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Kruger Self drive Jan 2019 - Call of The Woodland Kingfisher


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My family and myself just had another 5 wonderful weeks in South Africa visiting all of my family in-laws from Mid December 2018 to Late January 2019.

As per usual everytime I visit South Africa I am lucky enough (well I beg,plead kick and scream until my Safari is approved) to visit Kruger Park for a few days.

We also had a family Safari in Madikwe for 4 days but that will be a separate trip report.


My last trip in December 2016 I visited Kruger with my Father in law (FIL) and this trip was no different, it was just the 2 of us for 8 wonderful days.

One of my Best mates and his son (Conrad & Ethan) also come and spent 2 nights with us in Satara - it was great to see them again and spend some magic moments together in Kruger.


Our itinerary is shown below from 8th - 16th January:

2 x Nights at Shimuwini Bush camp

4 x Nights at Satara

2 x Nights at Biyamiti Bushveld camp 


I love the Bushveld camps as they have a maximum of about 10-15 thatched chalets and they are alot more peaceful that the main camps in Kruger.

We entered via Phalaborwa gate - It was great to be back on Safari and looking out for the Summertime guests to Kruger park the Woodland Kingfisher and listening to its beautiful song

Once I get my photo's sorted I will get cracking into this report - I hope you enjoy it.


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As mentioned in the opening post we entered the park via Phalaborwa gate around 1pm - this gave us plenty of time to slowly make our way Northwards towards Shimuwini.

As it was January the park had experienced some decent rainfall and therefore the game was quite widespread and did not need to go to the rivers and water holes to find water to drink.

It was also hot during our stay especially the last 5 days or so - temps getting up to the high 30's each day.

This made game viewing abit trickier and we had to be more patient and work abit harder to look for good sightings - well a dung beetle rolling its dung in my view is a special sighting so you dont always have to look to far as the special sighting may be right under your nose.


We decided to head north via the Sable dam, there was water everywhere - the animals must be very happy.We had a chat to one of the Kruger staff at the Sable hide for awhile who was repairing a laydown bed (you can book sleep overs in the hide), it was very quiet so we slowly headed northwards towards Shimuwini.

We had a lovely meeting with a lone Bull elephant and saw general plains game on our way up to camp , Zebra and Impala and the odd water buck.

Around 4pm we arrived at camp and checked in and were greeted by very friendly staff (Paul I think his name was)










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~ @Hads


You hooked me by your trip report's wonderful title.


My last several safaris in South Africa have all been brightened by the Woodland Kingfisher's call.


Knowing that you, too, like it is great. In Kruger in February, 2017 I was charmed by the sweet call.


Great photos above!


Tom K.

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Thanks @Tom Kellie  - The little blue bird is definitely the sound of summertime in Kruger.

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Shimuwini is a sensational Bushveld camp located in the North Eastern section of the park on the Letaba river - it has about 400metres of riverfront to explore.

There is plenty of shady trees in front of the camp overlooking the river and it also has a nice hide to sit and relax and watch the local hippo's do there thing.

If you are in Kruger and are looking for a peaceful place to stay I highly recommend this camp. 

The game viewing is not as rich as the  central and southern sections of the park but the serenity more than makes up for it.








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Late that 1st afternoon I went on a short drive along the river loop while FIL relaxed and got the braai fired up - it was pretty quiet but very enjoyable.



The light was a beautiful Golden colour and a Goliath heron was abliging. There is always plenty of water buck in this area as well.

Near to camp a young Ele passed by after a quick bath - what a pleasant start to our trip - it was great to be park in the park.

Sorry for some reason my photos are not in order....









Edited by Hads
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DAY 2 - 1st full day

As most ST's are aware the gate opening times for camps inside Kruger are 4:30am and closing times are 6:30pm.

On this Safari FIL (Father in law) and myself were always out the gate and on our way around 4:45am.

For those who have been to Shimuwini there is a magnificent Boabab tree on the river loop road which has had severe Elephant damage over the years, the parks staff have put alot of rock around the base of the tree to try and stop the Ele's getting too close.





So off we drove leaving camp nice and early pumped to be out exploring this beautiful park.

We drove the river loop and then headed northwards towards Mopani.

