Help! South Africa is overwhelming!

Hi everyone,

First, for those who are wondering about CAR, I haven’t forgotten about it, but it will be February 2017 so I will start planning around Jan-Feb 2016.

Now to South Africa: I’m going there in October, maybe with my family. Most importantly, here is a list of the animals I’m after:

  1. Caracal
  2. Aardvark
  3. White Rhino
  4. Aardwolf
  5. Wild dogs
  6. Serval
  7. African Civet
  8. Mountain Zebra
  9. Zorilla
  10. Black-footed Cat
  11. Honey Badger (seen Β very well, but no photo)
  12. Pangolin (can always wish, but any tips are welcome)
  13. Roan
  14. Sable
  15. Klipspringer
  16. Brown Hyena
  17. Porcupine
  18. Meerkat/Suricate
  19. Clawless Otter
  20. Spotted-necked Otter

Here are the places I was thinking of spending time in:
Kruger – 5 nights at 3 different areas (Satara, Mopani, Olifants)

Pilanesburg – 1 afternoon, night drive, morning

Marrick Safari – 2 nights plus previous afternoon and following morning

Mountain Zebra National Park – 1 afternoon, night drive, morning

Pattenberg Bay area – 1 day

De Hoop – 2 nights

Cape Town: Cage diving, scenic stuff – 3 days

West Coast National Park – 1 afternoon, night, morning

Does this sound like a good “fist time” trip to South Africa? I will also annex a 2-night “hop over” to Victoria Falls with flights from Johannesburg.

Any and all comments are welcome!! If I happen to not see any meerkats it won’t be the worst thing in the world. If I’m spending too much/too little time anywhere, please let me know. If You don’t think 1 night/morning is enough to try for caracals in West Coast NP, let me know.. really, any thoughts you might have. Even comments like “Tomer, don’t concentrate on wild dogs/brown hyena in South Africa because you can see them in the Kalahari whenever you’re in Botzwana sometime in the future” are welcome. Thanks so much in advance!!

TomerRoute

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76 Comments on “Help! South Africa is overwhelming!”

  1. Jon Hall Says:

    There’s a lot to see in SA and I am sure you will return. My main suggestions areto add an extra night in West Coast if you want to increase your chances of Caracals (though I think I heard that spotlighting there is now much more difficult so look into that and the recent reports on my site). You might also add a night in De Hoop Reserve which I really liked: Mountain zebra, zorilla, Clawless Otters and maybe a Caracal too (Richard Webb saw one here I think). I’d go there instead of Mountain Zebra NP personally.

    • tomeslice Says:

      Oh, shit! I totally forgot to mention 2 nights I accounted for in De Hoop!! It’s even on the map I attached. lol.

      So do you think that if I’m going to De Hoop for 2 nights, I could delete the night from Mountain Zebra and add it to West Coast?

      Thanks Jon!!!

  2. vnsankar123 Says:

    Tomer,

    You must, must, must go to Tswalu Kalahari. If you spend 4 nights there in Jul-Jul, you are guaranteed Aardvark, Sable, Roan, Tsessebe, Wild Dog, Aardwolf, Meerkat, Mountain Zebra (Hartmann’s not Cape here), White and Black Rhino, Cheetah, and Lion. You have good chances at lots of antelope including Mountain Reedbuck, Nyala, etc. too and also African Wildcat. Check out their mammal list on their site. This is the best place in the world to see Ground Pangolin – someone on safaritalk spent 10 days there last summer and had 2 phenomenal sightings and this is the only place where you can confidently hope to see one if you spend a week in Jun-Jul. Caracal, Zorilla, Brown Hyena, Porcupine, and Cape Fox are not as reliable but are all seen often (Honey Badger is rare though). Very expensive but 100% worth every penny!

    Go to Satara in Kruger for Honey Badger. Also very good chances for Serval and African Civet on night drives here (you can try Mopane Camp as well for these guys too).

    Go to Marievale for Spotted-necked and Cape Clawless Otter. You can also try Tsitsikamma for Cape Clawless Otter (Jon had good sightings there I thin) – this species is pretty easy in some places in South Africa.

    Marrick for Porcupine and Black footed Cat, and added chances at Aardvark, Caracal, Meerkat, Smith’s Red Rockhare and Aardwolf. You can also visit Mokala nearby for Sable, Roan, Tsessebe, and a few other things.

    Go to Madikwe or Kgalagadi for Brown Hyena. If you look on Safaritalk, you can read about which camps in Kgalagadi are best for Brown Hyena. I would say Kgalagadi is your best bet for Brown Hyena and also very good chances for Wildcat, Cape Fox, Caracal, Honey Badger (very easy here!!), Meerkat, Zorilla, and more.

    Also, I would recommend you check out Sanbona — it’s a great place to see Riverine Rabbit and you have good chances of some of your other targets there too. You can also see Hewitt’s (Smith’s) Red Rockhare here too.

    I’m sure you’ll find Klipspringer somewhere – they’re easy in SA.

    • vnsankar123 Says:

      I would say cut your time in Kruger just to Satara and Mopane, do Pilanesberg, do Marrick, add in Tswalu, do an afternoon or morning in Marievale, do De Hoop but skip MZNP and Plettenberg Bay, do Cape Town, and then if you have time check out Sanbona (close to Cape Town). Kgalagadi is incredible for the species I mentioned above but remote and you should dedicate another 4-5 days if you want to go.


