24th, 25th, 26th, and 27th November 2021
From Balule we went to Skukuza for 4 nights, meeting up with my sister.
On the way there was a dam by the road with some water in it. On the mud bank we noticed Knob-billed Ducks displaying a variety of colours.
Skukuza was nowhere near as full as it was the last time we stayed. That was during Covid restrictions when 50% occupancy was ignored and we struggled to find a campsite. This time we had little problem finding a level site.
We spent our days going to Lower Sabie and Sunset Dam, going to Pretoriaskop, having a wet day picnic at the Mlondozi lookout, visiting Mpondo Dam where we were attacked by Terrapins!!!
. We had hoped to see the renovated Nlandanyethi Hide, however the road to it was closed – roadworks.
We went to Lower Sabie to sit in the Mugg and Bean restaurant and enjoy the view over the river. Not much happening as the river was full and it was overcast. We noticed the burnt out wreck of their Petrol Station – rather sad.
Sunset Dam is always a great place to stop. There were the usual crocodiles and hippos aplenty. Waterbirds were easily visible too, even African Jacanas, Common Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts coming right up to the car. And a crocodile oblivious of us lying on the grass beside us.
On another wetter day we drove northside of the Sabie river to the Mlondozi lookout. Birding was quiet but the view at the lookout is always special.
The Sabie river was flowing well and everywhere was green.
On the road north of the Sabie River we were fortunate to see some Lions resting on a bank.
Elsewhere we bumped into a pack of Wild Dogs. Resting restlessly under trees by the road.
We visited Pretoriuskop in the drizzling rain. We chose to go via the S1 towards Albasini Ruins and then turn off south along the S3 just before reaching the Ruins. One or two patches of the road were a bit slippery. Despite the rain birds were about. A pair of Woodland Kingfishers were heard and seen playing their mating game.
At Pretoriuskop the rain subsided and we took the chance to walk around the camp. Birding in the camp is often rewarding.
During our 4 days in the area we saw many bird species. Here are some of those photographed.
One day as we drove out of Skukuza heading south, we had not gone far when we came across Hyenas including youngsters by the road. Usually they sit around but this lot were different.
Then this happened. A game of catch me if you can.
And then we went to Berg-en-dal for one night which turned into 3 nights – staying there until my sister planned to leave.
28th, 29th and 30th November 2021
Tasha and Dick arrived a day before us. The campsite was overflowing. It was an Honorary Rangers get together that weekend. When we arrived the next day the place was relatively empty and my sister had found us a site right on the fence – where an elephant liked to visit. With other game popping by including a tame Bushbuck which walked up to our front door.
We were camped right next to a couple of Honorary Rangers who kept telling about these wonderful bird sightings in the camp. In particular a Greater Spotted Cuckoo (among many other cuckoos) as well as an Eurasian Hobby. Neither of which we had seen on this trip and which over the coming days we searched far and wide for them.
We were so nicely settled that we decided to stay an extra day then another extra day as we were enjoying both the birding and animal sightings!!
The first afternoon a water pipe burst and the camp was without water for long periods over the following 2 days. We managed. As it had happened next to our ablution bloc it got closed!
One evening on the way to the wash-up area a snake was sighted – a thin 1 metre long culprit – which we all eventually agreed was pretty harmless (or so we hoped). Also a stick insect appeared on a wall at the entrance to the loos.
Of course we spent many hours wandering around the camp. At the main reception area overlooking the dam, there was a ruffle over our heads and a Little Sparrowhawk was seen flying away. But it did not go far. it have food in its claws but not eating. Looking around a juvenile was spotted. We were able to watch as the juvenile screeched away and the parent gave it food.
In the trees above Tasha and Dick’s campsite a lovely pair of birds were courting – not Lovebirds but very colourful. Female and male Red-headed Weavers.
A sort of leucitic Kurrichane Thrush was hopping round our campsite – an odd looking bird.
Another very special bird seen in camp. Retz’s Helmetshrike.
Lions and Leopards were seen as well as White Rhinos, Elephants and Buffalos. A good but busy part of the park to see many of the “Big Five” in one day.
Probably one of our favourite sightings in the Kruger was this Chamelion crossing the road in its unique way – “one foot forward, shake it too and fro in a jerky motion then put it down” Repeat this with each leg until you are eventually across. One eye looking up the other looking all around etc. (Tap on photo to enlarge it).
We focused our drives around the Berg-en-dal and Gardenia Hide areas. At times quiet and as you might expect sometimes busy. Quite a number of large birds were seen including a few Eagles – some of which we are still unsure of their ID. Here are some of their pictures.
Other birds in and around these areas:
We get up early on our last day determined to find the Great Spotted Cuckoo and maybe the Hobby. We listened for calls where we were told they had been present – at the meeting of the S100 from Malelane and the main road north H4-2 to Skukuza. We give up after a while – no calls at all. So we head to look and see if there is anything interesting along the road to the S25. We cross the bridge and turn right towards Croc Bridge. The light is terrible for seeing silhouetted birds. I think I see a Falcon so we retreat to the main road to get a better look. It is the Great Spotted Cuckoo with the Eurasian Hobby close by. We were both happy and could not believe our luck.
And that was the end of our time in the Kruger. In all we had identified 243 different bird species. To see our list download the following:
On the way out we crossed the Malelane Bridge over the Crocodile River making our last Atlas additions.
Lastly to say that on the way out we were escorted. Watch this video.