Southern Kruger Park Bird Watching & Game Spotting

My first trip to the Kruger for my Discovering the Kruger Park project, saw myself and Aimee traversing the Southern sections of the Kruger National Park below Skukuza and Lower Sabie.

Male Blackbellied Bustard CallingWe arrived at 6.30am at the Numbi Gate, sorted out the registration so we could enter the Kruger and we were on our way onto what I call the Mestel/Shabeni Loop, which follows the S3 via Mestel Dam, then onto the S7 and via the S10 around the Shabeni outcrops. It was a very nice route which yielded some nice sightings of African Cuckoo, Blackbellied Bustard and Klipspringer amongst other game and bird life.

Baby Impala kruger national ParkWe the carried on to the Pretoriuskop Rest Camp and onto the H2-2, the Voortrekker road, which we hoped would yield some of the rare antelope species of the Kruger. Unfortunately the road was very quiet but we did see Brubru, Woolly Necked Stork and an Impala lamb that was at most 2 days old. It was really young. We then carried on to the H3 and Afsaal Picnic Spot, we narrowly missed 2 Leopard sightings but did see a Black Stork and an adult and juvenile Saddlebilled Stork. We carried on to Berg-en-Dal rest camp.

Kruger park birds of preyAfter resting from the mid afternoon heat we left Berg-en-Dal we traveled along the Matjulu and Timfenheni loops respectively, where we encountered a myriad of birds of prey along with a lot of antelope species in abundance. Coming back we saw Small Spotted Genet and Lesser Bushbaby in camp.

Elephant at gardenia hideThe next morning, at 4.35am, we left Berg-en-Dal onto the S110 tar road, straight onto the H3 and then we did a bit of the H1-1 to Skukuza and back to the S114 dirt road. During the long stretch towards the Biyamiti Weir and the S139, we saw many birds that included Doublebanded Sandgrouse, Trumpeter Hornbill, Cinamonbreasted Bunting and European Roller. We encountered a couple of Lion in thick grass, Elephant, and lots of Duiker to name a few.

After arriving at Biyamiti and exploring the camp, it's hide and walking trail, we turned in for an early night to the magnificent sounds of the bushveld.

Hyaena getting ready to hunt impalaAnother 4.30am start saw us travel the S139, onto the S114, via the Gardenia hide and onto the S25, the Crocodile River Road. We had an amazing view of a bull Elephant creating a mud bath close to the pan at the Gardenia Hide, was amazing to see. We saw a Leopard cross the road close to the Hlongo river on the S25 and saw a large amount of Warthog with young along the route. From Crocodile Bridge we drove the S130 via the H4-2. We missed seeing some Wild Dog, but we did see a Spotted Hyaena hunt some Impala, which it was unsuccessful at doing. We carried on to Sunset Dam and Lower Sabie.

White Impala kruger national parkFrom Lower Sabie we travelled back on the Nhlowa Road, the S28, and then to the Duke Waterhole on the S137. We also visited the Nhlanganzwani Dam on the S107. We also stopped at the Nthandanyathi hide. We saw a lot of birds and mammals and this is a very good route to travel.

Back on the H4-2, we worked ourselves to Mpondo Dam, where we saw a white Impala amongst a herd of normal Impala, a very unusual sighting. We also watched a Civet on the far bank of the dam. Close to the Biyamiti camp, we bumped into a juvenile Martial Eagle and further on a Scrub Hare. What a great day!

Young baby Kruger WarthogA bit of a sleep in and we were greeted by Vervet Monkeys who had some very young babies with them at Biyamiti. They caused a bit of havoc and stole our sugar when we were not watching. We travelled to Lower Sabie once more to drive the S130 road again, which is one of the best dirt roads in the Kruger without a doubt. We also travelled the very under rated S82 loop road, this is a quiet but very active road in terms of wildlife. On the way back to Biyamiti we went along the S25 once more in hope of seeing some nocturnal creatures, but to no avail. We encountered a number of angry Elephants and some great bird sightings.

