Orpen To Berg En Dal Game Viewing And Bird Watching

The Trip We Expect, Orpen To Berg En Dal

So we are basically doing Orpen to Berg En Dal in November, late November, a beautiful time of year in the Kruger National Park. The migratory birds are generally all around, and the Bushveld is lush and green. It’s just a magical time to be in the southern and central Kruger National Park, for game watching or birding. So our trip is going to be for 6 night’s, 3 nights at Orpen Rest Camp and 3 nights at Berg En Dal Rest Camp… Wow there is so much to discuss. So let’s go for it, enjoy the blog!

Orpen To Berg En Dal – The Start Of Our Trip

We will be driving the N4 towards Crocodile Bridge Gate, and entering the Kruger National Park at about 05h30 on the Saturday morning, hopefully listening to the calls of the Woodland Kingfishers that should have arrived by then, and should be in the mating and breeding process. By the way the Woodland Kingfisher is one of my favourite bird calls, and I am sure it is one of many others as well. We will drive the tar road to Lower Sabie and then head onto the H10 and maybe see something exciting like a Cape Clawless Otter on the low level bridge over the Sabie River. I am secretly also hoping to see “Porky”, the resident male African Leopard who is an expert Porcupine hunter, and he occurs on the H10. Then we will eventually get to the beautiful Nkumbe Lookout Spot or View Point, probably one of the most beautiful views in the entire Greater Kruger National Park.

Carrying On From Orpen To Berg En Dal

Nkumbe, will be a special stop, trust me on this, you will know by eventually. We will scan and see what is going on at the view point. If I had to choose a view to look at for the rest of my life, this would be exactly it. Euphorbia Trees, Mocking Cliff-chats and Rock Monitor Lizards are all around, and what you can see cannot be experienced in a photograph.

After all the beauty, it will be probably be quite hot at this stage, bit we will make our way to Tshokwane Picnic Spot. It always seems to be very busy, but it’s a beautiful spot to stop at. There are various food items on sale and ready to be ordered. It also has a nice view of the river bed and there is a lot of birdlife around. From there it’s time to drive towards Satara Rest Camp. It’s around a 45 kilometre drive. But a beautiful drive and generally full of wildlife. I have seen Wild Dogs, Lion, Cheetah and Leopard on this road multiple times. I really enjoy it. I remember when I was in my teenage years, I heard a Leopard kill an Impala on this route, close to Tshokwane, we did t see the kill, bit eventually saw the Leopard drag the fresh kill up a Jackalberry Tree, if my memory serves me right. We will also be on the lookout for any bird species on show, as well as Black-backed Jackal and African Honey Badger.

Orpen To Berg En Dal – The First Camp

So we will eventually get to my second favourite tar road in the entire Kruger National Park, the H7. In the early mornings and late afternoons you can have amazing big game sightings on this route, it’s not the greatest for birders however. I have seen Violet-backed Starling, Southern White-faced Owl and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl on this road as specials. There are also Common Cuckoo, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Tawny Eagle, Knob-billed Ducks and a few more common birds that can be seen on this road. Common Bushveld birds like Starlings, Spurfowl, Crested Barber, Grey Go-away-bird and a few others are often seen.

A must stop for us is Nsemani Dam though. There are often Elephants drinking here and early mornings you can see Jackal, Lion and Cheetah.

This route around Orpen is full of Impala, Blue Wildebeest and Burchell’s Zebra. Every now and then you will see a Steenbok or a Kudu. On the early mornings there are Chances Baboons along the Timbavati River. All in all it is a great road for game wat hint and can be productive for birders; if you take the Rabelais Loop you have a chance of seeing the uncommon Coqui Francolin and Violet-eared Waxbill. There are also a number of Dwarf Mongoose on this loop too.

