Kruger Birding Safari : The Elegant Eagles
Apr04

Kruger Birding Safari : The Elegant Eagles

There are over 500 species of feathered friends fluttering about the Greater Kruger, just waiting to be observed and photographed. Seasonal migrants, endangered species, waders, raptors and passerines all form part of the plethora of birdlife found in the iconic Kruger region. Birders flock (pun intended) to the Kruger to find those lifers and rare birds; ticking off species when they return to camp from game drive. Spotting big game is, undoubtedly, an exciting and enthralling experience, but there really is nothing better than birdwatching. If you’re going on a Kruger birding safari, you probably have a few birds on your personal list that you’d identify and a few calls you’re dying to hear live and not from your tinny sounding app. Birder, twitcher or budding ornithologist, there’s plenty to keep your bird brain (joke) occupied! One of our favourite family of bird is the eagle, of which there are many species. Here are 3 of our favourite eagles worth seeking out in the wild :  Martial Eagles The Martial eagle is Africa’s largest eagle and boasts a wingspan of a whopping 2.6 m from tip-to-tip. This majestic raptor is the shy silent type, but its power should not be underestimated. The Martial exudes strength and agility, and feeds mainly on medium sized prey such as reptiles, other birds and small mammals. This raptor spends most of its day sourcing prey – it sits silently in trees earmarking its next target, or takes to the skies to identify terrestrial prey. Once targeted, the eagle uses the element of surprise to attack. The Martial eagle swoops down at such speed, and ambushes its prey. It uses its massive wingspan to angle its body in the direction it needs to go. The bare leadwood trees appear to be a favourite place for these birds to roost, and they build nests some 60 feet off the ground. The next time you see a hefty nest straddling a leadwood, or on the steep cliff faces, look out for a Martial eagle. You’ll identify the bird of prey by its markings of a white underbelly and brownish upper parts. You may even hear its call, which sounds like an excited whistle. The Martial eagle is a large, looming and rather regal raptor – a definite awe-inspiring birding sighting in the Kruger. Tawny Eagle The tawny eagle is another large, solitary eagle commonly spotted in the Kruger. Interestingly enough, this eagle is more of a scavenger than predator and is often spotted feasting on succulent meaty scraps and carrion. The tawny eagle has a lot in common with our vultures, but wins hands down in...

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Charming New Big 5 Safari Camp in Greater Kruger
Apr03

Charming New Big 5 Safari Camp in Greater Kruger

Nsala Safari Camp rests on the banks of a dry riverbed in its own private reserve in the Umbambat/Timbavati Reserves. This new big 5 safari camp in the Greater Kruger sleeps only 6 people, which means guests are afforded an intimate and personalised safari experience in the heart of big game territory. Nsala is a comfortable, authentic camp with enough luxury to keep guests happy. Positive reviews for this classic camp are flooding in thick and fast, and guests are loving the excellent game viewing and guiding at Nsala. Nsala’s location is ideal. Riverbeds provide the perfect hide-out for a variety of predators, in particular leopards. The S-bend in the river snakes its way past camp and huge herds of elephant, packs of wild dog and prides of lion enjoy sauntering through the soft sand, which is always an easier path to travel than the twisty shrubbery of heavily thicketed areas. The clear area also makes it easier to spot game while out on game drive, and there are a few potentially great sundowner spots on the outskirts of camp. The views from the camp extend all the way across the riverbed and into the wilderness beyond. The camp is open, which means it’s not uncommon to see elephants filtering down to the swimming pool for a quick drink. Game drives take place in the 5000 hectare traverse of mopane bushveld, bushwillow and low-lying riverine vegetation typical of the location. The focus at Nsala is on the game viewing, and the experience of being cocooned by the Kruger wilderness. The construction of the camp is simple and effective; and its presence certainly doesn’t intrude on the environment. The camp is open-plan and has 3 thatched chalets (rondawels) set around a main section that houses a swimming pool, lounge/dining area, and boma. Each of the chalets is fully-enclosed and has a wooden glass sliding door leading out onto a small patio area. The cosy lounge and deck area overlooks the splash pool, and there’s ample room for relaxation. Slump back into one of the rustic chairs on the wooden deck and indulge a spot of reading. After a day cruising around the bushveld in search of predators and other wildlife, we encourage you to relax around the campfire in the boma area before you sit down to dinner at the safari dining table. For a relaxed safari with unrivalled game viewing opportunities, choose the traditional Nsala Safari Camp.  ...

