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Leeu, and Ystervark, and strandwolf, oh my!


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As promised in one of my earlier threads asking for help in planning our trip, here is my stab at a trip report! My aim is to provide as much information as possible to help (first-time) safari planners. Over the next few weeks, I will add to this report bit by bit. For now, I will start with some general basics, which might be too basic for some of you, but hopefully does provide a background to our trip and provide up-to-date-ish information on some more popular destinations. I will be using my Polarsteps travel log as the basis for this trip report. 




Why South Africa?
On the 1st of September, we returned from our first trip to South Africa and our first trip back to Africa since Covid. This time, we had chosen South Africa as our destination in the hope of seeing some of the rarer nocturnal wildlife. I was particularly hoping to see an aardvark, porcupine, brown hyena, and of course... a pangolin. During Covid I had watched a lot of 'Wildearth' and that was extra reason to go to South Africa, (despite not ending up going to any of their filming locations). Moreover, the ability to self-drive, camp, and the overall prices in South Africa allowed us to stretch our budget quite comfortably to stay nearly six weeks in the country. We were a little apprehensive about safety concerns, but we are so pleased that our thorough research made us decide to go; our trip was fantastic! 


My partner and I are both high school teachers in Europe. This means we have 6 weeks of summer holiday in July and August. We quickly found that this is a good time for wildlife viewing in South Africa due to the shorter grasses, but can be cold and the days relatively short. However, we feel this was a great time for this trip. It was quiet in most places we were in, often we were the only guests, and many of the drives we did ended up being private or with a maximum of two others. As we talked to our B&B or lodge owners, we found out that since Covid the numbers of visitors are only now slightly increasing. In some cases, we were their first overseas visitors since 2020... It seems that most visitors are focusing on the more classic destinations, as all other overseas tourists we spoke to, were either focusing their attention on the garden route or Kruger. Weather-wise, it was very cold in the Karoo, particularly at night (our thermals were very well used!), but overall, we had pleasant weather. Even in our small ground tent, we were not too cold at night when camping. For Cape Town, this was not an ideal time of year and affected how we experienced the city, as you will read later on in the report. We experienced everything from minus temperatures to 34 degrees, luckily, we were prepared for both, but it did present us with a challenge when packing.


Despite the luxury of being able to travel for nearly six weeks, we still had to make many decisions on where to go and especially what we would need to leave out of our itinerary. My interest is wildlife and those of my partner are more history inclined. Therefore, I included some non-traditional safari sites along the way. We wanted to minimize flights and we decided to include some longer drives as felt that we would prefer to have a few long drives than have lots of half days. We felt this itinerary left us with time to do everything we planned and, for us, it included enough downtime. We organized nearly the whole trip ourselves, as we usually do, but for the KZN part of the trip, we asked Doug Macdonalds Safaris to Africa to help us organize, as time was running out and I was also finishing my dissertation. We were very impressed with how Stacey helped and organized this part of the trip for us.  Our final version of the itinerary looked as follows:





To compile the itinerary, I read through lots of trip reports and found KittyKat23's 'Mission Impossible!' particularly helpful. Looking back, I was very pleased with the itinerary, but if I would change one thing it would not be to spend three nights at Marrick, but spend two of the nights at for example Mountain Zebra NP before heading to New Holme. That would have left a long drive from Marrick to Augrabies, but an overnight near Kimberly or Mokala would solve that. However, at the time of making the itinerary, we did not know we would be able to spend 4 nights at New Holme (as some of you might remember, we were down to 1 night at one stage, but the group booking pulled back leaving us with not the intended three but four nights!), so in that light spending three nights at Marrick made sense. We felt much more at home at New Holme and the prices for the night tours at Marrick seemed somewhat ridiculous compared to all the other places we did similar tours. For us, despite seeing one species in Marrick we had not seen in New Holme, the sightings at New Holme were better and overall our experience was much more pleasant. Our days in Marrick did let us explore Kimberly and Mokala NP, both activities we enjoyed! 


We aimed at cutting back to as few flights as possible, originally we were flying direct from Amsterdam to Cape Town and reverse. However, when I discovered Manyoni, we added a flight from Cape Town to Durban and then back from there to Amsterdam via Johannesburg. We hired a SUV at Cape Town airport, when we picked it up it turned out to be a Hyundai Venue. The car served us well, and even in the KTP we were able to drive quite easily on the sand roads. Our experience was on gravel roads, so we were a little apprehensive, but after we decided that a SUV should suffice our needs as we would not be doing any of the 4x4 trails and we would be travelling in dry season. We did learn that the sand is softer in the afternoon, and found the afternoons a little challenging at first, but we soon got used to it. This car served us well, it was a little tight in the boot for all our camping gear and clothes, but we made it work.