    • Riverine Rabbit did I hear you say? I’m going to South Africa in April and that species is top of my list. Someone who works for a conservation organisation in South Africa already recommended Sanbona to me, but I haven’t contacted them yet. What was your experience there? Did you see the Rabbit and if so what was the procedure? Judging from their website they don’t typically do night drives, so did you organise your own? Any information gratefully received. They’re not cheap either, so if I’m going to stump up a fortune to go there, I want to have pretty good odds of seeing the bunny!

  3. tomeslice Says:

    Thanks Vladimir!
    With a heavy heart and a drooling mouth (over the pangolin and others mentioned), I will have to skip Tswalu Kalahari this time for a few reasons:
    1. The price!!! This alone would be enough. >1000USD per person per night = no can do.
    2. Seems like Jun-Jul is the best time for this place, and I’m coming in October
    3. It’s completely out of my already tight-in-time itinerary.

    BUT: Another time when I’m in Botswana I will definitely do the Kalagadi both on the SA and Botswanan side, and if I’m rich enough by that point I will definitely hop over to Tswalu Kalahari, even though it’s not exactly right next to the KTP.

    As for your other suggestions – I will take them into account where possible πŸ™‚

    By Marievale do you mean the bird sanctuary right by Johannesburg?

    Also in Marrick, as far as I understand, they see aardwolves and aardvarks on 100% of the game drives! Don’t jinx it!! πŸ˜‰

    I will look into Sabona too.

    Thanks!!!

    • vnsankar123 Says:

      Marievale is the bird sanctuary near Johannesburg. There is an otter hide there where you can see both species.

      When you are in Marrick, be sure to check out Mokala as this is really the only place where you have a good chance of seeing Sable and Roan (both are difficult in Kruger, but you can try Pretoriuskop for Sable).

      Tswalu is extremely expensive (crap! I thought it was less than that!!) but I do think worth it though you’ll certainly need more time to make the most of it… Btw, regarding Tswalu you should still see most of that stuff even in October but it’s just that you can see Aardvark during the day (!) in Jun-Jul and your chances at Pangolin improve at that time of year (Oct is a good time for Cape Fox there however).

      Re Wild Dog, you might want to add back Olifants in Kruger for that one; that said, it’s definitely far from guaranteed.

    • cmh78 Says:

      I missed Aardvark the first time I went to Marrick, and I know someone else that missed it as well. That said, they are typical and the guides work hard for you.

  4. Mike Richardson Says:

    Hi Tomer

    I visited West Coast NP in 2011 and driving around after dark was forbidden. There’s nothing stopping you driving around at dusk and dawn when Caracals are most active or spotlighting on foot at night. As it happens we saw a Caracal at lunch time from the main hide although I think day time sightings are rare.

    It’s also worth noting that night drives do not run every night in the national parks, especially in the more quiet parks/camps. This may be a problem if only visiting a park/camp for one night. Kgalagadi can be particularly bad for this and in 2011 I had to wait 4 nights before I could persuade the guides to take me out on a night drive from the largest camp (they need a minimum number of participants before they commit). It was a very frustrating experience as I had to return to camp every afternoon to see if any other people had signed up. This will be less of a problem in Kruger when places on night drives can fill up fast.

    In Kruger you may be better limiting your time to the south of the park (Satara is the place for Honey Badger). Although the Mopani area is fantastic, I don’t think you will increase your chances of seeing any of your targets by moving north (perhaps with the exception of Sable and Roan which are rare anyway). A visit to north Kruger would be necessary if you wanted to see Sharp’s Grysbok.

    Two nights should be enough time at Marrick although in May 2011 I did two consecutive night drives and missed Aardvark and most other specialities, possibly because of very cold weather. A second visit in Oct 2012 was far more productive with all targets seen over three night drives (see trip report for 2012 trip). AFAIK Meerkat are much more reliable at Marrick now with a habituated group living around the farm.


  5. Hi Tomer,

    I’m going to SA in April, and will also be looking for the otters, so I’ll let you know how I get along. I have a lead on Clawless otters on the property of a B&B near Stellenbosch, which I’m hoping to visit. Marievale is apparently best for Spot necked, although both species occur there.

    Charles

    • nicogaidet Says:

      Hi Charles,
      I am going to Stellenbosch in April this year and will also be looking for the otters. May I asked you which B&B you visited and if you had a chance to spot otters there?
      Thanks
      Nicolas

  6. tomeslice Says:

    Vladimir – Thanks again! Duely noted on Mariavale, Mokala and Olifants.

    Mike – Thanks for the tips!! I will look around dawn and dusk for them ‘cals (that’s my redneck way of saying caracals). We should be 3, 5 or 6 so hopefully we won’t have a problem with minimum participants for night drives. I’m also a little encouraged by the fact that you saw all your targets in OCTOBER at Marrick, which is when we’re going!! Phew.
    About Kruger… I see what you’re saying, and at the same time I also see that people do catch up with nice surprises, especially around skukuza/Pretoriuskop, Satara and Olifants, the longer they stay. things like servals and wild dogs come up. So I might only shorten it to 4 nights, or keep it at 5.

    Charles – I still have your gloves!! Lol. They did me well in Iceland.
    I’ll be happy to hear about the otters. I thought clawless otters are possible both at Mariavale (at least 2 people on this site reported seeing them) and at De Hoop, though I think nobody reported seeing them since Jon.

    **ANOTHER QUESTION**
    Jon fortunately saw a zorilla at De Hoop. But has anyone else seen a zorilla there? Do I have a chance of catching up with one during my trip? Are there any tips to help me find one, regarding locations in the park, time of the night, or anything of that sort?

