Rare Mammal in Mkhuze

Mkhuze is dry. Very VERY dry! Nsumo Pan is empty. One tiny little mud puddle has about twenty hippos huddling in it, caked in thick mud.


At the entrance to KuMasinga hide a chap with stunning new Swarovskis and a huge bazooka-like Canon telephoto lens asks “You a birder?” (I spose he spotted my Zeiss binocs). In the next two minutes he’s told me the Swarovskis are R36 000, only Canon lenses “of course”, Mkhuze was last this dry in 1963 when he first visited, Swarovski gave him the binnies, he wouldn’t pay that much, and his name is Ian Sinclair.

“No shit?!” I said, “I’m a fan, I’ve got all your books”. “Got them here?” he asks. “I’ll sign ’em for you”. Broad Oirish accent. So he walks back to my bakkie with me and does just that.


“I’m writing another one. All of Africa’s birds. Photographic. We’re staying at Ghost Mountain Inn”. “Ah”, I said, “They’re licenced. I know they sell beer and whisky”. He says “And I’m licenced to drink ‘cos I’m Irish!”.

In the hide a bird party is sipping on the nectar of a profusion of red flowers. Fellow Irishman Tommy is photographing them. Ian is guiding him on his Africa trip. “What’s that tree again with those red flowers?” Ian asks of me. “Schotia” I say “Schotia brachypetala”. “Vernacular?” he asks. “Weeping Boer Bean”, thinking he’s having me on. “Ah”, he says.

“I’m going to tell everyone who’ll listen that I told Ian Sinclair something he didn’t know”, I say. “Oh”, he says, “I’ll deny it”.

Ian Sinclair! Well that was definitely the most interesting mammal spotted on this trip.


Enjoyable birding:

White-backed vulture, yellow-breasted apalis, chin-spot batis, brubru, bulbul, sombre and yellow-bellied greenbul, golden-breasted bunting, orange-breasted bush shrike, camaroptera, yellow-fronted canary, long-billed crombec, pied crow, laughing, red-eyed, and cape turtle doves, emerald-spotted dove, FT drongo, blue-grey flycatcher, crested guineafowl, white helmet-shrike, African hoopoe, trumpeter, crowned and yellow-billed hornbills, YB kite, black-winged lapwing, red-faced mousebird, BH oriole, RB oxpecker, petronia, green pigeon, African pipit, 3-banded plover, puffback, fiscal shrike, bearded scrub robin, scimitarbill, grey-headed sparrow, cape glossy and black-bellied starlings, woolly-necked stork, white-bellied, scarlet-chested, purple-banded and grey sunbirds, wire-tailed swallow, blue waxbill, village and dark-backed weavers, cape white-eye.

Few animals: Tortoise, zebra, nyala, impala, waterbuck, kudu, warthog, giraffe, wildebeest, hippo, terrapin, slender mongoose, rock monitor lizard (Jess spotted these last two). Eleven big male nyala in one tight little herd.

Went with Jess and Jordi. Tom visited friends. We stayed in the safari tents. A yellow-bellied greenbul ate our crumbs right at my feet on the deck. Everything’s really hungry!

And a tiny little plant all alone in the dry dirt:





Mkhuze Camping

Mkhuze with Jess-collage
– click on pic to see my jackal with a slit throat in the embers –

While I was pitching camp Jess came running to me with a horrified look on her face. She must have seen a snake or a leopard, I’m sure.

“DAD!!” she says breathlessly, horrified, stricken.

“DAD!! There’s no wifi here!!”

Her idea of hell.


Embarrassing note:
I am good at giving advice. If you ask me – actually you don’t even need to ask – I will tell you what the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to take camping.

The FIRST thing you pack when you go camping is a deck chair.

I know this cos Greg Bennett told me back in 1983 on my first Duzi Canoe Marathon. He said “Pete, you can forget everything else but take a deck chair. The most important comfort item you can take is your deck chair,”  he said.

I have since pontificated on this very often.

So on this trip to Mkhuze: I forgot the ducking feckchairs.


A Week in Mkhuze

We saw lots of bewilderbeast droppings and lots of bewilderbeasts – many with tiny calves, meals on wobbly hooves to the lions and cheetahs. The big male lion had helped himself to a giraffe calf, so fat pickings this summer. The lions were recently introduced to shake things up in Mkhuze, (four in Nov 2013 and four in 2014) so the edible animals are on high alert, muttering to each other ‘there goes the neighbourhood.’

– wobbly hooves –
– hmmm, I’ll have one of those! –
– impala nursery on the banks of Nsumu pan –
– ugh, I ate too much giraffe –

We watched two cheetah stalk the wildebeasts and then charge off out of sight. Friends saw the lionesses bring down a wildebeast calf right in front of them at the waterhole. Lots of square-lipped rhino and a beautiful hunting wasp, all yellow and black rugby jersey colours. Wonderful Mkhuze birdlife as always, 106 species, with cuckoo hawk, nicator, grey-headed bush shrike, wattled lapwing and pygmy kingfisher being my highlights.

Then at last: A hook-lipped rhino! He stood obligingly while we took pictures.

He just stood there as placid as anything. I had told Jess if we were lucky enough to see one we’d probly just get a glimpse, so she should be ready with her camera! So there’s another reason to take everything your parents say with a great big sack of cerebos.


We had lovely weather, including rain, wind and too hot, but mostly perfect, as all the others were short duration and actually pleasant. It’s dry again, so the waterholes were busy. Three of the lady lions launched a run on a wildebees calf at the waterhole as I watched and the other voyeurs (among whom friend Geoff Kay) told of watching them kill and eat one the day before. Geoff had it on his camera. Old Geoff just the same: ‘You saw what? I saw better. You got what telescope? Mine’s longer. You saw an elephant? Last year I was here with Jurgen and we got charged by one.’ etc.
Actually we dipped on eles. Not one; and not a single turd neither. Not one. We drove 450km over the six days and the reward I offered of an ice cream to she who spotted an ele turd (not a whole ele, just a turd!) went unclaimed!
Reminded me of a Free State Reed-ism: “Not a leaf stirred. Not an elephant’s turd.”


– giraffe stereo –


My Namesakes in Mkhuze

A few of my namesakes at Mkhuze this weekend.


Spot the two old rhinos in the shade under the tree? ** Click on the pic **

Then you’ll also see how dry it was – the “water” is pure mud with a rich dose of dung mixed in.

– the pan had good water –