HOLIDAYS IN SOUTH AFRICA 2022
For generations, southern Africa has been the dream destination in my family. After my first visit to Africa (Namibia) back in 2018 for my confirmation, I too was "infected" by the "Africa Virus". This year, I was finally able to return to the southern continent. The trip took my family and me to two completely different game parks: the Pilanesberg Private Game Reserve in the northwest of Pretoria and the well-known Kruger National Park, which is located in the very east and borders on Mozambique. A great trip with an incredible number of impressions lies behind me.
Part 1 (Pilanesberg)
Zurich – Frankfurt – Johannesburg – Black Rhino Game Reserve
Day 0 / 1 – Flight to Johannesburg & Black Rhino Game Reserve
What a surprise ... instead of going on holiday in rainy Scotland, we are flying to South Africa! The night flight via Frankfurt to Johannesburg takes just under 12 hours. While still on the runway, I can see our first birds, including two Black-shoulderd Kites in stationary flight - what a start to the holiday!
At the airport, our friend and guide Owen Booysen picks us up, packs all our luggage and drives us to the Black Rhino Game Reserve. This is the private part of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and is located northwest of Pretoria in the "Free State". We spend three nights in a small, private lodge in the middle of the park. The three-hour drive offers a lot: various species of songbirds and lapwings, Black-shouldered Kites and even a group of Zebras. The landscape also offers a lot of variety with cacti and succulents, hills, bushes and flowering trees.
After arriving at our destination, we have just enough time to unpack, shower and change. Equipped with camera and binoculars, we take a seat in the open safari car and drive into the park. After a few minutes we meet the first herbivores: Impala, four White Rhinos with offspring, a male Wildebeest, Giraffes, Zebras and a herd of Elephants - also with offspring.
At sunset, the legendary "sundowner" follows with drinks and South African specialities. Afterwards, we return to the lodge. In the meantime, the sky and the whole landscape are bathed in a deep orange light - an incredible phenomenon that I had never seen before. Just before the lodge, around a corner, we are eye to eye with the herd of elephants we had seen earlier in the evening. The young ones are very curious and come within a few metres of the vehicle. The others feed around us or stopp on the road.
What an unforgettable first experience!
Day 2 & 3 - Black Rhino Game Reserve & Pilanesberg Game Reserve
The next two days we do something unusual: walking safaris - that is, we expose ourselves to the dangers of the bush and get on eye level with the wildlife. Before sunrise, we look for a game crossing and follow the tracks of three black rhinos and a mother leopard with her offspring. Unfortunately, the tracks get lost in the bush, so we can not follow them any further for safety reasons. Instead, we meet a White Rhino, Zebras, Impalas, Giraffes and many birds: Grey Go-away Birds, groups of Guinea Fowl, Francolins, a Purple Roller etc. After a walk of several hours we return to the lodge and see some Fiery-necked Nightjars hunting - a personal highlight!
The next day we drive - again before sunrise - to the centre of Pilanesberg. We just got in the car when we see a Barn Owl . Shortly afterwards, a Spotted Eagle Owl sits right next to the road. We also encounter a female White Rhino with her young and a herd of elephants feeding on the trees next to the road.
Our five-hour walk takes us from a waterhole in the centre of Pilanesberg (where a second herd of elephants and their offspring are drinking) over two small hills with a magnificent view over the whole park. Once again, we encounter a female black rhino with offspring, see impala, zebra and wildebeest and finally another elephant herd. This one had spread over such a large space that we have to walk in a large circle to get back to our starting point.
On the way back to the lodge we drive past the big dam and stopp at Mankwe Hide. There we observe some cormorants and an African Darter. Our break lasts much longer than planned, because around our car numerous Arrow-marked Babblers and Southern Boubous have gathered and are looking for human food in the sand. Of course I can't miss this opportunity to finally photograph some birds at eye level ;-)
In the evening we go for another short drive - we can't miss the sundowner - and see among others a Marsh Owl (the third owl species of the day) and giraffes backlit. This is our last day in Pilanesberg.
Part 2 (Kruger National Park)
Graskop – Three Rondavels – Kruger National Park – Blyde River Canyon
Day 4 & 5 - Graskop - Three Rondavels - Blade River Canyon - Satara Camp (Kruger National Park)
We leave the beautiful Black Rhino Game Reserve and head towards the Kruger National Park. The drive takes the whole day. In the evening we briefly stop at the Nac Nac Falls before spending the night in Graskop.
The next morning we start early. After a short stop at sunrise at the Three Rondavels, we drive to Orpen Gate, an entrance to the Kruger National Park.
