Cape to Kgalagadi via the Karoo- day to day itinerary help

Hi All

this is my and my Mum’s trip itinerary to South Africa in Mid Sept. Please help us to plan our stay, especially the first few days where we are doing more of the touristy things. We are looking for suggestions on, how to structure our first few days to see as much as possible and any inside knowledge on the best places to cover to see birds and mammals. Are there any bat roosts, roosting owls, good spots for small mammals like sengis, rodents, rabbits, good spots for cetaceans, good places to hike to see hoofed mammals and birds? We will have a guide but he’ll probably want us to have a fair idea of what we want to cover.

The top mammals I want to get on this trip are:

riverine rabbit

red rock rabbit

Sengi (any)

Bat-eared fox



Honey badger.

meerkat (and any other mongoose)



Any of the cats (big and small)



15 Sept– arrive 2120 overnight at Road Lodge Cape Town International Airport

16-18 The Cape Peninsula.  


Simonstad Seadeville BB (Simonstown)


Pick up  on Saturday 16 Morning 0830 from Road Lodge…
Visiting some of the main botanical and natural history destinations such as Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Cape Point and the south-western tip of the African Continent, Betty’s Bay, Stony Point, Boulder’s Beach and others. possibly Table Mountain, depending on weather.  Staying in Simon’s Town.

This is the section we need most advice on. does anyone have good recommendations for how to structure our 3 night stay? Mum is keen to see flowers so we have to include Kirstenbosch. I’ve been to Betty’s bay, and Cape Point. has anyone got any up to date info on where to find cape rockjumper?

19 and 20 Swellendam and the Agulhas Plain.


Swellendam BB Aan de Oewer BB

Moving on from the Peninsula our next port-of-call is Swellendam, the third oldest town in the country, which will provide a base from which to explore Bontebok National Park (named after the endemic ‘Pied Buck’) and De Hoop Nature Reserve, another gem of a wildlife destination, and a good place to see Whales.- as well as whales we hope to have a chance to see zorilla and possibly caracal here.

Has anyone got any tips on visiting either of these parks?

21 Karoo National Park.


Karoo NP chalet

Has anyone got any tips on visiting either of these parks?

From Swellendam we’ll begin our long northward journey, with a stopover at Karoo National Park, which can provide some great mammal watching and birding.

Has anyone got any tips on visiting this park?

22-24 Dunedin Farm (double room on this farm)

Moving on, our next stop will be at Dunedin Farm, where we’ll spend three nights in total, with the extremely rare Riverine Rabbit at the top of our want list here. we also hope to pick up a lot of the smaller mammals here, sengis etc and bat eared foxes with nightly spotlighting excursions.

I have some good notes for this site so should be okay.

25-27 Marrick safari camp


After Dunedin we’ll have a long drive to Kimberley,  We will have two night drives at Marrick (booked, possibility of a 3rd on night of arrival), where we hope to find species such as Black-footed Cat, Aardvark, Aardwolf, Southern African Hedgehog, Springhare and others . On one  of our full days here we will have a day visit to Mokala National Park, where we may get lucky with mammals such as Black and White Rhinos, Sable and Roan Antelope, and perhaps a Sengi or two.  Having read a report from Royle Safaris we should also look to cover Benfontein Game farm from this base to increase chances of black footed cat. Should we spend the second full day at Mokala as well or are there other options? Do you know whether the flamingos at Kamfers dam will be present in September?


We’ll have guided night drives here but any tips on where to go during the daytime would be good.

28 – 29 Augrabies Falls National Park.

From Kimberley we’ll drive through to Upington and then Augrabies Falls National Park, our base for the next two nights. look out for birds such as Verreaux’s Eagle, Bradfield’s Swift and Short-toed Rock-Thrush, while drives in the park will give us a chance to see species such as Namaqua Warbler, Rosy-faced Lovebird and Sociable Weaver, among others. Mammals to be seen include the Springbok, South Africa’s national antelope, as well as Klipspringer in the rocky areas, Southern Giraffe, Hartman’s Mountain Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Cape Clawless Otter and others, while a night drive may produce a Leopard with some luck.