Lion and cubs feeding on impalaIt was our day to leave, and the first trip of this expedition came to an end far too quickly. We had a wonderful sighting on the H3 of a Lioness and her 2 sub adult cubs eating an Impala. We were so close to them and it was amazing to hear the bone crunching and watch these apex predators. There were only 3 cars including ours and we eventually let them eat in peace. Then on our way leaving via the same gate we came in, we had a great trip seeing numerous species of various wildlife and ended off by doing the many loops around Pretoriuskop. Below is a summary of all the mammal and bird species we recorded during this amazing trip.

Mammals seen: Fruit Bat, Slit Faced Bat, Small Spotted Genet, Lesser Bushbaby, Impala, Waterbuck, Burchell's Zebra, Common Duiker, Steenbok, Klipspringer, White Rhino, Buffalo, Giraffe, Hippo, Chacma Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Tree Squirrel, Kudu, Warthog, Blue Wildebeest, Elephant, Lion, Civet, Bushbuck, Scrub Hare, Leopard, Slender Mongoose, Dwarf Mongoose and Spotted Hyaena. (29 species)

Birds seen: Burchell's Starling, Cape Glossy Starling, Greater Blue Eared Starling, Violetbacked Starling, Wattled Starling, Darkcapped Bulbul, Woodland Kingfisher, Blackbreasted Snake Eagle, Greenbacked Night Heron, Egyptian Goose, African Barred Owlet, Common Waxbill, Blue Waxbill, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Orangebreasted Bush Shrike, Blackbellied Bustard, Redcrested Korhaan, Natal Spurfowl, Rednecked Spurfowl, Crested Spurfowl, Helmeted Guineafowl, Marabou Stork, Black Stork, Bearded Woodpecker, Steppe Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, Burchell's Coucal, Laughing Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Redeyed Dove, Grey Hornbill, Redbilled Hornbill, Yellowbilled Hornbill, Crested Barbet, Jacobin Cuckoo, African Cuckoo, Redchested Cuckoo, Redheaded Quelea, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Forktailed Drongo, Southern Masked Weaver, Blacksmith Lapwing, Water Thick-Knee, Kori Bustard, Threebanded Plover, Magpie Shrike, Brubru, Puffback, Chinspot Batis, Sabota Lark, Redcollared Widow, Bateleur Eagle, Woollynecked Stork, Grey Go Away Bird, Arrowmarked Babbler, Pintailed Whydah, Eastern Paradise Whydah, Cinamonbreasted Bunting, Black Cuckoo, Tawnyflanked Prinia, Mocking Cliff Chat, Redbilled Oxpecker, Emerald Spotted Wood Dove, Marico Sunbird, European Bee Eater, Southern Boubou, Fierynecked Nightjar, Groundscraper Thrush, African Hoopoe, African Hawk Eagle, Crowned Lapwing, Little Grebe, Saddlebilled Stork, Yellowbilled Kite, Barn Swallow, Hamerkop, Cattle Egret, Southern Black Flycatcher, Harlequin Quail, Common Sandpiper, Pied Kingfisher, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, Eastern Blackheaded Oriole, Southern Whitecrowned Shrike, Redbilled Buffalo Weaver, Lesser Striped Swallow, Hadeda Ibis, Whitefaced Duck, Speckled Mousebird, Goldenbreasted Bunting, Grey Heron, Lilacbreasted Roller, European Roller, Alpine Swift, African Openbill, Great Egret, Martial Eagle, Doublebanded Sandgrouse, Lesser Grey Shrike, Trumpeter Hornbill, Pied Wagtail, Hooded Vulture, Whitebacked Vulture, African Fish Eagle, Redbreasted Swallow, Wood Sandpiper, Blackwinged Stilt, Whitecrowned Lapwing, Village Weaver, Melba Finch, Greenbacked Pytilia, Fiscal Flycatcher, Whitebrowed Robin Chat, Cape Robin Chat, Senegal Lapwing. (114 species)