Cheetah
Cheetah

Field Diary – Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Wild dogs
Wild dogs

Once the ‘business’ part of tour South Africa trip was finished, we decided to spend some time wildlife watching in Kruger National Park. This was our chance to see some of Africa’s wild cats in the wild.

There are many safari options to explore Kruger and surrounding sanctuaries and we chose a 4D/5N trip with Viva Safaris, mainly because it included a stay in a tree house.

Disclosure: Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you click through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our privacy policy for more detail.

Wildlife watching in Kruger

We arrived at Tremisana in the late afternoon and went on an afternoon drive straight away. While we did not see much wildlife on the drive, we managed to spot two animals that we have not seen before: a Grey Duiker and Common Duiker along with a few Giraffes and Impala. After the game drive, we drove to Marc’s Tree House Lodge.

If you don’t mind climbing up and down the tree all day, a tree house is a really fun accommodation option. Our house was fantastic. It was constructed around the tree branch, so we had a massive tree trunk growing through our room.

The balcony was at mid-canopy level and opened up to the sea of green treetops. At night we would hear hyenas howling somewhere below and occasionally we had frogs camping inside the room.

Day 1 – Lions & cheetahs

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Cheetah and a cub at the kill
Cheetah and a cub at the kill

As fun as staying in a tree house is, the lodge had one major downside – it was outside Kruger NP, lying adjacent to Kapama Reserve. And because the camp was outside the park, we didn’t have the opportunity to go on any night drives at all and missed out on a lot of sightings of nocturnal wildlife. 

Daytime we typically spent on a safari in the park. On the first day, we saw a male Lion sleeping concealed in the high grass only a couple of meters from the road.

The rest of the day was rather quiet in terms of wildlife sightings. We saw the usual ungulates and quite a few Waterbucks, but no predators.

Related  Australian desert animals - the Simpson Desert

However, on our return home, just a few kilometres away from the Orpen gate we spotted the rarest cat of all –  the Cheetah. It was a female with a sub-adult cub feeding on the kill in the tall grass. This was quite a stroke of luck – there are only about 200 cheetahs in the park and we saw 2 of them!

Cheetahs are amazing cats to see in the wild, but if you are looking for a more up-close-and-personal introduction, check out this ethical cheetah encounter in Zimbabwe.

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Impala
Impala
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Steenbok
Steenbok

Day 2 – Marc’s Tree House and Afternoon drive

It’s been raining all day and we had a free morning so we decided to explore the area around our guest house. We used the time to watch some very tame Nyalas that were living on the property, but otherwise are very rare in the wild.  We also spent some time bird watching and spotted an African Paradise Flycatcher and a Yellow-Breasted Apalis.

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Nyala with a young
Nyala with a young
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Nyala male
Nyala male
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Yellow-breasted apalis
Yellow-breasted apalis
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Paradise flycatcher
Paradise flycatcher

In the afternoon we took a drive on the guest house property, but the only quality wildlife we saw was a Black Rhino with a calf. The rest of our wildlife watching for the day was concentrated on frogs around the campsite, of which there were plenty of. In just over an hour we spotted five species: Banded Rubber Frog, Bubbling Kassina, Foam Nest Frog, Snoring Puddle Frog and Guttural Toad. The toad I found in our tree house!

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Snoring Puddle Frog
Snoring Puddle Frog
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Bubbling Kassina
Bubbling Kassina
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Black rhino
Black rhino
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Giraffes
Giraffes
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Elephant train
Elephant train

Day 3 – Wild dogs and White lions

Practically as soon as we drove through the gate this morning, we spotted a Leopard. Unfortunately, it was completely concealed in the grass by the time we arrived, so it wasn’t a particularly good sighting.

We spent 8 hours driving around the park but didn’t see any new mammal species. We did, however, amassed quite a bird list including Grey-headed Parrot, Saddle-billed Stork and  Kori Bustard.

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Black-collared barbet
Black-collared barbet
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Southern Carmaine Bee-eate
Southern Carmaine Bee-eater
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Saddle-billed storks and mating Hippos
Saddle-billed storks and mating Hippos

It was on the way home again, that we saw the most amazing animals of the day. A few kilometres from the Orpen Gate we spotted a young Leopard hiding in tall grass.

As soon as we drove through the Orpen Gate we saw a pack of Wild Dogs running across the road and disappearing into the thick undergrowth. 

And just as we thought that it couldn’t bet any better, our driver spotted White Lions behind the fence on the Timbavati Reserve side. The male disappeared practically as soon as we arrived, but the three females were happy to lounge in front of us for quite some time.

Related  War dancing Pygmy elephants in Borneo

The rare white lions of Timbavati are world famous for their unique coat color. Wild white lions are rarely seen anywhere else, suggesting that the ‘white gene’ pool is almost completely unique to this area.

If there is one cat rarer than a cheetah in Kruger it is definitely the White Lion. Our guide has not seen them for 12 years.

Wild cats - white lioness at Kruger National Park
White lioness
Wild cats - Wounded leopard at Kruger National Park
Wounded leopard

Day 4 – Last Day in Kruger

On our last day, we were treated to watching a pack of 17 Wild Dogs lounging on the road right in front of our car and then going on a half-hearted chase after the herd of impala. The dogs didn’t catch any of the impalas, and it didn’t look like they really meant the chase – most of the dogs I saw had full round bellies.

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Wild dogs
Wild dogs
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Waterbuck
Waterbuck

The rest of the day continued as a variation on the “large groups of animals” theme. We saw a huge herd of African Buffalo – probably close to 100 individuals, a huge herd of Impala and a large herd of Zebra.

Even Elephants came in large numbers. The most amazing site of the day, however, was of a single animal – a male Leopard resting on a tree branch. As we were driving around the park later in the day we saw another Leopard that crossed the road right in front of our car.

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - African Elephant
Elephant
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Buffalo
Buffalo
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Impala herd
Impala herd

Other interesting animals we saw were White Rhino, Nile Crocodile and a Dwarf Mongoose. And of course an impressive amount of birds, including Black-shouldered Kite, African Fish-Eagle, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Booted Eagle and Jacobin Cuckoo.

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Wild dogs
Wild dogs
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Chacma baboons
Chacma baboons
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Crested barbet
Crested barbet
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - African grey hornbill
African grey hornbill
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Tawny eagle
Tawny eagle
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Blue waxbill
Blue waxbill
Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park - Blue waxbill
Blue waxbill

Day 5 – Back to Johannesburg via Blyde River Canyon

The Blyde River Canyon is a spectacular spot. We drove past it four times during our travels in South Africa and we never had a chance to stop for some exploration. The wildlife is hard to spot from the lookout points, but we managed to find two species of lizards: Spotted Rock Lizard and Pungwe Flat Lizard

Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon
Spotted Rock Lizard
Spotted Rock Lizard
Pungwe Flat Lizard
Pungwe Flat Lizard
Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon

Suggested Wildlife Guides for South African Wildlife Adventure

                 

Wildlife Watching in Kruger National Park #africanwildlife #Kruger #WildlifeTravel

Wildlife watching in Kruger National Park #african wildlife #leopard #cheetah #wilddogs #Marcstreehouse
Written By
More from Margarita

Wildlife watching at HESC & Kapama Reserve, Moholoholo & Kruger National Park

In this post1 Day 15 – Johannesburg – Kapama. Overnight at Timbawati...
Read More

10 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.