Winter Birding – Part 4 – Gharagab

The last two nights of our Kgalagadi National Park visit were spent at the Gharagab Wilderness Camp, a truly beautiful place, which can only be accessed with a 4×4 vehicle.  It is a place of quiet and solitude and we saw little other than the birds around the camp, although a few antelope did come to drink at the waterhole.  Reading in the visitors’ book, we saw many stories of lions and hyenas that often spend the night in the camp, keeping the residents awake with their antics, but unfortunately they did not visit us.  We did get a glimpse of a Honey Badger one afternoon, but it was quite far off and it soon disappeared!  The tents at Gharagab are very comfortable and we really enjoyed our stay there!

The drive out was enjoyable and some soft sand had to be negotiated before we again reached the Nossob river for our drive down to Twee Rivieren and out of the park.  Kori Bustards abounded along this section and we probably saw around 40!

We spent the night at the Kgalagadi Lodge, just 5 km outside the entrance.  It was comfortable and well equipped and can be recommended as a place to stay if unable to secure bookings at Twee Rivieren.  From there we headed for home, stopping once again in Calvinia, where, as expected, it was cold!

We recorded only 102 bird species for the trip.  Hopefully, our next visit will be in summer, when all the migrant species are present.

Winter Birding – Part 2 – Mata Mata

We spent three nights in one of the comfortable riverside cottages in Mata Mata Rest Camp.  Looking out over the river bed whilst enjoying an evening braai, we saw Gemsbok and Blue Wildebeest, with occasional Red Hartebeest, and were visited every evening by scavenging Jackals.

Our drives down the Auob river provided excellent game viewing with abundant animals including Lion, Leopard and Cheetah.  The birds were somewhat limited with the absence of all the migrant species, but we had good sightings, nevertheless.  The temperatures varied from -2 degrees in the morning, to 28 degrees in the afternoon, and the days were clear with not a cloud in the sky!  Needless to say, the sandy roads remain very corrugated and one rattles along gathering a great deal of dust, but that is just part of the overall experience that is the Kgalagadi NP.  Traffic is minimal, so one is never unable to get close to animals.

Winter Birding – Part 1 – Calvinia to Kgalagadi

We traveled from Hermanus to Calvinia in wet, rainy and cold weather and spent the night at The Blou Nartje, a comfortable guest house with some good historical connections.  The trip from there to Upington was uneventful, with little to see in the way of birds.  The scenery, however, is typical Karoo/Bushmanland and very bleak.  Occasional outcrops of dolerite litter the landscape with the boulders showing desert varish.  Near Brandvlei there was occasional water at the roadside, attesting to recent rains, and by the time we reached Kenhardt, spring flowers were starting to show.

Upington is dominated by the Solar 1 power generating facility that rises some 60 metres and is visible from around 50 kilometres away.  We spent the night in the upmarket Riverplace Manor, where we could view the birdlife present on the Orange river. Next morning we traveled the relatively short distance to the Kgalagadi National Park and proceeded to our first stop at Mata Mata.

More Images from our Birding in Botswana, Zimbabwe and RSA


May – A month of Birding. Part 7 – Johannesburg to Hermanus

It was strange getting back into our car and driving again, but we hit the road from Jhb on Sunday morning, so were able to travel out with little traffic.  Our destination was Kuilfontein near Colesburg, but we made a detour to the Willem Pretorius Reserve south of Kroonstad as we had some time to spare.  It was sad to see that he area has suffered neglect, but we nevertheless saw quite a few birds and some good game including Sable Antelope.

We had a comfortable night and a good meal at Kuilfontein.  In the morning we were greeted by the calls of the Blue Korhaan and were delighted to see a pair close by.

We traveled on to Cradock and the Mountain Zebra National Park.  This a beautiful area and the park is well stocked with a good variety of game.  We saw lions, many antelope and buck as well as some good birds.  Regretably, we never saw the elusive Melodious Lark, so that will have to wait for another time!  Early rising meant that we found our car covered in ice, and the temperature was close to zero, but luckily we had some sun to warm us up on our full day there.

We drove down the N10 from Cradock to Port Elizabeth and then on to Knysna.  It is a good road and not having been that way previously , we found the N10 very interesting.  After a night in Knysna with family, we returned home to Hermanus, havng spent exactly four weeks away and having seen no less than 359 bird species.  Not bad for a winter trip!

May – A month of Birding. Part 6 – Hwange to Johannesburg

We met a contact of Graham’s on the road down to Bulawayo.  He asked us if we would like to have a chat and a cup of coffee, and we were overwhelmed when he took us onto two farms owned by the Randell brothers.  We saw a very fine selection of habitats and birds and were then entertained to tea and then lunch by these very generous people, who live in the most beautiful homes.  It was a real pleasure to meet them!

We carried on through Bulawayo to our destination at the stunning Matobo Hills Lodge, surrounded by the wonderful granite domes and boulders of the Matobo National Park.  This proved to be a very good birding area – no specials, and therefore probably ignored by most birders, but what we saw was spectacular and the birds were abundant.  Our cottages were very comfortable and excellent food was served in the outdoor dining area.

After two nights we traveled south once more towards Louis Trichardt, stopping at the Hillside Dams and Gardens in Bulawayo.  This was another very good place to visit and is a worthwhile stop.  The border crossing at Beit Bridge proved relatively easy and we were soon at our overnight destination at Shiluvari Lodge on the banks of the Albasini dam.  We birded in the area that evening and the following morning, before heading back to Johannesburg, but with a final stop at Polokwane Reserve, where we sought and found the Short-clawed Lark.

Graham had once more proved to be a very good guide and host and he always kept us well fed and watered!  He has been leading birding expeditions in southern Africa for twenty years and his experience is put to good use, as he knows everything there is to know about the area and its fauna. He can be reached at ‘Reach Africa Birding’

To be continued ….


May – A month of Birding. Part 5 – Hwange National Park

From Vic Falls, it was a short run to Hwange National Park and we entered at the northern end near Sinamatela.  The once beautiful camp was deserted and in a totally neglected state.  We signed in there and then proceeded along some very poor tracks to our destination, Kapula Lodge.  This is small outfit comprising two camps, each of which has four tents and a central boma with lounge, dining area and kitchen.  We found it very comfortable with excellent staff, and the sort of solitude that makes for a wonderful stay.  We self-catered as we had done at Woodlands and Senyati, with Graham providing good meals with little apparent effort!

Kapula is in a private concession and we had good game drives and birding without seeing any other vehicles.  After two nights at Kapula we moved south and settled into Ganda Lodge, close to Main Camp and just outside the Park, however, the lack of any fence meant that we were still in the wilderness.  This was evident when we spotted a leopard at the camp waterhole and came across elephants on the track in to the camp. Whilst the camp is somewhat rustic and needs some maintenance, it was comfortable and the food was good.

We visited the adjacent portion of the Park and continued to see a good selection of wildlife. Graham won an afternoon competition in which we had to predict how many ellies we would see on our drive.  He said 44 and was spot on!  We had great sightings of Racket-tailed Rollers, doing their amazing aerial acrobatics, but photographing them proved difficult.

Hwange has been through a bad period and it was encouraging to see that things appear to be on the mend.  We did not see any Rhinos, as these have apparently all been moved from the Park in order to negate poaching.

To be continued ….