    Thanks again, everyone!! This forum is alright πŸ˜‰

    • cmh78 Says:

      I never saw a live one, but there were lots of dead zorillas between DE Hoop and Marrick. Also, I saw Clawless Otters and Caracal in De Hoop.


    • I saw one a zorilla on an evening drive at De Hoop in November 2005. I left the lodge at about 9 pm and spotlighted in the farmland adjacent to the reserve, and saw it at about 10 pm. Spotlighting there was easy because the area is so open. Just beware of the Steenboks masquerading as Cape Grysbok! The Steenboks there are both common and unusually furry, so unless you can see the white flecks in their fur, its probably a Steenbok.

    • mikehoit Says:

      Hi Tomer
      Only just seen this thread (I was away when it was more active), so apologies if I’m repeating what has already been said!
      Zorilla at de Hoop: in late July 2013 stayed one night in one of the de Hoop ‘village’ cottages at Opstal (the western one, on fact). The grassy pan behind these cottages held a large colony of gerbils, which I’ve always had down as Cape Gerbil but am happy to be corrected. And from about 9.30pm, we had prolonged and close views of a Zorilla hunting them; when I woke up pre dawn the next day, it was outside the front door! Staying here allowed me to stay out by the vlei till dark, and see Cape Clawless Otters. No one seemed to mind me lamping the immediate area with a torch either.
      Caracals at WCNP: around the same time, Caracals were relatively reliable late afternoon. One was seen regularly (not by me) along the road to the Geelbek visitor centre; I saw one from the Seeburg lookout, plus very fresh prints near the bird hide there. Also two Heaviside’s Dolphins from the Atlantic Viewpoint, and Dusky Dolphins from the Tsaarsbank car park.

      I never managed to do a trip report for that trip, but also visited Cape of Good Hope, the north part of the west coast, Tanqua Karoo NP and surroundings, and Grootvadersbosch. Let me know if any of these are on your route & could do with any tips

      Hope this helps
      Cheers
      Mike

      • tomeslice Says:

        Hi Mike!
        Thanks for all that info! That’s great, and sounds very promising for zorilla at de Hoop! I was looking at those cottages online just the other day. Maybe I will reserve it!

        It’s too bad that you didn’t put together a trip report for that trip, as it sounds like you have seen a lot of cool stuff. Do you recall, just off the top of your head, the mammals you saw? (At least the highlights: clearly – caracal, zorilla… other cats? other carnivores? aardvark? pangolin? any cool antelopes? That would be cool just to get another list of species someone else has seen in the area, so I can look forward to trying to be as successful as you πŸ™‚ )

  7. vdinets Says:

    Madikwe is probably your best bet for wild dogs. For brown hyenas, I would seriously consider bringing a bag of meat to Kgalagadi and setting up a bait station somewhere just outside the park.

  8. ameet Says:

    In 2009, we saw Brown Hyena twice in 3 days at Madikwe. We missed the Wild Dogs because they recently had pups and that whole area was off limits. White Rhinos were fairly easy to see.

  9. tomeslice Says:

    Thanks again everyone!!!

    @cmh78 – Do you remember which month/time of the year it was that you missed the aardvarks in Marrick?

    About Madikwe – this is another place I will have to save for the next time when I do “Northern South Africa”, because as I’m putting an itinerary together, and negotiating with my family who wants to spend more time on the Garden Route, I’m defending the number of days/nights I have reserved for the places I mentioned above. But on the positive side – my family (especially my sister) are good spotters, and even my mom has taken a liking to seeing most of the safari animals. Plus, obviously we share the costs πŸ™‚

    Thanks again for the specifics regarding Zorillas at De Hoop!! So, from this, I understand that I should bring my own torch/spotlight? I wasn’t planning on it, since in most places (Kruger, Pilanesburg, Marrick, MZNP) I figured there are organized night game drives. But if needed, I will buy one, preferably a rechargeable, battery-operated one (suggestions?).

    • cmh78 Says:

      It was in May that I missed Aardvark at Marrick. It was the first really cold night there. The night I went in January was great, 1 aardvark, 7 Aardwolves, and 2 Black-footed Cats in 1 night.

      I also saw 3 Brown Hyenas in 5 days at Kgalagadi.

  10. Steve Firth Says:

    At Marrick in Mid November 2014 we did 3 night drives. Porcupine seen on two nights, Aardvark seen well on all nights, Aardwolf seen fleetingly on two nights, South African Hedgehog seen after we’d asked the guide to look for it (he doesn’t think people will be interested). Saw Black-footed Cat on last night. It hid/froze in long grass and we got off the vehicle and stood for a few minutes 2 metres away before it bolted. It was unseasonably EXTREMELY cold during the night drives, so be prepared as it meant activity was low and so they stayed out until past midnight, so over 4 hours spotlighting in extreme cold.
    Kgalagadi – saw Brown Hyena 3 times in 5 days.

  11. SLahaye Says:

    From all the places you’ve mentioned, I’ve only vistited Victoria Falls. There is a loop with two short trails: trail one runs along all the viewpoints of the falls and trail two loops back to the gate and runs through the “forest”. We were there last August. We arrived at around 9.30am. We first walked up and town the forest trail. Just past the restrooms, we saw chacma baboon and velvet monkey (only in the morning). At the far end of the trail we saw a very very tame warthog. The species we were really after was bushbuck. In the end we saw two females and a juvenile. We saw one female and juvenile in the bushes close to the restrooms along the forest trail (just past the restrooms when coming from the gate). The second female was seen a bit further down the same trail, where there’s a big bend (let’s say a C-turn instead of a U-turn). They were seen at 11am and 2pm. We also saw a pair of Trumpeter hornbills in a tree along the trail – so keep your eyes open (and also up – but don’t forget to look down either because… well, you can read it below).