It was a relatively quiet morning our first nice sighting was of a Giraffe and then we came across a mother Hyena with her 3 decent size cubs , we stopped to enjoy them and the cubs came right up to the car and started chewing on the side step - not scared of us one bit.

Once up on the S50 rod we had wonderful sightings of Tsessebe and a good size herd of Elephants, well actually there was elephants everywhere it seemed.

I was stoked to see the Tsessebe as I have only seen them once in Kruger before from a far distance.














Edited by Hads
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We got to the Tropic of Capricorn road  and saw a car stopped - the lady in the car said there was a very large herd (500 +/-) buffalo's further up the road, we slowly drove off in that direction thinking we can't miss these guys, but we did, lots of crap everywhere but they passed through - oh well there was plenty of plains game and MORE Tsesebe - wow this time one was chasing another.

The Tropic of Capricorn road has beautiful open plains , apparently there has been a large pride of lions in the area but we did not see them.

We also had some nice bird sightings of a black bellied bustard, ostrich and kori bustard and dung beetle pushing his wife along in the dung ball.

It was nearly 9am so we pushed onto Mopani rest camp for breakfast overlooking the stunning dam.









Edited by Hads
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Hyena chewing on the sidestep - hopefully the little video clip works.


Edited, Matt


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After a nice breakfast at Mopani where we watched some fish eagle catch and eat a catfish and Woodland kingfishers entertain us we slowly made our way back towards Shimuwini.




Just outside Mopani camp there was a skinny looking Kudu and Elephant bull having a scratch under a tree.

We stopped at Mooiplaas picnic site and were greeted by 2 beautiful Male Nyala's and watched some hippo's in the Tsendze river from the picnic area. It was starting to get hot and closer back to camp things were pretty quiet.

Arrived back at camp around 1pm for a well earned rest and a swim.









Edited by Hads
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Our afternoon game drive we did not drive far - we just stuck to the local river loop.

It was a pleasant drive seeing the resident water buck, a fishing Hammerkop, a nice fish eagle and 3 ground hornbill that were on the move.

We bumped into another stunning male Nyala which seem more prevalent in the northern parts of Kruger and a young ele.








Back at camp we watched the hippo's in front of camp show off there fearsome teeth - what a fantastic way to finish the day off our first full day in Kruger.






Edited by Hads
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~ @Hads


Your latest Kruger posts are terrific...and one is remarkable.


Since I joined Safaritalk in 2015, I've never once been able to see, much less play any video in a trip report.


However, to my enormous surprise, the hyena video appeared, and played.


In fact, the little Pekingese in my house, Yubi, saw and heard it, barking in apprehension!


Whatever you did worked, somehow circumventing the 24/7 interference in the area where I work and live.


The Tsessebe images are appreciated. I never saw them when I visited Kruger.


Nyala are a favorite of mine, therefore so pleased to see them.


The early start of you and your father-in-law makes so much sense.


Ah! Woodland Kingfishers. I actually hear their descending trilling call in my mind when I see them.


This trip report is a joy to read.


Thank you.


Tom K.

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Hi @Tom Kellie - thanks for reading my Trip report mate.

I'm so glad my video clip worked and Yubi enjoyed it as well :).

I figure the earlier one starts driving and the more time you spend in the park the better one's chances are of a great sighting.

Having said that on our first morning we just missed out on seeing Mr spotty but saw his tracks (it rained over night) when we arrived back at camp the first day. - We must of left too early



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I just adored that photo of the young hyena cub looking up at you with those round eyes!

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Great fun @Hads loved the video of the hyenas and the tufty chins of the tessebe. Whetting outr appetite for the kruger-only a year and 3 months to go!

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Dave Williams

Might seem like a daft question but how do you cook anything on the fire pit? Is there a rack of some sort you can put your food on to cook it?  We are booked in to three Bushveld Camps for our Kruger trip later this year , including Shimuweni, so I'm keen to find out as much as possible before we get there!

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Hi @Towlersonsafari thanks for following along the TR - what is your itinerary for Kruger - any Bushveld camps? Are you self driving? If so I can go into abit more detail on the roads we drove.


@Dave Williams cooking on the Braai pits (BBQ Fire pits) are easy - you will need to by charcoal or timber prior to entering the park or in one of the main camps, from memory the Bushveld camps do not sell the charcoal or timber.

