In January of 2012 I took a trip to South Africa with Kathy and Heather Smith. I’ve known them forever and we had a hell of a trip. We ended up seeing 72 species of mammals. 22 of them were lifers for me. We saw 6 of the 7 species of cats. This trip was planned using information from mammalwatching.com. That site covers ZA very well, and without it, we would not have seen quite as much.
We stayed at Boulder Beach mainly to see the Jackass Penguins. I did see a few Cape Fur Seals, and the next morning there were some Rock Hyraxes sunning themselves.
We decided to stay here mainly for the coastal plants, but I also hoped to find a few mammals. Upon arrival, we quickly saw Bontebok, Rhebok, Eland, Chacma Baboons, and Mountain Zebra.
We headed out to the beach soon after arriving. We stayed for about 2 hours and saw both Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphins and Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphins. There was also a Four-striped Grass Mouse on the boardwalk.
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin(Photo by Heather Smith)
Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins(Photo by Heather Smith)
On the way back we saw our first mongoose of the trip, a Yellow Mongoose. After dark we took a short walk around the river. I caught an eyeshine in the distance and tried to track it down. It disappeared, only to reappear a ways away towards the river. I walked towards it, and it headed down the slope. I got close enough to see the tail end of a Caracal disappear into the brush. I tried to find it again, but only turned up a pair of Cape Porcupines. We then heard a noise that sounded like otters eating, so we followed it and found three African Clawless Otters on the rocks near where they keep the boat. After they swam off I tried to relocate the Caracal. After another few minutes, we were able to get good clear looks down on it from about 10 meters. All of that within 200 meters of our door.
The next morning we left, seeing most of the antelope and zebras again. On the drive to Karoo we saw more Yellow Mongoose and a couple Steenbok.
Karoo National Park
We spent 1 night in Karoo and did a night drive. The highlight of the stay was an African Wildcat at close range, killing and eating a mouse. We also saw Rock Hyrax, Cape Hare, Black-backed Jackal, Mountain Zebra, Burchell’s Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Springbok, Steenbok, Klipspringer, Gemsbok, Rhebok, Greater Kudu, and Common Duiker.
Cape Mountain Zebra
Marrick Safari Lodge
This place is great. The food was the best we had on the entire trip and the wildlife watching was beyond expectations. We went on the night drive and saw among other things an Aardvark, 2 Black-footed Cats, and 7 Aardwolves. We had great views of everything and even watched the 2nd Black-footed Cat pounce after a bird. We also saw Springhare, Scrub Hare, Cape Hare, Black Wildebeest, Cape Porcupine, Common Duiker, Springbok, and Warthog. I did not make an attempt for the Smith’s Red Rock Rabbit, as I was tired and saw it the last time I was there. Marrick should be a stop on any mammal watchers trip to South Africa.
Kruger National Park
Kruger. One of the best, cheap(relatively) mammal watching locations in the world. We had an excellent first day. We started out with some Giraffes, then a White Rhino, and some Lions.
The first night was at Skukuza, which means Thick-tailed Bushbabies and Epauletted Fruit Bats.
The next morning was slightly overcast, but nice enough.
Then, there was the 10 year flood. We were out the gate of Olifants at 4:30 am. We headed north and were surprised by the number of turtles and hippos in the road. Then Kathy and Heather thought they heard Elephants feeding. I quickly realized it was the river flooding and snapping off trees and headed for high ground. We tried a couple more times to make it out, but with no luck. The road to the south was completely out, and the road to the north was flooded. We were trapped, but safe. I worked out with a couple new species of bats for me.
Mauritian Tomb Bat
I believe this is Chaerephon pumilus
After a lot of hassle we were on our way and made it to southern Kruger, although not our destination. We had good wildlife sightings for the rest of our time in Kruger, but not in the areas we hoped.
Leopard stalking an Impala.
Barberspan Bird Park
We stayed here to break up the drive from Kruger to Upington. It was not necessary, as that drive is very possible in one day, but it was a nice break. The housing was the cheapest of the trip and nice enough. We ended up seeing Spring Hare, Cape Hare, Steenbok, Black-backed Jackal, South African Ground Squirrel, Yellow Mongoose, and Warthogs. We also saw several species of birds we hadn’t seen before.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
The Kalahari. This place was great. There was little blocking vegetation, so we were able to observe wildlife much better here than elsewhere. We spent 3 nights at Nossob, 1 night at Mata Mata(not an awesome herp here), and 1 night at Twee Rivieron. Highlights were the 3 great sightings of Brown Hyena and the 20+ different Cheetahs we saw, including a full kill. Unbelievable.
The one that made the kill.
Brown Hyena, these were great.