    The viewpoint/clearing/square with the Livingstone-statue is also memorable for us. We saw 2 large cape cobras here (and one very small unidentified snake) while eating our lunch!
    The viewpoints close to the statue are best in the afternoon. At around 2.30pm there was a wonderful waterfall-rainbow view!

    The rest of our time was spent in Namiba and Botswana and a bit in South Africa (kgalagadi NP, Sossus vlei, Swakopmund, Erongo, Tsumeb – Ghaub guestfarm, Okavango – Maun, Chobe – Kasane, Etosha, Waterberg). We saw many species that were on our wishlist including zorilla and meerkat (Kgalagadi), aardvark and serval (Tsumeb – Ghaub guestfarm), aardwolf (Sossus and Kasane), clawless otter (Chobe) and many more! But we also missed out on some target species such as brown hyena, wild dog and caracal… I suppose you can’t have them all, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying πŸ™‚

  12. Steve Says:

    Do take a torch but you won’t be allowed to drive round reserves doing your own night drive.

  13. tomeslice Says:

    Thanks guys!

    Steve, I will make sure to have warm clothes just in case (and hope for warmer weather because if I’m not mistaken it has impact on animal behavior)

    @biologiefoto – Thanks! Hopefully I will get close to seeing all the cool stuff you saw throughout your trip πŸ™‚
    I will also make sure to check out the trail in Victoria. I have already seen bushbucks, but cobras and trumpeter hornbills will be highly welcome! I have seen the trumpeter’s friend, silvery-cheeked hb in Tanzania, and have never seen a confirmed cobra (a fleeting snake in Sumatra may have been one, but I didn’t stick around to check because I was in a bush setting a trap, didn’t have a camera or anything).

    Steve – sounds good. BTW, do I have to stay at the camps/lodges that offer night drives, or do I just call them and reserve this activity? Is there a discount if I’m a guest as opposed to just an outside “joiner”?

    • Steve Firth Says:

      Tomer,

      If you are asking about night drives in Kgalagadi, we didn’t go on one.

      We were able to see Brown Hyena at dusk and especially early morning at Rooikop waterhole. Rooikop is only a few minutes drive from Nossob camp, so head there as soon as Nossob Gate opens in the morning. In the evening, make Rooikop your last port of call before Nossob Gate closes.

      The morning sighting was in great light and the Brown Hyena decided to stand completely in the Waterhole.

  14. Paul Leigh Says:

    Tomer,I went to south Africa in 2011 and 2014 on different tours,first tour the garden route stopping at de hoop and we managed to see zorilla but no caracals,second trip we went to st lucia wetland seeing 2serval then onto marrick to see aardvark,wildcat and black footed cat but no aardwolf.we finished off at madikwe for wild dog and brown hyena,One off the camps has civil and brown hyena every night,

  15. Charles Foley Says:

    I think its Nossob camp that has a waterhole right beside it with a hide that you can access at all hours. I was there with my family about 10 years ago and sat at the hide for an hour or so and watched a Brown hyaena and some BB jackals come in to drink.

    • Steve Firth Says:

      Yes Charles, it is definitely at Nossob. The waterhole is lit up until 10pm, after that time you can stay in the hide but would need your own spotlight..

  16. tomeslice Says:

    Thanks again everyone!

    So unfortunately Madikwe is out for this trip. But along with the SA side of Kalagadi and Tswalu, it goes right to the top of the list for the “next time” trip to SA. I’m SURE this will not be my last time in SA.

    As far as the night drives – I was actually referring to Kruger. Now, I know the night drives there are really hit or miss, and I will learn from the communal knowledge: reserve all the night drives months in advance, as soon as I have specific dates, bring my own pretty-powerful torch and try to get there somewhat early just in case. But with that said, do I need to stay at the camps/lodges that offer the night drives? Or can i come as a guest? And if both options exist – is there a discount or any advantage to staying at the places that offer them?


    • At Kruger you need to stay at the actual camp that offers the night drive because all the camp gates close at dusk and you are not allowed to exit after this time.

      While on the night drive don’t rely on the guides to identify the smaller mammals correctly. One of the guides on my Kruger trip called an obvious Grysbok a Steenbok and (believe it or not) a Serval was misidentified as a Wildcat! Non of the other guests had binoculars and showed little interest in anything other than the Big 5.

      Apart from the actual night drive, another reason to bring your own spotlight is many interesting mammals, herps and birds can be found inside the camps or can be seen through the boundary fence at night. Walking around camp once everyone has gone to bed can be very rewarding with things like Civets, Honey Badger and even animals as large as Warthog and Bushbuck all commonly seen inside the fence. Occasionally Leopards enter camps at night and have to be trapped.

      Marrick is also a nice place to walk around after dark although watch where you step. I nearly stepped on a huge Puff adder that was mostly covered by sand.

  17. Paul Carter Says:

    For your 3 days in Cape Town “cage diving and scenic” which will likely include the penguins in Simonstown you could stay in Simonstown and already pick up close views of porcupine. They visit gardens at night e.g. at Avian Leisure B&B.

