Final day and home

We headed home today. But first we had our last game drive. From Letaba to Satara (where we would have breakfast) and then from Satara to Orpen gate and out the park and then to the Hoedspruit airport. We decided an early start is better as it would give us plenty of time if we saw something on route and best game viewing (if you haven’t learnt this already!) is in the morning before it gets too hot. It was partly overcast as it had been raining most of the night but the birds were active and we the game was plentiful.

Not more than 15 kms from Letaba a leopard walked out into the road in front of us. Great sighting. It then headed off into the bush and within a minute it was gone. One car behind us barely saw it before it vanished. That car then passed us as they were wanting to drive faster than us. Not much further down the road and we came across another elephant bull in the road.

Yes I know what you’re thinking and yes we were suitably careful. The guy in front realised he couldn’t get past and did a U-turn to drive away. I just put the car in reverse and proceeded backwards. We reversed, the elephant kept coming down the road, reverse some more, elephant came some more. And so it went for about 500 meters. Eventually the elephant got hungry and headed off the road into the bush. But unfortunately not far enough away that we could get past. If you moved forward it turned and looked at you and flapped its ears – basically saying ‘just try’. This went on for 15 minutes. We fortunately had the time. Eventually the guy in front pulled forward slowly and got past. That gave me hope and we did the same. The elephant fortunately didn’t do anything – nice change!

We stopped for morning coffee at a viewpoint over the Olifants River – just reminded us why we love the Kruger so much – and then breakfast at Satara. From Satara we headed west and exited the KNP at the Orpen Gate. 11 days later, 3 pride of lions, 3 leopard, 2 sets of cheetah, 2 sightings of hyena and 1 black backed jackal sighting. Add to that 3 run ins with elephant, more buffalo than we have ever seen and plenty of all the other stuff including three separate sightings of the rare Tssebee buck. We ended the bird list at 141 (slightly short of last years 150 but a few less days than last year as well) and 4 lifers taking my total lifer total to 464 birds.

The flight home was uneventful and on time. We loved our time away but it is (as always) also good to be home again. Back to grindstone tomorrow!

Until next time …

P & H

Letaba Day 2

Another day at Letaba, another run in with elephants. H now has a new view of Letaba and it has fallen from second best camp in Kruger now. Not sure we will be able to stay here again soon! We decided to go north (to avoid elephant in south). It rained last night and so we aimed for a slightly later start. It was still heavily overcast though and the bird life was unfortunately non-existent. Shortly after turning off the main tar road onto the dirt loop we saw our first elephant. No problem with the first few we saw actually but then we met a family and the family decided to walk down the road. Again, no issue except that suddenly the very young one needed to have a nap and just lay down in the middle of road and the rest of the family formed a protective curtain around the baby. All that would not be an issue had it not then been for two other elephants in front of us starting to fight and then some of the elephants that were behind us appeared out of the bush basically boxing us in!

Felt a little like a test again. This time I decided to do a U-turn and get out of there as quickly as possible. Made the U-turn without an issue and at least the two fighting ones and the family seem disinterested in us. We just had to then get past the other two (which were behind us) and as we drew level with them the one did a mock charge but fortunately we were basically past him and already toward the safety of another road. We abandoned that road as well which basically meant we only had west left as an option so we did that instead. There is a nice watering hole on that road and so we stopped there for coffee and noticed probably a close to 100 terrapin swimming in one corner. Never seen that ever before. Also a lot of hippo in the dam making a lot of noise. Much safer than elephant charging us and much less stressful watching all that activity rather.

It remained overcast and rainy for much of the day. Fortunately it was much cooler today as a result (still in the high 20 degrees C though). It pelted down with rain at stages today and some impressive thunder at points as well.

We went out again late in the afternoon for a short drive and while we did see a reasonable amount of game and birds, we didn’t see anything new and no predators. Tonight is our last night in the Kruger before we head home tomorrow. It has been an extremely relaxing time (as always). Until last night we had seen at least 2 of the Big 5 on every game drive we did. Last night broke that record and then on this evening’s game drive we didn’t see any of the Big 5. It has been another rewarding game viewing trip though and we still have a reasonable drive tomorrow AM to allow us to add to what we have seen.

