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From Rietvlei to Kruger - a family trip January 2020


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I am also officially blaming  @PeterHG for my decision to part exchane the panascoinc 100-400 for a used olympus 300 f4 and 1.4 teleconverter in the vain hope that my photo's can be half as good as his

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Amazing trip and photos : Your " Skink" close up is what we would call in Dutch " Een voltreffer" ;)

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Thank you @Peter Connanand @Zim Girl!

21 hours ago, Peter Connan said:

I am sure that last photo could win an award!

Well, it was definitely a very special moment. We had never witnessed anything like that before.


4 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

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

That would certainly have created a fine harmony! :D





Edited by PeterHG
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4 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

I am also officially blaming  @PeterHG for my decision to part exchane the panascoinc 100-400 for a used olympus 300 f4 and 1.4 teleconverter in the vain hope that my photo's can be half as good as his

What a great decision, although I am awaiting your results with some trepidation. You'll soon come to realize it was never the photographer; it was always the lens :wacko:


1 hour ago, BRACQUENE said:

Your " Skink" close up is what we would call in Dutch " Een voltreffer" 

Thank you @BRACQUENE. Exactly the right word ;)

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21 minutes ago, PeterHG said:

What a great decision, although I am awaiting your results with some trepidation. You'll soon come to realize it was never the photographer; it was always the lens :wacko:




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After having spent 3 nights in Satara, we moved on to Mopani rest camp, which is one of the newer camps in the park. It is smaller and more densely vegetated than Satara. We had been able to book a family unit for 6 here, which was nicely situated with views of the Pioneer Dam. It had a  pleasant, secluded feel to it and we really liked it. The restaurant in Mopani has a beautiful terrace,  with great views of the Pioneer Dam and while having lunch or dinner there, we often saw elephants coming in for a drink or African Fish eagle soaring over the water. All deep down and in the distance, of course, but very enjoyable all the same.



Evening view from the restaurant.



View from our bungalow


Restaurants in the Kruger park are apparently all franchised to the Tindlovu chain. The food is mostly not bad at all, though the service can be lacking in places. At least it gives some stability to your stay in the park and after a few days you don’t really need to see the menu anymore as you know your way around it by now. Perhaps you don’t even want to see it. Some enterprising PR consultants within the company decided that it would be a brilliant idea to print a joke on the menu. As a result, during your whole stay in the Kruger park, you are confronted with: Q;)  ‘Why can’t hippos ride bicycles? - A;) Bike helmets don’t fit hippos !’ As most cyclists do not wear helmets at all in the Netherlands, we still did not understand why that would prevent hippos from cycling :P. I can only hope the Tindlovu Annual Joke Committee can come up with a similar jewel next year.


We also stayed at this location for three nights. One of our favourite loops here was the Tropic of Capricorn loop (S49 and S143) especially the first part. The Mooiplaas waterhole sometimes produced nice sightings and especially in the early morning light, when there was a large herd of Wildebeest the scene was quite magical.




A few kilometres beyond the waterhole we suddenly saw three big male lions near the road that had been feasting on what looked like the remains of a buffalo calf. They had obviously filled their stomachs to capacity and were lying in the shade, panting rapidly. What a sight. We returned to the location a few more times that day and the next and on our last visit the lions had left and the vultures had taken over.




Hooded Vulture


The same drive was good for birds as well. We saw a big owl flying across the road and fortunately we managed to find it again in a big tree. It turned out to be an impressive Verreaux's Eagle Owl




A few others from the drive:


European Roller



A juvenile Gabar Goshawk



Red-crested Korhaan



Another worthwhile drive was the S142, which passes a low bridge, well a crossing really, and the Shipandanit hide a little later. There we watched a small herd of elephant coming down from the hills to drink and it was also a good spot for Saddle-billed Stork and Kingfishers.





Saddle-billed Stork, male and female (yellow eyes).



Pied Kingfisher. The sandy bank provided a nice creamy background.


The hide was not bad either, producing good views of Coucals (completely ignoring the social distancing rule) and Night Heron.





Black-crowned Night Heron

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Dave Williams

Enviously reading this Peter and hoping we get to return in May/June. Three of the photos are not displaying correctly although if you click on the image number it does reveal them correctly.

Incidentally the restaurants in Lower Sabie and Satara are Mugg & Bean not Tindlovu. Luchtime snacks at Lower Sabie and Satara were not good, didn't try the restaurant at L.Sabie but Satara was really good and a great atmosphere and service out on the terrace.too.

