A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 3 – Gonarezhou National Park

We crossed the Save river to get into the northern portion of Gonarezhou and explored the region between the Save and Runde rivers.  We watched as an earlier group returned from the Park and they made it through the water without mishap. We were not so lucky and got stuck with the water covering the floor of our vehicle by around 15 cm.  A radio call brought a tractor from the camp and we were pulled out successfully, without encountering any hungry crocodiles!

Within the Park the tracks were barely visible.  We saw many elephants, impala and eland, as well as a good variety of birds, including Palm Thrush, Senegal Coucal, Vereaux’s Eagle Owl and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters.  The baobabs were huge, especially one monster which was protected from the ellies by wire mesh.  It was hollow inside and occupied by a large swarm of bees. Our bird count for the day was 119!

To be continued….

A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 2 – From Johannesburg to Chilo Gorge

Grahame Snow of Reach Africa Birding Safaris picked us up at 4:30am in Johannesburg and we set out along with two other clients for Zimbabwe.  An early start is always advisable if one is to attempt the border crossing at Beit Bridge!  Fortunately it was a Monday morning and the school holidays were over, but we nevertheless had quite a job getting through.  Grahame has good contacts, so we were able to make it into Zim in only two hours (people have been known to spend days there!).  I did a count of the trucks parked on both sides of the border, using GoogleEarth imagery, and was astonished to note 606 extra heavy vehicles!!

Once across our main problem was the state of the roads.  Potholes abound and one has to be really careful as the highways (not the right word at all) are full of extra heavy, articulated vehicles.  We looked for the elusive Boulder Chats in the granite koppies, but were unsuccessful, so pressed on to Triangle, where we stayed at the Country Club, a pleasant venue set amidst rolling cane fields (all now producing the raw material for ethanol).

We crossed the Mutirjkwi river nearby and it was a great birding spot, revealing numerous species, including African Finfoot as well as many Coucals and passerines.

Next morning we set out for Chilo Lodge on the Save river at the northern end of Gonarezhou National Park.  The roads got worse and we were amazed to find a local resident driving an expensive sports coupe over rocks and ditches and scraping the bottom all the way!

Chilo Gorge was beautiful and we occupied the old lodge (a new one has been built close by, where we had our meals).  The gardens were full of sunbirds and the river wound slowly past, with crocs and Fish Eagles aplenty.  We looked forward to crossing it and a visit to the Park.

To be continued…..

A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 1 – From Hermanus to Johannesburg

We set out to travel to Johannesburg where we would be meeting up with Grahame Snow of Reach Africa Birding Safaris for a trip into Zimbabwe.  It seemed appropriate to take our time, so we opted for a two night stay in the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West, followed by a night at the Mokala Game Reserve near Kimberley.

It was dry when we arrived at the Karoo NP and there were virtually no birds to be seen. We therefore decided to only spend one night there and two at Mokala.  This was a wise choice, as the birding at Mokala was excellent and we saw many interesting species. There were also many animals around including sable antelope and large herds of buffalo.

The journey from Kimberley to Johannesburg was uneventful and did not lend itself to anything other than concentrating on the road!  We spent the night with friends prior to our early morning departure to Zimbabwe.

To be continued….