Jump to content

From Rietvlei to Kruger - a family trip January 2020


PeterHG
 Share

Recommended Posts

Long overdue of course.....

 

i-QNztFT3-XL.jpg

 

As we had done in 2012, plans were made for a family trip to South Africa early 2020. My brother and his wife, my sister and her husband and my wife and I . All of us had expressed a wish to spend time exploring the Kruger NP, both from lodgings outside the park and accommodation within. As my wife and I would like to do some dedicated birding, we left a few days before the others and booked a B&B in Pretoria. Our aim was to stay close to Johannesburg to meet up with the family a few days later and explore some birding sites nearby with just the two of us. Rietvlei was definitely on our list as we had never been there before and it is very close to where we were staying.

 

 

On 14th January we took the night KLM flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg. After our arrival at 11:15 we picked up our rental car and drove to Andante Lodge in Pretoria, a pleasant and conveniently located B&B on the outskirts of Pretoria. We had booked a Toyota RAV, but we were offered an upgrade to a Landcruiser, which we happily accepted. Some extra leg room would come in handy when the rest of the family arrived. At the lodge we spent a relaxing afternoon to recover from the flight.

 

The next day we paid our first visit to the Rietvlei Nature Reserve. The fact that the skyline of Pretoria is visible from most parts of the park takes away from a real bush feeling, but it is a very nice reserve with good birding opportunites . We were there on a week day, so it was rather quiet and I can imagine it will be a different story on a Saturday or Sunday. Birding was pretty good and we thoroughly enjoyed our day here. Being back in South Africa felt really good.

 

i-Ms7x4vK-XL.jpg

 

A female ostrich against a backdrop of pompom weed. Pretty in pink, but I've since learned that this invasive plant is a real threat to the grazing grasslands.

 

We did see some mammals, too, like this Eland. He did not seem to mind the Cattle Egret at all.

 

i-ChQQSb8-X2.jpg

 

i-mVZbCM4-X2.jpg

 

And a Meerkat family entertained us for a short while.

 

i-WV2R8K7-X2.jpg

 

There were many Long-tailed Widowbirds doing display flights over the grasslands. They are such beautiful creatures and we never tired of watching them.

 

i-vZKvdPW-X2.jpg

 

There are a few excellent hides in the reserve. Although the first one did not produce any close birds at all, outside the hide there were quite a few Red Bishops.

 

i-q92pRfq-X2.jpg

 

Giant Kingfisher.

 

i-Pk9vBW6-X2.jpg

 

And one or two Spotted Thick-knees. A worthwhile first day and quite a few more to come.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am hitched and along for the ride!

 

Some really stunning photos already!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for keeping this trip up your sleeve Peter. 

Trip reports are a bit scarce at the moment so it is something to enjoy, especially as your photos are wonderful as usual.  Looking out of the window at the gloomy light we have here at the moment I long for the glorious rich colours of Africa.

Love the Ostrich.

Edited by Soukous
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Superb pictures. Thanks for sharing this. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great start Peter, looking forward to more. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for joining me here @Peter Connan@Soukous, @Biko, @AKR1, @michael-ibkand for the kind words.

 

A few weeks prior to our departure for South Africa I had contacted @Peter Connan, to ask for some advice on birding locations near Pretoria. Not only had he provided this, he kindly offered to accompany us to one of them: the Marievale Bird Sanctuary. He even went as far as picking us up at our B&B early in the morning. The weather started out a little grey and foggy, but it cleared later on and we spent a wonderful day birding the reserve and visiting the hides for photo opportunities. As it turned out Peter really likes the challenge of photographing birds in flight and so do I. Plenty of opportunities for that. It is a beautiful reserve and visiting it with someone who knew his way around the park and is great company made this a special day for us. So many thanks again, Peter. Now for some photos.

 

P1170950-X2.jpg

 

Strangely enough every sign we saw had a Pied Starling guarding it.

 

 

P1170729-X2.jpg

 

P1170744-X2.jpg

 

There were quite a few of these beautiful Hottentot Teals around.

 

P1170795-X2.jpg

 

The Egyptian Goose has also found its way to our country.

 

P1170791-X2.jpg

 

Southern Masked Weaver, taken from one of the hides.

 

P1171115-edit-X2.jpg

 

Purple Swamphen, also from a hide. Such a beautiful colour!

 

P1170671-X2.jpg

Wood Sandpiper, a rather common migrant in the Netherlands.

 

P1170984-X2.jpg

 

Beside the path leading to on of the hides this Malachite Kingfisher kindly allowed some shots.

 

 

 

 

Edited by PeterHG
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Towlersonsafari

What splendid  photos,  and looking forward  to your kruger trip report @PeterHG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was a great pleasure Peter.