Until tomorrow!

P & H

Letaba Day 1

It rained overnight and it was still overcast this am. We decided to just go out for a short drive. Our usual is to go to Engelhart Dam on the north side and so that is where we headed. Not far out of camp there was a grouping of cars and on approaching we saw lions. About 4 of them (at least). Not far off the road and somewhat active. We watched them for awhile and then moved on. Birding was very quiet as it was overcast. We saw a reasonable amount of game – impala, waterbuck, elephant etc – as per usual. There is a bird hide on the road to the dam and we stopped there on the way back and added a few birds to the trip list. It was also very peaceful and pleasant in the hide as there was a slight breeze coming into the hide off the water.


We had a baby (H called it a toddler) elephant decide to fake charge us and trumpet at us. More funny than anything. It clearly wasn’t going to do anything about us and was just trying to show off. It ran next to us at a safe distance from the car. The rest of the herd just ignored us and continued eating.

We spent the rest of the day in the camp relaxing, working, watching TV series – all the things that make time in the Kruger worthwhile. It was cooler today (temperature only got up to around 35 C) but it was humid for much of the morning. I sat outside working for a bit and eventually had to come inside the room as the sweat was running down my back.

This evening we decided to head south along the river – H’s choice of route. Not a lot of game around except for a reasonable amount of elephant. Letaba camp is known for it’s elephant and there was even one right at the gate when we left this evening. About 7 km from the camp we came upon a herd of elephant and passed them safely only to come to two elephant fighting about 100 meters on. They were pushing and shoving each other, stamping their feet etc. Only issue was that we needed to get past and we were basically trapped because the herd behind us (not very far behind us either) were now crossing or in road.

I moved forward slowly and eventually gauged that I had sufficient space to drive quickly past the two fighting elephants and get out of the trapped situation I was in. Unfortunately the car we have (Nissan Quashai – piece of rubbish – never think of buying one – hopefully none of you reading this own one!) basically makes a lot of noise but doesn’t actually accelerate (especially when the aircon is on). It soon became evident that the one elephant bull was now more interested in fighting us than the other elephant. This all happened in a few seconds but the elephant started to turn, to come at us but fortunately he had to backtrack out of the bush to turn around and I reckon that is what saved us.

By the time we were level with the elephant he was almost turned around enough to punch a hole in the car with his tusks. The accelerator was flat on the floor board, dust billowing behind us, elephant trumpeting and turning aggressively. I managed to keep as far left as I could possibly do without being off the road. It was so close I could smell the elephant and if I had put my arm outstretched out of the window I could have touched it. No I am not exaggerating. It really was that close. I have had a few run ins with elephants (generally when our son M is driving actually!) but this was by far the closest I have ever had. I would not want to ever get this close again. H was screaming/shrieking/shivering/shaking. We fortunately got past undamaged and alive.

We stopped down the road at the Engelhart dam (south side) and H showed me how she was shaking. It was impressive shaking – almost as impressive as my driving. She said “How on earth are you still able to drive?” … I’ll take that as a compliment! All we wanted to do at that point was get back to the camp – it took us another 30-40 minutes to do that as we certainly weren’t going to do a U-turn! A drink while starting the braai was definitely in order.

Thunderstorm over Letaba River

It was our last braai tonight (run out of meat). Unfortunately we picked the night to braai with a massive thunderstorm brewing. The clouds were impressive and so was the lightening. Fortunately I managed to burn down the logs and get the lamb chops & chicken wings cooked before the rain came down (it is raining now quite heavily).

Both a relaxing and stressful day … if that is possible!

P & H

Letaba River

Punda Maria to Letaba

Today was a fairly long drive of 170 km. We decided to leave at 5:30am as that really is the best time to be out game viewing given the heat. It was already 26 degrees when we left at 5:30am and it eventually rose to 46 degrees at 12:40 today – it was an absolute scorcher!