Exploring The Orpen And Satara Areas

So on our journey from Orpen to Berg En Dal we will be staying for 3 nights at Orpen Camp, currently my favourite rest camp in the entire Kruger National Park. We will be searching for big game and unusual birds in the area. We will be driving the Sweni Road, Timbavati River Road, the S100 and the H6. All good for the Big 5, and hopefully we get lucky. Normally I don’t make ity mission to find big game, but I want to impress my lady. The whole area and the roads are good for Leopard, Cheetah, Buffalo, Lion and even Wild Dog. We just need to be in the right place at the right time. We will be leaving when the gates open at 04h30, so we should be able to see a few Hyaena as well. They love patrolling all these roads during the early morning. I am also hoping to see – there is a white Lioness from the Birmingham Pride currently with cubs – this beautiful Lion. And of course come across Casper and the male Cheetah brothers that occurs around Nsemani Dam.

Honey Badgers and Side-striped Jackal are real possibilities around the area as well. The birding opportunities on the S39, which is Timbavati River Road, are brilliant as well. Chances of Eastern Nicator, Black Cuckooshrike, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Pygmy Kingfisher and Stepped Eagle are all birds that can be seen during the summer months… Look, birding is my obsession, bit I love all wildlife including big game, and even though I do birding tours in various areas of the Kruger National Park, I want to try find some beautiful animals on this trip specifically. This doesn’t mean I will be covering more area than normal, still driving slow, still stopping for birds and so on.

We will be going on a night drive from Orpen Rest Camp, so I am hoping we will see Fiery-necked Nightjar, European Nightjar, Bronze-winged Courser and various Owl species, like my favourite – the African Scops Owl. Also I have seen African Civet, Scrub Hare, Large-spotted Genet, African Wild Cat and a few others at night that stand out from Orpen before.

What’s The Next Stop? Orpen To Berg En Dal

So our whole trip is Orpen To Berg En Dal, and after we have explored the central Kruger National Park region, we will be driving down south to our next rest camp which will be Berg En Dal. It will be a beautiful journey driving south from Satara, after the H7 from Orpen, towards Skukuza, which we will go via Tshokwane Picnic Spot, where we will get some footage – along with Nkhulu, it is probably the best and most popular Picnic Spot in the Kruger National Park, along with Afsaal as well. This whole route is great for Leopard, and Sable Antelope! I saw my first Sable ever, which is on our logo (read more about this by clicking the link), in 2017. There was a small breeding herd, with one male present, and it was the heat of the day. What a sighting it was.

Towards Skukuza, we will probably stop at this camp, but then we will move onto Lake Panic Bird Hide. Without a doubt the most active and beat hide in the entire Kruger National Park. I summer you can see a variety of birds here, including Ducks, Geese, Thick-knees, Herons, Kingfishers, Weavers and the list goes on. Occasionally you can see quite a few species of game like Crocodile, Hippo, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Kudu, Elephant, Nyala… And if you are lucky the resident male Leopard that has this as his territory. At the time of writing this article, I have never seen a Leopard here, but I have seen a Crocodile kill a Bushbuck, and probably one of the best Elephant sightings in terms of closeness and photography ever! Lake Panic Bird Hide is the gem of the South.

We will then drive my favourite tar road in the Kruger National Park, which is the H3, but generally in the afternoon it is a bit quiet. Sometimes you can see a few reptiles and birds, bit game wise it is a hot and miss. The beauty of the African Bushveld is that anything can happen at any time. So we never know what we might encounter here. De Laport waterhole is a very significant place to stick around at. Elephants, Leopard, Hyaena and general wildlife come to drink here in the heat of the day.

We will eventually turn onto the S110 tar road towards our next camp, which is Berg En Dal, and then we will get settled and probably do some birding and sit around the dam and maybe do the trail in camp. Just a side note, at the time of writing this, my only Serval sighting in the Kruger National Park has been on this road… It really is an amazing road, and the dirt roads we will be exploring around the area are also fantastic, especially for birding and Leopards.

Orpen To Berg En Dal – And Now?

