters' are 2 lionesses who were moved from Tembe Elephant Park to Hluhluwe within the last 12 months. Both have cubs that William had searched for this morning, however the lions eluded us until late afternoon when all we saw were 2 heads peering over the top of a bush.

Back at Emdoneni, Jane H. and I decided that this was the best day of the trip so far for wildlife viewing.






Edited by Treepol
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very much enjoying your report @Treepol  can I ask what decided you on the lodge outside Tembe rather than inside? and how long would you recomend staying there?

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We are also just back from South Africa (Cape Area) so just catching up with your trip reports and bird thread.

Amazing sightings at Marrick. So many hard to see mammals, and you saw them. Also real diversity at Tembe , beautiful photos, so many birds.

Very enjoyable.

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@Treepol are all roads in Hluhluwe OK to be driven in a non-4WD SUV vehicle? Any river crossings involved?

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@Towlersonsafari Lawson's switched us to Royal Thonga as the other place (can't remember its name) couldn't take a group of 7 when they went to book. We were very pleased that we ended up at Royal Thonga. Its maybe .5 km from the park and access is through a gate in the fence, we didn't have to use the main road to get between the lodge and the park. I think 3 nights is a good length of time, I wouldn't bother with Ndumo again unless there is a current flood of glowing reports from recent visitors.


@TonyQ the Cape area is so special, I am looking forward to your TR when you have time - no pressure :)


@xelas a 2WD would be fine, that is what most people were driving. I didn't see any river crossings and I would think it would be easy to skip any flooded roads or really rough side roads. 



This morning we transferred from Emdoneni to Manyoni, arriving in time for lunch. @GnuGnu and I are sharing the cottage which has two bedrooms and two bathrooms separated by a lounge room. There is a plunge pool on the deck and a fully equipped kitchen.


Hoopoes and Kurrichane Thrush hop over the lawn watched by a red duiker.



The afternoon game drive begins at 3 pm and the first stop is at a waterhole where hippo, crocodile and a Yellow-billed Stork absorb the summer sun.


Manyoni is home to the Crested Guineafowl, a real Elvis Presley bird with a bouffant hair-do.


Mammals seen early in the drive included warthog, Impala, rhino and blue wildebeest.


It was a good afternoon for birds with sightings of Marico Sunbird, ostrich, Lilac Breasted Roller, Yellow-billed Hornbill (the first this trip), Crested Barbet, Black shouldered kite and Lazy Cisticola.


Bongani found a pair of cheetahs, a female with a sub-adult daughter. The female made a half-hearted attempt at hunting impala before resting in the shadows.




Eventually they moved slowly uphill through the long grass before disappearing from view. A large herd of buffalo grazes in the glow of sunset.





Although the next morning is chilly, we set out with high hopes. The stark trunks of the fever trees stand out in the early light.


First sightings were hoopoe, tawny eagle, Nyala and Verraux's Eagle Owl.  An elephant family accompanied by a bull with impressive tusks fed across a hillside, and every now and then the crack and crash of falling trees could be heard as these pachyderm bulldozers went to work.


Morning tea was served back at the waterhole where the hippo doubled as a landing stage for a Grey-headed heron.



A group of 4 rhino was the big sighting of the morning, however the spell was broken by the clatter of the vigilant Rhino Watch helicopter overhead.




The final views of the morning were Yellow-billed Hornbill and a  Black-shouldered kite.  



After breakfast Gavin found a juvenile Gorgeous Bush Shrike which flashed iridescent green feathers.


Later, @GnuGnuand I sat on the deck watching the action at the bird bath where Red-capped Robin, Cape White-eye, Bearded Scrub Robin, Speckled Mousebird and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow flapped and flew.





I went for a wander and found Gavin birding amongst the fever trees along the dry river bed where he pointed out a White-eared Barbet, Dark-backed Weaver, Southern Black Tit and Southern Black Flycatcher.


Kurrichane Thrush are common here and often found hopping over the lawn.