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Thank you @Dave Williams. I do hope you will be able to return next year. A shame about the photos. I can't seem to reproduce the problem on my computer and I tried several browsers. You may very well be right about the Lower Sabie restaurant, but Satara was Tindlovu. i think. They also state that on their website: https://www.tindlovu.co.za/restaurants/. And we did see the joke many times ;)

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Dave Williams

OOPS! I'm confusing Satara with Skukuza ! Skukuza was excellent and it is a Mugg and Bean. We had "lunch" at Satara, the most awful hot dog I have had in an age. Claire's toasted sandwich was OK though!


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Really wonderful photos! Especially the birds, and I'm impressed at your lovely impala photos. For some reason I have never gotten an impala photo I like.


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Wonderful photos Peter, a joy to see. The Spurfowl dueting with the Hornbill is really very special, such an awesome shot.

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Two of our party left for their return trip to the Netherlands and with the remaining four we set out for our most northerly location: Shingwedzi rest camp. We once again started out on the Tropic of Capricorn loop and then turned off onto the S50 dirt road north. There was hardly any traffic and too many animals either. We did see a nice Steenbok, though. We stopped for a while at the Grootvlei Dam, where a herd of Elephants was cooling off in the water. They had a lot of fun together and so did we.



Temminck's Courser






Shingwedzi is a nice enough camp, although a little bare, compared to Mopani and Satara. My wife and I had been there before, on a day trip from the Bateleur busveld camp six years ago, but we had never stayed there. It is a good starting point for some interesting drives. There is the well-known Kanniedood drive along the S50 south. The name, of course, is very inviting (cannot die drive), if only to try out if it’s true and we saw lots of giraffes there, but also buffalo and other wildlife.





Dwarf Mongoose


Then there is the beautiful Red Rocks loop, which runs more or less parallel to the tarred H1-6 and then diverts, following the river. From our cottage we mostly did not use the main gate, but left the camp through the eastern gate. If you turn left after the gate you will cross a low bridge across the Singwedzi river. So low that probably it can’t be used in wet seasons. You have to approach it very slowly, to give the resting crocodiles time to glide into the water and if there was no other traffic we used to stop in the middle of the bridge to admire the view. Usually there were some animals and birds to be seen there, too, so it quickly became one of our favourite spots.







The northern part of the Kruger reputedly holds fewer cats than the southern parts, but we did have our best leopard encounter there. We were following the Mphongolo river loop (S56). The weather was grey and rainy at times, but we hardly met any other car at all, so we were enjoying the drive all the same. Suddenly we saw the unmistakable shape of a leopard crossing the road in front of us. As it turned out there were two teenagers. We watched them play in the big tree near the water’s edge for a while and a little later even their mother showed briefly. As we saw another car further down the road we flashed our lights and waved them over to share our leopard sighting. After some time we lost sight of the leopards in the thick bushes and we could not find them again. Apparently the other car did find them a few hundred metres from us, but never thought to return the favour of alerting us. Well to each his own, I suppose. We returned to the camp, overjoyed with our encounter.










It was definitely Bee-eater country


Carmine Bee-eater



European Bee-eater



White-fronted Bee-eater


In the early evening, having dinner on the terrace overlooking the river, we noticed a Woodloand Kingfisher with a preay we had not seen it catch before. It was almost too dark for a photo, so the quality is poor, but it was a very unusual sight.




And after that it was farewell to Shingwedzi..





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We saw a leopard on that loop too last September. all the other cars had overtaken us, as we were photographing the bee-eaters, so they missed it!

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Wow, what a leopard sighting.


The photo of the dwarf mongoose is lovely. I have been trying to get one for years, and nothing.


Very interesting catch for the Kingfisher, and Bee-eaters for once actually eating something other than butterflies!

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Dave Williams

This is an "I'm Spartacus" moment because we saw too all three Leopards on the S56 ( two cubs) albeit up a tree on a kill when we went in October. Shingwedzi was the only camp we didn't like very much although the restaurant was OK and surrounding drives not too bad either. The river was bone by October and we saw  the rather odd sight of a Pelican stood in the middle of the shingle river bed!

