Nancy Vandermey, Author
South Africa Trip September-November 2017
This was a seventh trip to South Africa for me, I love this country. Four years since the last trip, we wanted to repeat going to both Kgalagadi and Kruger parks. The dates were set by a project at work ending September 15, so we were on a plane the 17th, coming home the weekend before Thanksgiving. Yes, that makes the trip 9 weeks long! I went a little nuts on the planning this time. For the first time in 7 trips we spent a few days in Cape Town at first, followed by 22 days in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and then 5 weeks in Kruger. Originally I booked 5 of the wilderness trails in Kruger but we cut that back to 4, making the itinerary:
17-Sep 8:55 PM LAX-London
18-Sep 4 hours in London, fly to Joburg
19-Sep Joburg-Cape Town, 12:30 arrive, drive to Muizenberg
20-Sep The Muize. West Coast national park
21-Sep Penguins, cape, Road Lodge at the airport
22-Sep Early flight to Upington, get vehicle, shop, Twee Rivieren camping
23-Sep Mata mata camping
24-25 Sep Rooiputs 4
26-Sep Kalahari Tented Camp
28-Sep Rooiputs 4
29-Sep Nossob camping
30-Sep Mpayathutlwa 1
1-3 Oct lesholoago 1
4-Oct Nossob fancy camping
7-Oct Polentswa 3
9-10 Oct Kielekranke
11-Oct Rooiputs 3
12-Oct Urikaruus HM
13-Oct Twee Rivieren chalet
14-Oct fly, JNB City Lodge
15-16-Oct Punda maria
18-20 Oct Nyalaland walking trail
23-Oct shipandani hide
25-27 Oct Olifants walking trail
29-30 Oct Gomo gomo
1-3-Nov Sweni trail
4-7 Nov talamati
8-10 Nov Mathikithi trail
11-Nov lower sabie
12-13 Nov skukuza
14-Nov berg en dal
15-17 Nov biyamiti
18-Nov late flight to London
Cape Point, 1 minute
Kgaladadi, 32 minutes
Kruger, 26 minutes
New airline this year, Virgin Atlantic. I got a great deal on Priceline including our 3 internal flights in South Africa. I had to pay extra to reserve seats but I would fly them again. The two connections were on time, the remodeled JNB airport was nice, we picked up a Ford Ecosport in Cape Town and drove down to Muizenburg, known for its beach and surfing.
The Muize bed & breakfast was very comfortable, and a short walk to several restaurants. We tried the Striped Horse that night, but crashed pretty earlier after our long flights. Wednesday the 20th was a beautiful day, TOO beautiful - every tourist around tried to go on the cable car to Table Mountain that morning, after several cool windy days. Rather than wait an hour to buy a ticket and then 2 hours to get on a cable car, we instead drove to West Coast National park.
A woman in line in front of us scoffed at that plan "if you've already seen animals". Well yes, that's the whole reason we fly to this country! We saw the famous mountain, and Lion's Head, we decided not to go for a hike though. After a stop at a farmstall for bread and lunchables we arrived at the park at 11:30 am. It was spring, and a section of the park (Postberg) is only open in August and September for wildflower viewing. Our first wildlife was a beautiful male eland, not shy at all like in the big parks. At the Atlantic viewpoint, a mole snake was swallowing a rodent, fascinating to watch.
More eland were seen as we drove north, and a new species for us, bontebok. Flowers, tortoises, waves, and birds all added to the scenery. Another new species was mountain zebra. Springbok, wildebeest, ostrich, and steenbok were found, but alas no caracal.
We visited a few bird hides, with flamingo and some other colorful birds, and a locust. We got back to the Muize as it was getting dark, seeing a large fire nearby. Dinner was at the Tiger's Milk restaurant.
More birds the next day, the famous African penguins at Boulders Beach and Foxy Beach. We walked on the sand with them and then checked out the boardwalks. The only hyrax we saw all trip were here as well as a very colorful caterpillar.
Next we drove to the Cape of Good Hope and enjoyed the ocean spray and short hike up the rocks. The lizards and cockroaches were entertaining. More eland and ostrich were seen, and then the infamous baboons at Buffleshoek Beach terrorizing some picnickers. We went back to the Tigers Milk for dinner, watching surfers. Then it was a drive through the settlements to the airport for a night at the Road Lodge, as we had an early flight.
