17th to 21st October
Our next camp was Tsendze. A well treed campsite only. No electric power but solar power for hot water and a shared freezer.
The camp is right next door to the Mooiplaas picnic site and about 8 kms from Mopani where check-in takes place. It is possible to pre-book a campsite we are told and we would argue that some of the best sites are Numbers, 1,14,17,18 22, and 25. However much depends on whether you need sun for your solar panels. Some sites are large and suitable for 2 or 3 off-road trailers or caravans.
The following photos show our site among many others and gives you an impression of the vegetation in the camp.
The camp is managed by Elena Mona and Rodgers Hobyane. They are the best managers in the Park by far – in our opinion. Every evening they come round to check everything is ok. They are social and helpful.
Tsendze camp is famous for its owls. We have seen and heard African Barred Owlet, Pearl-spotted Owlet and African Scops Owl there in the past.
This time was no different. In fact we were greeted by an African Barred Owlet as we set up camp – number 25. The Owlet came with 3 metres and watched us set up. Magic welcome. It checked in on us every day we were there.
In fact there were a pair breeding in a tree quite close by. At night we heard their call as well as that of the African Scops Owl and occasionally the Pearl Spotted Owlet.
The Mooiplaas picnic site, literally next to the camp, is one of our favourite tea stops. It is run by Phineous – another very helpful person and well knowledged on the birds there. Again well treed and shady with a shaded lookout over the Tsendze river.
One morning we visited and Phineous showed us where to see the African Scops Owl. He had heard it early morning and had searched for it till he found it. Such a small Owl and well camouflaged to hide next to the bark of any tree.
It was not till we got to Tsendze that we saw our first Kori Bustard – being bombed by a Crowned Lapwing as it so happened.
Here is a quick slideshow of some of the habitat in and around Tsendze.
Driving along the H14 towards Phalaborwa gate, Sally heard a bird call which she recognised but could not quite put her finger on it immediately. We stopped and it kept calling from a distance. Eventually moving back and forward the bird was spotted and we immediately knew what it was – the familiar Coocuk sound which did not immediately identify – An African Cuckoo.
The H14 at that time provided us with some interesting memories. At separate places – quite close to each other – there were Hyenas – mainly curious pups. Very cute looking and very inquisitive – even inspecting the underside of our car. Further along seven Wild Dogs appeared on the road and the leader took them alongside our car on their way to somewhere. Then there was a Grand-daddy of a Lion imperiously lying on the road daring anyone to pass. After that we took a loop down next to some water and there in the water were Hyenas having a relaxing bath. On the way back another pair of Lions were seen in the foliage by the road sleeping off a wild night by the looks of them – well zonked out.
Just after we turned around to come back we ventured off on a side road. Not far along Double-banded Sandgrouses popped across the road in front of us. The road eventually dwindling out at a river crossing which we were not prepared/supposed to take. Returning we had sightings of some raptors too.
There were many Buffalo and Elephant sightings alongside all the roads we explores. The Buffalo in large herds. One Elephant also took advantage of a stepping stone to access water from a storage tank. Another a nearby tree to have a good scratch and yet another with a forward facing floppy ear.
One morning we went to Mopani to walk below the camp alongside Pioneer Dam. As we turned off the main road we spotted three Cheetah – a mother and two youngsters. Lovely unexpected sighting. They had obviously been drinking at a waterhole right by the road up to Mopani. They were trotting off at a distance so we enjoyed watching them disappear and no photos were taken.
We also visited the other side of Pioneer dam and the hide there. Unfortunately there was little to see from the hide. On the way you cross the Tsendze river on a low level bridge. At the bridge we have often seen Black Crake scurrying around on the bridge and in the vegetation beside it. Again they were there and also a Lapsmith (try the mouthful Blacksmith Lapwing) chick. A Marabou Stork was also hanging around with the Hippos on the other side.
One late afternoon we followed this same road down to its dead end at Stapelkop Dam hoping to see lots of water birds. The vegetation along the way is pretty flat except for an outcrop of boulders about half way along. We always stop there to have a good look for birds and the occasional Klipspringer. A Red-headed Weaver was seen but little else. We had the same scenario at the Dam – just a Water Thick-knee. It was on the way back that we had an unexpected sighting at the boulders. I don’t know how Sally saw it as it was well camouflaged – a Spotted Eagle-Owl. And then we found the Klipspringer that we were looking for earlier.
On another morning we took the S50 along the wetlands up to the Shibavantsengele Lookout and then to the Grootvlei Dam. We always enjoy this section of the road. Buffalo and Elephant along the wetland section. Further along we always seem to come across Red-crested Korhaans often making their call (the click song as I call it) and sometimes their flight display. Now that is special. At the end of their call they suddenly take flight – vertically and then at about 10 metres they drop out of the sky like those acrobatic airplanes falling erratically to ground. At the last second they pull out of their dive and land. We were not fortunate to see that display this time but we did video their click song.
Grootvlei Dam is off the beaten track – one of those places we like to visit. Here we saw a Grey Heron flying over, African Spoonbills, Curlew Sandpipers, African Pied Wagtails, an African Spoonbill between an African Openbill and a Yellow-billed Stork.
A pair of Black-winged Stilts were interesting to watch as they swapped over nest duties.
On the way back to camp, an amorous Steenbok made numerous attempts to seduce its female companion but she was having none of it. Amusing to watch her antics and his persistence.
Tsendze is probably our favourite place to camp in the park. The campsite is well run, the staff are friendly, the ablutions maintained. It is well treed and has awesome birds. Its location provides a variety of habitats to explore.
In all we identified 108 different bird species in this area. To see our list, click on the following link.
Next stop was Shingwedzi for 3 nights and this will be Part 5 of our report on our visit to the Kruger National Park.
Hope you enjoyed the read.
Sally and Paul Bartho