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A Summer of Swifts and Swallows – Kruger, Kgalagadi & Augrabies Falls (Jan. 2020)


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Day 17 – Game Drive One


And now came the final full day of the trip. There would be two game drives: Mata Mata to Twee Rivieren and then an evening game drive on the Nossob riverbed from Twee Rivieren. But before we set off from Mata Mata, the camp had one more surprise for us – the Caracal showed again (though if it is any consolation @Tdgraves and @Peter Connan, this time the cat showed only brefily and distantly). Leaving camp, at Sitzas we also once more bumped into the resident Black Backed Jackal family.












As we continued towards Craig Lockhart, we saw that a car had stopped at the watering hole (located on a very short access road from the main Auob road). We paused and were so preoccupied by this, that we did see that the real action was away from the waterhole and right on the main road – three adult male Cheetahs! They had been resting right next to the road, and then started walking in formation right in front of us on the road.







We followed them on the road for about 50 meters before they turned back towards riverbed, crossed it, and lay down in the shade atop the dunes. This was the most intimate of our four cheetah sightings, was my friend's favourite (though I think I still preferred yesterday’s cubs). Either way, we got some great shots and even better we had the sighting to ourselves (not sure what that one car was still doing parked at Craig Lockhart).


















I don’t want to get too controversial here so I will only conclude by saying that it gave us pleasure to see that these cheetahs could move away from the cars, compared with my own personal experiences of cheetah sightings elsewhere (Mara Triangle, to point the finger more directly). Leaving the cats to their rest, we continued to Dalkeith, taking a careful look around for the female and her cubs, but as I have already detailed, they did not show this morning. Despite this, the Mata Mata area still had one final excellent sighting for us...


Continuing along the upper Auob riverbed, between the 14th and 13th Boreholes, a Black Chested Snake Eagle was standing right in the middle of the riverbed with a snake struggling between its talons. At first, I thought the snake may have been a mole snake, but when the raptor grabbed the snake and attempted to fly off with it, its grip loosened, and the serpent freed itself. This is when it became clear that we in fact had a Cape Cobra in the process of being killed by the eagle!


The snake still had some life in it, and put up a bit of a fight, though its fate now was sealed. Unfortunately, the snake eagle had taken the snake further away from us, so without the camera/binoculars, the action became a little more difficult to view. Regardless, this was still one of my top sightings of the trip, as I was especially hoping for a snake, and to see one in a sighting like this was all the more special. (Note the images below are quite heavily cropped).


Black Chested Snake Eagle Cape Cobra Kill













(this last shot, with the bird in mid air about to strike and the cobra with its hood raised, is one of my favourites from the whole trip)



Following these two amazing sightings, we made a stop at Kamqua picnic site which produced a Capped Wheatear, as well as Karasburg Tree Skinks and a Bibron’s Gecko. Travelling further south, our final hour on the Auob side produced the first Ostriches we had seen in a few days as well as a handsome Red Hartebeest walking along the riverbed and a few small Springbok herds, including a young calf. At Gemsbokplein we also had our second sighting of Martial Eagle, this time a fully grown adult. We had a nice view of majestic raptor drinking water before it flew off over the dunes.


Capped Wheatear



Karasburg Tree Skink









Red Hartebeest








Martial Eagle







The Short Dune Road wasn’t very productive this afternoon, the only notable animal being a Kori Bustard. Coming back on to the Nossob, we had clear views of Black Headed Heron at Kij Kij and four Secretary Birds all drinking together at a seasonal pool close to Melkvlei. Closer to Melkvlei we saw our first Verreaux’s Eagle Owl again, this time we had good views of it actually resting within the tree. Some final species rounding off the game drive were Bateluer, Black Chested Snake Eagle and the ubiquitous Pale Chanting Goshawks.  


Kori Bustard



Black Headed Heron



Secretary Birds



Verreaux's Eagle Owl



Black Chested Snake Eagle



Pale Chanting Goshawk











Edited by adamt123
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Fabulous sequence of photos with the Black-chested Snake Eagle and the Cape Cobra. 

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@adamt123 - awesome sightings. Poor old Aardvark though.

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Many Thanks @Treepol. Yes the eagle and snake was one of my favourite sightings 



Thank you @Hads. I see that the aardvark has many sympathisers! 

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Day 17 – Game Drive Two


It was a very windy and cloudy evening, as though a major thunderstorm was about to break. This made for quite a fitting backdrop to our final game drive. Curiously, the conditions were very similar on my final game drive last time I was in Kgalagadi.


As we were setting out from Twee Rivieren, but still within the camp boundary, we stumbled upon an Eland. Yes, a living specimen. I believe this is a female, and she is possibly pregnant – I’m not sure, but I have read that eland sometimes come down into the Nossob riverbed to give birth (not sure how accurate this information is). In all honesty, the magnificent animal, which had very impressive horns, even for an eland, clearly wasn’t in the best condition, but hopefully it recovered itself from the safety of camp.