 

You got some really nice shots despite the weather.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you @Peter Connanand @Towlersonsafari

 

The day after we met up with the other family members. We had arranged to meet at Milly’s restaurant on the N4 on our way to Marloth Park. We had thought about accommodation beforehand of course and we wanted to find a self-catering place where we could stay with the six of us. It should be within easy reach of the Kruger Park. We had found a reasonably priced house in Marloth Park, just 20 minutes from the Crocodile Bridge park entrance. A few weeks before we left, a horrible murder took place there, even reaching the national news in our country. I must confess I hesitated a little about still going there, but in general reports about the park’s safety were quite good.

When we arrived there our hostess showed us the elaborate and complicated alarm system, and by switching things on and off in the wrong order we put out a false alarm a few times in the days to follow. The speed with which there was a response helped to put our minds at ease ;)

 

Marloth Park is a large rather wild area with a few hundred holiday homes, where giraffes antelopes, wildebeest and zebras roam freely and the bird life is quite good. You can cycle through the park or walk along the banks of Crocodile River, which we did a few times. On one occasion our hostess sent us a text message, warning us to be careful on our way home as lions had killed an ostrich not far from our place. We did find the tracks. 

IMG_4627-X2.jpg

 

She later told us that lions frequently enter Marloth from the nearby Kruger park through holes in the fence. The owner of one of the restaurants in the park told us that in fact three or four lions had made a permanent home in the park and she never walked anywhere herself. She had been living here for 20 years. I don’t know how reliable her information was, as she also told us she had seen a large Boa Constrictor near the gate some weeks ago and I did not have the heart to tell her that would have been a long swim for the snake all the way from South America. Still, somehow our walks felt just a little less safe after that, but in daytime there’s really no risk. She told us the last time the lions killed a man was 15 years ago when they surprised a burglar near one of the houses. I suppose they are paid now to keep up the good work.

 

i-ZBZXDdB-XL.jpg

Taking a walk in Marloth Park

 

We stayed in Marloth for a week and visited the Kruger park almost every day. Of course it was  bit of a hassle to check in at the gate every day, but all in all the arrangement suited us for this period. The house itself was comfortable and, as we had bought an inexpensive guitar online beforehand and had it delivered here, we had pleasant evenings, too. 

 

P1191175-X2.jpg

 A Banded Mongoose family visited us at our home in Marloth.

 

i-HkghV4M-X2.jpg

White Rhino near Crocodile Bridge Restcamp

 

i-GFtj7Wp-X2.jpg

Buffalo along the bridge that crosses the river Sabie. This is always a good spot to find birds and mammals and the view is very nice.

 

P1201544-X2.jpg

Sunset Dam, near Lower Sabie restcamp. We went there a few times after lunch at the camp and it often produced some good birds and sometimes mammals. The crocs were always there, of course. The White-crowned Lapwing does not seem worried at all.

 

P1201590-X2.jpg

In this shot the spurs of the lapwing are clearly visible

 

P1201561-X2.jpg

There was a colony of Lesser Masked Weavers near the dam, offering good photo opportunities.

 

P1232785-Edit-X2.jpg

We also got great views of a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another batch of lovely photos. Just for future reference, a lot of South Africans seem to think Pythons are Boas.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 minutes ago, Peter Connan said:

, a lot of South Africans seem to think Pythons are Boas.

Ah that explains it, thank you!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We stayed in Marloth for a week and visited the Kruger park almost every day. Of course it was  bit of a hassle to check in at the gate every time, but all in all the arrangement suited us for this period.

The mammal and bird watching in the southern part of the Kruger was quite good with plenty of mammals. Entering through the Crocodile Bridge gate we often took the H4-2 tar road towards Lower Sabie for a few kilometres and then turned off right onto the S28 dirt road. We had lunch a few times at Lower Sabie Restcamp where the restaurant has a nice view of the river, always offering something of interest. I am not the one with the heavy lens...;)

 

 

i-2rrDrJn-X2.jpg

 

 

Practicing some flight shots from the terrace, while lunch was being prepared definitely qualified as relaxed birding.

 

P1253088-X2.jpg

Little Swift

 

P1201568-X2.jpg

Yellow-billed Stork

 

After that we would do a loop from there or return to the gate, following the H4-2 south again. The southern parts of the park have the reputation of being quite busy at times, but we never felt too crowded. Well, except when there were lion sightings, of course. It is always amazing to see how cars are completely ignored even in their more intimate moments. It is obvious that, at times like this, the Kruger rule 'no part of the body may protrude from the window', is not taken too literally.  