Each Braai pit has a grill on top which you swivel around and it sits about 4-6 inches above the hot coals. Place meat etc (sweet corn cobs are great) on the grill once fire has died down to nice cooking coals.

Remember to Braai with a beer in hand :P

I love Shimuwini as a camp, it is so peaceful and it has the letaba river direct in front of camp which has a nice waterhole, the river was flowing when we were there, as mentioned earlier on the game viewing may not be as dense as the central and southern parts of the park but you never know - driving from Shimuwini up to Mopani is easily done and the S50/tropic of capricorn roads are very nice with swamp area's and open plains.

What other Bushveld camps are you staying in and when are you going?

Edited by Hads
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that is very kind of you @Hads -i did not wnat to interfere with your trip report-but since you ask we are hoping to go-assuming we get the camps- 

3 nights Pretoriskop

3 nights Satara and then for our journey north 2 nights Leteba , 2 nights Bateleur and 2 nights sirheni before leaving at Punda Maria gate and stopping at a place in the Soustpanberg mountains that looks rather fun. So very much interested in your report!


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Dave Williams

@HadsLikewise don't want to interfere with the flow of your report but since you ask, and if you can throw any extra information in to your report our plan is:-


I keep on reading that the best game viewing, as well as the southern end, is around Satara so i'm looking forward to reading your experience there. I'm wondering if it's doable in a day from Talamati. I don't want to drive too far on each and every day otherwise it might get a bit too tedious.




Edited by Dave Williams
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@Towlersonsafari  and @Dave Williams I am working long hours for the next week or so , so I won't get a detailed reply back to you both for a few days.

You both are staying for a very decent amount of time in the park especially you Dave so you will definitely get some great sightings, I am very envious as I love self driving in Kruger , alot of the places you are staying I have not been.


A book I highly recommend buying about Kruger park is "Kruger Self Drive - Routes, Roads and Ratings" by van den burg, it is sold in most of the bigger camps like Satara and Lower Sabie. I bought it a few years back and use it everytime I visit Kruger.

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Hurrah @Hads Jane got the book for me last Christmas!

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Dave Williams
2 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

Hurrah @Hads Jane got the book for me last Christmas!



I had to buy my own but I got a brand new one from eBay for just £8 including postage!

It doesn't cover the Bushveld Camps which is a shame but still an excellent aid.

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@Dave Williams and @Towlersonsafari- the book is a super addition for helping enjoy Kruger, as you mention Dave it is a pity it does not include info on the Bushveld camps. I have only been to 2 of them but really have enjoyed them both more than the main camps.

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Well after a very pleasant 2 night stay at Shimuwini it was time to move on. 

Our next destination was Satara rest camp for 4 nights. We left camp nice and early around 5am heading towards Letaba where we would have breakfast at the camp.

The river loop on the way out was very quiet with a couple of lonely Giraffe's.



We headed south along the  H14 and then took the S133 & S131, these 2 roads where extremely quiet, even for Kruger standards.

Crossing the Letaba river there was dozens of swallows catching breakfast.

We enjoyed watching a red breasted korhaan performing, quite amazing sounds these birds make. We stopped at a small waterhole and there was a nice juv bateleur and Mr Marabou looking as handsome as ever.







Getting closer to Letaba we came across a few more mammals closer to the Letaba River, as it was still too early for breakfast we decided to head north of Letaba up towards the Mingerhout dam. The road leading up there, S47, is a very pleasant drive and just screams of leopard country as you follow the river along the way. The dam wall had some relaxed hippo's.

We were stoked to get a wonderful sighting of a Bushbuck, what a stunning antelope - he posed very nicely.






Edited by Hads
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On the way back to Letaba we had a cool sighting of a very small tortoise on the side of the road, I broke all the rules and hopped out and put the little guy closer to a small stream so a bird would not get him.

Closer to Letaba there was a family of Ground hornbills out collecting breakfast, if it was good enough for them it surely was good enough for us to get something to eat.

At Letaba I got some nice photo's of Kingfishers - the brown hooded and my old favourite the WKF :).

Apologies my photo's are not in order for some reason.










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