While yesterday was a good birding day and yet I only managed to add one lifer in Punda Maria region, the good news is that I actually did get two lifers yesterday as we also saw a Brown Necked Parrot (used to be called Grey Headed Parrot – who knows why they changed the name). Even better news was that this morning within an hour of leaving Punda Maria I had added another lifer – Greater Spotted Cuckoo – to the list. What makes it all the more pleasing is that it was not even something I was expecting to see.

By the time we stopped for coffee (which was just after 7am), the temperature was already in the 30 degrees C range and we can already see that the animals were choosing the shade of the trees. While we saw a reasonable amount of game over the balance of the drive, we never saw any predators and we were not surprised given the heat.

We stopped at a waterhole to have some breakfast (in the car) and stopped at Mopani camp to stretch our legs and buy an ice cream (at least for me) and arrived at Letaba at 12:30pm. Check in is only 2pm but usually we are able to get in earlier. They said they were still cleaning the place and we should come back at 1:30pm to get the key so we went to have some lunch at the restaurant that overlooks the Letaba river. Well H didn’t have any lunch unless you consider a Lime Milkshake lunch!

We were pleased to get into our hut and turn the aircon on and stay inside the balance of the afternoon. I need to do some work and speak to some people in the office (it is bonus & salary time) and H was reading and catching up on social media.

It was still well into the 30s C at 7pm tonight and so we skipped a braai and just had some leftovers and some pasta instead. It was a good choice as our neighbour was braaiing with a wet towel around his neck. You seriously don’t know how hot it is. It has been threatening to thunderstorm but so far no rain – hoping it does rain overnight to cool things off a touch – the heat is really oppressive at the moment and doesn’t make for good game viewing.

Until tomorrow …

P & H


The intention of coming to Punda Maria was so that we could go to Pafuri to do some birding. There are some birds that are only found in this region and so it is an important place to come to do some birding. We headed out at 5:30am as is our practice. Pafuri is about 50 kms away from Punda Maria so it takes roughly 2 hours to reach (allowing for stops for game viewing). On the way there I did add to my lifer list – Broad-billed Roller – while Helen was overtaking another car!

We were not disappointed in the Pafuri region. The birding was exceptional especially along the river. We were the only people who stopped for coffee at the picnic site and we added a few birds to the trip list while drinking morning coffee. After the coffee, H finally broke her bogey and found an owl. H is slightly obsessed with finding owls when in a game park and we have done a few recently and she hasn’t seen one. This was a particularly impressive spot and I have no idea how she saw it because it (and actually it turned out to be they!) were tucked behind some leaves. Spotted Eagle Owl in case you’re wondering.

Idyllic Kruger scene – those are buffalo if you want to know

Pafuri is where 3 countries meet – SA, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. There is a corner called Crooks Corner. There used to be a beacon at that point and apparently crooks used to flee here when being chased by the authorities. Then they would simply jump over to another country and say to the police they couldn’t come over and arrest them because they were in another country! It was 10am by the time we left the Pafuri region and the temperature was 35 degrees C. We knew it was going to be another scorcher of a day (it did rise to 42 degrees C at 6pm this evening).

Crook’s Corner – Zimbabwe to left; Mozambique to right – Limpopo River

Helen described this AMs drive as one of the best we have done. That is despite seeing any predators. The bird and game viewing was excellent though in the Pafuri region even though we didn’t see a predator. It is quite special and definitely something we would like to do again. The only issue is that Punda Maria (a) isn’t a great camp and (b) is relatively far from Pafuri. There is a bushcamp in Pafuri but it has no air-conditioning and at this time of the year that is essential.

We spent the rest of the day in the camp and only went out late afternoon for a very short drive. We think we may have added another lifer on that drive but awaiting confirmation from a birding friend before I will count it. Our trip list is now over 120 birds.

Dinner tonight was surprisingly not a braai – we gave it a 1-day break – and rather had pasta for dinner. We are changing camps again tomorrow and a relatively long drive ahead of us so we are off to bed soon.