 

i-G79fchh-X2.jpg

 

i-NFsjbV4-X2.jpg

 

No shortage of Impala anywhere in the park, but we still could not get enough of these graceful antelopes.

 

i-NFHTJNK-X2.jpg

 

i-9FHMBbh-X2.jpg

 

And if mammal watching was a bit slow sometimes, there were always birds.

 

i-dxrs57N-X2.jpg

Wahlberg's Eagle

 

i-XCL2rB2-X2.jpg

Cut-throat Finch

 

i-vwqNpqM-X2.jpg

Red-billed Oxpecker

 

i-ZZxb5Ks-X2.jpg

Red-billed Hornbill

 

i-Mmgf7k6-X2.jpg

Diederik Cuckoo (also from the terrace at Lower Sabie)

 

i-NCd97L3-X2.jpg

Lilac-breasted Roller. No trip to SA is complete without a photo af this bird, of course,

 

i-pV6ff8T-X2.jpg

Brown Snake Eagle. I just love all those raptors in the park.

 

i-jsc3Q3K-XL.jpg

Southern Ground Hornbill. Diminishing numbers, but we still got to see them a few times.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lovely photos Peter!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

offshorebirder

Wonderful TR and photos @PeterHG.   My favorite shots are the Wood Sand and the White-crowned Lapwing showing its spurs.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your birds are phenomenal and so is the one grasshopper, mid-mandibles!  I was loving the ostrich surrounded in pink then I read the pink stuff was invasive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I´ll be following your TR Peter, I´m a big fan of your photos.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your bird shots are especially stunning! Thanks so much for sharing. Sounds like a great trip!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, mtanenbaum said:

Sounds like a great trip!

Thank you @mtanenbaum. Yes, it really was a great trip and we are still grateful for the fact that we managed to do this before the world closed down.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Satara

 

After a week we left our accommodation in Marloth. We were going to spend 9 days inside the Kruger park and we selected three different restcamps for this: Satara, Mopani and Shingwedzi. In the first two there would still be the six of us, but after that my brother and sister-in-law would have to return to the Netherlands to join the workforce again. The remaining four had no such pressing obligations and could enjoy another 10 days in South-Africa.

 

Satara is one of the bigger camps in the Kruger. As it is laid out in circles it does not feel too massive. And it has a lot of interesting loops. Especially the s100 and the s126 turned out to be quite rewarding. For an extra spot of birding we regularly walked from our cottage to the Satara camping area. Not many campers at the time, but plenty of birds.

 

P1263310-Edit-X2.jpg

Southern Carmine Bee-eater. We saw quite a few on this trip.

 

i-MxGpxsc-X2.jpg

Arrow-marked Babbler

 

P1253163-Edit-Edit-X3.jpg

The ubiquitous Woodland Kingfisher. Its laughing call, heard almost everywhere in the park, epitomizes the feeling of being in Africa for us. 

 

 

On one of our afternoon drives we followed the H7 tar road west and then turned off to do the s40 loop. Halfway we met an oncoming safari vehicle and the guide kindle alerted us to the fact that there was a leopard in a tree a few miles down the road. Not really close, but with a kill, so he would probably still be there. The expectation of a leopard sighting always brings an extra thrill to the chase and when we spotted it ten minutes later we could not have been happier. As it was getting quite late, we were the only car there and spend spend as much time as we could admiring the beautiful cat.

 

i-5t7dBtr-XL.jpg

 

Again we never had the feeling the park was too crowded, even being based in such a large camp. And there was plenty to see. 

 

i-Bz8P3zG-X2.jpg

 

i-Vchnx5h-X2.jpg

 

i-d5TDZn8-X2.jpg

I think this lizard is known as a skink, but I'm happy to stand corrected.

 

We never tired of seeing the impressive South-African raptors.

 

i-x6rsGgJ-X2.jpg

Bateleur. The most beautiful of the eagles.

 

i-zgPfwnN-X2.jpg

Black-shouldered Kite with its striking red eyes.

 

There are always some funny wildlife moments, too. Early one morning, just outside the camp we encountered these two birds, sharing a perch. They were both singing loudly, determined not to be outdone by the the neighbour. Well, singing might not be the correct word for their vocal efforts, but what they lacked in melody, they certainly made up for in volume.

 

i-mHv5h6B-X2.jpg

Swainson's Spurfowl and Yellow-billed Hornbill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am sure that last photo could win an award!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Swainson's Spurfowl and Yellow-billed Hornbill duet is a wonder.  Wish I could hear them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Towlersonsafari

Splenid stuff @PeterHGbut you really should have persuaded an egyptian goose to join your tree top duo to really get that melodic sound!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy