Kruger NP & The Cape peninsula
In search of marine mammals, endemic birds and carnivores of South Africa
The world-renowned Kruger National Park
Wake up at the crack of dawn and drive out of the camp gate as soon as it opens. Following the sound of a lion roaring in the distance, heading towards vultures circling over a kill or simply randomly driving around and spotting whatever walks your way, you get a fantastic taste of the African bush with an endless variety of fascinating animal life waiting to be discovered in a range of stunning landscapes.
Kruger, one of the premier game-watching destinations in the world, offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Approximately 147 mammal species occur in the park. It is possible to see all the classical African big game, including African Elephant, White Rhino, Hippopotamus, Giraffe, Burchell’s Zebra, Buffalo, Warthog, Spotted Hyena and many antelope species. Most common big cats for sure are lions. Less common are Leopard, Cheetah. As being always on the move, also Wild Dog not easy to get. Honey badger easy to find near one particular rest camp after dark. Really hard to get are species like African Pangolin, Rhoan and Black Rhino.
All the rest camps inside the park tend to be avian hotspots because there is a high concentration of trees and shrubs. In general, Kruger is home to more than 500 bird species – more than half of the birds recorded in South Africa. Staying in a number of different rest camps key to succeed in seeing all prime targets ; especially some specific mammals.
The Cape peninsula: where land ends and oceans meet
Cape Point is in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve within Table Mountain National Park, which forms part of the Cape Floral Region, a World Heritage Site. It includes the majestic Table Mountain chain, which stretches from Signal Hill to Cape Point, and the coastlines of the Cape Peninsula. This narrow stretch of land, dotted with beautiful valleys, bays and beaches, contains a mix of extraordinarily diverse and unique fauna and flora and provides shelter to important migratory bird populations in coastal lagoons and bays. The cold Benguela Current brings highly nutrient-rich waters up from the south, and the strong winds (predominately from the south-east) create an upwelling that brings all the nutrients to the surface. This, in turn, sustains the phytoplankton that form the basis of the marine food chain which creates ideal conditions for thriving populations of fish, seabirds and marine mammals.
Great White Sharks and striking bird species
Southern Africa is a shark hotspot with one of the most biodiverse shark faunas in the world. By joining an AM customised expedition, local experts will take you directly to seal island in False Bay, one of the well known sites in the region to observe resident Great White Sharks. Doing this, you will be in the right place at the right time for the best chance of spotting these giants while they hunt their main prey – Cape Fur Seals. Birding before and after the shark trip, at specific sites is an option to look for (near) endemic bird species such as Cape Sugarbird, Cape Rockjumper, African Penguin and Cape Siskin.
West Coast National Park (WCNP): immersed in nature
The West Coast National Park is considered a biodiversity ‘hotspot’ of global importance. It contains mostly strandveld fynbos, which is a unique feature of South Africa’s West Coast. The fynbos biome, in which the park is situated, is extremely rich in biodiversity. Fynbos has the most abundant species diversity of all the biomes in South Africa proportionally. The main reason why adding this reserve to the intinerary is because of the fact that the reserve is known to be a reliable spot to observe Caracals; a seldom seen and rare Felid. Also keep an eye on the Atlantic Ocean for passing whales and especially Heaviside’s Dolphins which is an endemic species resident in the coastal waters bordering WCNP. Important is to concentrate on particular spots where Caracals, aka the desert lynx, regulary occur around dusk and dawn. Birding, before and after two main goals targeting the cat and the dolphin, some specific sites might be visited to look for more (near) endemic birds species like Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Grey-winged Francolin, Blue Crane and Chestnut-banded Plover.
Southern Right Whale nursery
Without doubt it is South Africa’s best land based whale watching spot, critically important for the conservation of the Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis) which is an endangered species. Apart from the whales being the main goal here, De Hoop Nature Reserve’s diverse landscape is an amazing idyllic home to an impressive range of birds and other wildlife. Lowland fynbos underbrush meets grass plains and forested gorges, only to run into a long white beach with rocky shores and blue waters. Undoubtly this pristine environment the place 2b for some rare and endangered species like Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra. Possible too are Cape Clawless Otter and Cararcal. Birding wise it’s all about viewing the endangered Cape Vultures as De Hoop hosts the Western Cape’s last surviving colony of these amazing birds.