We also hired an SUV at Durban airport. This served us particularly well on the drive from the southern gate to our lodge in Manyoni. The car was a little older, meaning it had trouble playing our road trip playlist on a USB stick, but we didn’t have any of our long drive days on this leg of the trip, so it was not a problem. 


We usually try to travel with only hand luggage, however, for this trip, we brought our own camping gear along. This meant we both had large backpacks as haul luggage alongside our smaller daypacks which were our cabin luggage. Our camping gear included our small, lightweight tent, sleeping bags, inflatable mats, a fold-away stove, mini pans, utensils, and a blow-up solar lamp.
Clothes were more of a challenge, due to the different temperatures expected. Just like any other trip we go on, we limited ourselves to a small packing cube each for clothes and included a third one for underwear, as this was a longer trip. My favourite item was my thermal fleece tights, as they took up little space but kept my legs warm under any trousers. Looking back, taking a second jumper would have helped, as it would have made the washing schedule easier. We did expect cold weather but encountered an exceptionally cold front throughout the Cape provinces, courtesy of El Nino.




Camera gear
I enjoy photographing wildlife, but don’t want to travel with lots of expensive gear. For this trip, I had a Canon EOS body with me including my 75-300 lens (Canon) and a newly acquired second-hand 175-500 lens (Sigma). We also had our GoPro with us for our water-based activities. Finally, for landscapes and game videos, we used our phones. I have not edited any of the photo's


We tend to budget our trips at 1000 euros per person per week, including everything from flights, to food and activities. Within the Cape provinces, we kept to this budget comfortably. Accommodation was generally not expensive. Food and petrol were both much cheaper than we expected. We self-catered most nights on this part of the trip and made great use of our Wildcard. The KZN part of the trip was a lot more luxurious, staying at lodges full board, but we still did not splurge. In total, we spent just under 1200 euros per person per week on this trip. We did plan most of the trip about 12-10 months in advance. We think this helped keep down the costs, especially for example for the flights.

Edited by Frostfire
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I'm interested to read more about your adventures! Some places I've not heard of such as New Holme. So very curious about those. I wish I'd had a thermal back then, I've got one that connects to my phone which I used a bit in Namibia now.. 

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Day 1 Amsterdam-Cape Town
As we have come to expect from KLM, our flight to Cape Town, was smooth sailing. The day started with only a short queue for the KLM baggage drop-off at Schiphol, and an even shorter wait to clear security. The flight itself was uneventful, bar one of. the crewmembers being dressed up as Neptune for his first time crossing the equator. We quickly cleared the border, both bags arrived (pfiew) and we were whizzed to Hotel Verde by their free transfer for a full 2-minute car ride. We chose the hotel, seeing that our flight didn't land until 22.30, but it surpassed our expectations. Lovely staff, good amenities and the shuttle service was great. Great start to our trip!


Day 2 Betsy’s Bay 

Car pickup at the airport was quick and easy, so before we knew it we were on the road! Almost immediately we knew we were not in Europe anymore: there were so many people and animals walking on and next to the motorway. We drove as much along the coast of False Bay as we could, enjoying the scenery and our first glimpses of South Africa. The roads were in great condition and the weather was dry.

Early afternoon we reached Betty’s Bay and we made our way to Stony Point Nature Reserve in search of African Penguins. The boardwalk was till closed, and at first, we only saw two shy penguins. However, the longer we stayed, the more penguins we saw coming out of the water and making their way to their nests. The penguins seemed totally oblivious to It was not very busy at Stoney Point and we spent quite some time wandering along the shore and watching the penguins. We had seen African Penguins before in Namibia during a boat trip from Luderitz, but here the viewing was fantastic as the penguins came so close. There were also lots of dassies about who were fun to watch. The closed boardwalk was in no way a disappointment to us. What was also great was that there were police officers at the car park and most of the time we were in view of the car, seeing that we had all our stuff in the car. 









Our next stop was to do some grocery shopping. It would have made more sense to do so in Cape Town, but we didn’t want to drive there straight from the airport and leave all our stuff in the boot. We had been in contact with the owner of our B&B and she had advised us to go to the Super Spar in Gansbaai on our way to Kleinbaai. We stocked up on all sorts of food that would keep a couple of weeks without a fridge. We would stock up regularly on fresh fruit and veg, but overall did not want to do a larger shop again until we reached Upington. When we reached Kleinbaai we had a wander around the town, secured camping gas at the One-Stop and got a lovely late lunch / early dinner at the Great White House, before heading to bed early: the next day would be shark diving day with us booked on the 7.00 trip! 


