Author: bushsnob

Spot the beast 33

Now, this one is really tricky… We spotted around Shingwedzi Camp in the Kruger National Park last October. See if you can spot it…

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A better view may help?
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OK. I reveal it below:


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It was a different pot the beast!

I imagine that the terrapin had been buried somewhere safe and moist waiting for the rains and we found it moments after it re-emergence while crossing the road to get to the river.

And then, after the photo opportunity, it just continued on its way.

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Smart cats

Before we even got to Twee Rivieren in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park last October, for some reason, Lola and Frank had convinced their Spanish friends that we were good at spotting lions! Although my wife is good at spotting any game -including lions if they are around- I was somehow taken aback by being attributed such a fame that generated baseless expectations… maybe I oversold myself…

So, when we arrived at Twee Rivieren there were anticipations and I was overwhelmed by the responsibility that had landed on my shoulders…

Luckily for me, it was the visitors themselves that found the lions. Well, at least they overheard the whereabouts of the lions! So, all we needed to do was to follow our visitors’ advice to find them and in this way avoid a sure embarrassment!

The lions in question (two males) were, of all places, about one hundred metres outside the camp gates and, according to our night safari guide, these pair come to this area every few weeks so we were fortunate to see them.

The predators were near the camp’s waterhole where they had killed a gemsbok a few days back so we set off to find them as soon as we had an opportunity.

It was not hard to find them as, in addition to the gemsbok that we did not see, the night before they had also killed a wildebeest and the latest kill was rather obvious!

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The kill happened very near the camp. Behind is Twin rivers staff accommodation on the Botswana side of the park.

Apparently, the cunning cats have learnt to use the strong camp fence in their favour by cornering their prey against it. Clearly this had happened in this instance as the victim was still somehow entangled in the fence where first one and soon both were seen feeding.

Death at the water

Perhaps the most salient feature of the Kgalagadi are the humongous number of birds visiting the different water points throughout the area. At the various camps in the Mabuasehube area the situation repeated itself. Flocks of birds would come to drink constantly to the various water points.

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The scramble for water! Picture by Frank Rijnders.

The bird parade included from the largest of the vultures, the Lappet-faced (Nubian) to the small violet-eared waxbills, true living jewels .

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Lappet-faced vultures at a water hole.

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Violet-eared waxbills. Picture by Frank Rijnders.

Apart from photography, this situation offered a great opportunity for the various predators to get an easy meal. We saw several potential bird predators at the water holes, from snakes to jackals but the most interesting were the birds of prey.

These came in all sizes: various eagles (Tawny, Bateleur), Pale chanting and Gabar Goshawks, Red-necked Falcons and Greater Kestrels to name what we saw during this trip.

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A magnificent Bateleur eagle and picture by Frank Rijnders.

The methodology of the feathered hunters was similar at the various places. The raptors would perch nearby and every so often swoop down on their potential prey. It seemed a rather easy procedure in view of the numbers. That was also the impression I had when last year I watched the Tawny eagles dove-catching that I described in My belief was further strengthened by a lightening speed attack by a Red-necked falcon that caught one of the sparrow weavers from under our noses and took us completely by surprise!

At Monamodi we had time[1] to observe a Gabar Goshawk (slightly larger than a dove) attempting to catch its lunch. We noted the raptor after observing that every few minutes the drinking doves would get startled and the flock would literally “explode” in different directions only to return a couple of minutes later.

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The scared doves take off.

After a few of these scares, we noted that a Gabar goshawk was perched next to the water and that the scares coincided with its lunges at the drinking birds!

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We were somehow doubtful that the goshawk would be after the doves as they seemed too large for it However, it seemed that way until we realized that there were a few smaller birds drinking together with the doves. We observed several failed attacks and I even managed to register the “goshawk among the pigeons”! However, a painstakingly checking all pictures and video, I failed to register the bird actually catching anything. The pictures below show the goshawk during one of its swoops that, after going through the mass of flying birds, end up by it landing back at the starting point.

So, either catching lunch for the Gabar goshawk is is not as easy as it seemed or I was not good registering what was happening! The latter is probably nearer to the truth as I am sure the bird would not be there otherwise as I am sure that, unlike for me, time is important for it!


[1] In Africa it is said that  “When God made mankind, He gave the white people the watch, but he gave the black people the time!” Luckily, I have both now!