Has anyone got any tips on visiting this park?


30 Sept – 5 Oct The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

After Augrabies we’ll stop off in Upington to pick up supplies before heading on to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The exact camps we use will depend on availability,


30 Kalahari  trails (morning walk with meerkats) .



Our routine will include morning and afternoon drives, and no doubt we’ll get to know the Kalahari very well indeed during our time spent here. Mammals to be seen include an exciting array of predators such as Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, African Wild Cat, Honey Badger, Spotted and Brown Hyenas. Raptors can be prolific as well, and there plenty of general game along the Auob and Nossob Riverbeds to keep you occupied between predator sightings. Booked:

1 Oct Twee Riv

2 Oct Mata Mata riverfront lux chalet- Pieter to provide spotlight.
3 Oct Kalahari tented camp unfenced 3 km from Mata Mata

4 Oct TBC  Hopefully Nossob

5  Oct  tbc

6 Oct  Jo & Mum depart on the 17:10 flight from Upington to Johannesburg SA8770 to connect
with the 2315 from Johannesburg KLM 592.

Any good spots for dens, roosts etc would be welcome, I’m interested in seeing all mammals and birds we can find!

Any advice on places to stop off en route to break up the longer journeys that are good for flowers, birds and mammals, or maybe even a nice vineyard or two, would be nice.




  • Mike Richardson

    Hi Jo. Going by your itinerary I would be surprised if you don’t see the majority of your targets.

    It is possible to miss Riverine Rabbit – I know because I missed it myself last November despite lots of searching. Frustratingly it was photographed by another visitor the day before I arrived at the farm but because I saw a Hewitt’s Rock Rabbit in the exact same place the day after, I presumed Riverine Rabbit had been wrongly identified. Drought and high winds were resulting in fewer Riverine sightings but I still spent most of my time searching. When leaving the farm, Johan (farm owner) finally received a photograph of the rabbit seen previous to my visit. It was indeed a Riverine Rabbit! There is a lesson here somewhere! The farm is still a fantastic place. Further to Paul Carter’s and Jon’s notes, I saw the same species along with Reddish-grey Musk Shrew (trapped), Aardwolf, Wildcat and Western Rock Sengi. I also saw Klipspringer from the road between the farm and Beaufort West.

    The only other mammals on your list that you might find elusive are Honey Badger and Zorrila. I’ve only seen one HB in KTP in two visits. They are much easier to see in Kruger in my experience. You might be lucky and see Zorilla on any night drive, but I’ve always managed to miss them.

    If you stay at Mata Mata (KTP) there is a roost of Egyptian Free-tailed Bats in the roof of FCH6, No. 2 (see camp map). They exit from the front of the building at dusk. There was also a mob of Meerkats visiting the camp daily last November. Nossob is the best area in KTP to see Brown Hyena, although I have seen one near Mata Mata at dusk.
    Black-footed Cat are very regular at Marrick now so there should be no need to look for them on the neighbouring farm. However, Trevor (Marrick owner) should be able to organise spotlighting at Benfontein Game farm last minute should a change of plan be necessary.

    I think Karoo NP is underrated although there isn’t much big game to see. If you’re happy with ungulates and smaller stuff you will enjoy it. Brown Hyena have now been introduced to the park and are often seen on the night drives. Apparently the (introduced) Black Rhino favour a certain area of the park but the exact location is kept secret by the rangers. Your guide might be able to find out the best area to look for them.

    I didn’t think much to Bronebok NP. Apart from Mountain Zebra and Brontebok (which are easy to see in De Hoop) there isn’t much to see in terms of mammals, although I suspect a night drive would be interesting. Personally I would miss this park out and spend more time in De Hoop.