Edited by Frostfire
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Day 3 Sharkdiving in Kleinbaai

I had spent a lot of time deciding where to go for a shark tour, especially since the pair of predating orcas have been active in the bay, and it has become more difficult to predict whether there will be sharks. However, I wanted to at least give it a chance. In the end, we went with Marine Dynamics in Kleinbaai based on their eco credentials and were glad we did. On the day itself, we were the only boat out there to actually see any shark, so we were lucky with our three sightings of a bronzer shark. I do still have mixed feelings about how the sharks are lured to the boats, using chum and non-food-based bait. but if it is a way of educating people and protecting the sharks it must be a good thing in the end. The trip was cold, but layering up and our wooly hats kept us warm. We changed into our wetsuits which kept us surprisingly warm! The boat was continuously accompanied by cape petrels and a cape fur seal. On the way back to shore, we went via Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, which was full of African penguins, different species of cormorants and gulls, and many more cape fur seals. It was nice having seen a shark, we were cared for well, but it was still a little disappointing to have not seen anything else. 








If you are hoping to see sharks and have some flexibility, I would advise not to go around the sardine run, particularly in an El Niño year. This year, the Sardine Run of KZN was particularly good, meaning that most of the sharks had left the Kleinbaai area and had not yet returned. However, it is always down to luck, as a week later a female great white shark was spotted on one of the trips. 

Edited by Frostfire
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looking forward to reading baout your wonderful looking trip- and for your impressions of New Holme- we were there in 2018 and really enjoyed it @Frostfire

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Day 3, 4, 5 De Hoop

We were ready to leave Kleinbaai at about 12.00 and set off for De Hoop. We had read online and heard from the Kleinbaai B&B owners, that the gravel road to De Hoop can be quite bad, but we were pleasantly surprised and glad we were not put off by the reports! Compared to the dirt roads in southern Namibia the road from Bredasdorp was plain sailing! We arrived in good time, set up our tent (I wasn't kidding when I called it small). Our campsite was great, secluded and the amenities were very clean. We were surprised (as we would be throughout the trip) at how good and hot the showers were. It wasn't particularly warm, but with our sleeping bags we were toasty at night. I considered getting hot water bottles, but found we didn't need them and on the really cold nights as expected in the Karoo we wouldn't be camping. 




We really enjoyed De Hoop! It was a great way to get back into wildlife viewing, it was low-key and exciting at the same time. We spent a lot of time walking, looking for otters (didn't find any alas) and just enjoying ourselves. We were astounded by the number of ostriches and among other antelope types we saw many bontebok and mountain zebra (both a first for us). We enjoyed a guided evening game drive with ranger Eddie. They taught us a lot about the different antelope colourings and their function. During sundowners, we were visited by a little four-striped mouse

 On the second day, we went on a guided walk to look for a colony of breeding cape vultures. We first had a longish drive to the Potberg area, from where we had a short hike up to the viewing platform. As we got to the platform, there were no birds visible, but once we sat down, the cape vultures just kept coming and circling just above our heads. Even our guide got excited. Considering neither my partner or myself would call ourselves birders, this was thrilling. We were also treated to good views of a Verreaux's Eagle. We spent the afternoon at the beach, we were surprised that the last part of the road was paved. We spent hours in the sun looking out over the sea and watching the non-stop stream of southern right whales swimming by, alongside the odd humpbacks. A very pleasant day! 


















And just a tip... if possible during your stay, eat at the restaurant. The meal was one of the best throughout our stay, their vegetarian option was scrumptious! 







Edited by Frostfire
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Great start to the trip! I was lucky in 2010 to dive with several great whites but sadly that is now a rare occurrence I guess. We didn't have a lot of time a de hoop but it is a lovely park. 

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19 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

looking forward to reading baout your wonderful looking trip- and for your impressions of New Holme- we were there in 2018 and really enjoyed it @Frostfire

We really loved New Holme! Am looking forward to getting to that part of the trip report:) 


17 hours ago, kittykat23uk said:

Great start to the trip! I was lucky in 2010 to dive with several great whites but sadly that is now a rare occurrence I guess. We didn't have a lot of time a de hoop but it is a lovely park. 

Yes the sightings have changed a lot over the last few years. However, most days they do sight bronzer sharks and/or seven gill sharks and every so many weeks there are great whites sighted. I think we were mainly unfortunate that our trip was in an El Niño year and took place just after a bumper sardine run. Looking at the Marine Dynamic trip blogs, there was a significant decrease in sightings around the sardine run, compared to normal. 

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Day 6-7 Graaff-Reinet & Camdeboo NP (Valley of Desolation)


After our time at De Hoop, we had our first long drive which took us more inland. The drive was uneventful, but the changing landscape from coast to farms to mountains to 'karoo' was stunning. Our last GPS instruction was to continue straight ahead for over 370km! After that extremely long and straight road we filled the tank before heading to our B&B. Getting petrol in Africa is always an experience with at least three guys running towards the car: one to fill it up, at least one to clean the windows, and one to do any other jobs. Our car really needed a clean after the dirt road to and from De Hoop! They were quick and efficient as always and soon we had settled into our B&B and were ready to explore this quirky little town. We enjoyed a nice (early) meal out, and our observation that they make great pizza on the African continent still holds true. 