  18. tomeslice Says:

    Mike – That’s very important knowledge!! Thank you for that. So I actually have to stay at the specific camps that offer night drives, and I can’t just look on booking.com and find lodges based on per-night costs. And I will make sure to check the camp at night too (I tend to do that kind of stuff πŸ™‚ )

    Paul – That sounds good! I will look into it, maybe spending at least 1 night there, and the other two inside Cape Town. Hopefully I will have seen the porcupine by then, at Marrick and others.

  19. vdinets Says:

    BTW, Cape Town area is fairly good for mammals, with a bunch of small endemics. Looking for blesmols in Cape Flats was a really unusual mammalwatching experience πŸ™‚

  20. tomeslice Says:

    Nice! I will keep on the lookout πŸ™‚

    BTW – now that i have kind of put an itinerary together (which is basically the same itinerary I had before, but maybe I will cancel the night in MZ in favor of a second night in West Coast) I was wondering if anyone can recommend companies for night drives in Pilanesberg and camps/lodges that run night drives in Kruger.

    Kruger:
    Satara Rest Camp?
    Mopani Rest Camp?
    Olifants Rest Camp?

    **Are these three good options? Are there other camps inside the park that may provide better night drives?

    Marrick:
    Obviously the night drives are run by the lodge

    Pilanesberg:
    ?? I looked online – saw a few night drives that start and end in Sun City. Can anyone recommend a lodge/camp that also runs night drives that has good service and will try to help me find brown hyena, serval, caracal?

    Mountain Zebra:
    If I choose to stay here – would I do my own drive around the park? Or do I need to go on an organized tour? If so, with whom? Same with De Hoop – right? De Hoop is self-drive spotlighting?

    Thanks again everyone!!!

    • cmh78 Says:

      Mountain Zebra is the same as Kruger in that you can self drive during the day, but must do night drives organized with the park.

      If a night drive ever doesn’t have the minimum people, just buy a couple children’s tickets to get the minimum. I had to do that somewhere once.

      I just night walked in De Hoop and quickly saw Caracal, Cape Porcupine, and a pair of Cape Clawless Otters.

      • tomeslice Says:

        Oh OK, so at Mountain Zebra who runs the night drives? Park headquarters?

        What about Pilanesberg? Anyone specific that’s recommended?

        That’s very impressive about your walking experience at De Hoop!! I will really try for zorillas there, and I do have 2 nights so maybe I’ll walk one of them, and drive on the second one.

      • vnsankar123 Says:

        Tomer, I think someone on safaritalk did night drives at MZNP (they did quite well from what I remember with Aardwolf, Black-footed Cat, and some other stuff). You might want to go search for that thread to see who organizes the drives, etc. I think it must have been the park.

        For Pilanesberg, not really sure…

  21. tomeslice Says:

    Thanks Vladimir!
    I just looked at SafariTalk, and I came across that Tswalu Kalahari report, which has no less than 23 freaking daytime aardvarks!! Plus 2 separate pangolin sightings, 2 days apart!! And they were clearly of different animals too, one was much older and bigger than the other, and of course they had pictures to prove it! Along with roan and sable, caracals and aardwolves, I think this place alone will grant South Africa a second visit in the near future (as soon as I save up the ~$1000 a night required).

    I’ll keep looking for the night drive options.
    Tomer

  22. Astrid Says:

    Night drives in the national parks are normally run by park rangers. Mostly they are really good (though in Kruger you can be unfortunate with fellow travellers). You can book both the accomodation and the drives on the Sanparks homepage or by telephone at their central booking office, which is what I always do. It is a good idea to book a long time ahead though.
    Mountain Zebra has been a great park for us: we even saw an aardvark in daylight there as well as black rhino and bat eared foxes and I can recommend the cheetah tracking the park offers.
    Another good place to go is Augrabies Falls National Park: in August this year we saw Hartmann’s mountain zebra, klipspringers, eland, kudu, giraffe, springbok, oryx, grey mongoose, yellow mongoose, vervet monkeys, baboons, cape hare, scrub hare, Smith’s red rock rabbits and best of all cape clawless otter, aardwolf and genet.

    • tomeslice Says:

      Cool! I just looked on the SANParks page and indeed I see that I can reserve night drives at the national parks like Mountain Zebra and Kruger. De Hoop is self-drive, Marrick is with the lodge, and West Coast you can’t drive at night (but early morning and late afternoons are good).

      So I guess the only question remains – who to use for Pilanesberg?

  23. vdinets Says:

    BTW, Karoo NP is also very good, and conveniently located on the main CT-JB road. I did one night drive with them and got an aardwolf and a Hewitt’s red rock hare. The park has very few people and you can spotlight on foot a bit; look for Grant’s rock mice and Karoo sengis. In 2008 there was a place at the edge of the park where riverine rabbits could be seen with some effort (you could self-drive there at night from outside the park by following the fence), but AFAIK there’s been no sightings since 2012. During the day there are rheboks, mountain reedbucks, klipspringers and watchable nests of Verraux’s eagles, plus lots of more common stuff.

  24. tomeslice Says:

    Karoo does look good!
    I’ll see if it fits on the itinerary πŸ™‚

  25. mattinidaho Says:

    I visited Marrick last September. We stayed for 4 nights and did night drives each night there. We saw aardvarks, aardwolves, black-footed cats, African wild cats, porcupines, bat-eared foxes, genet, S. African hedgehog, long-eared mouse, etc.