So first of all, disclaimer, I love Orpen so much, bit Berg En Dal Rest camp has so many more birding opportunities. Birding is a passion of mine and I hope to get some photos of birds I have seen there before like; Jacobin Cuckoo, Purple-crested Turaco, Bar-throated Apalis, Marico Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Bennet’s Woodpecker, Kurrichane Thrush and whatever else comes out way! Close to the dam in the camp, and looking towards the dam, you can also see Buffalo, Baboon, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Impala and there used to be a resident Leopard: not sure if that is still the case. Let’s hold thumbs and see!

So in the immediate area, we will be driving the dirt roads, which are great for unusual mammals and birds. In this region there are populations of Mountain Reedbuck, Grey Rhebok and other more common animal species. This area is also home to the Big 5, and Leopards love the Berg En Dal area. Bird wise, I never know what to expect… I see different species every time around Matjulu and the S110. There are a variety of “LBJ’s” like Pipits and Cisticolas. There are also other amazing birding opportunities to be had here. Please look out for our write up on this Orpen To Berg En Dal trip! Then there are other roads to explore…

Where Else Can You Drive Between Orpen And Berg En Dal

So, we are not in the area for long, just 3 nights, and we will be doing a night drive looking for different species Lesser Bushbaby and Small-spotted Genet, and maybe if we are lucky a Porcupine. Ideally after the dirt roads around Berg En Dal Rest camp, and we will be driving the H2-2 towards Pretoriuskop looking for rare antelope, we will be driving elsewhere.

Our main route will be the S114 towards Crocodile River Road (which is the S25), and this will take us a while because it is such an amazing road, even the corrugation is quite bad at the moment. We will take our time on this road looking mainly for Lion, Leopard and a variety of bird species, especially water birds and the Great Spotted Cuckoo. This road is so good, one of the most driven gravel roads in the Kruger National Park. It is a long road and can take a while to drive, but it is just so abundant in wildlife.

It.once took me over 6 hours to drive this route, because it was just so good! The best part though? We will go to Hippo Pools and then drive towards Sunset Dam! For me the best waterbird destination in the entire Kruger National Park. You also will see Hippo, Impala and even hunting Crocodiles where they feed on Tilapia and Barbel. I have seen a large Crocodile kill another smaller Crocodile here as well in the past. Don’t know why, but it happened. We will spend a lot of time at Sunset Dam. It is a magical place and occasionally you can see some really rare birds here, besides the Plovers, Lapwings, Swallows, Herons, Storks, Weavers and Spoonbills.

We will then drive the famous road from Lower Sabie to Skukuza, and hopefully will come right with some amazing sightings. This road is notorious for being one of the best drives in the entire Kruger National Park. It might be because it is driven by so many visitors, or just because it is that good. From there we might visit Lake Panic Bird Hide again, time dependant, but otherwise we will join the H3 and head back to Berg En Dal Rest camp.

We Are Looking Forward To Our Orpen To Berg En Dal Adventure!

So this was not a long blog post, but you can expect one from this trip. I have a great feeling about it, I just hope the Woodland Kingfishers have arrived, and I know all the other migratory birds will be around.

Early mornings are going to be best, and although I want to see as much as possible and show Taryn as much as possible, I do have a couple of animals I would love to see:

  1. Springhare
  2. Side-striped Jackal
  3. African Wild Dog
  4. African Honey Badger
  5. Leopard

Bird wise, I am happy with whatever comes out way, and I am sure we will get to tick off around 150-170 species quite easily.

So wish us luck, and follow us on our social media platforms below, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the videos you could ever want from the beautiful, amazing and incredible Kruger National Park.

Just to let you know (To close off this article), these are the road we are looking most forward to driving – in no particulart order:

  • H3
  • H7
  • H4-2
  • S126
  • S100
  • S110
  • S39
  • S114
  • S25

we will keep you all posted! If you are venturing to the the Kruger National Park soon, we wish you the best trip ever!

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