    Hope this helps a little.

  • tomeslice

    Hi Joanna,

    I can of course only give advice about the places I visited…
    So with regards to Marrick Farms:
    First of all, Of course do the night drive on your FIRST night there (arrival evening) and then if you end up seeing all the animals you want to see, cancel the 3rd night. Because if you missed your first evening, and then you had 2 aardvark-less nights, you will regret it. 2 nights without an aardvark can happen! 3 nights is less likely.

    On the other hand, you WILL see a black-footed cat there. No need to go somewhere else to try to look for it. They’ve been seeing a lot more of them than they have aardvarks lately. (But don’t worry, you should see both species there). Another animal that they’ve been getting better at finding is the zorilla. We didn’t see one there, but a few trip reports before and after mine all saw zorillas at Marrick. You have a good chance for aardwolf over a 3-night stay there. We had a single animal on the first night but that was it. Finally, on at least 1 of the 3 nights you should see the red rock rabbit. That is of course unless you haven’t seen an aardvark still, and are desparately looking for one (anything can happen.. temperature, wind, moonlight, humidity all affect your chances to see animals). With regards to porcupines – you should see them throughout your stay. I think we saw them every night at Marrick (more than 1 every night), on most nights at Kruger, one almost came up to snuggle with me at De Hoop as I was waiting for the otters, etc.

    Apparently the kopjies where you see red rock rabbit at night is a good place to see rock sengis during the day. I actually saw one there at night, but it was only their second time seeing them at night I believe. Jon, however saw them during the day.

    Another species for Marrick (you’re going to tick off half of your list there.. 😉 ) is the meerkat. The two orphaned meerkats that they raised there, Tom&Jerry, made a family with wild-born individuals not far from the restaurant of the lodge. You should be able to see them if you ask either of the Datnows (the owners). We saw meerkats on the way to Mokala, along the dirt road.. they’re there. Also IN mokala you can see them, but ask the people at the visitor center where to go. Anyway, all this doesn’t matter because you will see them on the farm.

    Speaking of Mokala – ask Trevor which road to take there.. it’s a dirt road, takes longer, but you will see mongoose along the road. We saw marsh, yellow and meerkats there. You also see roan and sable antelopes along this road, but they are very clearly in fenced game reserves, mostly probably used for hunting. They usually sit near the water troughs. You will also start seeing ground squirrels along this road and in Mokala. I’m not sure how up-to-date the mammal list is on the SANSParks website because as far as I know there are no white rhinos in Mokala, only black ones. And they’re quite difficult to see. Don’t worry about Flamingos – you will see them at De Hoop.

    Did you know that Cape Town recently won the “most biodiverse city in the world” title? That’s because creatures hang out in the pockets of nature in and around the city… that includes Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, where apparently real clawless otters sometimes come to the pond with the otter statue. At least that’s what one guy at the visitor center told me. But I don’t know if I’d sit and stake them out at 6am.. or whenever the park opens. Cape Point is an awesome park, and has some great open areas where you will see ostriches and bonteboks. We also did one circular drive that was completely free of other vehicles and saw mongoose and I think a steenbok in the afternoon. I read some caracal trapping research that seems to suggest that there are many caracals in that park… They captured like 40 individuals around Cape town between 2013 and 2015, most of them being trapped at the Cape Point section of Table Mountain national park.

    Stony point is nice but I saw no mammals there, other than the extremely abundant hyrax. But apparently cape genets, caracals, otters, and other small predators do exist there.

