Noreen & Roger Broomhall
Trip Itinerary: – 1 night Hazeyview; 3 nights Letaba; 3 nights Satara; 3 nights Byamiti.
Weather – Generally overcast with temps around 32C . If the sun did come out in full, temps jumped up into the 40ties.
Kruger camps – clean and tidy and staff pleasant and accommodating.
Birds IDed 161 with 3 lifers.
We decided to take Nick Norman’s advice from his book (GEOLOGY – OFF THE BEATEN TRACK exploring South Africa’s hidden treasures). We drove Gingindluvu to eMkhondo on R66/R34/R33. This is a far more direct route, easier driving without giant transport trucks & one can see a wealth of geology too.
We had an overnight stop in Hazyview & then through Bushbuckridge to enter Kruger at Orpen Gate. We were immediately amazed at the lush green bush & golden grasses of a wet mid-summer.
Our first VERY exciting observation was of a Burchell’s Starling feeding a sub-adult Great Spotted Cuckoo in the middle of the road.
The Letaba river and all the main streams and rivers were pretty full with loads of hippo. Yellow-billed, White and Saddle-billed Storks were plentiful as well as Openbills.
The Engelhart Dam was overflowing & Woodland Kingfishers seemed to be calling from every tree.
We saw many Carmine Bee-eaters as well as a Great White Egret in breeding plumage with his emerald green eye & plumes off his rump.
Our first outing was a visit to Olifants Rest Camp & we had to change route twice due to low level crossings being flooded. The Olifants viewing sight provided us with our first experience of a full flowing Olifants river.
Rain overnight & overcast weather dropped the temperatures to the 30s for the rest of our trip.
En route to Satara we stopped at Timbavati where the guard pointed out a Scops Owl sleeping in a huge Boer-bean tree.
European Rollers were far more common than the Lilac-breasted Rollers.
It seems that some birds flock this time of the year especially with the heavy rains -Blacksmiths Lapwings & Three-banded Plovers were frequently seen in large flocks, especially next to the wet roads.
A drive to Nwanetsi for a cooked breakfast is compulsory & we saw Southern Ground Hornbill as well as Kori Bustard on the way.
Sweni Hide was not as rewarding as usual, due to it being filled to capacity but this did set up a photo opportunity with a family of Thick-billed Weavers as well as Green backed herons.
We drove south for the last 3 nights at Byamiti where we had our first sightings of Red-backed Shrikes & Lesser Grey Shrikes.
We experienced a sight of White Storks & Carmine Bee-eaters feeding opportunistically while hovering above a herd of Impala.
In general we saw or heard most of the cuckoos but seeing the Common Cuckoo was exciting as this was a lifer.
Could not resist the targeted backsides of 3 Waterbuck!
In general we saw lots of raptors, Bateleur being most common and also many large flocks of vultures. Also seen frequently were Brown & Black-chested Snake-Eagles , Wahlberg’s , African Harrier Hawk, African Fish Eagle, Lesser Spotted and Tawny Eagle.
On a drive to Crocodile Bridge on our last day we came across a pack of Wild Dogs on the road. As we hadn’t seen any cats this was very rewarding. (Most other visitors had seen cats on numerous occasions).
Our last special sighting were Senegal Lapwings near CrocodileBridge which was a lifer for us & a great end to our holiday.
PS Anyone driving through Swaziland be warned as pot holes are very bad & beware of road works between Malelane & Nelspruit with 40min hold ups.