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Why you MUST Visit the Balule Nature Reserve for a Big 5 Safari
Mar13

Why you MUST Visit the Balule Nature Reserve for a Big 5 Safari

You’ve heard about the much talked about Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger, and have read copious quantities of literature regarding the abundant leopard sightings within the reserve. You’ve no doubt heard about Timbavati Private Nature reserve – a reserve famed for its once prevalent white lion population. These two private game reserves are – arguably – the most well-marketed reserves within the Lowveld, and their name is popular among international visitors. In truth, there are many other reserves within the Greater Kruger that rival both these popular reserves. They are the lesser-known big 5 reserves that also offer unparalleled game viewing opportunities, and whose sightings and natural scenery is right up there with the more well-marketed reserves. One of these reserves is the Balule Nature Reserve, a reserve that shares unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park on their western boundary. The Balule has the Olifants River cutting through the landscape, which means reed-lined banks proved the perfect habitat for waterbuck, crocs, hippos and aquatic-loving wading birds. Mixed with this riverine style landscape is vegetation dominated by mopane. The eco-system is diverse and offers a unique topography that gives rise to earth-shattering views.  So…Why have we decided to focus on the Balule Nature Reserve? We’ve decided to focus on this lesser-known reserve, purely because we’re hearing about record numbers of lion cub, leopard, and big game sightings. We’ve selected our 3 favourite safari lodges within the Balule Nature Reserve, and their most recent predator sightings.  Ezulwini River Lodge The spectacular Olifants River, the largest in the Lowveld, cuts through the Ezulwini traverse. River Lodge overlooks the river and has a sublime wooden walkway and viewing deck under the canopy of trees. Accommodation at River Lodge is stylish and inspired by the natural elements of the Balule bushveld. There are 4 luxury chalets, 4 superior suites and 1 honeymoon superior suite. River Lodge has a swimming pool in the main lodge area and serves delectable homemade meals under the stars in the glowing presence of lanterns and a dancing fireplace. River Lodge has atmosphere, and is the perfect place for the ultimate safari experience. Recent sightings: Ezulwini currently enjoys sightings of 10 lion cubs. Last week they spotted the Machaton male lions, a pride of lionesses, cubs and 3 leopard sightings.     Pondoro Game Lodge Pondoro Game Lodge is also located on the banks of the Olifants River, and each suite has its own balcony, jacuzzi and outdoor shower. The main area houses an extensive bar with a fine selection of whiskies, cognacs and even cigars. Food is a lavish affair, and guests are afforded the opportunity to indulge...

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Facts About the Bushveld’s Pretty Plains Game
Feb02