Over at the bird hide a Green-winged Ptyllia drank alongside Blue Waxbills all of which started at the arrival of a male Nyala.



A Yellow-fronted Canary was joined by a gorgeous Purple-crested a Turaco, a Dark-capped Bulbul and a Green-spotted Wood Dove.




The birdbath was also a popular watering hole for warthog.



The afternoon game drive is very slow due to low temperatures and grey skies. The impala and nyala are out and about while a herd of zebra stallions mills around. These young impala rams decide to test the mettle.


A couple of zebra stallions begin to fight with bared teeth, kicking and rising on their hind legs in a type of pugilistic stance. Things turned ugly very quickly amongst these guys.


A Red-billed Hornbill preened on a nearby branch as this drama unfolded. A Yellow-billed Hornbill with a mouse "kill" appeared on the road ahead and after dark a small female leopard was glimpsed up ahead.



We returned to the lodge for dinner and later when walking back to the cottage we saw the resident barn owls.















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@Treepol..this report is really so enjoyable and all the photos outstanding. I just love every single one of them. 


You have been to some of our favorite parks. We haven't been to Marrick but some of the sightings you had is on my bucket list.


We love Mokala with the red sand tracks and some of the rare mammal species you do not find in other parks like black wildebeest and Roan. We need to visit the area again to do a few night drives and try to find aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin, etc. :)


Tembe is another of our favorites and that area is renowned for an excellent variety of birds ...highest count in SA... as shown in your photos! 


Thank you and looking forward to the rest of your report. 


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@Ritsgaai I am overwhelmed by the flora, fauna and stunning scenic beauty of your country. The red sand of Mokala and KTP, the roan, sable and aardvark of the Northern Cape to say nothing of the joy that numerous sightings of eles, lion and giraffe bring are special memories and sightings to inspire the next trip. Oh yes, and the wildlflowers will have a big presence in the 2021 itinerary!


@Towlersonsafari thanks for reading along.


Today is the last day at Rhino River Lodge. We are in the game drive vehicle early, just as well as we had good sightings of Giant Eagle Owls.



It was a bit of an eagle day as early on Bateleur, Martial and Tawny all made an appearance. Impala, nyala and giraffe were amongst the mammals we saw, then we were back into birds with Little Sparrowhawk, a White-backed Vulture and Striped Kingfisher.




We checked out and drove the short distance to St Lucia and the Avalone Guest House for a 3 night stay. Gavin and I went birding along the Gwala Gwala trail but it was a bit late and the only new bird I saw was a Square-tailed Drongo. Black-bellied starlings and Sombre Greenbuls were busy at dusk.

This morning Gavin and I went birding on the Gwala Gwala trail at 6.30. A White-browned Scrub Robin growled in the undergrowth and Hadada Ibis cried overhead. The trail was alive with bird calls but the birds were difficult to see. We did have good views of Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-breasted apalis, Tawny-flanked Prinia and Trumpeter Hornbills.  After breakfast we load up and head into iSimangaliso Wetland, a haven for kudu.


The lookout at Catalina Bay was quiet but the view over the water was amazing. We ate breakfast at Mission Beach before walking down to the sand where the locals were fishing and enjoying the sun.


We watched a dung beetle in the car park. 


A pair of Crowned Eagles perched in a small dead tree, a Black Snake Eagle hovered above the wetlands while mammal sightings included zebra, red duiker, kudu and buffalo.






Driving further south we stopped to watch a Martial Eagle feeding on a duiker kill before seeing a male Pin-tailed Whydah out of breeding plumage swaying on a reed in the breeze.


Cape Vidal was spectacular on this sunny morning. Lots of people were enjoying the beach and the warm Indian Ocean. 



A large flock of Grey-headed Gulls and Swift Terns rested near the timeline while a Green-backed Cameropta jumped around in plants at the car park. We made it back to St. Lucia for lunch at the Ski Boat Club before an afternoon estuary cruise on a Shoreline boat. This family of banded mongoose was a regular sight in town.


During the cruise we saw many hippo and a few crocs.




