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South Africa (ZA)   Safari at Kirkmans Kamp in Sabi Sands Reserve  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 03:19:11 pm

Return to Kirkmans Kamp in Sabi Sands Reserve, Mpumulanga, South Africa - July 2010

After a hectic half year at work, my family and I retreated to the African bush for 4-days of solitude and peace. It wasnt a difficult decision to return back to Kirkmans Kamp during the South African winter. One of the prime reasons for choosing Kirkmans was that they also allow children under 12, so my son Jaden was ecstatic. Images by Mike Pope

Winter in the lowveld is very pleasant with brisk evenings and early mornings, but very comfortable temperatures during the day. In between the morning and afternoon safari's, we relaxed around the pool and patio of the main house enjoying the solitude and watching birds and game passing by in the gardens and the Sand River below our bungalows - really stressful. Although no migrants are present during winter, the resident birds in the gardens and on the game drives kept us entertained. In the garden around the main lodge we had a flowering exotic tree, which attracted a variety of birds. The male Scarlet-chested Sunbird really stood out from the white flowers, but was most uncoperative for photographs

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

The female Scarlet-chested Sunbird is a little more cryptic

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

A Spotted Flycatcher, which is a migrant, must have jumped on a earlier flight to get to South Africa ahead of the others

Spotted Flycatcher

A single Crombec was seen in the maze of branches, this is a bird with character - it has to be since it is almost tailess


Grey Loeries (Turaco) were also seen feeding on the flowers

Grey Loerie

It wasnt just this exotic tree that attracted birds, the indigenous trees in the main garden held their own with Ashy Flycatchers

Ashy Flycatcher

Black-eyed Bulbuls

Black-eyed Bulbul

Brown-hooded Kingfishers

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

A very vocal female Chinspot Batis, why should we be surprised!

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

Drongo's were seen having success hunting from perches above the grassed lawn


During the warmth of the day, we relaxed around the pool and birds came to us. A Black-collared Barbet in the tree above our loungers

Black-collared Barbet

A couple of birds took advantage to drink water from the pool; Yellow-eyed Canaries were quite bold

Yellow-eyed Canary

Greater Blue-eared Starlings are quite magnificent

Greater Blue-eared Starling

Above the pool we had some Wire-tailed Swallows that stopped to rest in the shade of the change rooms

Wire-tailed Swallow

A group of Palm Swifts appeared to be collecting nesting material on the wing

Palm Swift

A pair of Lesser-striped Swallows (intra African migrants) arrived on our last day at Kirkmans

Lesser-striped Swallow

The lodge lawns also had some birds of interest. Every afternoon a flock of Helmeted Guineafowl would come trooping across and took flight if spooked by an overhead raptor

Helmeted Guineafowl

The largest Starling species, Burchells Glossy Starling were seen bathing in the sprinkler spray and feeding on the ground

Burchells Glossy Starling

Both Yellow-billed Hornbill

Yellow-billed Hornbill

and the slightly smaller Red-billed Hornbills were seen

Red-billed Hornbill

Exploring the fringes of the bush at the edge of the property had to be done with care, as the lodge is not fenced. Here the striking Groundscraper Thrush was seen

Groundscraper Thrush

A Tawny-flanked Prinia was seen in a thicket on the ground

Tawny-flanked Prinia

together with a Neddicky


A Southern Tchagra flushed from where it was feeding on the ground


Not many raptors were seen around the lodge, but a African Hawk Eagle high on a thermal did catch my attention

African Hawk Eagle

An adult Bateleur is a sight to behold and also features on the logo for Kirkmans Kamp



Out on the morning and afternoon game drives, we encountered birds not seen around the lodge. An early morning stop on the river gave a fly by of African Harrier Hawk

African Harrier Hawk

Followed by a Hamerkop, a bird that many locals are superstitious of.