We had chosen Graaff-Reinet as a stopover, based on timing from De Hoop, its being just about on route to New Holme and its nearness to Camdeboo NP was an added bonus. We found it to be a great stopover, which we would advice anyone. According to the B&B owner, overseas visitors to the area have been scarce since COVID-19 and there ar still nowhere near the pre-covid numbers. We ould have liked to combine it with Mountain Zebra NP, but in the end we couldn't make it work with the availability at New Holme and our existing reservations at KTP. I still think combining Camdeboo with MountainZebra would be a great option for others! 


The next morning, we were up early as we wanted to visit Camdeboo NP including the Valley of Desolation while it was quiet and have enough time to comfortably drive to New Holme. Driving in the park was easy, with tar roads to the Valley of Desolation viewpoints and (2x4 access) gravel roads which were in good condition. 

As we drove through the park, we had our first sightings of blesbok.  We also saw mountain zebra, baboons and oryx. The animals were a little further away than ideal for someone still getting used to steadying a longer lens than she was used to, particularly in the gusty weather. At least I got 'proof' pictures! The crag lizard hiking route provided us with wonderful views, particularly once the clouds opened up a little. The wind dropped as we were hiking and the temperatures rose from a meager 5 degrees to 18 and sunny. We were even able to take off our coats! Before we knew it, it was early afternoon and we decided it was time to set off again and head towards New Holme. 







Edited by Frostfire
(lay out problems)
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Day 6-7-8-9 New Holme
We arrived at New Holme after driving past some pretty impoverished towns. PC (the owner) and his family were so welcoming.  When we enquired if there was really no possibility of staying longer than the two nights booked we were told that the group booking had been canceled so that we could stay up to a month if we wanted! We decided upon staying four nights and made an itinerary with PC, based on what we wanted to see (main goal: aardvark, porcupine, aardwolf, rock sengi). We also decided to include breakfast and dinner for each day of our stay. That turned out to be a fantastic decision as the food was plentiful and scrumptious. Proper home cooking and the catered very well for our vegetarian diet! 


Before going on to our drive experiences, I will share a little general information. We loved the family and how welcome they made us feel, no effort seemed too much. The vehicle PC takes you out in is an open game truck with enough space for 9, but on all our drives we were the only guests. In contrast to other locations, you pay per person regardless of how many others join on the tour. We found the prices for lodging, food and activities extremely reasonable. PC is full of ideas and ventures to encourage sustainable wildlife viewing making it accessible to everyone not just the rich. He also provides work opportunities for the surrounding communities. He is trying to bring back hippos to the Karoo and is setting up a rare wildlife research station. Most people who stay are on their way from Cape Town to Joburg or vice versa and use this as a one-night stopover. We, however, cannot recommend this place enough for wildlife viewing! As the property is a working farm, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the drives and the landscape. I will include a photo to give an impression of the drives. On some parts of the drives there were low fences, but I didn’t find they my vision nor my photos except it looking ‘less wild’. 




Right, now for the wildlife viewing!


I spent until dinner at the bird feeding station, which was continuously busy with lots of different birds.  Our first activity was to go out after dinner on a night drive. We wrapped up very warm, as it was near freezing, PC provided extra blankets and off we went. We went through multiple gates and on the first evening we drove up and down the main road spotlighting.  The drive started a little slow, probably as it was so cold. However, after a while we hit the jackpot: seemingly out of nowhere, an aardvark appeared next to the vehicle. The aardvark gave us a great show for about 10 minutes, it dug itself underneath the fence and even passed right in front of the vehicle. I was so in awe of the aardvark (and so cold) that shaky hands added to the already near-impossible challenge of photographing a continuously moving animal in the dark. Luckily my partner got great videos on his phone to go along my photos! What a great first night drive!








We did two more-night drives and two late afternoon drives. The cold (even during the day around 0 degrees) made it somewhat challenging for us and the moon schedule didn’t help, but we were so happy with all we saw, all new sightings for us! In total, we saw 100’s of scrub and spring hares, 5 individual aardvarks, 4 aardwolves (normally the ‘most seen animal’ but they definitely don’t like the cold!), multiple porcupines and a spotted eagle owl. One of the aardwolves came close to our vehicle and started digging out a termite mound, providing us with extensive views. As the nights progressed, my camera skills improved again! 










One morning, we were up very early, to be out before sunrise. We hoped to catch the rock sengi’s as they came out for their first sun rays! Again, it was still freezing, but PC packed a large flask of hot tea along with rusks to keep us warm. We arrived at the koppies where the sengi’s live just as the sun was about to pop up and within minutes multiple sengi appeared! We slowly approached the koppies and eventually came close enough to watch the sengi comfortably without our binoculars. What funny little creatures they are! 

