I really enjoyed Shimuwini, even though it is not located in a particularly game-rich area. It is a very tranquil camp, beautifully sited along the Letaba River, and there seemed always to be something of interest, be it the prolific bird life (heard more than seen), the camp's resident grey duiker, the occasional waterbuck on the far bank, or the ever-present hippo and their serenades. And in the evenings, fireflies dancing in the trees and along the river, and when I turned off my lights in order to look at the stars, bats whizzing past in the darkness - do they live in the hut's thatch roof?
Because I wanted to be as close to the river as possible, I upgraded to a huge (for one person) bungalow, #11, as there were no other available smaller units. Of the smaller bungalows, I would choose #12, but in fact all the camp's units have an excellent view of the river, it's just a question of distance from the fence. I didn't take a lot of still pix in camp (always, this trip, my tendency was to shoot more video and I've only now noticed how few stills I have of some things) and the ones I did take aren't the best quality
Bungalow #11 with #12 to the left & view of Letaba River at dawn from my veranda
Shimuwini bushcamp looking east & camp's resident grey duiker
20 April - Phalaborwa Gate to Shimuwini
This was a fairly uneventful drive, but it was great just to be back in the park again after nearly six years, so any and all sightings were a big plus! Also, for the first time ever, I kept a "proper" sightings notebook. Typically, my very first sighting was a lone impala ram, and I also had a very nice kudu encounter. Another interesting sighting was a Swainson's francolin sitting in a tree (I'd never seen one in a tree!) and screeching - I'm told this might possibly have been because a predator was around. It was not something I'd seen before, and while I did later see other francolin in trees, none of them were vocalising.
: impala ram, dung beetle, Cape turtledoves, terrapins, 2 groups of impala, glossy starling, lilacbreasted roller (LBR), laughing dove, Swainson's francolin (in tree), kudu
: impala, longtailed shrike
: glossy starling, LBR, yellowbilled hornbill, tree squirrels, mouse (no idea what sort), impala, pied wagtail, golden orb spider, doublebanded sandgrouse, crested francolin
21 April - Shimuwini - Mopani - Letaba - Shimuwini
This morning was fairly uneventful (although I did encounter a beautiful male waterbuck on one of the little river loops off the S141) until I came upon a group of giraffe. They're a favourite, so I almost always will stop and watch them for a while. Then, just a K or two from the Mopani turnoff, my first ellie of this trip - a likely candidate for the Emerging Tuskers Project - right by the side of the road. For a while I thought that he was all alone, but soon spotted the six others that were still on the opposite side of the road. I'd by then discovered that I had left camp without a blank videotape
, so stopped at Mopani, where most fortunately I was able to buy a tape at the shop. This group of elephant was still visible, though much farther from the road, when I passed by again heading south.
Shortly after crossing the Letaba High Level bridge, I had my second ellie encounter, this time with an ellie with "attitude". He made it abundantly clear that it was his road and no one was going to pass. He had me me reversing back to where the S95/S47 meets the H1-6, at which point I was able to turn around and watch (and film) the rest of the drama in my wing mirror
. This big guy was holding several cars at bay in each direction and really seemed to be enjoying his game of cat and mouse. Eventually, after dithering at the intersection, he decided to head up the S95, and I proceeded to Letaba. I've lots of video of this drama, but sadly my few still pix are all out of focus.
Highlights of my return trip to Shimuwini included another ellie bull, lots of birds, more giraffe, some nyala quite close to Shimuwini, and a lone muddy buff that was right next to the road as I came around a corner and far too close for comfort, so no pix.
: waterbuck (across the river), hippo (in the river), resident grey duiker
: waterbuck, LBR, yellowbilled hornbill, steenbok
: giraffe, forktailed drongo, wiretailed swallows, blacksmith plover
: ellie bull + 6 others, grey heron, LBR, yellowbilled hornbill, greybilled hornbill, zebra, blue wildebeest, ellie bull with "attitude", giraffe, cattle egrets, pied wagtails, wiretailed swallows
: ellie bull, impala, zebra, snake (no idea what kind), yellowbilled & greybilled hornbills, doublebanded sandgrouse, mystery eagle, ellie bull
: giraffe, lone muddy buffalo, doublebanded sandgrouse, yellowbilled & greybilled hornbills
: resident grey duiker, impala & waterbuck (across the river), hippo (in the river)
22 April - Shimuwini - Letaba - Shimuwini
Today's highlight was my morning walk, all on my own, accompanied by guides Jerry and Thomas. I was really surprised that I was the only person who had booked a walk - and I had booked it months in advance! - but glad that I had been able to change it so easily from Friday to Saturday morning (it made no difference, since no one else had booked for either day, but postponing it a day meant that I was more rested, and thus had more energy for the walk). Also, being the only guest meant that we could walk at my "old lady" pace, as I'd been a bit worried that I might not be able to keep up in a group of 20-, 30- or 40-somethings.
Rather than driving to a starting point, we left directly from camp, walking out the gate and then heading NW from the road, eventually circling around the camp and down to the river, where we stopped for snacks and to enjoy the birds and the hippo. What I like best about walking in the bush is the opportunity to see small things and just being that much closer to nature. The sounds, the smells, everything is more intense when you're on foot!
The only mammals we saw were a few distant impala and a waterbuck with youngster across the river, plus the ever-present hippo in the river, but we saw lots and lots else. It was interesting to see signs of the varied traffic down to the river, both tracks and droppings. While I shot some video, I took few still pix, and in fact I didn't even shoot much video as stopping for pix seemed to detract from the experience. I also didn't take my sightings notebook with me on the walk, so this listing is from memory, although recorded immediately afterwards.
morning walk sightings
golden orb spider, millepedes, including mating ones (on video), brown snake eagle, armoured cricket, impala, yellowbilled hornbills, rattling cisticola, Egyptian geese, blacksmith plover, waterbuck with calf, Goliath heron, grey heron, hippo
birds heard but not seen
: grey lourie, Swainson's francolin, Cape turtledove
trees & plants
: wild sage, mopani, leadwood, applewood, umbrella thorn, wild cucumber or calabash
After my walk, I decided to drive some of the same roads I had travelled yesterday, but in reverse as often a route can look entirely different in the opposite direction. It was a pleasant drive, although I didn't see anything at all unusual, with the exception of two fish eagles calling at Sable Dam - and they were quite far away for photos. I'd hoped to get back to camp before 16:00, but of course my route took me longer than planned, and of course I encountered a "roadblock" - this time a moderately sized herd of buffalo - to slow me down. But I'm not complaining - unexpected encounters of all sorts are what it's all about, isn't it?
: zebra, armoured cricket, mystery eagle (I almost never can ID a raptor)
: wiretailed swallows
: impala, mystery eagle
: forktailed drongo, zebra, giraffe, LBR
at Letaba restcamp
: vervet monkeys
: greybilled hornbill, elephant
: Namaque dove, fish eagles, grey heron, terrapins
: herd of buffalo
(My bird books are "in transit" right now, so I'm only guessing at the raptor ID — and any and all help with ID is greatly appreciated!!)
mystery raptor #1 (my guess is maybe a Tawny Eagle?)
mystery raptor #2