In Upington we were met by Pieter of Kalahari 4x4, and he and his son got us all set up for our 3 weeks camping in KTP. The Toyota Hilux double cab with rooftop tent and camping gear was everything we needed. After shopping at the Pick N Pay and bottle store we left for KTP at 11:30, arriving at 2:30, plenty of time for a game drive! We reduced tire pressures for the sandy roads and set off. It was hot, we saw a lot of jackal and ostrich, plus gemsbok (aka oryx), springbok, wildebeest (aka gnu), squirrels, and birds (including the ubiquitous Pale Chanting Goshawk aka PCG, secretary birds, and crimson breasted shrike).
We were camping at Twee Rivieren that first night, we tried to make chicken poike but it was cool & windy and didn't go so well. We were up early ready to go (the rooftop tent was super easy to set up and take down) BUT we had a flat front tire! The technical department took care of us quickly, it was just a bad valve stem that they replaced for free.
We went up the Auob side, seeing black shoulder kites, ostrich, lots of oryx, noisy Northern Black Korhaans, swallow tailed bee eaters, springbok, our first Cape fox and a very gorgeous juvenile Martial Eagle we would see many times over the next 3 weeks.
At Mata Mata we saw the resident meerkat (suricate) troop and chose a campsite and headed back out at 4, seeing spotted eagle owls, kestrals, more jackal, African hoopoe, kori bustard, and yellow mongoose and a wildcat between Sitsas and Craig Lockhart waterholes. Back in camp we walked over to the blind, and there was another wildcat, very relaxed despite a lot of people watching it hunt. We braiied some delicious ribeye steaks, it was chilly again that night.
We were out at gate opening (6:30 am) for a beautiful sunrise and then watched a big male lion posing on the ridgeline. A jackal was yapping at him. Further south two happy jackals were cleaning up some leftovers from a carcass, they took some to a den up the hill. A mole snake and tawny eagle posed.
Between Montrose and Bataluma waterholes a cheetah (known as Hanri, the researchers have a guidebook to identify the spotted cats) was relaxing in the shade, we hoped she would go after some springbok but they were wary and moved off. So did we after an hour. In this park you can wait with a cat for hours hoping for a hunt. At Kamqua waterhole an adult martial eagle made a gemsbok too nervous to drink, they are silly flighty antelope.
We were camping on the Botswana side, Rooiputs site #4, an open campsite (no fences) with just an A frame shade shelter and a long drop toilet and cold water shower nearby. We headed up to Kij Kij waterhole for our evening drive, with squirrels, a Lanner falcon, and then 4 lions up on the dune for entertainment. An oryx hung out by our campsite and almost came up to us.
That night it was super hot, with lightning in the distance. The storm came in at 9 pm with lots of wind and some rain. The next morning we headed north, with a wildcat hunting and two lions posing at sunrise. Taking the Rooiputs road south we found a cape fox den (no pups out), a juvenile PCG, had a nice long honey badger sighting, a male lion at Leeudril waterhole, and a pride of 5 lions (2 moms 3 cubs) north of Samvoelung.
After a pit stop at Twee Rivieren we headed up the Auob side, with a great Cape Cobra sighting, yellow mongoose fighting at Auchterlonie, and then Hanri the cheetah again on a springbok kill south of Bataluma. We spent a few hours watching her eat, then over the lower dune road to Kij Kij and south, quiet except for flying kori bustards and tawny eagles. The 5 lions were still near Samvoelung, with a KTP traffic jam of 10 cars. We ended the night with ostrich at Rooiputs waterhole.
That night it got COLD and windy, we didn't sleep at all. We headed north in the morning a found a small blue car with a shredded tire, two Italian men spent a cold night in it, we drove them down to Twee Rivieren. They were staying outside the park and needed to reschedule their flights. We headed up the Auob with another cobra, a purple roller, more meerkats and crimson shrikes, the remains of the springbok, and a bunch of giraffes including two males necking, which we watched for quite a while.
There were more snakes and birds on our way to Kalahari Tented Camp, where we got Tent #9. Lucky for us, as there was a jackal den between 8 and 9 and the puppies came over to investigate! My husband didn't mind that I woke him up from a nap when the puppies were by my feet. We did a quick evening drive, besides the usuals I summoned our only cat of the day by yelling HERE KITTY KITTY and a wild cat appeared. We went back to camp to watch puppies some more before the parents came to get them. It was even colder that night, I used two of the big fluffy park blankets.