Until tomorrow

P & H

Shingwedzi to Punda Maria

We changed camps today as we went from Shingwedzi to Punda Maria. It is only about 70 kms away and as you can only check in at 2pm (usually) we decided to take a slow drive to get there. The problem is that the best game viewing is definitely early morning so we didn’t want to leave too late either. We compromised slightly and got up at 5:30am and packed up and left just after 6am. As our favourite road heads north (the direction we were going) we took that.

Not far in at one of the sections along the river with a reasonable amount of water, we spotted 4 hyena (the spotted hyena variety in case you never got that). A lot was going on so we stopped for our morning coffee and watched them for awhile. There were clearly a few youngsters among them as they were incredibly curious about everything including of the crocodile. They at least were sensible enough to jump back when it moved its tail but it did get annoyed by the harassment and slipped into the water. They also tried to get closer to some Egyptian Geese (and their youngsters) but they just waddle away and also went into the water. It was some good entertainment while we drank our coffee.

We saw quite a bit of other game on that section of the road (as we always do) including numerous birds. We are now over 110 birds for the trip and tomorrow we are heading for Pafuri which is meant to be the best birding in the Kruger. Time will tell!

We did get close to Punda Maria quite early (and well before 2pm) so we decided to do some of the loops that a bird book I own had recommended. They give specific birds on specific routes and sure enough the first one we took said we should White Crested Helmetshrike and that is exactly what we saw. The book is one of the best gifts I have been given by H. It also was the book we used on the recent road trip we did and again it was pretty accurate about what to see on which roads. Once we had finished that first road we still had more time to kill so we headed north to Pafuri with the plan to loop another road back down to Punda Maria (again which was recommended by the book). On the way up, we managed to see two cheetah just lying right next to the road!

We got to Punda Maria at 12:30pm and tried to check in but they said come back at 1:30pm. We went to have some lunch at the restaurant and then the manager came to say it was fine we could check in actually. We still had the lunch though and then got our accommodation. It turns out the place we have is actually outside the camp gates! The manager said exit the camp and turn left and you will see a white house – that is where you are staying. Of course while we were braaiing tonight we could hear a lion roaring! Definitely didn’t sound too far away either. First time I have stayed in the Kruger Park with accommodation outside the main camp gates. Does seem a little surreal.

Our house we are staying at in Punda Maria

We did go out for an evening drive. It was 38 degrees C still so not many animals doing too much. The road we took was meant to be excellent for birding but we only managed to add one new bird to our list for the trip. It is incredibly green and lush though around Punda Maria. H says it looks like what she would imagine the Garden of Eden to have been – without the dead trees!

Until tomorrow!

P & H

Shingwedzi Day 3

As we had seen the pride of 20 lions at Kanniedood Dam, we thought this AM we should head back there and see if we could see them again and maybe they had killed overnight. So at 5:30am that is the way we headed with the plan to drive the 6 kms quickly, check if we could see them and then head back to our favourite road for the balance of the morning drive. I was driving relatively quickly on a dirt road (but below the speed limit in case you’re wondering!) when I saw a leopard just lying there right on the side of the road. Slammed on anchors and that caused said leopard to get up and wander off into the bush. We got a great sighting though still and could watch it for a few minutes as it walked parallel with the road and then deeper into the bush. So much for driving the road to see the lions – which by the way we never did see.

We then took our favourite road north along the river and we saw tons of game this morning. No more predators but animals and birds aplenty. At the end of today we were over 100 birds and our likely best 2 days of birding are yet to come as we are heading further north tomorrow. Our biggest issue this morning was congestion Kruger style – giraffe on the road! It was overcast this morning and so much cooler for much longer. In fact by the time we got back (which was at around 10am) the temperature had only risen to 26 degrees C. Normally overcast conditions don’t make for good birding but this morning was the exception.

I needed to do some work this AM/early PM (bonus and salary time for my paying job and so that can’t get neglected) and Helen did some reading and then catching up on some sleep. We headed out again at 4:30pm – the temperature had risen to 33 degrees C by that point. While we saw the standard on the evening game drive (buffalo, zebra, giraffe, elephant, impala, waterbuck etc), we saw no predators. I reckon it was just to hot again – in fact in places the temperature was up to 37 degrees C.