    It is important to note that we did not see everything on each night drive. On 2 of the night drives we hardly saw any of the main target species (you will see spring hares, springbok, cape hares, etc all the time). I was glad to have the extra nights. The guides work hard and know the property very well. But there are no guarantees. If seeing an aardvark is a priority, I would stay longer than 2 nights, but that’s just me.

    I also highly recommend Mokala — we stayed a night there and really enjoyed ourselves. We saw 5 white rhinos. Roan, sable, black wildebeest, greater kudu and many other ungulates were easy to see, and it was a fun park to self drive. It is close enough to Marrick that you could quite easily do this as a day trip.

    Meerkats are close to guaranteed at the De Zekoe Farm outside Oudtshoorn. Meerkat Adventures is the name of the company that runs tours. The meerkats are acclimated to humans but completely wild. Fantastic viewing of them.

    In West Coast National Park, the Postberg section is not open in October. This was where it was easy to see bontebok and mountain zebra. But it sounds like you can see these animals at De Hoop as well (we didn’t go there).

    Hermanus is not too far from Cape Town and offers fantastic viewing of southern right whales. You should also see them on your shark trip and from De Hoop.

    We had a fantastic time. You will have fun and see lots of mammals whatever you choose.

  26. tomeslice Says:

    Damnit Matt!! You’re scaring me. Lol.
    Do you recall, on how many nights did you see an aardvark at Marrick?

    I guess between 5 night drives in Kruger, 1 in Pilanesberg, 2 at Marrick, 2 at De Hoop, 1 at Mountain Zebra and (maybe) one around West Coast… that’s 12-13 night drives, during “good” season.. I’m REALLY hoping I will catch up with aardvark. Would you recommend that I cut a night off mountain zebra and add it to marrick?

    I think during the day at Marrick we will drive over to Mokala and try to score roan and sable, as you and Vladimir recommended. Are they easy to find there? Is there a certain area of the park to look for them? If I ask at the entrance/gate/visitor center, will they tell me where they have been spotted that day?

    I thought meerkats are guaranteed now at Marrick too, with semi-tame individuals..?

    And also, at West Coast – what is the best areas for caracals, do you know? (don’t say Postberg πŸ˜‰ lol).

    Thanks Matt!!
    Tomer

    • mattinidaho Says:

      Hi Tomer,
      Didn’t mean to scare you! Trust me, it will be a fun trip.

      We saw aardvarks on 2 of 4 night drives. Ditto for black-footed cats and Smith’s red rock rabbit. We saw hedgehog, long-eared mouse, bat-eared fox and genet on one night drive. Aardwolves 3/4.

      Yes, Marrick has 2 meerkats around the lodge. They are essentially family pets. They will be playing outside your room, and coming to see Trevor for treats. I would have a hard time counting them for my life list but that may just be me. In any case, it is not the same as watching a colony of wild animals going about their day — much more interesting to me as a naturalist. You can see them in Mokala but fairly difficult.

      As far as Mokala: The best place to see roan and sable, as well as tsessebee and black wildebeest, is near the Lilydale entrance en route to Lilydale lodge. This also happens to be the closest entrance to Marrick.

      There is a viewpoint en route to the lodge that overlooks a waterhole and large, flat pan. This area is great for all the above animals. We talked to regular Mokala visitors and they said this is always the best place to see these animals. There is a viewing platform there, a nice place to have lunch and watch. You can see a long ways, so you should see plenty of wildlife. We saw white rhinos in a couple places, both closer to Mosu. Note the park staff will NOT tell you where white rhinos are being seen, due to fears about poaching.

      We did not see caracals at West Coast National Park. In part, I was not trying hard because I have seen carcals at Etosha in Namibia. We also didn’t get out very early or very late there because my wife was pregnant.

      If you are staying at West Coast, the lodging is somewhat limited. It was booked up by the time I tried to get rooms. We were there in the flower season so it may be different in October. We ended up staying at Buffelsfontein, which is a game ranch a short drive away. They had nice rooms and good food; it was pretty basic but we had white rhinos and Cape buffalo in front of our room in the mornings. And there are Cape serotine bats roosting in the rooms outdoor braai chimneys. Peek in and get another lifer.

      • tomeslice Says:

        Thanks Matt!

        I was kidding, of course. Every and any bit of info is highly welcome.

        I completely agree with you about the meerkats, I’d much rather see a colony of them, and their natural behavior, for which they’re famous.

        Thank you so much for your tips in Mokala. I will make sure to visit that area and probably have lunch there as you suggested.

        All the sudden, it occurred to me that there’s a good chance that I will only see 50% of my target species on my first trip to SA. But I will 100% put in a lot of effort. Hopefully my sister will be able to join, and she’s a good spotter, too. And Two family friends are considering joining us as well.

        Hopefully two nights at Marrick will get me at least one good aardvark sighting, a picture worthy black-footed cat and a nice aardwolf. Porcupines are almost guaranteed there, right? The rest, I can live without (until next time)

        Thanks again!!
        Tomer

      • tomeslice Says:

        P.S.
        “They will be coming to see Trevor for teats” – Trevor Hardaker? Does he work at Marrick?

        Which reminds me – I’m friends with him on Facebook.. how did I not think of asking him about my SA plan?? I will do that πŸ™‚

        Thanks again.

  27. Charles Foley Says:

    Tomer, there’s a place close to Marrick where someone saw Clawless otter (see some of the previous South Africa reports), so its probably worth your while stopping by there during the day when you’re kicking your heels.

    Based on Vladimir’s description, I might try the Karoo NP while I’m in the area chasing Riverine rabbits.

