Sunset at Nylsvley Nature Preserve


Kruger National Park & Beyond, Africa 2005 
2-23 October 2005
by Henry Detwiler & Bob Miller

Bob Miller and I joined our hosts Barry and Margie Hawthorne of Cape Town for a whirlwind 3-week tour of South Africa.  This is a summary of our adventures.
445 species -- bird list may be viewed by clicking > BIRD LIST
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.   

We spent five days at Kruger National Park, sampling the varied and beautiful bird and mammal life. Kruger is about the size of Massachusetts, and completely surrounded by a stout fence (to keep elephants from trampling surrounding farmland, etc.). We saw several herds of zebras, some at waterholes, others wandering around the bush. Since it was the spring, the summer rains had not yet begun, concentrating many of the mammals at the few remaining ponds and waterholes.

Tree Squirrel with an attitude


 Yellow-billed Stork


Ground Hornbills are declining in numbers at Kruger, but we were fortunate to see two small parties of these huge hornbills.

Impalas are the most common antelope in Kruger, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and comprise the largest food source for the feline predators.  We saw hundreds of these graceful creatures.

Ground Hornbill


Southern Reedbuck


Over the course of our stay we saw thirteen lions; the first was just as we entered the park, when a female came strolling down the center of the Crocodile River.  The male at the left was part of a pride of seven that our night guide found in a circle next to the road.  One exciting experience happened when Bob spotted a lion stalking a waterbuck--it broke off after a half-hearted lunge--perhaps because lions aren't supposed to eat waterbuck anyway (bad tasting). 

White-throated Swallow

We spent our nights at two different camps in Kruger.  At the Satara Camp I found this Agami tree lizard, a colorful beast that looked mighty fearsome.  Along one of the rivers in the park we spotted this water monitor searching out dinner.

Water Monitor

Agami Tree Lizard


A mighty odd looking creature is the long-necked giraffe. We watched one pair of males "battling" it out in a shoving match, and then slamming their necks into each other.  This went on for ten minutes with neither giving any ground--so we moved on.  The individual on the left was its neck to good advantage, enjoying a meal of leaves from high up in the tree.

African Elephants

At one of the few remaining lakes (it was the end of the dry season), we watched as two elephants played in the water, pushing each other around, and snorkeling with their trunks as they swam about.  From the edge of the water, a Fish Eagle scanned for its next meal.

African Fish Eagle

There were lots of crocs in Kruger, especially in the (you guessed it) Crocodile River.  We never saw any of them take any prey, but then we never saw any skinny ones, either.

Nile Crocodile


White Rhinoceros

A real treat for me was my first wild rhinos.  Bob spotted the first pair about a quarter of a mile away; a most unsatisfactory look.  Then, just down the road, this pair came ambling across the road right in front of us!  They were huge beasts, and I could picture them using our SUV as a soccer ball.

One of the many perks of traveling with Barry & Margie was getting to visit their friends, many of them renown birders & naturalists. At Warwick Tarboton's ranch we talked birds & dragonflies, toured his "dragon" pond, and spotted our only scalyfeathered finches with their Fu-Manchu moustaches.  We also saw lots more of those beautiful Blue Waxbills. Later that evening, we not only got to watch a pair of acrobatic Lesser Bushbabies "flying" from tree to tree, we got to feed them mealworms!

Red-winged Dropwing

Lesser Bushbaby

Blue Waxbill

Red-headed Weaver

Our hosts at Dinonyane prepared some fine meals, which we ate out on the veranda during the daylight hours.  Their gardens & ponds hosted damselflies, dragonflies, frogs, and a wealth of avian species like tinkerbirds, Royal Flycatchers, thrushes, weavers, doves, titbabblers, and sunbirds.

We spent the last couple of nights at the beautiful Dinonyane Lodge, close to the Nylsvley Nature Preserve.  Right next to their entry way, this spectacular Red-headed Weaver was alternately building its nest and displaying to its mate.

Margie, Henry, Barry & Bob - Dinonyane Lodge

Reed Cormorants

On our final day of African birding we stopped at a large lake north of Pretoria.  Here we saw our largest water monitor yet, and ended our birding quest with beautiful looks at White-faced Ducks, shorebirds, a huge flock of Reed Cormorants, a our largest Water Monitor to that date. The whole trip was a naturalist's adventure we'll never forget!


Photos Henry Detwiler & Bob Miller