Braai again for dinner – lamb ribs & chicken wings with stir fried veg, gem squash and a potato for me. In case you’re wondering why I give what I eat each night – it is especially for one of our readers who complains if I don’t tell her!

Until tomorrow …

P & H

Shingwedzi Day 2

Up at 5:15am (our routine now) and off at 5:30am when the gates opened. We tried a new road heading south. Game drive turned into Bird drive … very little game to be seen. New experiences don’t always turn out for the best it seems! Best part of the drive was stopping for coffee overlooking ‘Red Rocks’ which is a river pool where they used to pan for gold in the early 1900s before the KNP existed. We did see bushbuck for the first time on this trip though on the drive – so at least it wasn’t a totally fruitless drive. Also added some more birds to the trip list – we are now touching 90 for the trip (with 1 lifer). Just to put that into perspective – we saw 111 on the recent road trip over 10 days and we have seen 90 in 5 days in the Kruger (without really looking too hard). Last year over 2 weeks we saw 150 birds so I am hopeful that we will surpass that on this trip.

We got back before 9am this morning and spent the majority of the day in the camp. A trip to restaurant for a milkshake (for H) and coke float & waffle for me but basically the rest of the time in the comfort of the air-conditioned chalet. It is not as hot as yesterday. At one point on the evening drive the temperature was 40 degrees (compared to 43 yesterday) but it really didn’t feel as hot today as yesterday (maybe we are getting used to the heat).

We went out at 4:30pm for our evening drive along the river toward the Kanniedood dam (for those none Afrikaans speakers that means ‘Cannot die dam’). It is our traditional evening game drive road from Shingwedzi. The game was immediately obvious and plentiful – impala, waterbuck, elephant, buffalo, tssebee (yes our 2nd sighting of this rare buck and this time 5 of them), kudu, giraffe. My optimistic self kicked in and I was positive we would see some predators again. We did see a crocodile that had cleared eaten a whole buck of some sort – mouth open, buck mainly down but not fully down – first time I have seen that in all the years of coming to Kruger.

When we got to the Kanniedood Dam, sure enough, a pride of lions. At initial count we got to 8 but that steadily increased as we identified more. We drove around to the other side to see if we could get a better view and by the time we got there some zebra and waterbuck were headed down to drink and had piqued the lionesses interest. They drank quickly and carefully and headed back up. At that point it was clear there were 12 lionesses. We drove back around again thinking the view would be better on the other side actually and after watching for awhile a obstinacy (yes that is the correct collective noun … now you’re googling again … that would also be a good collective noun for my family) of buffalo came down to drink and that got even more interest from the lionesses.

At that point some of the lionesses got up and started to make their way toward the buffalo and the buffalo started to head out as quickly as possible. As we watched we counted lions and including the 3 that suddenly appeared out of the grass and another 2 that came out of the trees, we counted 20 lionesses in total! A massive pride – probably the biggest I have ever seen. We watched the pride give up interest in the buffalo and head back into the river area and then eventually we realised we needed to head back to camp as we would otherwise be late for the gate closing. A great evening drive that made up for the poor morning drive.

Dinner tonight was a braai – boerewors & pork rashers with gem squash (done in braai) and ratatouille.

Until tomorrow …

P & H

Shingwedzi Day 1

We were up at 5:15am as the gates now only open at 5:30am since we have moved into February. Our plan was to drive my favorite road in the Kruger – north from Shingwedzi along the river. We have seen everything there is to see in the Kruger on that road and so we had high expectations again today as we set off.

The road yielded a lot of game but unfortunately we only saw hyena this morning when it comes to predators. It was 24 degrees when we set off and when we got back at 9:15am it was already 31 degrees. It was clear it was going to be a scorcher of a day. We went out again for late afternoon game drive and it was a ridiculous 40 degrees when we left and the temperature rose to 43 degrees when we were out! As you can imagine even the animals were lethargic and definitely no signs of predators in that heat. They were under a tree somewhere taking a nap. Our birding list continues to grow and now stands at 77. I am sure it will grow more over the next few days especially as we are spending some time birding on the morning game drives now.