Brant’s Whistling Rat
Bat-eared Fox, we had over 50 sightings of these.
South African Ground Squirrel
Small-spotted Genet (photo by Kathy Smith)
St Helena Bay
After Kgalagadi we drove 10 or so hours to the coast. We looked for a B&B on the coast and found A Breeze, which is in the developments west of St Helena Bay. The price was quite reasonable, and even though it is not right on the beach, I was able to see Heaviside’s Dolphins from bed. I went down to the beach and also saw a few Dusky Dolphins. According to one of the locals, this is the best beach in ZA for dolphins, and that the two species are here nearly daily. We spot lighted around 1 of the three nights we stayed here and turned up around 10 Steenbok, 3 Common Duikers, and finally, a lone Cape Grysbok in someone’s yard. We saw more Heaviside’s Dolphins on our last morning as well.
West Coast National Park
This park was a let down after my last visit there. They have now clarified the rules and you are not allowed to drive after gate times even if you are staying in the park, which were 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Also, you are not supposed to get out of your vehicle, even though there are no large predators. We did end up seeing Southern Right Whales from the Atlantic view point and Cape Fur Seals on the island that is near the end of the road. We also saw Eland, Bontebok, Greater Kudu, Steenbok, Four-striped Grass Mouse, and Small Gray Mongoose.
Aardvark - Marrick
Rock Hyrax - Boulder Beach, Karoo, S of WC NP
African Bush Elephant - Kruger
Southern Lesser Bushbaby - Kruger
Thick-tailed Bushbaby - Kruger
Chacma Baboon - De Hoop, along roads, Kruger,
Vervet Monkey - Kruger
South African Ground Squirrel - Barberspan, Kgalagadi
Smith's Bush Squirrel - Kruger
Four-striped Grass Mouse - De Hoop, West Coast, Kgalagadi
Black-tailed Tree-rat - Kgalagadi
Brant's Whistling Rat - Kgalagadi
South African Springhare - Marrick, Kruger, Barberspan, Kgalagadi
Cape Porcupine - De Hoop, Marrick
Cape Hare - Karoo, Barberspan
Scrub Hare - Karoo, Kruger, Kgalagadi
Mauritian Tomb Bat - Kruger
Little Free-tailed Bat - Kruger
Egyptian Free-tailed Bat - Kgalagadi
Epauletted Fruit Bat sp - Kruger
Caracal - De Hoop
African Wildcat - Karoo, Kgalagadi
Black-footed Cat - Marrick
Lion -Kruger, Kgalagadi
Leopard - Kruger
Cheetah - Kgalagadi
Common Genet - Kruger, Kgalagadi
Cape Gray Mongoose -West Coast
Yellow Mongoose - De Hoop, Barberspan, Kgalagadi
Egyptian Mongoose - Kruger
Slender Mongoose - Kruger, Kgalagadi
Banded Mongoose - Kruger
Dwarf Mongoose - Kruger
Meerkat - Kgalagadi
Spotted Hyena - Kruger
Aardwolf - Marrick
Brown Hyena - Kgalagadi
Cape Fur Seal - St Helena, Boulder Beach
Cape Clawless Otter - De Hoop
Side-striped Jackal - Kruger
Black-backed Jackal - Kruger, Barberspan, Marrick, Karoo, Kgalagadi
Cape Fox - Kgalagadi
Bat-eared Fox - Kgalagadi
Plains Zebra - Karoo, Kruger, Kgalagadi
Mountain Zebra - De Hoop, Karoo
White Rhino - Kruger
Hippo - Kruger
Warthog - Marrick, Kruger, Barberspan, Kgalagadi
Giraffe - Kruger, Kgalagadi
Impala - Kruger
Red Hartebeest - Karoo, Kgalagadi, Marrick
Black Wildebeest - Marrick
Blue Wildebeest - Kruger, Kgalagadi
Bontebok - De Hoop, West Coast
Klipspringer - Karoo, Kruger
Steenbok - Karoo, Kruger, Barberspan, Kalagadi, St Helena, West Coast
Cape Grysbok - St Helena
Cape Buffalo - Kruger
Eland - De Hoop, West Coast
Water Buck - Kruger
Bushbuck - Kruger
Common Duiker - Kruger, St Helena
Greater Kudu - Karoo, Kruger
Southern Reedbuck - Kruger
Gray Rhebok - De Hoop, Karoo
Springbok - Marrick, Kgalagadi, Karoo
Gemsbok - Karoo, Marrick, Kgalagadi
Southern Right Whale - West Coast
Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin - De Hoop
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin - De Hoop
Heaviside's Dolphin - St Helena Bay
Dusky Dolphin - St Helena Bay