Locust at Bonamanzi


Nature's Valley to Bonamanzi, Africa 2005 
2-23 October 2005
by Henry Detwiler & Bob Miller

Bob Miller and I joined our hosts Barry and Margie Hawthorne of Cape Town for a whirlwind 3-week tour of South Africa.  This is a summary of our adventures.
445 species -- bird list may be viewed by clicking > BIRD LIST
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.   

At Richard's Bay, we saw a wonderful array of water birds, including these Whiskered Terns and this Yellow-billed Egret. 

Yellow-billed Egret

Whiskered Tern

Bonamanzi Game Park is in the heart of Zululand, and is composed of sand forest and the St Lucia floodplains. Here we saw one of the most sought-after birds in South Africa, the Rosy-throated Longclaw.


Rosy-throated Longclaw

It was a bit of a grassland skulker, but this beauty came out for a few pictures. 


The sandy soils around Bonamanzi had lots of spectacular flowers.  One of the showiest was this Bloodroot Lily, with its 10" array of blossoms.

Baboons are common throughout South Africa; in fact in the Cape they are quite a nuisance.  They've learned to raid homes of food and strip gardens bare! 

Bloodroot Lily

Brown-headed Kingfisher

In the United States our few kingfishers are all associated with water; in Africa there are also woodland kingfishers that catch bugs and other critters far away from aquatic environments.  This Brown-headed Kingfisher came to call on our "treehouse" villa each morning as we awoke to the dawn chorus.

As we traveled east from Nature's Valley, crocodiles became more common, and we encountered warning signs ("INGOZI")  in those areas where locals might be tempted to swim.  We saw crocodiles at Bonamanzi, Kruger National Park, and Nylsvley Preserve, including a few 14' monsters.


Nile Crocodile

Fruits & Vegetables

As we drove from spot to spot, we saw many vegetable & fruit stalls close to metropolitan areas.  In the heart of town, growers would sell their crops from atop blankets on sidewalks and street corners.  Other types of vendors would also compete for empty sidewalk space, effectively blocking any and all storefront windows!

A night drive through Bonamanzi turned up bush babies, civet cats, giraffes, several deer species, a few plovers and nightjars, and this beautiful chameleon.  It shines a bright green in the headlights, making it easy to spot.

White-crowned Lapwing

Lappet-necked Chameleon

Hluhluwe River

We encountered a nesting pair of African Darters, close relatives of our Anhinga.  In the same tree were numerous Weaver nests.  A good find along the river was the rare Lemon-breasted Canary.

    African Python

The Hluhluwe River flows through the park, and one afternoon we took a few hours to ride down the gently flowing current.  Small crocodiles basked along the edges, and herons watched us from the reeds.


African Darter

Our guide Richard spotted two African pythons in a tree, one of which was probably twelve feet long.  They stayed coiled up, though, so our looks weren't too good.  Unfortunately, these were the only two snakes we saw on the entire trip.

Bonamanzi had a good number of ponds, and had the largest collection of tree frogs we saw during our stay.  They chirped and croaked all through our outdoor dinner one night. From here we headed north and west, traveling through Swaziland, where we encountered a flock of vultures that included this behemoth with its four-foot wingspan, the largest of the South African clan.

Lappet-faced Vulture


Tree Frogs at Bonamanzi


Zulu Village next to Bonamanzi Park

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Photos Henry Detwiler & Bob Miller