The most excitement today all happened in the camp actually. Midday H & I went to the river (camp overlooks the river) and we saw a waterbuck with a broken leg. First time I have seen that in a game park that I can recall. I guess she won’t last long as she really is prime game for a predator. The front left leg was flapping around though she still managed to limp to the water and we even saw her run on 3 legs at one point. But I still can’t imagine she will last long.

The other excitement happened with vervet monkeys. They are a genuine pest in the camp because they have figured out guests have food and even know how to open doors and fridges. I am pretty vigilant when I see them around. I had just started the fire tonight when a troop of them made their way through the camp. One of them jumped onto the sill and looked at himself in the window for about 5 minutes – pretty vain I know! That same one then wandered over the tree and looked confused at to how to climb the tree. The tree was right next to my braai. I went to take a swig of my Kudu lager and when I turned around the monkey was grasping into the fire and found the potato I had put in there and ran off with it! It must have seen H throw me the potato (wrapped in foil) and it must know that means food. It couldn’t even see up to the level of the braai so it just put it’s hand in and felt around (amongst the coals!) to find the foil and then grabbed it and ran. This all happened in a matter of seconds while I was taking a swig on my beer! Fortunately we have sufficient potatoes that it could be replaced and I was more vigilant to ensure it didn’t steal that one as well!

Dinner tonight was rump steak salad … as good (if not better) than the ostrich steak salad. Only issue was that I was expiring from the heat. It is still over 30 degrees and it is 9:25pm! I am pretty sure I sweated off a few kgs today!

Nice relaxing day even though we didn’t see any of the big predators. We did still see a lot of game including a massive herd of buffalo. There is always something interesting to see and experience in the Kruger!

Until tomorrow …

P & H

Satara to Shingwedzi

We were up at 5am again today as we had a long drive ahead from Satara to Shungwedzi. It is about 170 km and while that doesn’t seem long in total distance you need to factor into account that you don’t drive more than 40 km/h and you have to allow for stops for all the animal sightings. The expected journey time is 7 hours. We had decided on a coffee stop at Olifants and then a brunch at Mopani.

The game straight out of Satara was incredible. It reminded me again why Satara is such a good camp. Within 30 minutes of exiting the camp we added 3 new animals for the trip – black backed jackal, warthog and spotted hyena. The jackal was eating berries from a tree – first time I have ever seen it do that – and seemed utterly unphased that we were so close to it. Not much further down the road we found 2 hyena on the road. They were pretty inquisitive and we saw the one trying to bite the tyre of the car in front of us. That made me particularly cautious when it came toward our car as well!

The further we drove away from Satara, the hot it got and sparser the game became. We know from past experience that from just south of Olifants until you get to Letaba the mopani scrub is not conducive to seeing much game. After a quick stop at Olifants for coffee at around 8am we were on the road again heading for Mopani and we arrived there just before 11am for our brunch and then on the road again to Shingwedzi where we are staying for the next 4 nights. It is one of our favourite camps.

About 15 kms outside of Shingwedzi the game life starts to improve again. We added Tssebee to our list. They are quite uncommon in the KNP and so very rarely seen. It is probably harder to see these than a lion actually in the Kruger. We arrived at the camp at about 1:15pm. It was 35 degrees C and it felt like it! Our only challenge of the day was when we got to our hut and found a legavaan standing guard at the door. It didn’t seem to want to move until we eventually used one of chairs to direct it off the patio and away from the hut. It fortunately didn’t decide to return (or at least not yet!).

We decided to just relax in the camp for the balance of the day. The only thing we did was go to the shop to buy some wood for our braai tonight (pork ribs tonight). The only challenge we have now is that it is 9:13pm and the power tripped. That makes for a very hot room without aircon! I’m hoping it comes on again soon.

Until tomorrow.

P & H