Between activities and meals, we wandered around the property. We saw lots of smaller wildlife such as yellow mongoose, steenbok, meerkats (but from far away), korhaans, secretary birds and hundreds of cranes. We also made our way to some SAN rock art and on the way came across all sorts of relics from the Boer War. 














Despite the extreme cold and the super moon, we found so much of our wish-list and enjoyed ourselves so much this was one of the highlights of our trip! Where we are sometimes a little hesitant to share our favourite spots, we hope that New Holme really takes off as a wildlife destination and that PC's plans can come to further fruition. 

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A wonderful start. Great sightings already, and your night photos work fine!

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Amazing sightings...Aardwolf looking right at you! I never heard of New Holme before this, but it's on my radar now.

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A great start and really some interesting places already. I spent a lot of time on safari and my count for porcupine, aardwolves and aardvarks is 0,1 and 0 so New Holme looks very interesting and if it is affordable much better :) 

On the other hand I did the shark diving at Gansbai in 2014 and we saw 11 diiferent great whites, but the orcas really did destroy that business.

Looking forward to the next installment, especially the part from Kgalagadi, I think that is my favourite park (or at least in my top 3). 

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1 hour ago, TonyQ said:

A wonderful start. Great sightings already, and your night photos work fine!

Thanks! I think I must have made thousands of photos on night drives this trip, luckily that has left me with a handful or so great pictures! My philosophy is just to shoot as much as I can and make small adjustments to the settings hoping all the time that there will be something decent. My partner opts of video and even on his phone, he tends to get great results! 


53 minutes ago, janzin said:

Amazing sightings...Aardwolf looking right at you! I never heard of New Holme before this, but it's on my radar now.

I think New Holme at the right time can be even better than for us. We absolutely loved it, but PC kept saying that the nights were slow compared to what he is used to. I know he specifically takes groups out to look for pole cats in a slightly different area of the property than we focussed on and the photos he showed from those trips were great as well. I can't recommend it enough! 

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Day 10 Bloemfontein
Today was a little different, as its main focus was a museum, but don’t worry, the day did end with a night drive, which I will discuss in the next post! 


After breakfast, my partner said something he never expected to say on the second of August... "we moeten krabben!" (we have to de-ice the windshield). Windows clear, we set off towards Bloemfontein. Well, we can't really say we visited Bloemfontein as all we went to was the Boer War Museum on the outskirts of the city. In preperation for visiting South Africa, my partner had read a massive book on the war, and visiting this museum was one of his few requests, so, of we trot.  The museum itself was very informative and well laid out, if a little out-dated. After having driven for quite some hours through the Karoo, and even having seen archeological evidence in the fields (thanks PC!) visualising the battles wasn't too difficult. I also found that it provided me with a different understanding of the Karoo landscape. It was an interesting way to break up the drive from New Holme (near Hanover) to Marrick and I think it gave room for my partner a little time to reload mentally for more wildlife-oriented drives! 



Schermafbeelding 2023-10-28 om 19.05.31.png

Schermafbeelding 2023-10-28 om 19.06.09.png

Edited by Frostfire
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Day 10-11-12 Marrick, 

After the museum we continued onto Marrick. The journey took about two hours. The roads are good and not too busy; however, they are full of lorries and generally only one lane on each side. The overtaking keeps you alert on what are otherwise very long, straight roads. We got to Marrick in good time and settled into our huge cottage (not kidding, it had three bathrooms and sleeps 10, just for the two of us). We spent three nights at Marrick, and took two night drives. 


As in New Holme, the vehicle is an open top with space for 9 people. The difference is that the price is per vehicle not per person. At Marrick they seemed to have a ‘standard’ night drive route, whereas at New Holme the routes differed based on the latest sightings and target species. The vegetation was more diverse at Marrick, but also there were more reminders of ‘human live’, such as a main road visible on the drive. The spotter at Marrick was very good at his job and picked up the tiniest eye shine. 

As load shedding was between 16.00 and 19.00, and our night drives took place from 18.30 to 21.00 we ended up cooking dinner on our camping stove in the kitchen. Both evenings we got back into our warm night drive gear (my ensemble tonight included: my fleece-lined tights, trousers, warm hiking socks, vest, t-shirt, long-sleeved top, jumper with hood, coat, hat, scarf, and gloves). Again, it was just us on the night drives.




The first night drive began with being told last night was great, never a good sign in my experience… however it wasn’t very cold on the drive so that was an improvement. On our drive we had a good sighting of an aardwolf, lots of spring hares (I must admit to liking them, they are just like mini kangaroos), and a glimpse of an African wild cat. 