We were out at 6:25 am Wednesday the 27th, with more giraffe, wildebeest, a lilac breasted roller (LBR), and then as we watched a cape fox digging by its den near the end of the 14th borehole loop we were told of a cheetah just ahead. Driving south we arrived just in time to see the cheetah going up over the ridge, but we soon noticed the steenbok under a tree that the cat was hunting. This cheetah is known as Corinne, Hanri's sister. She tried to stalk closer but had to start running, chasing the bok down the hill, across the road, and into the riverbed. She gave up on the far side of the riverbed and rested in the shade. After walking north a bit, she came over to the road and crossed it to walk right next to us before going up the hillside to find more shade.
We did a loop down to Twee Rivieren and north to the upper dune road and across, very quiet. We reached Urikaruus at 4:30 pm and called it a night. Unit #3 has a great view of the waterhole. Camp attendant Erick helped us set up our camera trap on the 'tree' holding the waterhole's light, and let us borrow a big blanket for the next two weeks, which helped us sleep in the rooftop tent in the cold, thanks Erick! A brown hyena visited the waterhole at 7, followed by a cape fox, two wildcats, jackal, another brown hyena, oryx, and eland.
We woke up to a male lion in front of our chalet, and another one 100m up the riverbed. Male #1 drank a few times and then a 3rd male (with a blind eye) and 2 females came to the water. Finally male #2 woke up and joined them in the shade across the riverbed. Erick bravely retrieved our camera after they went to the shade. Birds entertained us as well.
yellow billed hornbill
crimson breasted shrike
We headed north at 10 am, there was a male lion sleeping at Craig Lockhart with oryx snorting at him. Lunch at Kamqua was accompanied by mice and lizards. A drive back to Rooiputs found eagles and kudu. There were lion tracks at site #2, but we were in #4 again. At Leeudril waterhole we got our first good red hartebeest sighting this trip and more birds, then we sat at the cape fox den north of Rooiputs and saw 2 kits and a band of meerkats that didn't mind the fox. Again we had oryx for company at the campsite, as well as kori bustard, jackal, and ostrich.
lion on right, oryx on left
black chested snake eagle
In the morning we drive to Kij Kij but then had to return to Rooiputs when told of 3 male lion on the move. They were young adults, the blondest one had porcupine quills. It was quiet going north, with another cobra and spotted eagle owl. At Nossob we got the unpleasant news that they were 'out' of diesel, not good when we were heading to the Mabusehube section for 4 days. We got 45L which was not quite full, and we couldn't fill our jerrycan. So we didn't feel safe going for an evening drive and booked the sunset drive instead, and did some laundry. Unfortunately I think this was a bit of a scam, as the next morning we filled up including the jerrycan and others were getting diesel as well. The sunset drive was OK, we saw a wildcat, brown hyena, bat-eared fox, and several owls. We were in the hide at 9 pm with 3 other people when a big male lion came to drink, when he walked away roaring that woke up the rest of the camp. He roared off and on throughout the night but wasn't in sight in the morning.
Time to drive the Bosobogolo road! It was sandy but not difficult, didn't even require 4WD for most of it. A cape cobra, molesnake, a burned out vehicle, some oryx, mice, rats, and steenbok were all we saw. Lunch at Matopi #1, unfortunately lots of people left trash in the bathroom, pigs! We drove around Bosobogolo pan and saw brown hyena tracks, then oryx with young and a group of eland that jumped across the road in front of us on our way to Mpayathutlwa pan.
The lions had been hanging around site #2, but we didn't see them, we were at #1. There were many camp pests, including spurfowl, crimson shrike, wagtail prinia, yellow and slender mongooses, and zazus (yellow billed hornbills). We could hear lions roaring at night, in the morning (October 1) we saw a big male south of site #2. Then it was off to Lesholoago via Khiding and Mabua pans. Our pan had a resident wildebeest plus a springbok herd we saw every day (we were here 3 nights). We did an evening drive to Mpaya and enjoyed a thunderstorm in the distance, just getting back to camp before it hit us, lots of lightning. It was too windy to sleep at first but at least it didn't rain too hard.
Page 1 - Cape Town, Kgalagadi part 1
Page 2 - Kgalagadi part 2
Page 3 - Kruger part 1
Page 4 - Kruger part 2
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