    De Hoop is super nice, and you will see grey mongoose there almost for sure if you keep your eyes open. Also tons of eland, bontebok, ostriches, we saw baboons there one day and then they were all gone. I had 0 luck with the 3 species I was after (caracal, otter, zorilla) but also I was worried because technically you’re not allowed to spotlight or drive at night. That’s why I drove out of the “village” and onto the main road, and far enough to where I couln’t see any lights before I turned my torch on. I drove while my sister shined out of only one window, because we only had 1 large torch. But to no avail. In retrospect, instead of staking out the otters, I should have hooked up with the reptile researcher who claimed to have seen a caracal several times a week at the same spot.. I don’t know where that spot is. The guy might still be there, but if not, ask the rangers about caracals. If one ranger tells you “they’re really rare” don’t give up, and ask another one. If you’re not interested in caracals then try for the otters at the vlei. They may be denning right behind/underneath the boat house, or where Jon saw them… I failed to see them so I really don’t know. Regarding Zorillas – well I saw tons of rodents around my cabin liked striped grass mice and stuff but I felt like an idiot potlighting around the cabins. Maybe I should have had more confidence, or just gone out for longer hours. I have no more info on this species from De Hoop but I’d be interested in hearing your results.

    To be honest, any of the open lands around the cape, be it in De Hoop, Cape Point, on Table Mountain or its slopes, would seem just as good for caracals as say West Coast National Park. My one huge regret is driving up-and-down the entrance road because according to most rangers, “that’s where people see the most caracals” but that’s because, duh, that’s where most people ARE. The fynbos along this part of the road was way too thick and tall to see a caracal when I was there, unless one would happen to have jumped onto the road. Further north on the same road, towards the section that’s only open inSeptember would seem to be a better bet. Honestly as far as mammals go, we saw the lowest concentration in West Coast of all the places we visited (even Cape Point). But we also spent way too much time at Abramskaal water hole, thinking we may see a caracal from the hide, but that does NOT seem to be a good place, despite the fact that a few lucky visitors have seen them there before. But again, not enough open land visible from the hide.. In fact, even a lone steenbok seen on the very short walk to the hide was not visible from the hide itself. I would seriously spend the first few hours in the park trying to find places that look over with large open spaces, and concentrate on them in the early morning. Night drive is of course strictly forbidden, and being wtih my mom I had to obey this rule. Lol. You may choose to break it (and may also have a run-in wiht a ranger, but hopefully not. I’m not sure what the chances are, as it didn’t seem that the park was partrolled by rangers). Also, you can walk at night if you stay inside the park, as there are no fences around the chalets. One thig we did see in the early morning along the main road going north towards the Postberg section was 10s of small rodents crossing the road, at least one of which was a mole rat. Oh, we also saw the highest concentration of snakes anywhere in that park. They were everywhere, from the parking of our chalet, to the water fountain of another chalet, to the restaurant, to the roads, and I even saw what I think may have been a cape cobra (but unidentified) in the water hole. Same with tortoises and ostriches.. they were EVERYWHERE.

    That’s my (very long) 2-cents. Good luck and I’m looking forward to reading the report!!

  • Vladimir Dinets

    I am in Cape Town now, but don’t have much to report so far.
    The current place for rockjumpers is Rooi Els. I haven’t been there yet, but the directions provided by a friend of mine are:
    “You drive into the small hamlet of Rooi Els. Past the shop. The next turn to the right is Porter road. You drive down here to the gate/fence. Park. Beyond here it’s walking only. I have seen the RJ from 100m down the road all the way to 2 km down. People have played too much tape and the birds are less responsive now. But they still call and give position away. If you are struggling, walk half way up the hillside and do a transect there. They prefer the bases of the big cliffs. If you strike out here go to Sir Lowrys pass. The walking trails on both sides of the road there have active RJ groups. Cape Mtn Leopard in this area too. But seldom seen. (2) When you get to Rooi-Els there is a small road going south between the coast and the main road that ends in a tiny parking place in front of a bar. From here you can continue on foot down the track (used by locals to get to their vacation houses). The birds are on the slopes on your left-hand side. Not always easy to spot – in particular if it’s windy when they tend to hide in the shrubbery – so a good idea to acquaint yourself with their call beforehand.”

