Fantastic Riverine Drives from Shingwedzi Camp in Kruger National Park

Shingwedzi is a derivation of the word "ngwetse" which is a Tsonga words that means the noise of metal objects rubbing together. The area around Shingwedzi is well known for the BIG 5 and especially elephant and buffalo. If you take a look at  the distribution maps and Big 5 sightings data table you will the areas north and south (Vlakteplaas and Mooiplaas sections) of Shingwedzi have produced the highest numbers of sightings. The lion sightings are almost certainly due to the high numbers of buffalo. During my short stay I saw 2 massive herds of buffalo and signs of a very large 3rd herd. I didn't see any large cat predators however.

The camp, waypoint 075, is right on the banks of the Shingwedzi river making it possible to game spot and do a lot of birding without leaving the restaurant area since the restaurant and dining areas overlook the river directly. But it would be a great pity if that's all you did.

Based upon my experience you will see elephants on any day in and around the riverine area close to camp and on all the roads. There's also a resident troop of entertaining baboons that seem to sleep on the river sand bed about a km from the camp entrance. Waypoints 076 and 077 are just a couple of the excellent close-to-river viewing points on the short stretch from camp to main road. There was an elephant drinking in the river close to 076.

When the big flood happened in 2000 the river level reached such a height that the restaurant was completely flooded.

Many images on this Kruger Park will be in thumbnail view so click these to see the enlarged image.

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The drive to waypoint 078 is a short but lovely drive through riverine treed areas up to a viewing point where you can see the joining of the rivers Shingwedzi from the south and Mphongolo from the north. I saw a pair of Saddle Billed Storks (see image below) at the time of my visit. This bird almost always seen in pairs in one of the most striking of all birds in my view. Waypoint 077 marks the bridge across the Shingwedzi. You can get out here and so long as you stay between the yellow lines demarcating a "safe area" you can enjoy views up and down the river. This is one of the best places for an evening sunset shot.

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After completing the Confluence drive I crossed the bridge (079) and did the short 3 km loop on the S55 that runs close to the river then rejoined the main road and headed north again to drive to take a loop road. The bridge is at 284 metres above sea level so Shingwedzi is almost 200 metres lower than at Punda Maria. At 14.40 temperature was 31 degrees.


On the short loop I saw numerous Natal Francolins and a large family of day old chicks. Francolins of different types ... Natal, Crested and  Swainson's are very common throughout the Park. The Swainson's with its bright red face and neck is very striking. The bird has recently had its name changed to Swainson's Spurfowl

At waypoint 081 I stopped to look at a snake that had been run over. It is always such a pity to see such an event. The snake was reasonably long and thin but what was extremely striking about it was its underside marking. The whole length of the underbody had a long rectangular canary yellow band edged, about a cm wide with a thin black line on each side as though it was framing the yellow band. The underside of the head was speckled on a white background. I have tried in vain to identify it (was not able to see upper side of body) and feel sure this marking must make it very identifiable somehow). I didn't take a photograph unfortunately.

I asked for feedback on the sanparks forum  and Pilane confirmed it was a dead snakeWestern Stripe-bellied Sand Snake and a picture found on Google images shows plainly the yellow long rectangle on the underbody.