20th January 2020
Well it was time to get out of the UK to escape the dull and dreary weather at this time of year. An early start to catch the 06:10 from Leeds to Schiphol Amsterdam, and then the 10:15 flight to Johannesburg arriving at 22:05 local time. Collected the car after a long wait and drove to the Aeroguest Lodge, Kempton to spend the night before the 6.5 hour drive to Hilltop Lodge in Hluhluwe Game Reserve.
Aeroguest Lodge found easily and security guard let us in and showed us to our room. Honesty box for drinks but too tired to partake so off to bed.
20th-23rd January 2020
Omelette for breakfast and started journey about 09:00am.
Stopped at Ermelo for shopping but didn’t like it so continued onto Piet Retief and went into their Pick and Pay. Stopped at Mkuze for petrol which is where we stopped last year on the way to St. Lucia.
We entered the reserve via Memorial Gate at 16:24 to be greeted by 2 Warthogs at the start of our game drive to our accommodation at Hilltop Lodge.
We did several early morning and late evening game drives from Hilltop and just chilled out the rest of the time.
There were still birds to see when walking around the camp and I managed to get a few shots. Sandra was hoping to use the swimming pool but it wasn’t in use and in need of a lot of maintenance and the water was very green and dirty. It’s a shame that the whole camp was in need of a lot of work, as it was all looking very shabby and tired. Some of the accommodation had roofs that were coming away and were obviously not in use.
Despite that we still enjoyed our stay at Hilltop Lodge.
There was a trail around the camp which we walked, although it wasn’t very long. A fence was around part of the camp but I don’t think it would have stopped anything from getting through as there appeared to be as many animals inside the camp as there were outside.
As we were going to have to cook at some of our other accommodations we decided to eat in the Lodge’s restaurant as well as having breakfast there as it was included. Meals were very good and enjoyable. First night we had T bone steak, Kingklip* 2 beers and 2 wines for under £30
*Kingklip is one of the most popular eating fish in South Africa. The name kingklip comes from the old Dutch word ‘koningklipvisch” which means “king of the rock fishes” – because like other whitefish, such as hake, kingklip is low in fat and prized for its delicate flavour and firm white flesh. It is tinged with a light pink colour and covered in irregular brown blotches and can grow to 150cm in length. Kingklip is a demersal fish, living on or near to the seabed that is often caught in trawl nets together with hake as a by-catch. They are a relatively slow growing and long-lived fish and cannot sustain a targeted fishery so in a managed by-catch programme, catches of kingklip are restricted to a precautionary catch limit of 10% of total hake TAC.
Black-headed Oriole, Blue Waxbill, Cape Glossy Starling, Citrus Swallowtail, Crested Barbet, Crested Guineafowl, Croaking Cisticola, Crowned Eagle, Crowned Hornbill, European Bee-eater, Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Hadada, Hamerkop, Lanner Falcon, Little Bee-eater, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, Pin-tailed Whydah, Rattling Cisticola, Red-breasted Swallow, Red-collared Widowbird, Rufous-naped Lark, Southern Black Flycatcher, Three-banded Plover, Violet-backed Starling, White-backed Vulture, White-fronted Bee-eater, White-winged Widowbird, Woolly-necked Stork, Yellow Weaver
Burchell’s Zebra, Cape Baboon, Cape Buffalo, Cape Giraffe, Citrus Swallowtail, Fortnight Lily, Impala, Nyala, Spotted Bush Snake, White Rhinoceros, Blue Wildebeest. To see all photographs then please visit Wildlife of South Africa
From here it was onward to Sodwana and the Sodwana Bay Lodge.
24th-26th January 2020
As it was a fairly long drive to Sodwana Bay (approx 2.25 hours) we decided to stop at Mkuze Game Reserve as it’s supposed to be a great place to see birds. The drive to the gate was 10km along a sand road in the middle of nowhere and we nearly gave up as it was so rough but we finally got there. We didn’t have long here but we did manage to see African Darter, African Jacana, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Pink-backed Pelican, Reed Cormorant, Squacco Heron, White-faced Whistling Duck, and Woodland Kingfisher. To see all photographs then please visit Birds of South Africa
From booking in at Sodwana Bay Lodge we had to walk to our accommodation as you couldn’t park near it. Wasn’t a problem as there were a couple of large trolleys to transport cases etc.
The next day we drove down to the beach at Sodwana Bay. Sandra did a bit of snorkelling and I watched for birds and read.
It started out ok with a bit of a breeze but that soon changed to strong winds and whilst Sandra was ok in the sea, I was being sand blasted which wasn’t good for my camera gear or me.
Before things got too bad I did manage to get some shots of Yellow-billed Kite and White-fronted Plover. To see all photographs then please visit Birds of South Africa
It was back to the Lodge and I did some birdwatching, managing to see and photograph an Olive Sunbird that was a new lifer for me, whilst Sandra went to the pool to relax. We then got ready to go out and eat at the Leatherbacks Restaurant which was within 50 meters of our rooms.
Next day we returned to the beach at Sodwana Bay as the wind wasn’t as bad as the previous day. Again Sandra snorkelled the tidal pools whilst I photographed White-fronted Plovers. Yet again the wind picked up and we went to the beach bar to get something to eat and drink.
The Staff shut up early as there weren’t many people there and when they’d left the local Vervet Monkeys and Banded Mongoose started to raid an underground store which kept us amused for a while.
Next it’s on to Imfolozi and Mpila Camp
27th-28th January 2020
As the journey back to Imfolozi was about 2.25 hours we decided to break the journey up by visiting False Bay Park, situated along the western shores of Lake St. Lucia in the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park.
Here we saw Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Water Thicknees, Grey Heron and White-breasted Cormorant as well as Elegant Grasshopper. To see all photographs then please visit Birds of South Africa and Wildlife of South Africa
Onwards and into Imfolozi Game Reserve and Mpela Tented Camp
Note the locks on the bin and the kitchen area to keep the monkeys and baboons out
As there were no restaurant facilities we had to do our own cooking so we made use of the braai
Waking up in the morning was quite entertaining as the local Vervet Monkeys were using the tent as a trampoline and were bouncing between the trees and the tent roof.
More early morning and evening drives around Imfolozi. We saw numerous White Rhinoceros but thought that they wasn’t any Elephant as we could never find any, but finally we came across one in the river and after that we saw more over the following days
Our bird and wildlife list included
Barn Swallow, Brown-Hooded Kingfisher, Dark-capped Bulbul, Egyptian Goose, European Roller, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Grey Heron, Hadada, Helmeted Guineafowl, Lesser Grey Shrike, Lesser Striped Swallow, Mocking Cliff Chat, Purple-crested Turaco, Red-backed Shrike, Red-billed Oxpecker, Red-chested Cuckoo, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Spotted Flycatcher, Steppe Buzzard, Village Weaver, Violet-backed Starling, White Stork, White-backed Vulture, White-breasted Cormorant, White-crested Helmetshrike, White-fronted Bee-eater, Yellow-billed Kite. To see all photographs then please visit Birds of South Africa
Blue Wildebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Cape Baboon, Cape Buffalo, Elegant Grasshopper, Elephant, Impala, Kudu, Serrated Hinged Terrapin, Southern White Rhinoceros. To see all photographs then please visit Wildlife of South Africa
Time to move on and the next stop is St. Lucia as we enjoyed it so much last year