    By the way, Matt said ‘treats’…

    • mattinidaho Says:

      Yes, treats. It is Trevor Datnow, who owns Marrick. Marrick can be a bit difficult to reach — I had no luck via email. Skype is one option; the other is messaging Trevor Datnow on Facebook…

      We had great views of porcupines on every night drive. While the aardvark viewing was more difficult than usual, the ones we did see were absolutely fantastic, long, close-range views. Black-footed cats were clear and lengthy views but distant.

      Your target list includes some of the more difficult species, but you should see a good selection. Also don’t forget that you should also see some really nice species that aren’t on your list but that are quite good mammals in my opinion (bontebok, rhebuck, greater kudu, eland, mongoose species, southern right whale, etc) — plus all the charismatic critters at Kruger. We skipped Kruger because of the small malaria risk — didn’t want to take even a minimal risk with my wife’s pregnancy.

  28. stevebabbs Says:

    I’ll be in South Africa next August and would love to know the details of the clawless otter site.

  29. vnsankar123 Says:

    You may want to contact Jason Woolgar for information on Zorillas… I remember reading a TR of his where he saw something like 30 of them in 3 days somewhere (maybe in Kalahari??).
    Venkat

  30. tomeslice Says:

    Charles – well done on the clawless otters. Where is that place?

    Oh and I meant to write treats! Lol. Damn smartphone text predictor..

    Matt – I’m of course counting on seeing a lot of other cool stuff too! Gemsbok will be really cool, and my first Oryx species. I just wanted to put “concentrated” efforts into seeing stuff on my list, and hoping to run into the other stuff on the way. I will contact him, thanks!

    Vladimir – yep, they lost track of how many they saw (Jason and James Woolgar, that is) and if I recall correctly, it was in the KTP. Unfortunately I won’t be visiting there this time, but like I said, it goes right to the top of the list for next time, along with TK.

    I might, depending on a little negotiations with the rest of the family, be able to swing by Karoo NP. But I doubt it will be a long-enough stop to have a real chance at this so-called riverine rabbit. Might have to wait until next time, presuming they don’t go extinct before then.

  31. stevebabbs Says:

    I’m not wanting to hijack this thread but can anyone advise on the legal situation as regards small mammal trapping in South Africa? Having nearly been arrested in Spain for mammal trapping, I’m keen not to repeat the experience! I presume trapping in national parks is a no-no but what about elsewhere?

    Steve

  32. vdinets Says:

    I just heard back from Karoo National Park: they haven’t seen any riverine rabbits since 2011, and consider them locally extinct.

  33. Charles Foley Says:

    Steve and Tomer,

    The Clawless otter site near Kimberley is at Warrenton which is about an hour’s drive north of Kimberley. Richard Webb has seen them there a couple of times, and says he saw one ‘on the causeway to the west of town’. Would be worth a try if you’re in the area.
    Charles

  34. tomeslice Says:

    Thanks, Charles!
    I’ll be looking forward to your trip report in May, to see how reliable that place is.

    Cheers,
    Tomer

  35. tomeslice Says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I have another question about Kruger:
    So I didn’t realize there are apps where people report sightings… so you get live updates. Seems like wild dogs are reported at least once daily. That said, most sightings are in the Southern part, up to Satara, which is where most people hang out. Would it be worth it to have a night in Lower Sabie or Skukuza? And then 2 nights in Satara and 2 nights in Mopane? and in that case, skip Olifants?

    Also, @vnsankar – I just realized I kept getting you mixed up with Vladimir Dinets, whose “screen name” is vdinets. But you never corrected me! lol. Is your name also Vladimir, or am I a complete tard? πŸ˜€

    Thanks again, everyone!!

    • vnsankar123 Says:

      Tomer,
      My name is actually Venkat. I thought I corrected you at some point – oh well… Anyway, hope to see some great photos of South African mammals soon.

      • tomeslice Says:

        Hey Venkat, sorry I must have missed that.
        So now I know πŸ™‚

        And as far as pictures from South Africa.. It will be almost a year before the pictures are up, so hopefully between now and then, many good reports surface before mine πŸ™‚

  36. stevebabbs Says:

    The app is twitter. If you follow Kruger sighting you will get lots of news. I guess you won’t want to follow anyone else to keep your foreign data roaming costs down and make sure your phone isn’t updating anything. I’ll be looking into how I can make sure that nothing automatically connects on my phone, to keep cost down, when i’m there.

    • tomeslice Says:

      Steve,
      There’s the twitter account, but also an actual app (Latest Kruger Sightings). There’s another app called Sightings tracker, but it doesn’t always update.
      I guess you can sign up for a data plan to keep your cost down? I don’t have twitter, BTW. I’m a rebel ;-P

  37. Maurice Tijm Says:

    Hi Tomer,

    It was me that had put up the same question last winter. Still writing a report but want to inform you already. I can add the following to everything that is said above:

