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I first visited South Africa in 2002 for a 2 week mammal trip. I went back for another 10 days in 2007, a few more days - just to Plettenberg Bay - in 2008, and spent 2 weeks working there in 2009 (and squeezed in a couple of weekends for mammal watching). See my 2007 Trip Report and 2009 Trip Report for more details of those trips.
I like South Africa. The crime problems I’ve heard so much about aren’t apparent out of the cities (or perhaps I am just blissfully naive); the national parks in the south were stunning and quite different to the more traditional bushscapes of the Kruger, and southern Africa generally. The desert is glorious; the food can be delicious and is always cheap and there is excellent wine. It is a much easier and cheaper country to travel round than the few other places in Africa I’ve been. Some good mammals too.
In June 2002 I spent only a couple of weeks in South Africa. But I crammed heaps in. After 2 nights in Pilanesburg (near Pretoria), I flew to spend 3 nights with friends in the Kruger. From there, I flew down to Cape Town, hired a small car and drove 6,000 km in 8 days. Budget Rentacar were surprised when they took the odometer reading. After cage diving with White Pointer Sharks (Great Whites) at Gaansbai, those 8 days were spent north of the Cape on an Aardvark finding expedition. Aardvarks are seldom seen in the places I visited. But ‘seldom’ is pretty good when it comes to Aardvarks. Indeed I came frustratingly close to seeing one – leaving Addo NP the night before they saw one, to arrive in the Karoo NP the night after they had see one. I had to wait until 2007 to finally see one.
Cape Mountain Zebra National Park, 4 hours July 2002 – I stopped here to see Black Wildebeest which were pretty easy to find. Also saw Bontebok and Mountain Zebra. The park is reputedly good for Caracal.
De Hoop Reserve, 1 night June 2002 – a fabulous little nature reserve, with stunning coastal scenery, a heap of Right Whales in the winter and some nice mammals. The accommodation was excellent too. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Yellow Mongoose, Mountain Zebra, Rhebok, Common Vlei Rat, African Clawless Otter (a family at both dusk and dawn below the small 'cliffs' near the Tierhoek picnic site. Prolonged viewing sometimes from only 10m above the animals. This is a regular spot for them), Four-striped Grass Mouse, Zorilla, Southern Right Whale, Bontebok (Blesbok), Chacma Baboon, Eland, Cape Hare.
Hermanus, 2 nights, June 2002 - the Fernkloof Nature Reserve here is worth a look and a bush walk. Saw Cape Gray Mongoose and Egyptian Mongoose there during the day time and spotlit a Cape Grysbok in the scrubland outside the park. Southern Right Whales were cruising off the beach and Cape Serotines were flying around the streetlights outside the restaurant near the harbour (I recommend their Cajun Squid).
Karoo National Park, 2 nights July 2002 – rumoured to be an Aardvark hotspot, I arrived here the night after one had been seen (‘the first in months’). I took the regular night drive then chartered a second longer private one (a very cheap option). During my 2 nights and 1 day stay I saw Mountain Reedbuck, Aardwolf (the Karoo is one of the best spots for seeing these), Gemsbok, Springbok, ‘Quagga’ (not genetically a Quagga but the closest approximation on the planet - selective breeding of Zebras in the Karoo is well on the way to producing something that looks very like the extinct desert Zebra), Rhebok, Bat-eared Fox, Cape Hare.
Plettenberg Bay, 2 boat trips July 2002, – the bay is famous for its whale watching. Bryde’s Whales are resident there and seen on 70% of trips (but neither of the trips I took in 2002). Did see Bottlenose and Humpbacked Dolphins though as well as South African/ Australian Fur Seals. In November 2007 I returned and saw the same species plus Humpback Whales. Bryde's Whales were around but not the day I was out. In April 2008 I saw lots of Bryde's Whales plus the first Southern Right Whale of the year.
Tsitsikamma National Park, 1 night July 2002 Storm's River - Cape Horseshoe Bats roost in the cave at the end of the Mouth Trail. Blue Duiker and Clawless Otters are often reported here. In November 2007 I spent two nights in Nature's Valley, a section of the park near Plettenberg Bay: Bushbuck and Chacma Baboons were common here and I saw a Bushpig plus what was probably a Blue Duiker. During a quick stop at Storm's River I saw a Small Grey Mongoose.
Pietermaritzburg area - 1 night August 2009. Adam Riley from Rockjumper was good enough to give me a bed for a night and take me looking for mammals. He found me a fleeting glimpse of the back half of a Greater Cane Rat (in a nearby cane farm surprisingly) but problems with the spotlight put an end to our quest for a Natal Red Rock Rabbit. We also saw a Feline Genet, Porcupine, Grey Duikers and a Black-backed Jackal along the highway. The next day I had an abortive attempt for Spot-necked Otters and Slogget's Ice Rats. More details in the August 2009 trip report.
