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South Africa Trip Report
Kruger Park Nature Tour - Botany, Birds & Mammals
15 - 20 February 2013

Day 1: Friday 15 February

After collecting Roger and Penny at their guesthouse in Johannesburg we set off towards Nelspruit via the N12 and N4 routes. We spent several hours at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens enjoying some of the beautiful walks, the cycad collection, sub-tropical plant displays and impressive waterfalls in the Crocodile River which runs through the gardens. We enjoyed a late lunch at a restaurant in the botanical gardens before proceeding through one of Kruger Park's entrance gates and on to our overnight restcamp. After checking in and unpacking, we took a pleasant walk within the camp grounds appreciating the trees and birds before heading off for dinner at the restaurant.

Day 2: Saturday 16 February

We made an early departure to get the best of game viewing in the cooler morning hours. We appreciated good sightings of plains game and elephant, lion, buffalo and white rhino. We made a stop for brunch before proceeding to our next camp along the Sabie River. More good sightings within the riparian zone along the river were made. After checking into our accommodation followed by a short siesta and afternoon tea on waking, we set off for a late afternoon drive to the 'Renosterkoppies' area. This drive produced close-up views of Lion, Elephant and Leopard.

Day 3: Sunday 17 February

Another early departure as today we headed north. The damage and effects of the recent floods in January were evident with many roads and facility closures. We were forced to take the 'alternative' route which fortune would have it, produced excellent bird and mammal sightings including Spotted Hyaena, Leopard, Ayres's Hawk Eagle, Allen's Gallinule and Lesser Moorhen.

An early check-in at our next camp provided an opportunity to have a rest and to update lists etc. A relaxed late afternoon drive gave us the opportunity to look for and photograph flowering plants along the road verge (and many bushveld annuals were identified). Good sightings of White Rhino and Spotted Hyaena were also enjoyed. After an early dinner we were taken on a night drive. Several interesting nocturnal species were seen including three nightjar species, four owl species, including close-up views of Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Bronze-winged Courser, African Wild Cat (3), Spotted Hyaena. Hippo and Large-spotted Genet.

Day 4: Monday 18 February

The basalt plains to our east were explored during an early morning drive. The grasslands were lush as a result of the recent heavy rains and despite the tall grass, and we had excellent mammal sightings including Lion and Elephant interactions, and a large Buffalo herd blocking the road. Interesting bird sightings along the way, included Black Coucal, Harlequin Quail, Booted Eagle, Black-bellied Korhaan and many Kori Bustard. A fine breakfast was enjoyed along with great views of the Olifants River. We returned to camp with many good sightings en-route, once more. After the customary siësta and afternoon tea we took a drive to the nearby scenic picnic site where 'sundowners' and the peaceful surrounds were shared with a large Elephant Bull. Afterwards, we returned for an excellent buffet dinner served at the camp restaurant.

Day 5: Tuesday 19 February

A quick pre-dawn sojourn back into the eastern plains delivered more fantastic views of amongst others White Rhino, Spotted Hyaena, Lion and Elephant. Back at camp we packed; had a quick breakfast and commenced the journey to the foothills of the northern Drakensberg. After leaving the Kruger Park we made a stop along the way at a private tea garden where we spent several hours relaxing in the beautiful tropical gardens and indigenous nursery. Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird were seen in the gardens (a very rare species in the Limpopo Province and probably the northern-most population in SA) as were Samango Monkeys and at least 16 butterfly species. The tea garden provided us with a most delicious lunch before we set off again. A short drive took us to the base of the towering Mariepskop and on to our lovely lodge situated on the banks of the Blyde River. A late afternoon walk in the lodge grounds and along the banks of the Blyde River produced good birds including African Finfoot. The last evening of the tour ended with a traditional South African braai experience.

Day 6: Wednesday 20 February

Our last day on tour started with a relaxed and leisurely breakfast before departing on the return journey to Johannesburg via the scenic Panorama route. Photographic stops were made at the Strydom tunnels and at the 'Taita Falcon spot' before spending an hour at the Three Rondawel viewpoint. The flowers, reptiles, birds and spectacular scenery of the Blyde River Canyon was well worth the stop. We continued our journey along the Panorama Route to Graskop where some intense curio shopping took place. From here we took the Schoemanskloof Route back to the N4 (many road works slowed down our progress). A lunch stop was made along the way and the OR Tambo Airport was reached just after 16h00.

Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Joe Grosel.

Many of the birding sites on this trip are described in detail in the Southern African Birdfinder which is widely available in South African bookshops and on the internet. (e.g., www.netbooks.co.za or www.wildsounds.co.uk). However you're always welcome to contact us if you're interested in a guided trip in this area.

Practical tour information:
South Africa: Kruger birds and mammals

Please also visit our tour calendar and description of other South African tours.
Focus This trip can suit keen birders as well as more general nature enthusiasts. While on birding walks, we can equally spend a lot of time looking for other aspects of wildlife such as mammals, chameleons, geckos, butterflies and interesting plants. We can customise any itinerary to suit to the keen birder, the wildlife enthusiast or both.
Itinerary This itinerary is designed to complement birds with mammals, in both Kruger National Park and Afromontane forest. It starts and ends in Johannnesburg.
Photography Many participants on our tours and day trips are amateur wildlife photographers. And when we get excellent views of a bird or mammal, some time is usually spent watching and photographing it. However, this is not a photographic tour and once the majority of the people have felt that they have absorbed the animal or bird to their satisfaction, then we move on in search of the next encounter. Thus, while the photographic opportunities are very good, the group will only occasionally wait for somebody who wants to spend even longer getting better photos.
Fitness This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Timing Birding is highly rewarding year round, but easier duing summer rains (November to March), when birds are most vocal and migrants are present. Mammal viewing is best in winter (May to September) - when the climate is also superb and malaria risk is lower.
Climate Summer rainfall rainfall (November to March). Cool on the escarpment and warm in the Kruger lowveld.
Comfort A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and National Park Restcamps.
Transport Group tours travel by minibus or other suitable vehicle. Please enquire.
Group Size This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Top birds Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Bearded Vulture, Southern Bald Ibis, Ground Woodpecker, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Orange Ground Thrush, Spotted Ground Thrush, Southern Brown-throated Weaver, African Finfoot, Pel's Fishing Owl, Rudd’s Apalis, Livingstone’s Turaco, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Woodward’s Batis, Brown Scrub Robin, Gorgeous Bushshrike, Lemon-breasted Canary, Pink-throated Twinspot, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Crested Guineafowl, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark, Blue Korhaan, Barrow’s Korhaan, Black-rumped Buttonquail, African Grass Owl, Red-winged Francolin, Orange River Francolin, Cuckoo Weaver, Southern Pied Babbler, African Rail and Red-chested Flufftail.
Top mammals African Elephant, Buffalo, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Sable, Giraffe, White Rhino, Samango Monkey
Booking Please contact us if you wish to book a guided or self-drive tour. You will receive the booking form and conditions and a tour information pack.



About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders. We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent. We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

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Black Harrier photograph courtesy of Keith Offord.
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