Day 6 – Kruger National Park
The first morning in the Kruger National Park is relatively quiet, apart from the normal "plain game" (impalas, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest). There is little action in the park. Accordingly, we decide to stop at Gardenia Hyde. There we see not only several Kingfishers (Giant, Pied and Malachite) but also crocodiles, baboons, swallows and terrapins.
As the light finally softens, we see three wild dogs lying in the grass. We stopp and wait for an hour. Our safari guide watches the animals closely and explains that yawning is a sign of movement. And so it is. But instead of three wild dogs getting up it's twelve! A very rare sight, even in Kruger. That, however, was not all: Suddenly two spotted hyenas and a group of baboons appear. We could have watched for ages, but unfortunately we have to make our way back to camp as the gates close at sunset. On the way back, we encounter a Verreaux's Giant Eagle Owl perched on a branch right by the road.
Day 7 – Kruger National Park Centre
For the first time it is cloudy and even raining a bit. Accordingly, we are in no hurry to go out and take it easy for once. As soon as we are on the road, we meet a honey badger just outside the camp. An absolute highlight, as these animals are extremely shy and rarely seen.
For lunch we stop at another camp further north in the park. The restaurant is not very pleasant, it stinks of sewage. However, there are White-bellied Sunbirds and Cape Glossy Starlings all over the camps garden, and - they present themselves perfectly in the orange aloe flowers. Another chance I can't miss, even if I only have 20 minutes to get some pictures :D
On our way back to camp we again encounter a lot of plain game as well as a vervet monkey in a dead tree and a pack of lions - unfortunately a bit far away.
Shortly before we reach camp, we encounter another honey badger. Unfortunately, it is almost too dark to take pictures.
Day 8 – Kruger Park: Satara Camp – Berg-en-Dal
This is a day full of highlights. Already on our way out we encounter our first leopard, which is feeding at the foot of a tree. After waiting for at least two hours, it climbs into the tree to sleep.
On our way south we stopp at a beautiful waterhole in the park and are surrounded by 8 or 9 elephant herds with offspring. An unbelievable experience. These silent giants are so peaceful and so impressive. Of course, the birds are not coming short: We observe several Green Wood Hoopoes, Emerald-spotted Wood Doves, lapwings, Black-winged Stilts and a Glossy Ibis.
After leaving the elephants, it isn't long before we come across a wild dog in the middle of the road, which poses very nicely for us. Then it's one highlight after the other: Spotted Hyena teenagers (a few months old), hyena babies (a few weeks old) and i a hyena mother with three teenagers and two babies. But that is not all: A few kilometres further down the road we encounter five southern hornbills. These rare birds are protected and only rarely seen.
The drive ends with a white rhino at sunset. So we had seen "the big five" in one day and both memory cards were full.
Day 9 - Berg-en-Dal / Malalane
Once more it is a very quiet day. We see the typical herbivorous mammals, some francolins by Gardenia Hyde and - quite far away - a pair of lions. Judging by their behaviour, they are mating.
Lunch is at the camp, as I have to go to the doctors outside the park in the afternoon because of a severe throat infection. With antibiotics it should get better quickly. On the way back we have another nice game drive, but this time, quiet again.
Day 10 - Berg-en-Dal
Once again we set off at daybreak. The first sighting is a female leopard in a tree. We watch her for a while and then decide to continue. Apart from the usual animals that had been accompanying us during our time in Kruger, we again encounter various spotted hyenas of all ages, as well as another honey badger. On the way back to camp, we spot another leopard a few metres into the bushes, which in the end comes closer the road. We spend far too much time with the leopard and have to hurry to get back to the camp in time! Shortly before the gate we meet two quarrelling elephants.
Day 11 – Berg-en-Dal – Orpen Gate – Blyde River (Bona Intaba Gamelodge)
Unfortunately, we have to leave the beautiful Kruger Park. The last drive is north towards Satara and then via Orpen Gate back to Blyde River Canyon. On the way we see the spotted hyena babies for the last time. Only now they are lively and playful.
A few kilometres further down the road we encounter a pack of wild dogs with 3 cubs! What a rare and unusual sight!
Of course we visit "our" waterhole again and anew it doesn't disappoint. Once again, it is teeming with herds of elephants.
Shortly before the exit we are very lucky to find lions fairly close. Two males are lying in the shade of a tree just a few metres from the road, enjoying the cool.
The last highlight before civilisation are two young elephant bulls playing with each other in the water.
Day 12 - Blyde River - Pretoria - Johannesburg Airport - Zurich