As we crossed the river, we saw the large Goliath Heron hunting quietly against the reeds

Goliath Heron

Another Hamerkop was seen hunting on the causeway


Also seen in the early mornings are Green Pigeons preening out in the open before they disappear into the depths of the trees to feed and roost for the day

Green Pigeon

Whilst watching a lion at a waterhole, we saw Crested Francolin feeding apparently oblivious to the lion

Crested Francolin

Also seen was a female Cardinal Woodpecker high up in a dead tree

Female Cardinal Woodpecker

On the opposite side of the waterhole, a flock of White-backed Vultures had roosted for the night

White-backed Vulture

A little later in the morning, once the thermals were rising, the Vultures departed and slowly spiralled upwards

White-backed Vulture

On the game drive, we also saw a Lizzard Buzzard fly into the tree with a small prey item clutched in its talons

Lizzard Buzzard

Yellow-billed Hornbills strike me as the equivalent of the birding clowns of the bush

Yellow-billed Hornbill

The Lilac-breasted Roller is probably the most photographed bird in the Kruger National Park and with colours like this, you can understand why

Lilac-breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

On the way to our sundowner stop an Emerald-spotted Dove was heard before it was seen

Emerald-spotted Dove

During our sundowner, I saw a small group of Little Bee-eaters hawking in the fading light

Little Bee-eater

Saddle-billed Stork is one of the Big 5 of birds - the other 4 are: Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Ground Hornbill and Kori Bustard

Saddle-billed Stork

Saddle-billed Stork

However, the majority of visitors to Sabi Sand Reserve and lodges like Kirkmans Kamp are here for the big game and sadly birds feature quite low on most agenda's. To me the mammals and birds are symbiotic and I get a kick out of everything we encounter on safari. It is almost a priviledge to be able have this kind of exclusivity to enjoy game at close range with your personal guide and ranger. Walking around the camp looking at birds, also provides opportunity to see some of the lodge animals. The shy Bushbuck feeds along the fringes of the riverine bush


A male Warthog was more bold and grazed on the lodge lawns


Vervet Monkeys were daring during lunch when they would steal food off your table if you werent vigilant enough

Vervet Monkey

Out on safari, there are many other mammals to distract whilst looking for the Big 5 and our ranger and tracker together with the guests were able to find some of the smaller antelope like, Duiker


and Klipspringer, a specialist of rocky outcrops and extremely agile across the rocks and boulders


Among the larger antelope, the Waterbuck is still one of my favourites from a photograhic perspective


However, most people consider the Kudu to be the most regal


Two Giraffe grazing in the African bush


We saw these Dwarf Mongoose as the sprinted across the track in front of us

Dwarf Mongoose

As the sun sets, the nocturnal mammals start appearing. This Spotted Hyaena has just seen a Leopard lying off his track and was unsure what to do next. He didnt have to wait long, as the young male Leopard chased him back from where he had come

Spotted Hyaena

The White-tailed Mongoose is always a good sighting on a night drive

White-tailed Mongoose

We almost bumped into this grazing Hippo on one of the early morning drives


As mentioned earlier, most guests main quest at these private lodges is to get up close and personal to the Big 5, well Kirkmans Kamp didnt disappoint. We were really close to a family group of 4 White Rhino's - here a male looking a little apprehensive. It is such a shame that they are being mercilessly poached and slaughtered again in South Africa and the source/demand needs to be stopped

White Rhino

We watched this pregnant Elephant as she systematically shredded the bark off this branch by pulling and rotating it through her mouth with her trunk


A junior Elephant did his best to 'scare' us, but realise we were much bigger than him and beat a hasty retreat


Kirkmans Kamp is one of the places in Sabi Sands for Leopard and the rangers/trackers delivered the goods. We had superb sightings on almost all of our drives - both morning and afternoon. Here a young male sleeping in the afternoon


Yawning after his sleep


One of the males walking his territory


Up in a tree looking over the bush


A portrait in the early morning light


While enjoying the Rhino's, we noted a pride of Lion within 10m of the Rhino's who hadnt noticed them. The Lions were quiet too, as they had cubs

Lion Cub

Lion Cub

We tracked this magnificent male Lion as it made its way to a nearby waterhole


There was a dead Waterbuck in the middle of the small pan, here the Lion trying to work out how to take advantage of this 'free' meal


After assessing the situation and the real possibility of a large Crocodile in the pan, the Lion eventually decided to try and retrieve the Waterbuck. It tentativly walked into the water and discovered that it got deeper as it got closer to the buck. Then either its movement in the water or one of the feeding Terrapins bumped into it - well, he tried to walk on water in his haste to get back to dry land





He tried this move 3 times without success and then gave up and went to mark his territory around the dead Waterbuck. As a note, we visited the pan the following morning and discovered that he did persevere and finally pulled the buck onto the bank - but didnt eat much of it, probably because it had been dead too long



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