Facts About the Bushveld’s Pretty Plains Game

When we’re bumbling across the crunchy terrain in an open-topped game viewer in search of the famous big five, we have a game plan in mind that’s normally decided upon by expert trackers and guides. After all, they are the ones with the tracking skills and have monitored predator activity closely prior to our arrival at camp. If there’s no need to hurtle towards a rapidly disappearing elusive leopard, or a pack of wild dogs on the trot; we stop to observe the bushveld’s pretty plains game. Plains game is a term given to general game of the bushveld. These are the commonly spotted herbivorous species that add bulk to your wildlife sightings in the Kruger and are generally incredibly photogenic. Plains game form a vital part of the ecology of a reserve and provide a natural landscaping service to the ‘veld. In the Kruger, the most commonly spotted plains game include: zebra, giraffe, and impala. Of course, there are numerous other general game (bushback, nyala, kudu, waterbuck) that are also commonly spotted. But today we’re featuring the 3 species we deem to be the most popular. Herbivores are either grazers, browsers or both. Grazers graze on grasses, long and tall. Browsers feed off leaves, soft shoots, or fruits of high-growing plants/shrubs. Zebra A group of zebra is referred to as a “dazzle”. They are arguably the most photogenic species to photograph, and their monochromatic colours provide such stark subjects. Zebra live in herds dominated by one male. You’ll often find males and their harems grazing on short, sweet grasses. It is thought that when predators approach zebra herds, the herds scatter in a haphazard direction making it tricky for predators to target a single individual. The patterns cause confusion. Giraffe Giraffe are browsers and favour acacia trees. Their height means that they’re at an advantage and can access untouched greenery at the tops of trees. You’ll spot them feeding on acacias, but they do tend to move off quite quickly. Neighbouring acacia trees tend to “talk” and activate other trees to warn other trees of the presence of a herbivore. The trees emit tannins that make their leaves unpalatable. They do this when under threat. Giraffe will move off in search of another acacia tree when the tannins become too much to bare. This is why you’ll often see a journey of giraffe on the move. Impala Out of all the plains game, the Impala is probably the most commonly spotted. Thousands roam the Greater Kruger, and they’re certainly the most elegant of all the plains game. Because they are in abundance, they also make for easy prey but...

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3 Luxury Kruger Safari Lodges Ideal for Newlyweds
Jan06

3 Luxury Kruger Safari Lodges Ideal for Newlyweds

Newlyweds are often on the search for relaxing, luxury holidays with an adventurous twist. Whether it’s a belated honeymoon, romantic holiday or a second honeymoon; newlyweds won’t be disappointed with our choice of 3 luxury Kruger safari lodges.  Iconic Legends at Londolozi Londolozi Is located in a premier private Game Reserve, a Reserve home to abundant leopard activity. The Sabi Sand is a big five region, and apart from the much-documented leopard sightings, the varied landscape and position on the banks of the Sand River ensure the ideal habitat for the big five. Londolozi is a first-choice for international visitors and offers a wide variety of accommodation options for those seeking the pinnacle of safari luxury. Londolozi is split into 5 camps, which are: Pioneer Camp, Varty Camp, Granite Suites, Founders Camp and Tree Camp. Tree Camp and Private Granite Suites don’t allow children, while Pioneer Camp is the go-between; catering both couples and families. The larger camps are Varty and Founders; just perfect for big groups. There is a wellness Centre, boutique and gourmet cuisine on offer at Londolozi. All aspects of a wild safari that add to the overall experience. As newlyweds, we encourage a couples massage – you won’t be disappointed with the exquisite massage and pristine bushveld vistas. Londolozi really is a true sanctuary of elegance! Romantic aspect: the honeymoon safari vehicle, a modified game viewer with a “couch for two” is a completely unique addition to a romantic safari experience. The bush dinners under the light of the moon. We recommend the Tree Camp or Granite for the ultimate romantic safari experience.   Romantic Treehouse at Lion Sands Lion Sands Private Game Reserve is also located in the heart of the Big five Sabi Sand and offers guest an unsurpassed sense of luxury. Game drives and bush walks are available at the various lodges, along with magical sundowners and gourmet dinners. For newlyweds, we recommend the iconic River Lodge, where there’s even a “memory lab” which is a place to print your safari in pics. There’s a safari bar and lounge, a huge deck overlooking the riverbed and a dining area under the canopy of trees. In short, It’s a sophisticated lodge with hints of Africa from centuries past. Another accommodation option is the elegant and spectacular Ivory Lodge, a contemporary lodge built from natural materials. It’s an intimate lodge, and each guest has their own villa complete with a private deck, plunge pool, fireplace and sweeping views. Newlyweds will love the treehouse aspect, a sleep-out option in the midst of the wild. A place where loved-up couples can express their love while surrounded by the...