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – General

2017 was going to be devoted to exploring Namibia, a place we thoroughly enjoyed when we were there in 1991 and two years ago when we visited the Caprivi strip. However, it all changed when our friends Lola and Frank invited us to join them on a safari to the Kgalagadi. This was not to be similar to our last year visit but it would include a visit to the Mabuasehube area, a rather wild and remote area on the Botswana side of the Park.

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The “usual” Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is on the left of the map. Please note the Mabuasehube area is on the right. (Map from Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, SOuth African National Parks).

Excited, we accepted the invitation without much consideration as it was a unique opportunity to visit a remote area of the Kalahari desert that requires two vehicles because of the remoteness of the area.

The proposal was to meet at Upington in South Africa and from then to travel to Twee Rivieren on the South African side and from there to a string of campsites in the Mabuasehube area in Botswana.

Such a trip required a bit more planning than usual. An internet search gave conflicting reports on the availability of water at the various camps so we decided that we needed to carry all the necessary water for the six nights. In addition we needed fuel and as usual “glamping” requires good chairs, tent and other items but of foremost importance is to carry the best ingredients for cooking!

Although we agreed to get the water in South Africa, we were already quite loaded when we left Zimbabwe! We spent a few days in the Kruger National Park we eventually met up as planned on 12 October at Upington when fresh food was procured and the water jerry cans filled. The idea was to travel to Twee Rivieren the following day, spend two nights there and then proceed to the Botswana area.

I must confess that at the time of the offer we were about to visit Mana Pools and Jecha Point (see and with our son. I agreed to the idea without checking the map and thinking that traveling would be at our current “retirees” pace. It was only a few days before the event that I realized that it was all well until we reached Twee Rivieren! From then on a true marathon waited for us! We needed to traverse 150km or 4.5 hrs to Nossob and then another 170km through the unknown to get to our destination: Bosobogolo campsite!

Keeping my misgivings to myself we luckily met our friends as planned. Lola and Frank were not alone. A group of six friends from the Canary Islands had come to join us at the Kgalagadi. They were great fun, luckily. From there they would continue on to Namibia while we would embark on our journey. So it was a four-car convoy that left Upington and, after 265km, we got to Twee Rivieren where, luckily, we managed to swop our camping booking for a stay at one of the comfortable bungalows.

Apart from meeting some clever lions near the camp (I will tell you about them in the next short post) and an unfortunate incident as a result of drinking the water from Twee Rivieren that kept us near the loo for an extra day all went as planned! This mishap forced us to stay an extra day and, as Twee Rivieren was full, we camped in Fortunately we managed to get an extra night at the Botswana Twin Rivers campsite as the South African side was totally full! It seems that the Kgalagadi is in fashion at the moment!

Twin Rivers was quite comfortable and, apart from an interesting night visitor that we did not hear, our extra night was uneventful.


The brown hyena inspecting our camp at Twin Rivers. Clearly by 22:17hs we must have been sleeping soundly as it did sniffed our tent!

So, with a day delay we were ready to go!

After the dusty road that took us more than the expected time, we reached Nossob just before lunchtime. We stretched our legs for a while and, after refueling, we set off towards Bosobogolo.

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After refueling at Nossob camp. Still in South Africa.

Although for us this was uncharted territory, Lola and Frank knew the way as they had visited the area a few years back. As expected, the road was a red sandy track that can only be traveled by a 4WD. This was not your Sunday outing to the sandy beach in Maputo! The road was not only sandy but also very corrugated. The situation brought to mind a signpost I had seen sometime ago [1].

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Taken from If this is copyright material, please feel free to contact the writer for credit or removal.

It really felt like that and, after about 60km Frank stopped and -wisely- suggested that we deflate our tires. After that, our travel became more comfortable. After 107 km the Matopi campsites came as a relief for a stop and a cuppa. In it we were introduced to the residing yellow-billed hornbill crowd defined as “spooky” by Lola (but that I liked!). As soon as we arrived the birds started to appear and soon we did have a flock of them watching us and, I am sure, waiting for some morsels or water as the area is, needless to say, extremely dry.

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After that welcome stop the last 90 km were long and rough through a rather empty landscape where we only rarely saw gemsbok and springbok as well as the occasional hornbill and, for some reason, two spotted eagle owls. The road twisted and turned, the sand got deeper at places but, gathering speed was enough to negotiate it.