Continuing just past the gate, in the very first tree, we came across two Verreaux’s Eagle Owls and this was very shortly followed by a third one about 15 metres further down. Oddly, we hadn’t seen them until now even though we had passed the tree many times, but it was nonetheless a most welcome sighting. Continuing past Samevloeiing, we had brief glimpses of a Red Hartebeest and its calf, as well as a few final Black Backed Jackals, my favourite of the commonly seen animals.


Verreaux's Eagle Owls













Red Hartebeest



Black Backed Jackal



The climax of the drive, close to Leeuwdril, were a pair of Lionesses and four cubs. The cubs were a little camera shy at first but showed better as they were suckling. I have seen lion cubs before, but these ones were smaller and younger than my previous sightings. As we had had many good sightings of adult males and females, it was nice to complete the lion family with some cute cubs on this last drive.











Once the lions had disappeared back into the dunes, we started to head back to camp. Here, we had a third and final Martial Eagle, this time with a cape ground squirrel between its talons as well as our last Leopard Tortoise sighting. From all the tortoise sightings, this one was probably the best, and we spent a good ten minutes quietly watching the little tortoise following the larger one. As we returned to camp for a final time, the Verreaux’s Eagle Owls once more greeted us with excellent views and made for a good end to a good seven days in the Kalahari.


 Martial Eagle



Leopard Tortoise



Verreaux's Eagle Owls







Day 18


We had the option of going on another short game drive this morning, but we decided against it. So, we said goodbye to Kgalagadi and drove down to Upington. It was a Sunday, and the road was totally deserted, I don’t think we saw a single other car until we were very close to Upington. What we did see, however, was a male Red Crested Korhaan, making it the final animal of the trip.  We soundly flew home via Johannesburg. The End.


Red Crested Korhaan




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Overall, I think our two-and-a-half-week safari in Kruger and Kgalagadi parks, not forgetting our two nights at Augrabies Falls, was successful. From the birds, the migrants were exceptional, particularly the European Honey Buzzard and Pallid Harrier as well as the Greater Flamingo and Black Stork which were rare for our locations. I also loved seeing all the different Owls, a family which I was hoping to see a few members of, not knowing that we would have such good luck. The other highlight of course were all the Swifts and Swallows; although we didn’t see any rare species, it was really the consistent presence of common ones which gave this trip a special summer flavour.


From the reptiles, the Cape Cobra was the undisputed highlight, though I also thought the great number of Leopard Tortoises was pretty cool. As for the mammals, it was nice to get a few new antelope (Tsessebe, Sharpe’s Grysbok, Klipspringer) and I am very appreciative of the many superb large predator sightings. However, there was one much hoped-for animal missing – Brown Hyena. Not seeing one was honestly super disappointing. Having said that, I do recognize that we had amazing luck with the Caracal this time around, and I wouldn’t hesitate at all in trying for a brownie again.


Total species count:

·       40 mammals

·       210 birds

·       7 Reptiles


Considering more thoroughly the four major predators (lions, leopard, cheetah and wild dog) I was very pleased with the number and quality of the sightings, all of which I would label “excellent” other than the leopard which I think were “good”. I have detailed below the numbers of sightings, date and approximate location of these sighting.



1.     Day 11 – Twee Rivieren 3 (2 males, 1 female)

2.     Day 13 – Cheleka 7 (1 male, 6 females)

3.     Day 13 – Twee Rivieren 1 (female)

4.     Day 14 – Twee Rivieren 4 (2 males, 2 females)

5.     Day 15 – Twee Rivieren 2 (2 males)

6.     Day 15 – Twee Rivieren 1 (female)

7.     Day 15 – 14th Borehole 2 (1 male, 1 female)

8.     Day 17 – Twee Rivieren 6 (2 females, 4 cubs)

Approximately Twenty Individuals



1.     Day 1 – H11 1 (female)

2.     Day 3 – H13-2 1 (female)

3.     Day 4 – H13-2 1 (male)

Three Individuals



1.     Day 15 – Dalkeith 1 (female)

2.     Day 16 – Dalkeith 2 (1 female, 1 cub)

3.     Day 16 – Dalkeith 5 (1 female, 4 cubs)

4.     Day 17 – Craig Lockhart 3 (3 males)

Eight Individuals


African Wild Dog

1.     Day 2 – H11 14 (all adults)

2.     Day 3 – H1-6 4 (all adults)

3.     Day 4 – S60 6 (all adults)

Twenty-four Individuals


Finally, I conclude by saying thank you for reading and I hope this made for an interesting trip report. If there are any questions or comments on the report, feel free to ask. I finish now with a final photo from Melkvlei – one of my favourites.




Edited by adamt123
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Peter Connan
20 hours ago, adamt123 said:

Day 17 – Game Drive One

 But before we set off from Mata Mata, the camp had one more surprise for us – the Caracal showed again (though if it is any consolation @Tdgraves and @Peter Connan, this time the cat showed only brefily and distantly).


Not at all.


Really lovely sightings again.


Lovely trip report, thank you for the effort.

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Very enjoyable trip report, you had excellent sightings even without the brown hyena.