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Where the African Wild Dogs Roam
Nov07

Where the African Wild Dogs Roam

African wild dogs are an endangered species of dog considered rare to see in the wild. The reason for this is two-fold : they’re notoriously nomadic and they cover a wide range with expansive territories. The best time of year to spot our twittering mottled dogs is for 3 months between May – Aug, during their denning period. And why is that? Wild dogs run as a pack, and for 3 months of the year the pups will be reared by these co-operative breeders. Wild dogs hunt together, hang out together and each dog has a role to play in helping to rear the pups. This means that when it comes time for the alpha female to produce her brood, she will need a secure den site. The pups are helpless and need to remain sedentary until they have grown. So this why, for 3 months, sightings of wild dogs increase. There are local packs of dogs in various reserves, and when these dogs aren’t traversing far and wide, they may return to their previous denning ground to rear the new pups. Wild dogs act as a single unit, and individual dogs fall into a particular role when it comes to looking after the pups. Some will select the fierce den guarding role (sentry duty) which requires a warrior attitude, others will conduct expertly crafted hunts and bring the food back to the den. Pups will call out for food, while practicing their high-pitched twittering which is the sound of a wild dog greeting ceremony. The hunting unit will regurgitate chunks of meat for the young pups, and if a kill is made close to the den site strips of meat will be taken back to the pack. The sentry roles are interchangeable with the hunting roles – wild dogs have such a sense of community ! The pup rearing period is perfectly timed with the end of the impala rut (isn’t nature fascinating?). At the end of the impala rutting season, the rams are tired and make for easy prey. Packs might be at the top of the food chain in terms predatory activity, but there are threats to the dogs safety in terms of other predators. This is why dogs will often move den sites during the denning period. In the Kruger’s Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, the dogs have been spotted during the predicted denning period and outside the denning period. Local photographer, Rogan Kerr, managed to take a few pictures of the dogs while he was on assignment at Africa on Foot....

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Natasha’s Top 5 Kruger Safari Lodges Part 2!
Aug28

Natasha’s Top 5 Kruger Safari Lodges Part 2!

One of our safari experts, Natasha Allan, is as passionate about her own safari experiences as she is about creating the best safari itineraries for her guests, and her knowledge is rooted in her first-hand experience. The Kruger Park is South Africa’s greatest destination for wildlife, and its surrounding private game reserves offer some of the greatest close encounters with the Big Five in Southern Africa. Natasha has equipped herself with 10 exceptional accommodations in the Greater Kruger Park, which suit clients with varying desires, dreams, and limitations. We have already shared five of Tash’s top 10 recommendations, and in this blog, we’re covering the next batch of Kruger safari lodges. If you want to know what else was on Tash’s list, click here. Shindzela Tented Camp, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve This is first choice for a truly valuable safari in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. It is affordable and offers a lot in terms of comfort and quality. The game viewing potential of the Timbavati is enormous, and the reserve constantly churns out breath-taking and spine-tingling wildlife encounters, so Shindzela is ideally located. It is quiet and intimate with only eight canvas tented rooms on offer, so the setting is tranquil, small, and private – a hugely sought after feature for young couples travelling to Africa. Families can be accommodated at Shindzela, but no children under 10 are permitted. Fantastic walking safaris are reserved for guests over 16 years old, purely because there are risks to walking in the wild and each guests needs to be capable of adhering to the camp’s guidelines for trails safaris. The camp is run on solar power and gas, and there are no electricity outlets in the rooms, but there is a device-charging facility in the main lodge area. Shindzela offers all you need in terms of accommodation, privacy, relaxation, wildlife, and value for money. It’s been one of Natasha’s favourites for many years, and her clients continue to enjoy their experience there. Budget: US$ 160 (2018) – US$ 200 (2019) (*all rates are per person sharing per night) Kambaku Safari Lodge and River Sands, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve Two sister camps offering up some spectacular quality in the Timbavati are Kambaku River Sands and Kambaku Safari Lodge. These two are operated with the same meticulous attention to detail, environmental consciousness, and professionalism, but Safari Lodge is more affordable and is surrounded by a perimeter fence, which is often ideal for families with children. River Sands is more exclusive at a higher rate and is unfenced to the wilderness, adding a thrilling element to the nocturnal goings on at camp. Each of...

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