So, after another couple of hours and several sand dunes and pans later we got to Bosobogolo. Frank had booked camp No 1 which was more or less the same as camp No 2! Both had a few things in common: an A frame, a long drop and no water! The latter became obvious when, after arrival, I visited the bushes for a “short call”. A few birds immediately came to investigate the source of the water noise and the birds immediately surrounded me! We did offer them clean water from then on.

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Bosobogolo welcoming committee. Expecting food and water of course!

Luckily we had enough time to set up camp. On the issues of tents we differ with Lola and Frank. While they prefer a roof tent, we, used to our Kenya camping days, stick to the more conventional ground tent and camp set up. We still have failed to convince each other about changing but enjoy each other’s company!

Bosobogolo was rather uneventful and we were rather tired. Luckily food was soon ready thanks to Frank’s organizational skills and we were in bed early. He managed to produce an Indonesian dish known as bami goreng that raised the stakes for our cooking. The next morning, rested, we explored the area and continued to our next campsite: Monamodi pan.

At Monamodi we were visited by yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata), Cape ground squirrels (Xerus inauris) and lots of birds, including Southern Grey-headed Sparrows (Passer diffusus) although Cape Sparrows (Passer melanurus), Violet-eared Waxbills (Uraeginthus granatinus) and Sociable weavers (Philetairus socius) were also present. Half a dozen Southern Yellow-billed hornbills did also come. We spent the final two nights at Lesholoago pan and had a great time. I will describe some of our experiences at both Monamodi and Lesholoago in future posts.

As it is usually the case, time passed very fast and we needed to leave this wonderful area. We departed through the Mabuasehube gate towards McCarthy’s Rest border post. The road was still sandy and corrugated and eventually we got to the border. Now, that was my kind of a border crossing: only the four of us so it was probably the fastest ever! Once in South Africa we headed back to the Kgalagadi as we wished to visit the Kalahari Trails to spend three nights relaxing and watching the meerkats.

We said goodbye to our safari companions at the Concordia junction and then we drove on through a route known as the “Heart of the Kalahari” to a small town called Van Zyslrus, 129km further on. The town was small and clearly people had made an effort to decorate it. We found fuel and a shop that offered some food and drinks.

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Map from “Roaring Kalahari Route” (2009). McCarthy’s Rest is on top of the picture.

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The shop was what we imagine old shops were (we knew them as “dukas” inEast Africa). It not only sold the usual groceries but it had its own bakery where various breads were being kneaded and baked in full view of the customers! The latter were queuing waiting for their special breads ordered in advance as well as discussing with the very busy master baker on their new orders! The shop also run the town’s post office and, I am sure, it offered other services that we were not aware of.

Our shopping and unique experience at Van Zyslrus over, we went on through Askham to finally reach the Kalahari Trails where we met up again with its owner Anne who is an expert on mongooses, having done extensive research and publications on the dwarf mongoose in Kenya and on the yellow mongoose at the Kgalagadi. While doing this work she acquired land at about 30 km from Twee Rivieren where she runs Kalahari Trails. The meerkat sanctuary is located near her house and there you can get in real close contact with these lovely animals.

We had three restful days at KT where we recovered well and enjoyed Anne’s company and also the meerkats. Time flew and we were again on 5he road, this time to reunite with Lola and Frank in Johannesburg where we took our car for a thoroughly deserved major service after a rather grueling trip.

I leave you with a collection of pictures that show different aspects of the trip.

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Spot the beast 31

Very close to the Shingwedzi Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park we found this interesting beast. I think it is a nice challenge…

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Here there are a couple of pictures that reveal the mystery in case you did not.

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I am not sure if the monitor lizard “beast” lives in the tree hole or whether it was raiding  a nest in search of prey.

It was clearly enjoying watching the cars going by!


When on safari, finding a leopard is the cherry on the cake. These scarce predators are hard to find as they are very secretive and cunning animals. The fact that protected areas are shrinking does not help their conservation status either. Luckily, as you will see, the Kruger National Park (KNP) still remains an excellent place to spot these elusive and beautiful cats.

This year our “out of Zimbabwe” travel included South Africa and Botswana where we visited the KNP at the beginning and at the end of our trip and the Kgalagadi Trans-frontier Park in between. Quite a journey (about seven thousand km!) but well worth it.