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Great fun reading  your report @adamt123 apart from of course....... thanks very much!

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Many thanks @Zim Girl and @Towlersonsafari.


Writing this a few months later, I am now not that bothered that we didn't see a brown hyena as our overall sightings and experiences were fantastic. On leaving Kgalagadi I was little disappointed, but I guess there is always next time :)

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I really enjoyed your trip report. It was interesting and informative and you had incredible sighings. There will be a next time for me as well:)

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Thank you @Athene, and for your kind comments throughout. As for next time, the call of Africa is indeed very strong for all of us :)

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Glad I was able to read this entire report in one go (over a couple of days though). wow what sightings you had - especially with the caracal and the eagle vs cobra interaction! I thought your close-up portraits of the wildlife were amazing.

Lots of interesting and useful information for us planning to do a first trip to KTP. Thank you for sharing the trip!

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Thank you @Kitsafari :) (and the striped hyena in you picture truly stunning!)




(Also, sorry to everyone who had to deal with the ridiculous number of typos; I will be correcting those). 




Edited by adamt123
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Just finished reading your terrific report and enjoying all the wonderful photographs. As you say, it does provide the much appreciated quarantine respite you hoped for. Many thanks!

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The Cobra - Snake Eagle sighting really is super-special. And just wow to the Caracal. A really great K&K report, thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you so much.

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Many thanks @shouldbewriting! I'm glad the report made for some decent quarantine reading :)



@michael-ibk Thank you for your warm words :). The caracal and cobra-eagle sightings were definitely a memorable way to end off the trip. Kgalagadi is meant to be a good place for snakes and to see one under those circumstances was fantastic. 




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Great sightings, thanks for showing them also to the rest of us!

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Thank you @xelas, and for following along throughout the report :)

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  • 5 weeks later...
Dave Williams

Just picked up the report and finished the Kruger section which was interesting to read as we were there in September/October for a month so we had longer to explore the whole of the park. We had been booked in to Punda Maria safari tents but decided to cancel after getting disillusioned with Shingwedzi which we thought was soulless but in it's defence the trees in camp were all leafless at that time of year which didn't help.I was disappointed at the lack of bird sightings throughout our trip but maybe we didn't do so badly as it was out of season.

I have to agree that both the shops and the restaurants in KNP make Etosha look even worse. No excuse for Etosha being so bad to be honest. Like you we had a view chalet in Mopani, No 104 and we thought the camp and surrounding area was exceptionally good compared to the rest of the northern area but it was nowhere as good as the south. Considering we were in the south of the park on a national holiday it wasn't that dreadful in the south and it didn't put us off changing Punda Maria for two nights at Skukuza. We has more plentiful sightings in the south most definitely. The biggest surprise was Skukuza camp which I only booked in to because everywhere else was full. it's in a great area and the restaurant is excellent, much better than the other camps. In the evening it's comparatively quiet too, not the mayhem it is during the day and it is the only camp that has wifi too ( although Lower Sabie claims to have it didn't on the days we were there).

I'm going to read the rest of your report with great interest as I'm keen to visit the Kgalagadi one day. Must admit though I'll do everything at a slower pace than you appear to have done! The lesson I took away with me was stay longer in every place so you are not living out of a suitcase and don't attempt to do everywhere in one trip.

Anyway, on with the rest of the report now, thanks for taking the time to share it.

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Thank you for reading @Dave Williams.


My own experiences of Kruger are actually quite limited; I've never been to Lower Sabie, Satara, Berg en Dal, Crocodile Bridge, Olifants, Letaba etc etc. But, from the places that I have visited, I can understand why south Kruger is more popular than the north. I find that it is more atmospheric and there is probably a better chance of seeing the signature safari animals, particularly around Crocodile Bridge-Lower Sabie-Skukuza-Satara (or so I've heard). 


Having said that, I really loved Punda Maria (the area) - the biggest problem with it is getting there. I would say that it is perhaps an isolated gem, separated from southern Kruger by the vast Mopani belt. 


I was actually considering another trip to Kruger in January 2021, but with COVID and SA's intentions not to open up until later, it is very unlikely (I refuse to go SA outside of their summer firstly for the birds and secondly the weather). Were I to go again, I would want to stay in the south, particularly Lower Sabie and Biyamiti, but I think there would always be the temptation to return to Punda Maria. 

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Dave Williams

I have a booking for Biyamiti for next May. I'm holding fire on anything else for the time being to see how things pan out in South Africa. We have to be careful where and what we book as travel insurance won't be valid for Corvid-19. Losing the travel and accommodation bookings would be the least concern if we were hospitalised with the virus when we get there. The cost could be eye wateringly expensive, beyond what I could afford so not worth the risk. I do think that the Bushveld camps and self catering are the safer options though.

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@Dave Williams it may be worth keeping an eye on travel insurance developments. Some UK companies are beginning to offer cover relating to Covid, but you would need to check what is and is not covered. I think for example Trailfinders now offer some cover (I haven’t checked details)

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