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Rockjumper update: there was a catastrophic fire at the Rooi Els site last summer, so no rockjumpers there (but lots of klipspringers). Try Sir Lowry’s Pass.

  • jo dale

    Many thanks everyone! This is not going to be so hardcore as Borneo was as it will be a trip with my mum, so I doubt we’ll be out spotlighting every night although now you mention brown hyena I will definitely have to look into getting on a night drive in Karoo NP on our only night there. Especially as there is a big question mark over Nossob.

    I think I have also tempted mum into a whale watching trip. So we will look at dyer island cruises for that. But it will mean reducing time somen here else I guess.

    Regarding Bontebok and De Hoop parks. Are they much different in terms of flora and scenery? I mustn’t forget that mum wants to see the flowers as much as we want to see birds and animals. Someone suggested we should try and change accommodation to stay inside de Hoop. We’re currently booked in at for 2 nights.

    Hopefully we can cover a lot of the sites you guys have recommended. Thanks also for the update on cape rockjumper Vladimir. Sad to hear about that fire!

    • Mike Richardson

      I wouldn’t say Brontebok NP is particularly scenic, at least compared to most other parts of the country. I visited late morning, en route to De Hoop, and my visit was rather rushed. I’m not really into botany so can’t comment on the flora. There is some nice grassland that would probably look nice in the flower season. I don’t think any mammals occur there that couldn’t be found more easily in De Hoop.

      I would say De Hoop would be much more enjoyable for your Mum, especially the restaurant and rather plush accommodation. You can also whale watch from the sand dunes. I didn’t have much luck with the nocturnal mammals however, partly due to the brightest full moon in decades. The area outside the park is also great for wildlife, even during the day. Road kill included several Zorilla and a Striped Weasel. If I returned to the area I might opt to stay outside the park and spotlight the surrounding agricultural areas. Spotlighting inside De Hoop is restricted to the grassland around the accommodation. Hope this helps.

  • mattinidaho

    You have lots of good advice here. To add:

    For flora, we did a day trip with Dominic Chadbon, “the Fynbos Guy,” visiting various reserves to look at the botanical treasures. He was great and was very flexible. I had booked the trip a year in advance, but my wife then became pregnant and we weren’t able to do the rigorous hike we had planned, so he set up visits to easier hikes and different nature reserves. He knew where to see the best flowering plants. He’s also a bird guide. He’ll pick you up at your lodging in Cape Town.

    West Coast National Park had great flowers as well as bontebok, mountain zebra, and a number of other species. It is a bit of a drive from Cape Town, though.

    I agree with other comments on Bontebok National Park. It is not very big. I wanted to go due to its conservation history (it essentially saved the bontebok, although the original park was in a different location). I enjoyed it but it may not be for everyone. By the way, the lodging in the park is quite nice…well-appointed cottages along the river. They are self-catering, though.

    There is fantastic meerkat viewing near Oudtshoorn, watching a wild colony as they wake up in the morning. But it is probably too far off your drive.

    I agree with all the comments on Marrick. We saw black-footed cats pretty easily. There is a rock wall where we saw red rock rabbits easily. Just make sure to ask your guide to go there. I would do as many night safaris as possible to maximize viewing, we saw different species on different nights.

    I know others on this forum have mixed views of Mokala National Park. We really enjoyed it. The road to Lilydale camp has large grassland and a viewing platform. We saw both roan and sable in this area. It is worth sitting on the viewing platform and waiting a bit…you will see plenty of wildlife and it seems that sooner or later the roan and sable will be there to graze.

    There are white rhinos at Mokala. We saw 4, although I think we were lucky.

  • kittykat23uk

    Thanks folks! This is all great advice. We are paying to have a guide/driver throughout our stay but the more gen we can pass on the better I guess as this is obviously a tailored tour for us with quite a lot of special interests to accommodate.

    So maybe we should keep our booking at the Rather than asking to stay inside the park? The accommodation does look very nice! 🙂

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