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Time to leave the Kruger park. Well, not really, we were headed for Phalaborwa, which would be our base for the next five days, but we would still visit the park from there. We had rented a cottage from a Dutch couple, situated on the grounds of the Sefapane Lodge. It turned out to be a very comfortable house, with more luxury than we had experienced in our previous accommodations. Not that we really needed it, but it was nice anyway. It was only five minutes from Phalaborwa gate, so nearly everyday we went back into the park for a morning or afternoon drive. The staff at the entry gate were very friendly. We have been to the Kruger and other SAN parks before on quite a few occasions when entering at the gates and registering we would often be met with indifference bordering on rudeness. I always try to be friendly to whoever I meet, unless there is a sound reason to change that attitude, but that would hardly ever lead to a more welcoming behaviour. It is not really all that important and after the first Roller sighting I’ve forgotten all about it, but I feel this could be remedied with little effort. I don’t even pretend to know what causes his attitude and there may be very good and valid explanations for it, but I feel that especially for those, visiting South Africa for the first time it would mean a little more pleasant start to their Kruger adventure. Enough said about this, the ladies at the Phalaborwa gate were very nice, welcomed us with a smile everyday and even jokingly commented on my harem when I sometimes entered the gate with just my wife and my sister.


There are not a great many loop options to choose from near Phalaborwa. We mostly paid a visit to the Sable Dam following the S51, or turned left onto the S131 soon after entering the park. The Sable Dam, nice though it is, did not produce a lot of wildlife when we were there. The S131 proved to be excellent for elephants as was the H14 tar road, leading north some 7 kilometres from the gate. On our last afternoon drive on the S131 we witnessed a serious-looking fight between two huge bull elephants. We were the only car there and we kept a safe distance. Impressive to see such raw power.




I did not have the best seat when the fight started (this is unavoidable when you're doing game drives in a closed vehicle with four people...;)), but even the photos taken through the front window give you an idea of the scene.







The birding was much more relaxed......



African Fish Eagle



Yellow-billed Oxpecker (only seen on one or two occasions



Red-billed Oxpecker



Crested Barbet, while having lunch at Letaba Restcamp



And a Greater Blue-eared Starling on the same bench.

Edited by PeterHG
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9 minutes ago, Tdgraves said:

greater blue-eared starling on the same bench

Thank you, @Tdgraves! You're absolutely right. Too hasty on my part. I'll adapt the text

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I'm loving your trip report + all the lovely pictures.  Nicely done!

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My brother-in-law and sister wanted to see some of the sights of Pretoria and do some shopping there, so for the last couple of nights we had looked for a place where we could still enjoy some wildlife, but that was within easy reach of the city.

We came across the Dinokeng Game Reserve, a recent wildlife park that has only been open since 2011. It is joint venture by a great number of  landowners, which also involved the local communities. They took down the fences between the individual properties and created a 200km fence around the whole area. Animals like Elephant, White Rhino and Lion were introduced and it is now officially a Big 5 reserve. This widely used label to attract tourists has never had any special appeal to us, which was fortunate as we did not see a single Big 5 animal during our stay there. We did see Giraffe, Eland, Jackal, Blesbok, Kudu, Waterbuck and quite a few birds, so no complaints on our part.











We stayed at Tamboti Bush Lodge, a very nice place, run by a passionate guy and the fact that we were interested in birds pleased him no end. The area is quite large and several loops have been laid out, but mainly due to the fact that there are still quite a few fences left, you seldom get a real ‘bush’ feeling. We enjoyed our stay anyway. We even booked a game drive with the owner, mainly for the birding and he was fun to be around.



Coqui Francolin. A lifer for me



Pied Kingfisher with catch



Malachite Kingfisher



Water Thick-knee.


He tried to attract some birds and animals for us with recordings on his phone. To this end he brought a bluetooth speaker with him. At one of our stops he played the recording of a screeching warthog that had just been grabbed by a leopard. This could bring in a lion, he explained, wanting to steal the competitor’s prey. He played it at such a volume, however, that the lion was probably hiding somewhere with its paws over its ears, waiting for the heart-rending sound to end. As I said, good fun.


In the end our in-laws decided to wait till our final day with the visit to Pretoria. On our way back to the airport we dropped them off at a large shopping mall, while we spent some relaxing hours in the botanical garden. Together we drove to the Voortrekkers Monument and looked around there for an hour or so. An impressive building with many bloody historical tales inside.

Then our time in South Africa came to an end and we boarded the plane back to Amsterdam. But we’ll be back in better times!


Thank you all for taking the time to travel with me and for the comments and likes. I really appreciate that!





Crowned Lapwing in Pretoria Botanical Gardens

Edited by PeterHG
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Stunning photos Peter. Great to get a view of South Africa. Very enjoyable!

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Love your portraits from Dinokeng Game Reserve, Peter.  It appears the animals were happy to "pose" for you - lol.  Absolutely lovely.

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Thank you, I really enjoyed travelling with you.

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