Monday, February 12, 2018

Pafuri Birding Safari

A Verraux's Eagle-owl in in one of the Fever-tree Forests. 
Pafuri, together with the Kalahari ( More here and here) is South Africa’s wildest wilderness areas. Tucked away between the lush Levuvhu and Limpopo rivers in Kruger’s northern most reaches it is a land rich in history and legend. It is here where the Levuvhu and Limpopo rivers join and where three countries, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe meet. In years gone by a band of ivory hunters, poachers, traders and other outcasts made their homes in this remote spot aptly named Crookes Corner.  Strategically this area provided the perfect hideout from the authorities. When officials from the respective countries came to arrest any of the bandits, they conveniently jumped the border out of the jurisdiction of the said official.

Not exactly camping in a pup tent!!! The very luxurious tents at Pafuri Camp. 
Today the exclusive Makuleke concession, one of South Africa’s most successful examples of land restitution where land was returned to the original owners is managed as an exclusive eco-tourism concession by South African National Parks, the land owners and private stake holders.  Low volume tourism ensures that the wild frontier ambiance is still tangible amongst the giant Baobabs, stunning gorges and Kipling’s Limpopo River.  Our quarry this time wasn’t ivory bearing elephant though but something much smaller. Birds!!

Fine Art photographer Oliver Barnett in action. Have a look at his stunning and unconventional photography at:

Because of the diverse habitats and vast array of vegetation types, each with its distinct suite of bird species, Pafuri is a must-do destination for any serious birdwatcher visiting Southern Africa. My initial fear of overselling the place soon proved misplaced as within the first few minutes of our first game drive it felt like birds were in total overabundance, both in numbers and species!  We didn’t get halfway to where we were planning to have our sundowners as we had to stop regularly to identify the multitudes of species and before we reached the camp again our total species list were well over 50 already.

En-route to meeting our guests, a quick stop at Punda Maria restcamp produced an Orange-winged Pytilia, a very rare sighting in South Africa.
One is not limited to Kruger Park gate times and as a result can get to see what happens after dark. Over a few days various species of owls, coursers and nightjars were gradually added to the list bringing it up to a final total of 162 species seen!

Spotted Eagle-owl on the hunt. Not being limited to gate times allows guests to seek out the areas nocturnal inhabitants.
Bird species that stood out was Eurasian Golden Oriole which seemed like flocks just arrived prior to dispersal on the day of our arrival, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Lemon-breasted Canary,  European Hobby and Lanner Falcons, Dwarf Bittern,  Three banded Courser and African Wood Owl. Sadly Pell’s fishing Owl eluded us.  At one point, thousands of winged termites were emerging setting the stage for one of natures wildlife spectacles. Everything from Black-backed Jackals to scorpions were feeding on them.  Hundreds of Amur Falcons could be seen hawking them from the sky while a rock monitor scooped up a few termites as well as a scorpion!!

A very obliging juvenile African Pygmy Kingfisher. 
We recorded two firefinches in the area, Jameson's and this Red-billed Firefinch. Interestingly both of their brood parasites, the Village and Purple Indigobirds were also recorded. 
A very interesting find. Look at the color ring on this Lessed Spotted Eagles left leg. Turns out that this individual comes all the way from Poland!!!
It wasn’t only birds though and in addition to herds of buffalo and small breeding groups of elephant we also encountered a clan of Spotted Hyena’s in the fever tree forest, several Large-spotted Genets  (some of which were in camp), both Four-toed and Rock Elephant-shrews, Nyala, Kudu and a host of other antelope, a Giraffe (which I was forced to stop at!) as well as Hippopotamus and Nile Crocodile.

Referred to as a Cat-eyed snake the beautiful and harmless Marbled Tree-snake. 
Pafuri Camp is situated on the Levuvhu river providing ample opportunities to view the comings and going of a host of wildlife. The riparian forest is never quiet and guests can explore the woodlands at camp from the safety of an elevated walkway that stretches for more than a kilometer along the edge of the forest.  Alternatively a most welcome pool overlooking the river provides a more sedate wildlife viewing post.

Large spotted Genet in the riverine forest. 
Africa Unlocked provides premium private safaris in Pafuri, an area ideal for anyone looking for a wild and non-commercialized safari experience. Birdwatchers and nature photographers will enjoy this un-spoilt region tremendously while adventure seeking families are guaranteed of a most exciting time. Should you wish to get more information on this region do not hesitate to contact us.

One of the most dramatic sundowner spots at Lanner Gorge. 
Next stop, Phinda. All ground handling and logistics were arranged by Africa Unlocked.  

Safari in style. Next stop Phinda. 

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