Thanda Private Game Reserve - 2 nights August 2009. Simply fabulous accommodation and great game viewing with Wild Dog, Cheetah, Lion, Black-backed Jackal, Elephant, White Rhino, Warthog, Nyala, Red Duiker, Water Buck, Greater Kudu, Impala, Steenbok, Buffalo, Blue Wildebeest, Giraffe, Zebra and Vervet Monkey.
In November 2007 I returned for 2 nights and saw Caracals, Four-striped Grass Mice, Heaviside's Dolphins (off Yzerfontein), Dusky Dolphins and Cape Fur Seals (Saldhana), Southern Right Whales, Bush Karoo Rats, Large-spotted (Cape) Genet, Cape Porcupine, Red Hartebeest, Grey Duiker, Steenbok, Cape Hare, Springbok, Gemsbok, Bontebok, Rock Hyraxes, Cape Mountain Zebra and one possible Water Mongoose.
My More Detailed Trip Reports
November 2007: 10 days and 62 species including Aardvark, Caracal, Heaviside's Dolphin and Suni.
Other People's Trip Reports
South Africa, 2012: John Wright, 2 weeks & 40 species including Water Mongoose, Caracals, Aardwolves, Smith's Red Rock Rabbits and a Zorilla.
South Africa, 2012: Mike Richardson, 2 weeks & 65 species including Black-footed Cat, Caracal, Wild Dog, Honey Badger and Aardvark.
South Africa 2012: Bob Berghaier, 1 week and the mammals included Caracal, Honey Badger and Brown Hyenas.
South Africa and Botswana, 2012: Juan Luis Ortega Herranz, 2 weeks and 54 species including Brown Hyena, Caracal, Honey Badger and Black-tailed Tree Rat.
South Africa, 2012: Curtis Hart, 3 weeks & 72 species including Black-footed Cats, Brown Hyenas and Heaviside's Dolphins.
South Africa, 2011: Leon Marais (Naturetrek), 10 days & 39 species including Wild Dogs and 5 species of cats.
South Africa, 2011: Leon Marais (Naturetrek), 10 days & 37 species including Wild Dogs and 4 species of cats.
South Africa, 2011: Sjef Ollers, 3 weeks & 50+ mammals including Black-footed Cat, Aardvark, Cape Dune Mole-rat and Cape Fox.
South Africa, 2010: Leon Marais (Naturetrek), 10 days & 35 species including a Honey Badger and 4 species of cats.
South Africa, 2010: Leon Marais (Naturetrek), 10 days & 33 species including a Honey Badger and 3 species of cats.
Namibia and Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, 2010: Steve Babbs, 1 month & 42 species including Caracal, Honey Badger and Black Mongoose.
Western Cape, 2010: Matt and Maureen Steer, the second installment of a round the world wildlife trip. Some nice species including a Spotted-necked Otter.
Northern Cape, 2010: Matt and Maureen Steer, the first installment of a round the world wildlife trip. Some nice species including Black-footed Cat and a Honey Badger.
South Africa, 2010: Richard Webb, 2 weeks & 60 species including Black-footed Cat, Cape Fox, Aardvark, Cape Dune Mole Rat and Spotted-necked Otter.
South Africa, 2009: Alain Guillemont, 12 days & 41 species including an Aardvark, a Caracal and Heaviside's Dolphins.
Southern Africa, 2009 (Botswana, Namibia and South Africa): Coke Smith, 7 weeks and 118 species and subspecies including Caracal and Aardvark.
Kruger National Park, 2007: Derek Shingles, 2 weeks and plenty of mammals including both Rhinos.
South Africa (general): Trevor Hardaker's website has some great pictures of many South African Mammals as well as info on where they were taken.
Sabi Sands Leopards: Phil Perry's site has some fabulous pictures, focusing on leopards in the Sabi Sands reserve.
South-west Africa, 2005: Don Roberson, 1 month and lots of mammals (including an Aardvark).
South Africa, 2004: Richard Webb, 1 month & 80 mammals (including Blue Duiker, Brown Hyena, Caracal and another Aardvark).
Around the World (South Africa), 2003: Richard Webb, 3 weeks & 57 mammals.
Mkuze, 2003: Richard Webb, 3 days & 20 + mammals (including a Red Duiker).
South Africa 2002: Stefan Lithner, 1 month & 60 mammals.
The Kalahari and the Cape, 2002: Richard Webb, 2 weeks & 40 or so mammals (including a Brown Hyena and a Caracal).
South Africa, 2000: Richard Webb, 2 weeks & 40 mammals (including a Pangolin).
South Africa and Namibia, 1999: Richard Webb, 3 weeks & 50+ mammals (including an Aardvark).
South Africa and Lesotho, 1996: Steve Anyon-Smith, 3 weeks & 45 mammals.