On the second drive I took a different approach; instead of my usual thinking the worst (we are not going to see anything…) I turned my hand to positive thinking. On the first long straight bit of the road, I kept thinking that we would see a black-footed cat after the bend. We turned around the corner and lo and behold, who would have thought it? A black-footed cat! We watched the cat for a short while before losing sight of it in the long grass. As you can imagine, I kept up the positive thinking and we saw a further two(!) aardvarks, two porcupines and a lesser spotted genet. The sightings were somewhat far away, but still clearly visible without binoculars. A successful evening on all accounts!


Spot the wild cat









Overall, we enjoyed our time at Marrick. However, for some reason which I can’t completely lay my finger on, this was the stay of the trip we were least happy with. Maybe my expectations were too high after reading such fabulous reports on the place, maybe we had had such a good experience at New Holme that we were not fully open to Marrick, or maybe we were just unlucky with the sightings, I am not sure. I can say that we were very much left to ourselves, the price vs quality didn’t seem to match as well as in other places we visited in South Africa. I am glad we got to see the black-footed cat, but none of the sightings compared in quality to what we had seen on previous nights. That probably all influenced our experience. I can imagine that with a group tour, Marrick would be a totally different, more positive, experience than as individual travelers. I think we got the most pleasure from the day activities we undertook which I will get to in the next post. 


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Days 11-12 Daytrips from Marrick
On our first full day, we made a day trip to Mokala National Park. On the way to the park, we stopped at Magersfontein Museum and Battlefield. This must be one of the strangest museums we have visited. Nearly completely dark and seemingly old-fashioned style museum, but it did continuously beam a video about the battle behind a diorama of the battlefield. We hiked up towards a monument, and if you think it looks a bit celtic for a South African monument you would be right! This monument was erected by the Scots to commemorate the Scottish soldiers who formed part of the British army during the Boer War. On a wildlife note, I think this would be a great place to see tortoises if visiting when warmer. The park was full of signs related to tortoises and when we entered the site, we did not only have to sign the usual register but were also made aware of the possibility of tortoises and how to keep them safe despite it still only having warmed up to a measly 8 degrees.  









Getting to the park meant driving the first gravel road we were not very impressed by. We were counting down the kilometers to the gate and even discussed turning back. Once in the park, the roads improved a lot and we had no complaints about them. We saw lots of species, including roan, sable, gnu, zebra, warthogs, springbok and giraffe. We spent quite some time enjoying ourselves at a hide next to a waterhole, watching lots of different species such as kudu, buffalo and hartebeest come to drink. There were also lots of colourful birds, beautiful hues of blues and pinks were everywhere! I was able to recognize and remember the starling, but despite trying to learn to id more birds, my memory is failing me now. Feel free to pitch in on any of the birds, that might help me remember them better, because I would love to know more about birds! There seemed to be nobody else in the park except some rangers, a very peaceful drive in a great park making a fantastic day trip from Marrick.
































For the second day at Marrick, we had less of a plan. We decided to relax a little in the morning but went out around noon. The theme of the day ended up being rocks. First, we visited the Wildebeest Kuil Art Centre. This site is owned by people from two San tribes (the !Xun and the Khwe). Both tribes have been displaced from originally Angola via Namibia to the current location. The two tribes bought this piece of land together, and have set up a small town, despite speaking completely different languages. 97% of the people are unemployed, but they have now set up a school. This is rather complex though as the school language is Afrikaans, not their mother tongue. There are thus many dropouts, difficult for two teachers to hear, especially as I spend so much of my time trying to avoid or re-integrate dropouts among the Dutch gifted students. The town does run a great rock art centre. On their land a lot of rock etchings ranging from 1000 to 2000 years old. The rocks they are made on are volcanic material, which nicely brings us to our second part of the afternoon: we visited Kimberly and its Big Hole. Again, not my ideal activity, but my partner really enjoyed the historic buildings and insights. We found this one of the many plusses of South Africa, that we could combine each of our more preferred individual interests and come up with a trip which included things for each of us, even though this was mainly meant as a rarer wildlife trip for me.
















Edited by Frostfire
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So glad you enjoyed  New Holme as much as we did @Frostfire. we visited after KTP and before Mt Zebra. We did see Black  Footed cat there btherethink better rains and longer grass have either made it more attractive to Wild cat or trickier to see the BFCats!

very much enjoying your report 

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Day 13-14 Augrabies Falls NP
Next, we had a longish drive towards Augrabies National Park. It would have made more sense on a map to visit Augrabies after the KTP, however, even though I booked our KTP accommodation a year in advance, this way around worked out better with the available dates at the the KTP restcamps.


As we drove west, the landscape changed and the weather improved more and more. We got further supplies at Upington and mid-afternoon we arrived at our destination. We put up the tent and then set out towards the boardwalks along the Augrabies Falls. It has been a wet summer season so, despite it now being far into the dry season, the falls were not down to a trickle. Along the boardwalk, there are different lookout points but it was sweltering (29 degrees), so we found a bench in the shade with a good view of the falls and waited with a book until sunset over the falls. As we sat there, lots of agamas scuttled about, which was fun to watch. We enjoyed our vegetarian burgers and then settled into the tent after some star gazing. It wasn’t even a little bit cold!