However, the birds were disappointing due to a notable absence of large waders like Saddle-billed Storks, Spoonbills and Great White Egrets. Apparently this is linked to the estuary being closed off from the open sea and a drop in small fish and crustaceans had greatly reduced the food source. We did see Fish Eagles, White-eared barbets, White-breasted and Wire-tailed Swallows, Yellow Weavers, Banded Martins and a Yellow-billed Kite.





Dinner tonight is a braai at the Avalone Guesthouse during which the wine flowed freely.


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1 hour ago, Treepol said:

We made it back to St. Lucia for lunch at the Ski Boat Club


I am bumping into this establishment in almost every report; is it that good, that affordable, or just there is not many others to chose from?


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@xelas the Ski Boat Club is a St Lucia institution. The menu is extensive, prices are good and the location at the ocean end of the (closed) estuary is very pleasant, especially at the outdoor tables on a good day.


Ocean Sizzler in town was good too for both food and prices.

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This was our second day in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi NP and once again we hired William to be our guide.  He met us at Memorial Gate and reported that he had seen wild dogs just 6 kms away - yay!  Now, wild dogs being wild dogs they had moved on so we enjoyed sights of giraffe, zebra and a Rufous-naped Lark before another driver told us "we must put on some speed" because the dogs were just down the road.



There were 9 dogs on the hunt, but there wasn't anything around for them - we thought that hunting from the road was an intelligent move as it allows the pack to move quickly and affords good views of the surrounds.



We followed them for 2-3 kms before they veered off at a road tunnel. A Customs vehicle with 2 formidable German Shepherds in kennels in the back passed us – the dogs were large, snarling, clawing to get out.



The wild dogs clocked the Customs dogs but didn't run away. There must have been an incident (or a training exercise] in the park because we later saw police and more parks vehicles closer to Bhejane Hide while the Rhino Watch helicopter flew overhead.  Further on we saw a female waterbuck with a calf. They grazed peacefully, occasionally showing us their heart-shaped noses before crossing in front and disappearing up the hill.



The Bhejane hide was our lunch stop where warthog wallowed and impala, nyala, zebra and wildebeest came to drink.







Marsh terrapins jostled for a position on sunny logs and created an ambitious terrapin stack whilst blue waxbills, 3 banded plovers, female indigo birds, red-billed fire finches, drongos and many species of doves drank, perched, called and fluttered.




Other birds seen today were Wire-tailed swallow, Woolly-necked Stork, Crested and Acacia Pied Barbet, White-backed vultures, White-bellied Sunbird, White-fronted Bee Eater, Striped Kingfisher, Golden-breasted Bunting, Red-throated Wryneck, 3 banded plover, Black-shouldered kite, and Black-bellied Bustard.











The sunset was spectacular and no-one minded when it was photo-bombed by a giraffe.








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Excellent sightings for one day @Treepol! Bhejane Hide added to our itinerary. Was using a guide important for logistics or for other reason?

Edited by xelas
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@xelas Bhejane Hide is worth a visit. We hired the game drive vehicle with guide from Dinizulu because the rented Quantum wasn't good for game viewing. The windows are tinted and only 3 of the windows in the back open for a non-tinted view and photos. One of the windows in the back is in the door where no one sits.  Lawson's have company Quantums which have been customised with improved window and seat configurations, however as we had a flight sector we couldn't use a Lawson's Quantum which was most unfortunate.  In my view, the hire company Quantums are just a transit vehicle, and need to be supplemented by the use of lodge/safari company vehicles for a quality game viewing experience.


Hence the Fortuner for 2021...now back to St Lucia.



This morning a few of us went out to the estuary mouth with the vain hope of seeing Livingstone's Turaco.


There was one calling, but he wouldn't show. Instead we saw Grey and Olive Sunbirds and a Dusky Flycatcher before turning onto the boardwalk and heading to the Ski Boat Club where a Purple-banded Sunbird flitted at the top of a coral tree overlooking a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird.


Two gents on holiday from JNB were also enjoying the birds.



