Looking back at the fantastic places we stayed at while exploring South Africa’s wild places in 2014…
Well, according to the calendar it should have been spring. But judging by the temperatures we experienced, it seemed the Lowveld had skipped that season all together. It was only late September, but daytime temperatures rose to the upper thirties. The land was parched and animals were congregating in numbers at the last remaining water sources. It made for thrilling game viewing and just reminded us again that every season holds its own special appeal in the Kruger National Park.
Over the last couple of weeks, we already shared with you some of our most memorable sightings of the trip. Finding five cheetahs moving along the Shingwedzi River was exciting in the extreme, we were enthralled watching the interactions of different species of game at marvelous Mooiplaas waterhole, we laughed for joy at the playful antics of baby baboons, our encounters with the elephants of northern Kruger kept us on our toes and we empathised with thirsty, tired buffaloes along the Mphongolo. Time to wrap up now, and what better way than with a gallery of images taken during our four night stay – one night in the Shipandani Hide (near Mopani), and three nights at special Shingwedzi Rest Camp.
South Africa celebrates the 24th of September as Heritage Day, a public holiday. Of course, South Africa’s natural heritage is very close to the de Wets’ hearts, and so we’ve headed back to our beloved Kruger National Park for a few days (as if we needed an excuse 😉 )
The three of us are spending the night in Shipandani Hide, next to a tranquil pool in the Tsendze River, and kilometres away from the nearest other humans. As I’m typing this, Marilize and Joubert have already been lulled to sleep by the symphony of the wild African night; hippos bellowing metres away from the hide, scops owls hooting for attention, lions roaring in the distance and a myriad of crickets, frogs and bats chiming in.
Mopani Rest Camp, named for the mopane tree with its butterfly-shaped leaves that dominates the plantlife of the northern Kruger National Park, is located just south of the Tropic of Capricorn. From its hilltop vantage point, the camp offers splendid views over the Pioneer Dam (with a rich aquatic birdlife) and the mopane plains beyond.
Mopani has an unfair reputation for not being a very prolific game viewing area of the Kruger Park, mostly because the mopane shrub can get extremely thick and difficult to see through.
However, if you choose your routes carefully, the Mopani area has very much to offer; the best drive is undeniably the circular route made up of the S49, S50 and S143 gravel routes to the east of the camp that skirts the Mooiplaas and Tinhongonyeni waterholes and the Nshawu Vlei (marsh). Mopani, and especially the area around Tinhongonyeni waterhole, is a hotspot for sightings of the rarer antelope and large birds like the kori bustard, ground hornbill, ostrich and secretary bird. In fact, Tinhongonyeni is one of the best waterholes in the entire Kruger National Park for overall game viewing, and a couple of hours there will assuredly be time well spent. Elephant and buffalo thrive in the Mopani area (there’s a herd of buffalo in the vicinity more than 1,000 animals strong) and we’ve had a number of good lion and cheetah sightings in the district.
Just south of Mopani, the Shipandani Hide, which overlooks a waterhole in the Tsendze River, offers a very different overnight experience as a single group of guests at a time may occupy the hide between sunset and sunrise.
Mopani is also special to the de Wets for one more reason: it is here, in the glow of a magnificently romantic African sunset, that Marilize and I got engaged!
Spring has arrived in paradise!
We’ve just returned from another visit to our favourite place on earth – yes, the Kruger National Park (no prizes for correct guesses!). We spent six days travelling the entire length of the reserve, from Pafuri in the north to Crocodile Bridge in the south.
The spring season arrives in South Africa in September, and it’s an excellent time to be out game-viewing in our country’s biggest game reserve. Here’s a collection of some of the thrilling sightings we enjoyed on this trip.
The Northern Kruger National Park is elephant country, and we encountered numerous bulls, including some large tuskers.
All the elephant herds we came across had small babies.
This one realised a bit late that mom had moved on, and ran as fast as his legs would carry him to catch up.
With spring’s fresh green growth, many young animals have already made an appearance.
Buffalo are numerous and occur throughout Kruger, sometimes as loners and other times in huge herds several hundred strong.
These two cheetahs were devouring an impala they had caught in the dry bed of the Shingwedzi river, only about three kilometers from Shingwedzi Rest Camp.
Near Satara, this warthog obviously had an altercation with a porcupine – we suspect it may have rushed into an already occupied bolthole a little too quickly!
Some of the rarer bird species also made special appearances.
This chameleon was trying to blend in with the surface of the road it was crossing
Of course, to many Kruger visitors the lions are the star attraction. We’d be lying of we said we didn’t share their enthusiasm for these magnificent animals and we were lucky to cross paths with a number of them on our latest excursion. A pride roaring right next to Shingwedzi Rest Camp’s perimeter fence in the darkness of early morning, their deep booming voices rattling the window panes of our bungalow, was a memorable experience.
Some of the antelope were getting well into the “springy” swing of things
while others were indulging in more sedentary pastimes.
With World Rhino Day and the plight of our treasured rhinos in the relentless poaching firing line fresh in our minds, sightings such as this one of an impressive white rhino bull was all the more special.
For all our travels in South Africa’s wild places we’ve only rarely encountered side-striped jackals, and this is one of the best images we’ve managed to capture of these elusive animals.
The absolute highlight of our trip was watching this acrobatic black-backed jackal (the side-striped’s much more common cousin) stalking and pouncing moles just north of Satara Rest Camp.
Any time we spend in Kruger National Park is always too little, and leaving through Crocodile Bridge Gate on our way to Pretoria, our heavy hearts could only be consoled by the knowledge that we’d be back soon…