A quick visit to the Kruger National Park may sound impossible – but it isn’t. In fact, it can be done with only a little forward planning. So book a night’s accommodation, hire a car, pack some padkos, and hit the road.
Somewhere along the 5km Blue Route, one of the short hikes at Franklyn Park near Kampersrus, we stopped at the edge of a stream to cool down and enjoy the scenery. We weren’t alone – there were dozens of butterflies flitting over the water, alighting on plants and resting on cool patches of damp soil.
A pair of grey crowned cranes flew low over the road in front of us; flocks of Amur falcons perched on the power lines; and parties of enigmatic pied starlings gathered on roof tops. This was our welcome to the little town of Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga, an essential stop for anyone serious (or even not so serious) about birdwatching in South Africa.
Granted, spotting a leopard on a game drive is always a massive thrill. And getting up close and personal with an elephant will take your breath away, every time. But the African bushveld has many fascinating little secrets that exist alongside the Big Five, which can make any game drive interesting, even if you don’t spot a fresh kill.
I was watching a juvenile bateleur preening in a dead tree when I heard guide Mike Palmer whisper, ‘Cheetah.’ Almost immediately there was a collective intake of breath as everyone in the game-drive vehicle refocused their gaze on the cheetah, frozen in the soft morning light.
Aside from the zookeepers and many others who work at the Johannesburg Zoo is a team of vets that not only looks after the health of the zoo animals, but also other wildlife that may have been confiscated or strayed into the city’s streets.
It may be off the main tourist routes, but the huge and very beautiful 16 000ha Jozini Dam (or Lake Jozini), which lies between the majestic Lebombo and Ubombo mountains in northern KwaZulu-Natal and borders Swaziland, is well worth a visit.
The Pilanesberg Game Reserve, with its concentric ring of mountains, is one of South Africa’s most visited tourist destinations. And because of the variety of habitats, it is teeming with game and birds.
Many of South Africa’s birds obligingly occur in some of the country’s most scenic regions. I was reminded of this again on a recent visit to the Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve in the Wolkberg mountains.
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