The car park with the curio stalls was a good vantage point for Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Red-billed teal and Yellow-billed Duck. A Fish Eagle flew lazily above.  The next site for forest birding was closer to town and delivered Tambourine Dove, Dark-backed Weaver, Yellow-breasted and Rudd's Apalis, White-eared Barbet, Black Cuckoo Shrike and a Puffback.


The Gwala Gwala trail was quiet to start with but we did see a Cardinal Woodpecker working lazily at a tree trunk, while a Square-tailed Drongo looked down.  


This ant architecture was built by weaver ants, aka tailor ants.


The only mammals of the day were seen along here - a Red Duiker and a Tree Squirrel. Around the campground we caught brief glimpses of a Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher who flitted and flirted tantalisingly out of shot.

Next morning we have an early departure from St Lucia to Durban where we have a flight to George. The early part of the drive was in darkness, however after sunrise we could see how beautiful this area of South Africa is - rolling hills with traditional houses, green as far as the eye can see against a backdrop of blue ocean.  We ate a quick breakfast at the airport before the 1hour 40 min. flight to George where another Quantum awaited. We hit the road to Oudtshoorn, the home of the "feather palaces" built in the grand era when ostrich feathers were the height of fashion. Mugg and Bean is our choice for lunch before beginning the wonderfully scenic drive to Karoo NP. The roadworks slowed down the first few kilometres which gave us plenty of time to admire the snow-capped Swartberg.




The drive over Meiringspoort is nothing short of spectacular, where the road snakes along the river below towering red cliffs for about 25 km. 



It also delivered Familiar Chat, Cape Bunting and Rock Thrush.



The stunning scenery of the Karoo must be seen to be believed. Dry stony grazing for sheep, a sheen of pink-purple plants and an amphitheatre of distant mountains against a bright blue sky kept us spellbound. We signed in at the gate and drove slowly to the rest camp, stopping for eland and mountain zebra along the way.






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Wow, I'm still enjoying your wonderful TR. Thank you again.

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@Ritsgaai you are most welcome. I have really enjoyed your TR, especially the wildflowers and the photos from the little visited Cedarberg region.




"The next oryx we see needs to have a lion attached"

Breakfast at 0730 was late for us but we didn’t mind, and afterwards left immediately for a game drive heading for Klipspringer Pass. There are so many oryx around and rumours of lion close to the road. The clear skies of yesterday have given way to an overcast, cool morning which is a perfect backdrop to the Karoo – a land of space, silence and stars. And snow and snowmelt on the mountains.






Mammals seen today included mountain zebra, klipspringer, kudu, springbok, baboon, vervet monkey, red hartebeest and oryx.










Bird life was just as varied with a familiar Chat, a delicate Fairy Flycatcher, mountain wheatear, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Karoo Scrub Robin and Karoo Chat.




A confiding Fiscal Flycatcher sat obligingly in a pretty picnic spot.


It took 5 hours to drive just over 40 kms because there was so much to look at and scenic lookouts to explore. 

Gavin had to drive to Beaufort West for fuel so we all decided to go and have lunch in town because the restaurant at the rest camp was closed as today is a public holiday to mark yesterday’s Woman's Day. Lunch at the local Spur was good after which we were soon back in the park, exploring a 12 km loop the highlight of which was a stand-off between 2 male ostriches in breeding plumage. Mammals seen on the loop included springbok, steenbok and zebra.




The most surprising event today was rain in the Karoo! There were a couple of light showers during the day (enough to wet the windscreen) followed by a rainbow over the desert.


Back at the bird hide a pair of African Shelducks dabbled in the company of Red-knobbed Coots and Common Moorhen. Lesser Masked Weavers had begun work on new nests and female red bishops proliferated.



A Lesser Swamp Warbler fossicked lowdown in the reed bed while a gorgeously coloured Acacia Pied Barbet sat in a tree next to the hide. Speckled Pigeons and Laughing Doves were common around the chalets.

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@Treepol, really enjoying this report and your photographs are quality that does justice to the wildlife.

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Karoo surely looks different in winter! And even more scenic.

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