Year in the Wild Blog

Entering the wild north of Kruger

It’s been an incredible few days here in the north of Kruger. From Letaba, I headed north to Mopani Camp and then Shingwedzi, and now I’m at Punda Maria.

A lot of people think there are fewer animals up here in the north. The vast mopane veld does tend to reduce grazing opportunities for antelope, so you don’t tend to see large herds of zebra or impala. But wow, there’s certainly plenty of everything else, including lots of predators!

Near Mopani Camp, we were treated to some fantastic sightings, including the famous Mooiplaas buffalo herd, numbering in excess of 1 000 animals. We also saw plenty of ellie, as well as hyenas on one of our night drives with our very friendly field guide Amos Gazide. (Thanks very much to Garth Holt, manager at Mopani, for organizing the drive for us!)

Then at Shingwedzi, I went out on an early morning walk with field guides Bishop Shilowa and Abel Maluleke. On our drive to the walking area, we bumped into a pride of 5 lionesses with their cubs. We watched them stalking a lone male buffalo, but they didn’t follow through on the kill. Perhaps they had eaten already, because one of the lionesses had blood on her paws. Incredible sighting, and made all the more special by being the only people there as the sun rose in the cold morning light.

Bishop also took me on a sunset drive, and we came across a den of hyenas, with pups. The mother was suckling them on the road. Hyenas generally don’t have good PR image, but to me, they are devoted mothers, and the pups are very cute.

The north of Kruger is very different to the south…but to me, it’s wilder, and I always feel like I’m a frontier adventurer when coming here. There are far fewer tourists, and that’s part of it. Then there’s the romantic scenery. The mopane trees have their own beauty, while the riparian forest of sycamore figs, leadwoods, jackal berrys, nyala trees and Natal mahoganies shelter a diverse array of bird life which one generally doesn’t see in the south.

Mopani Camp is one of the newest main camps, and is beautifully located on the Pioneer Dam, onto which most of the bungalows look out. There are plenty of crocs, hippos and water birds to admire, while waterbuck make a regular appearance. Plus the staff are some of the friendliest I’ve encountered, and Garth and duty manager Winston Nthlamu did their best to accommodate our needs.

I’m now at Punda Maria, the most northerly camp in Kruger, and one of the most historical. It’s near the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and the hilly scenery is spectacular. There are lots of baobabs…and despite what those in the south say, plenty of animals. More to come soon, including photos of a leopard kill I witnessed with guide Thomas Mathebula and Themba Mnisi.

The north of Kruger is known for its interesting animals, like this rare roan antelope which my friends and I spotted near Mopani's one of the rarest mammals in Africa. Great to see it here.

The ungainly looking Tsessebe antelope

Kori bustard, the heaviest flying bird in Africa

Brown snake eagle

Buffalo calf and mom...are you really going to pick a fight?

Ellie drinking out one of the water points in the north. Many of the artificial waterholes have been closed in Kruger, because the constant availability of water throughout the year meant the vegetation was being overgrazed by the animals which didn't need to migrate to find water.

Black-shouldered kite

Hyena pup spotted near Mopani Camp with field guide Amos Gazide

Entrance to Mopani

One of the resident baobabs at Mopani...and the largest

Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn as I made my way north to Shingwedzi

My Ford Everest at the Tropif of Capricorn...the vehicle has been amazing, and certainly made my long journey comfortable.

Bull ellie having a mud bath just north of Mopani

Female kudu

Shingwedzi Camp is dotted with mopane trees...their leaves are beautiful

Plenty of crocs in the Shingwedzi River!

The beautiful riparian forest of leadwoods and nyala trees near Shingwedzi

Not sure what type of snake this is...was crossing the road near Shingwedzi

Magpie shrike...used to be called long-tail shrike, of course!

Vervet monkey

Field guide Bishop Shilowa and I came across this den of hyenas near Shingwedzi on our sunset drive.

The pups were thirsty and hungry!

African civet cat...a nocturnal animal that Bishop says is often targeted by hyenas

Lions! Bishop Shilowa, Abel Maluleke and I were on our way for our morning walk, when we came across this pride near Shingwedzi early one morning.

One of the lionesses had a radio collar, which researchers use to track her looks uncomfortable, but apparently it doesn't affect the animal in any way.

The sap of an acacia tree is highly regarded by bush babies, who savour it as a snack.

Abel Maluleke and Bishop Shilowa on our morning walk near Shingwedzi

After driving through the low mopane veld towards Shingwedzi, it's good to know that mopane trees can grow really tall!

Lion spoor and pen for size comparison

Martial eagle taking off

This weaver bird was killed by a speeding car...unfortunately, many animals die every year on Kruger's remember, SLOW DOWN!

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One comment

  • Living my dream man!!!! haha! been following from the start! but now you’re in my fav place! Kruger North!!!

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