The first visit to the KNP included the northern section as this is the closest to Zimbabwe. We visited three camps: Sirheni Bushveld camp, Shingwedzi Rest camp and Bateleur Bushveld camp.

While we did find other interesting things in Sirheni and Shingwedzi (that I will tell you about soon), it was while arriving at Bateleur that things became really exciting. Near the “Red Rocks”, the main attraction near Bateleur, we found a dead impala under a tree. Fellow travellers informed us that a leopard had killed it and that it was a female with a cub. Scared by the vehicles they had left the kill and hid somewhere.

We decided to wait quietly and were rewarded. After about an hour we saw a movement up the tree just above the kill and, soon enough, we could see a leopard moving in the thick foliage. A few minutes later it climbed down. It was the youngster that, hungry, started to feed on the impala. The area was very bushy and photography was difficult but it was a good sight.

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After a while the cub walked in front of us and briefly joined its mother. We had a glimpse of the female that immediately hid again in the long grass while the cub returned to the impala. We waited a bit more but as we still had to check-in at our camp we decided to leave making a note of the site to return later.

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So, quite encouraged by our find we re-joined the road towards Bateleur camp. We had not travelled more than a couple of kilometres when we heard the alarm snorting of impala and found that a large number were looking in the same direction while calling in alarm! This situation can indicate the presence of a predator. I need to clarify that in the Southern Africa’s more bushy landscapes you need to take all possible signs into account to find game.

We stopped and waited and when we saw that the monkeys, guinea fowls and francolins -among others- joined the chorus, our belief that a predator was near firmed up. After a short while we spotted another leopard! It was waking in parallel to us in a direction that would take it to the river, on the other side of the road. The leopard ignored us and it never hesitated once on the direction it was traveling. We watched it walk, still followed by its mobbing retinue but completely unmoved, until it went down the river!

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Finding three leopards in a couple of hours left us rather stunned and we thought that Bateleur was “the place” to spot leopards. Well, as usual we were wrong! During the four days we spent there the leopards carefully avoided us! However, there was more to come on our return to the KNP later on.

On the second visit to the KNP about two weeks later, we entered through the Paul Kruger’s gate and headed for the Olifants Rest camp. About one kilometre from the gate a bunch of cars marked the whereabouts of a sleeping leopard! As our journey was still long, we left it and continued towards Olifants where we arrived late in the afternoon.

Olifants Rest camp is probably the most spectacular of the KNP camps as it is built on a cliff that overlooks the Olifants river, located quite a way below, offering a breathtaking view of the river and its environment. We were fortunate to have booked one of the “river view” bungalows so we could just sit in our verandah and take in the scenery opening up below us!

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The morning after our arrival, after a “breakfast with a view” we drove towards Olifants satellite camp Balule [1] and then followed the Timbavati river, an area well known because of its white lions. The latter are not albinos but a leucistic form, similar to the starling reported in this blog [2].

We knew that to find white lions was very unlikely as most of them are now in captivity or game reserves nearby but we had driven through this area earlier on another journey and found it very attractive. It did not disappoint us. Fortunately, the river had water and we found lots of water birds, including a family of saddle-bill storks fishing at a stagnant pool.

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Further on, on another stretch of the river we spotted a pair of ibis and, while trying to confirm that they were the rarer purple rather than the more common glossy, I spanned the area a couple of metres to their left and I could not believe my eyes: a large leopard was lying down next to the birds! I was very excited, as I had never experienced such an accidental find! I believe that the leopard was walking to the river to drink at the time we appeared and its reaction was to crouch not to be seen!

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We waited and watched. After a couple of minutes, it stood up and walked to a small water pool where it drank for a couple of minutes and then, as it is often the case with leopards, it disappeared in the thicket.

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We drove back really excited by the find and, before reaching our camp, we had a fleeting sighting of yet another leopard well inside the thick bush!

After a fruitless early drive looking for the leopard spotted near camp we decided to relax at our bungalow to take in the beauty of the Olifants river as we could lots of animals coming to drink and to graze there. That morning, apart from the usual hundreds of impala and dozens of waterbuck we could also see lots of greater kudu and a few bushbuck. However, our attention was focused on a couple of elephant families enjoying drinking and bathing.