We were up bright and early, had some breakfast and then set off on a hike before it got too hot to be out in the sun. There were two routes on offer, a shorter one to the end of the gorge and a longer loop. We decided to add the two hikes together and make it one long hike. The first part of the hike took us between two gorges and at the end there was another waterfall. According to my partner (sorry for the Christmas cracker-style pun) that part of the hike was “gorgeous”. The hike took us through rocky areas, crossed over (and through) streams and took us to lovely views. Most of the markers were clear, but sometimes we really had to hunt for the next marker. The trail was called the dassie trail, a very appropriate name, as along the way we must have seen hundreds of dassies. Luckily, we had our very stylish mozzie net hats with us; the number of small flies was horrendous in some areas. We had some lunch, and took a drive into the wildlife viewing area, the landscapes were great, but we saw very little in the way of wildlife on the loop we did.










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Today’s first objection was to reach the KTP. I was so excited, after reading many trip reports on here I was so glad to be going myself. We got to the Twee Rivieren gate in good time, deflated our tires for the dirt/sand roads and proceeded on to our first camp: Urikaruus. I spent months and months trying to get a reservation to stay here. Then suddenly one day a night became available and oh my, it was every bit as fantastic as I hoped, but I am getting ahead of myself. 




As we drove we saw some southern pale chanting goshawks and oryx, species the park is particularly known for. As we drove, many antelope species, giraffes, and ostrich were along the road, but the highlight, however, was a honey badger, which was dustbathing and crossed in front of the car. We were able to follow it for a while. Another of our wish list species seen! I found it really difficult to photograph its black coat in the full blazing sun!  










After a couple more hours and a stop at the picnic site and museum, we arrived at Urikaruus. This is a so-called wilderness camp as it is unfenced. The cottages are on stilts and one parks the car underneath in a sort of individual cage. There are only four cottages and I spent nearly a whole year trying to get a night here. We sat on our balcony overlooking a waterhole, which would be lit at night. We had two cape foxes (another first) visit us, what a fantastic species to photograph! Jackals were aplenty and we spent a lot of time enjoying the shenanigans of a mongoose and ground squirrel. Suddenly a crow attacked a dove, who was drinking at the waterhole. The crow spent about 40 minutes dissecting and eating the dove, it was quite gruesome! Deciding when to go in and cook dinner but not to miss anything interesting was a challenge! As the evening set in, I set up my camera on the table at a little height so it was aimed at the waterhole and in such a way that I only had to press the button. This really helped with the shakiness of the pictures. I don’t own a (lightweight) tripod or a clicker, so it was a bit of a puzzle setting it all up so that it would work. I think the pictures generally came out well, however! If our next trip includes night photography opportunities I really must look into adding to my gear!


















One of the main reasons for coming to the KTP was to see a brown hyena, and we were lucky as one visited our waterhole that evening around 21.00! A very successful day. I went to bed earlier than expected (around 23.30), but we had had a long day and had already seen three new species!




Edited by Frostfire
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We had a relaxed morning spent at our cottage watching for more visitors to the waterhole, but eventually we had to set off again. Our next campsite was for three nights at Mata-Mata. As we drove through the heat of the day, there was not a lot about, but we did see oryx, ostrich and raptors. We also saw a kori bustard yellow and hornbill. The latter reminded us of our time in Uganda, where our guide kept calling them the ‘flying banana bird’. We, got into Mata-Mata early afternoon. We booked an evening drive and set our tent up. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the camp, looking for smaller wildlife and birds. I spent ages watching the yellow and slender mongoose, the meerkats and ground squirrels. I also spent some time in the hide looking out at the waterhole, which was visited by jackals (frequently) and red hartebeests. 
















Our guide on the evening drive was Andreas. He was very knowledgeable about the area and its wildlife, and it was a way for us to see a bit of the park that was not on the main roads and be out in the park after gate times. We started the drive with white-backed vultures. We then made our way to a spot in the dunes to watch a beautiful sunset. On route, we saw some young oryx and a steenbok. The highlights of the drive were a brown hyena (near Sitsas waterhole) and two bat-eared foxes (between Craig Lockhart and Sitsas). Bat-eared foxes were on my Wishlist to see, as we had not seen them before. Within the last minutes of the drive, a family of three porcupines crossed in front of us and provided us with great views for about 10 minutes. A great end to another successful day in the Kgalagadi! 















