Kruger – Bottom to Top – Part 4 Final

Punda Maria

1st to 3rd March 2022

We took our time to get to Punda Maria from Shingwedzi arriving late morning.

The camp was not full but all the sites by the fence were taken as one might expect. We did find a reasonably shaded site with a view down towards the hide and the waterhole. Away from people as it happened too.

Monkeys – as cute as they are – are always an issue at Punda. You have to be constantly alert to their antics and their attempts to borrow stuff permanently.

In the northern part of the park there was an abundance of elephants to be seen. You just hope they are not on the road as you come round a corner while you are towing a caravan. Difficult to reverse backwards at speed. Turning round is only an option if the verges are flat and wide. We had one or two of such experiences but luckily there was plenty of distance between us and we were able to reverse slowly away from confrontation.

In one instance we hung back for over 20 minutes while the elephant was drinking run-off on the side of the road. He was not happy with the cars that tried to get by. Eventually it moved off when it was ready.

At Klopperfontein there was a fair bit of water in the wetlands beside the dam. And of course there were many male tuskers present each time we were there. Always good to watch the interaction between them especially when they wanted something that another had or were playfully trying to access who was the strongest.

The Mahonie loop was quiet but we did see a few birds that we had not seen elsewhere – like the Grey-headed (Brown-necked) Parrot.

Carmine bee-eaters were aplenty. Always lovely to see.

Coming across Daga boys can be a scary experience if you get too close and they give you the eye as we experienced on the road to Klopperfontein.

Here are a few photos of other birds seen:

In the short time we were at Punda Maria we added an addition 5 new birds to our Kruger list.

All to quickly we were off to Nthakeni Bush and River Camp just outside the Pafuri Gate. Based there we were able to explore the Pafuri area of the Park early in the morning.

Nthakeni Bush and River Camp

3rd to 5th March 2022

This camp is definitely one of our favourites in Southern Africa. Not only because of the setting but also its hospitality. Annelize and Kobus are great hosts and the staff are friendly and competent.

Our camp and its setting.

From Punda Maria we by-passed the turnoff to the Pafuri picnic site just before Pafuri bridge. Our biggest surprise was to see the wetland areas immediately before the turnoff. There was water everywhere. The wetlands were wet. In all the years Sally and I have been to Pafuri this was the first time we had seen wet wetlands in the area.

Towing or not we pulled over and scoured the wetlands. Within minutes we had some great sightings of a Dwarf Bittern (briefly) and a Greater Painted Snipe of which I managed a photo or two.

Greater Painted Snipe

It was here also that we spotted our first Canary for the whole trip through the Kruger – a Lemon-breasted Canary (at that!) calling and displaying.

Lemon-breasted Canary

Eventually Sally saw a Yellow-fronted in the Pafuri Picnic site, however I only saw one on one of our walks in the Nthakeni Camp. We were bewildered by this experience.

Some scenery of the Pafuri area including flowing Luvuvu and Limpopo Rivers at Crooks Corner; the wetlands and flowering Baobabs.

Meve’s Starling and White-crowned Lapwings made there appearance – seen commonly in this part of the Park.

White-crowned Lapwing

The mating pair of Black-throated Wattle-eyes performed nicely for us at the Pafuri Picnic site. Here are pictures of the male.

Brown-headed Parrots were seen along with several different Kingfishers.

And then there were the displays;

Woodland Kingfishers in this instance:

And a Mosque Swallow display:

We looked for the Racket-tailed Roller where we had seen it before – no luck. But we did see a Retz’s Helmetshrike in the same general area.

Freckled Nightjars and African Wood-Owls called at night in the Nthakeni Camp.

Probably one of our most exciting experiences was unfortunately not an actually sighting. We knew that Thrush Nightingales had been heard near the bridge. We drove a short way from the bridge towards the Pafuri Gate and stopped at 2 places where we heard their call. Our search to see one however was fruitless. The call was great to hear though – listen to the video.

Call of the Thrush Nightingale.

So that ended our time in the Kruger before we set off home via Nylsvlei (reported separately previously). In this area we added an additional 12 new bird species to our Kruger trip list bringing the total for the trip to 233 different species. To see our list click on the following link.

Hope you have enjoyed the reports

Paul and Sally Bartho

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