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While busy watching I heard my wife saying, “the elephants are scared” and then I could hear their loud alarm calls. Immediately I heard her saying “there is a hyena walking behind the elephants towards the water” and immediately, “oh gosh, there is a leopard drinking also!” As I wanted to see it, she explained me where it was so I started looking and, after a while, I spotted it. After a while the leopard moved “it stood up” I said. “No” replied my wife, “it is still drinking”. We started to argue but then we realized that we were in fact looking at two different leopards on the river bed!

The afternoon of our last day we spent it back at the Timbavati river. It was during this time and before arriving to a pan called Ratel that, lo and behold, a leopard was looking at us from a donga and, of course, it immediately took off before we could do anything, as usual and we could not see it again!

So that was our experience in the KNP where we spotted nine leopards in a couple of weeks, a marvelous experience that we know it will not be repeated and certainly it will not be forgotten!.


[1] Interestingly, this was one of the few camps where people of all races were allowed during the Apartheid times!




Although the hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) is the sole member of the genus, it is now believed that it has genetic similarities that are closer to the pelicans and shoebill stork than other water birds.

We find these true Cinderella of the swamps extremely interesting despite being rather common and overshadowed by the most colourful species. Perhaps their better known feature is their huge nests that take them 2 to 4 months to complete and that are often used by other birds as well.

I have mentioned that these birds frequently visit our former pool (now a water reservoir) in Harare and spending long hours stalking the African clawed frogs [1]. I was intrigued by how the frogs were caught as I always heard a splash but, by the time I looked, the frog had already been caught.

A couple of years ago, while camping at Shumba in Hwange National Park [2] I had the chance of seeing a hamerkop hovering over the dam there but it was evening and I could not watch it long enough to find out whether it was fishing or on some other kind of display so the mystery continued.

Luckily, during our visit to the Kruger National Park early in October we were stationed at a water pond waiting for large game to come to drink and, during the time, we were entertained by a couple of hamerkop that were feeding and we could watch them at leisure and resolve the issue.

Each bird repeated a routine that involved landing on shore and, after a time that went from a few seconds to a couple of minutes of walking about, take off and fly very slowly over the water with dangling feet and slow wing beats that would keep it just above it. During the hovering its feet sometimes touched the water and it occasionally would drag them on the water surface.

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While we were there the bird was performing this routine constantly and our comment was that it must be effective for the bird to spend all this flying energy on this, apparently, futile activity. The answer to our questions came after about an hour when the bird suddenly landed in the water with feet and beak and emerged victorious with a frog!

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It then took off from the water and proceeded to eat it. Unluckily, after its success the bird landed on the opposite shore of the dam so I could not even guess at the identity of the frog and only managed poor pictures.


[1] See:

[2] See:

Spoiled siesta!

A loud “crack” woke me up from my after lunch nap, or at least I think that that was the reason for the interruption of my daily ritual (well, I must confess that sometimes I wake up myself up with my own snoring but that is another matter…).

In any case, when I regained my faculties after a while (a slower process as you grow up), I did not hearing it again but I became aware of some loud splashing noises nearby. My son helped me to focus and informed me that -apparently- a croc had caught something and that our campers next door had seen the action.

I had already made contact with our neighbours -coming from Zambia- as soon as they arrived earlier to warn them about the viciousness of the baboons at the campsite that forced us to get a guard as described earlier. In fact, despite my cautioning, they still suffered the consequences while they were away on their first game drive, although they had taken the normal precautions that are usually enough!

So, I went to see them to find out what they had seen. Luckily they had not only witnessed the event but also taken pictures of it! They had detected the commotion in the water and heard the noise. A crocodile had caught a rather large terrapin and, after kit was trying to devour it.

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The crocodile eating the terrapin. Picture by Eloise Wells.

The event was a surprise to me as we usually see both terrapins and crocodiles sharing their water territories ignoring each other! Perhaps the terrapin was already dead when the saurian found it? We will never know.

The victim was rather large but eventually the croc had managed to break its carapace -the crack- and it was busy trying to swallow by the time I watched. Although I could not help feeling sorry for the unfortunate victim, it was an interesting event, worth mentioning.

The crocodile was busy for a few hours until it moved off and we lost it for a while. It reappeared later a few metres downriver with its mouth closed so we believe that it had already consumed its prey.

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The crocodile after the event. Picture by Julio A de Castro.

Believing that only to write about this would not have been enough, I asked our neighbours to let me have some of the photographs of the event for this post and they kindly did so. Thanks to their generous contribution I am able to share them with you as the story that, without pictures, would not have been the same.