    Kruger: I studied Kruger Latest sightings from august till October last year. Wild dogs are most often reported near the western and southern borders of the park: phalaborwa gate, Kruger gate, around Pretoriuskop, Afsaal picnic spot, Crocodile bridge to lower sabie road. We saw them between Lower Sabie and Croc Bridge on the final day (WOW) but they are understandibly hard to find, we had been chasing quiete some sightings by then. Lower Sabie (river) and Skukuza are best for Leopard (4 sightings, 3 near Lower sabie). Cheetah was most often reported between Pretoriuskop and Skukuza, North and south of Satara and along the dirt roads northeast of Crocodile bridge (we had 5 sightings and saw them in all these three areas but that is rather exceptional I think). We took a sunset and morning drive around Croc bridge because of a Serval sightings the afternoon before and saw one both drives! I recall the advice of Mike Richardson and focus in Kruger on the area south of Olifants. Having said all this, a lot sightings are not reported to latest sightings so don’t think you haven’t got a chance higher up. We did a day trip to Olifants (GREAT scenery) and saw 4 Honey Badgers over 3 sightings, just north of the small stream that you cross 5 kilometer north of Satara. Fantastic. We also saw another badger at night in Satara camp (on the second night it was on camera trap) and a Wild cat in camp. For Sable I would try Shabeni loop (saw 1 male there and 1 female north of Afsaal). All in all we saw some very nice species on the nightdrives (Satara and Mopani are best for side-striped jackal I think), but it can also be surprisingly quiet and the guides drive far too fast to have a pleasant drive.

    Marrick: The spotlighting in Marrick fully makes up for all the cold and wasted spotlighting nights you have had anywhere else. We again were very fortunate and saw Aardvark, Aardwolf, Black-footed Cat, African Hedgehog every night, with sometimes multiple sightings a night (stayed 3 nights). Striped Polecat we saw two nights: just amazing but only the 7th and 8th sighting for Marrick so you can only hope for it. We also saw the rock rabbit, porcupine (nightly), small spotted genet and Wild cat.

    In Mokala we saw most of the fine ungulates in the far south west corner of the park where no public roads lead. So booking one of the guided drives is also a very good option: we just told the guide to focus only on these ungulates and he drove straight into these grasslands in the south (we arrove from the south gate).

    For Caracal you need time in the south or west of the country to have a good change. The game farms around Marrick persecute it.

    Because in parks in you are already driving a lot we opted to book internal flights but that is up to you.

    Have a fantastic trip

    Maurice Tijm

    • tomeslice Says:

      Thank you, Maurice!!!
      I didn’t remember someone had asked a similar question to this, last winter.
      That is some excellent info on Kruger and everything else! I will definitely follow your advice there, and looking forward to reading your report.

    • Kate Buys Says:

      Hi Maurice, what time of year were you at Marrick? Do you think July too cold for good sightings (we are esp after Aardvark and Aardwolf)… would April be better?
      Tomer you asked about torches … Olight (max ut javelot) is very light and easy to transport (1020 lumens).
      Another good spot for caracal is Addo Elephant NP (saw 3 in daylight)
      And for Serval, Dullstroom (esp the Millstream fishing lodge)

      Cheers
      Kate

      • tomeslice Says:

        Thank you for that, Kate!

        I will definitely look into this Olight torch! I must buy a torch before my trip.

        I also heard/read/saw pictures that show that Addo is a great caracal place. Unfortunately, we won’t be visiting Addo this time, but I’m really hoping that between our 2 nights at De Hoop, 1 at West Coast, 1 night safari at Mountain Zebra, and 1 potential night safari at Pilanesburg (price is ridiculous cause you have to take out a 10-person safari vehicle) we’ll at come across a caracal!! Along with Aardvak and Serval it’s at the TOP of my list!! (Aardwolf and wild dogs would be a close second along with zorilla and Roan+Sable). Plus a night safari on every night at Kruger (5 total) and 2 nights at Marrick (where Mike Richadson saw a caracal 2 nights in a row) make for a total of 11-12 nights in the field, some of which is prime Caracal territory. So you can’t say we’re not givit it our best πŸ™‚

        I haven’t heard of Dullstroom. I’ll have to look into it, although our itinerary is mostly set… I also heard St Lucia wetlands of Easternmost S.Africa is a great place for Serval, but again, our itinerary is pretty set so we will not be visiting that area this time. Of all the reports on Mammal Watching from Satara that include night drives, they were generally successful, but all we can do is try because I know the spotlighting sessions there can be a huge let down! We will also have a 2 night drives out of Skukuza and a night drive+pre-dawn drive out of crocodile bridge… all we can do is try πŸ™‚

        Thanks again, and cheers!
        Regarding your question about Marrick – I’m not an expert at all on Marrick, but from people’s responses on this thread it seemed like April was not the best time for Marrick. Nobody mentioned July.
        Tomer

      • Jon Hall Says:

        Hi Kate, I think spotlighting around Merrick in July would be brutally cold if you were in the back of a truck. I remember hearing about how unpleasant it was from the BF Cat researchers. My guess is that you’d have a better chance of seeing animals in the daylight then .. perhaps catch an Aardvark sunning itself in the morning. But spotlighting would be quite slow. Aardwolves are everywhere.. they shouldn’t be a problem unless something drastic has happened I don’t know about

  38. John Power Says:

    Sounds good all of the above, another place good for both otters is wolwespruit nature reserve on Vaal river in winter….Karoo np used to be good for caracals – no one seems to mention them there ? Enjoy trip

    • tomeslice Says:

      Thanks John!
      (I’m only 2 months late on seeing this post)

      We might have a quick day-time visit to Karoo thanks to my mom.. but I’m not counting on it for Caracals. Like I told Kate, I’m really hoping to maximize our caracal chances by spending 2 nights at De Hoop + 1 at West Coast + 1 at Mt. Zebra + 1 at Pilanesberg (all prime Caracal Territory), + 2 at Marrick + 5 at Kruger (less good, but still a chance).

      Of course at Marrick we will be concentrating on other stuff, so caracal is only by chance.

      Cheers!!
      Tomer


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