We left camp at sunrise. As we drive south we stop at Sitsas waterhole and in the distance see a male lion on top of the dunes. We hoped that we would see one (much) closer over the coming days. We had breakfast at a waterhole and were back in camp around 11AM. Around 15.30 we set out again, heading towards the nearby waterhole where we saw the lion in the distance this morning in the hope that he might come down for a drink. In doing so we joined a large group of other cars hoping to see the lion close to camp. No luck this time alas…

We did spend our time watching a very nervous giraffe, who approached the waterhole excruciatingly slowly. As she got closer we saw there was a problem with her front feet, which must make it very uncomfortable for her to walk, explaining the slow pace. I’m afraid she will be easy prey for the local lions. 








We had booked an early morning guided drive the next day. The advantage of joining these guided drives is that you can be out 30 minutes before the gates open. That means no cars in front of you possibly scaring animals away, but more importantly it means the animal tracks in the road are still visible which helps to find them. We drove towards the second waterhole (Craig Lockhart). On the way we saw a lot of raptors, including a martial eagle, which was very camera shy. 






As we got to the waterhole, a male lion just finished drinking and as we watched he walked right next to our vehicle. We had previously only seen one male lion on our trips to Namibia and Uganda, so we were thrilled. This Kgalagadi specimen was very impressive and had a fresh wound on his face. We watched him cross over the road in front of us and then he started calling for the rest of his pride. Very impressive! Within ten minutes we found a second male lion, Andreas thought that it was the son of the previous lion.






During the day we went out on a self-drive saw many more birds and oryx. On of the oryx we saw was missing both horns, we had previously seen them with only one, but this was afirst for us. Ostrich, gnu, springbok were daily occurence as well. The number of black backed jackals was astounding, they were everywhere! It became a running gag throughout our trip, as soon as we saw anything we weren't quite sure on yet what is was, 'oh its bound to be a jackal'. We were not bored for a second at Mata Mata. 






As we came to learn is a staple in the park, there are a lot of retirees about that spend a lot of weeks at a time in the camps. We had apparently got the favorite camping site of many of these campers at Mata Mata, and we have discovered a KTP behaviour we know from hotel pools in Europe: handdoeken leggen (placing towels to “reserve” a sunbed). Since people know that we are off tomorrow, they have been offering us their spare tables/chairs/other stuff, so that when we leave the site their stuff will already be there. This made for an extremely comfy last evening in Mata Mara, as we were traveling light without chairs/table. In Namibia all campsites provided tables and chairs, in South Africa we found this to be less common, but there were always options in the communal kitchens. 


My general impression of Mata Mata was that it was a very friendly camp with good amenities and lots of wildlife around the camp itself. We enjoyed being able to order fresh roosterkoek and were somewhat surprised that they sold Wifi codes in the middle of the Kgalagadi! The disadvantage of this camp is that there is only one road you can take for drives, but like I said in an earlier post, in the KTP you take wat you can get and in hindsight I much preferred Mata Mata to Twee Rivieren and look back fondly at our time at Mata Mata.


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4 hours ago, AndrewB said:

Loving this report!

Thank you! I was a bit nervous sharing I must admit, that is part of the reason it took me so long to get around to this. Now I am really enjoying reliving the trip and it is spurring me on to get 2024 trips sorted out! 

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What a fantastic report so far! @Frostfireregarding New Holme, do you know whether they have riverine rabbit on their property at all as I see it's about 3 1/2 hr drive from where I stayed at the riverine rabbit retreat. Also do you know if they control predators such as caracal on their property?


Regarding augrabis falls, yes we also found the trail signs quite tricky to follow, especially at one point where you seem to have to double back on yourself! 


Fantastic first sightings at KTP! I really would like to explore some of those hard to book camps as it looks very rewarding...

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1 hour ago, kittykat23uk said:

What a fantastic report so far! @Frostfireregarding New Holme, do you know whether they have riverine rabbit on their property at all as I see it's about 3 1/2 hr drive from where I stayed at the riverine rabbit retreat. Also do you know if they control predators such as caracal on their property?


I am not sure about the rabbits sorry, I remember you have been really trying to see them and after reading your post I even looked into the RRR. It might be worth specifically contacting PC to find out if they know whether they have them on the property, it might be that they have never specifically looked. There were huge numbers of scrub hares 

I did ask PC about predator control and caracal specifically. He said that they used to get trophy hunters in as it was financially the best 'solution' for farmers to the 'caracal problem'. However, once he found out that many people want to see caracal and since he has been running the farm more as an eco-lodge as well, he started looking into other ways of combining sheep and caracal. I can't remember exactly what he is now doing, but it had something to do with having a larger space to move the pregnant sheep and lambs frequently. He had already started this transition with his neighbor landowner, and he mentioned hoping to offer specific tours looking for caracal from as soon as next year.  I hope this works out (but was a bit gutted it was in too early stages to personally profit from it and a tad disappointed that it had taken a long time to work out that something needed to be done). It is one of the projects he wants to get students to do their Master's research on-site at the research station they have set up.



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