Think a trip to Kruger is all about the big and furries? Zoom in on the little critters and you’ll be astounded by the riches of our flagship park.

Inspired by the letters in the latest Wild magazine, Wild traveller Sophie Hall was excited to tell us about her sightings in the Kruger National Park. Travelling from north to south, it was not the Big Five or even the more elusive Secret Seven that prompted her enthusiasm. What triggered her interest? The underrated, smaller beauties of the bush.

On her first ever trip to South Africa, Sophie and her partner, Ash, explored Kruger from north to south, staying over at various camps along the way.

Instead of focusing only on the big animals, they got to know a variety of creatures. They noticed the colourful butterflies and moths around their tent, the beautiful birds with swooping tails, insects of all kinds, incredible ancient baobab trees with kingfishers peeking out from their nests in the trunk, and intricate weaver nests festooning the bush.

Sophie shares the most memorable sightings they enjoyed as they travelled from Punda Maria to Crocodile Bridge.

Punda Maria’s winged beauties

“Our first stop was the beautiful Punda Maria. We were told we wouldn’t see much in the way of big animals, but really this was a blessing in disguise.

“An evening spent on our deck enjoying a braai afforded us incredible encounters with a variety of moths, including hawk moths; a rock monitor lizard who loved the gap between the tent roof and the beams; and an incredible flying insect we suspect might have been an adult antlion!

Potential adult antlion that visited their deck at Punda Maria. All pictures by Sophie Hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also read: New nature reads for autumn

Shingwedzi and a bounty of birds

From Punda Maria they made their way to Shingwedzi and saw many birds including flycatchers, whydahs, wood hoopoes and bee-eaters along the way.

“The camp itself was abundant with woodpeckers and woodland kingfishers. A particularly lively kingfisher had his nest hole in a tree on the edge of the restaurant and I loved watching him call proudly from his perch. At night we watched the sun spiders emerge and scurry about the sand on the hunt for dinner. In the morning we saw a mud dauber wasp carrying its prey, a bright green caterpillar, back to its mud lair above our patio.

White-fronted bee-eaters in a tree on the road to Shingwedzi from Punda Maria

 

A woodland kingfisher in a hole in a baobab tree branch

Satara and nocturnal visitors

During their drive down south to Satara, Sophie and Ash made a pitstop on a bridge just north of Letaba and spotted some free-tailed bats nesting in the cracks and gaps of the bridge and listened to their adorable squeaks.

“Satara didn’t disappoint us in its reputation for being the cat camp, but it was there we had some amazing small encounters too. We saw a greater bush baby, a beautiful stick insect, a mantis, particularly noisy frogs, and a wild cat snoozing in the grass outside of our lodge.”

Wild cat at Satara

 

Greater bushbaby

Crocodile Bridge and Lower Sabie treasures

Their final camp was Crocodile Bridge with a quick stopover at beautiful Lower Sabie where they encountered weavers perched on their intricate nests, a chameleon (doing his best to blend in with the road) and a colourful foam grasshopper.

“When we reached Crocodile Bridge for our last night, we sat out on the patio to listen to the sounds of the evening. We saw fruit bats enjoying the marula fruit above our heads and geckos patiently waiting for a flying snack to land close enough.”

Chameleon on the road near Lower Sabie

 

Pied kingfisher on the bridge near Lower Sabie

A lesser masked weaver perched on their nest at Lower Sabie

For Sophie and Ash, it was an incredible trip full of many wonders – big and especially small.

Also read: What to know before booking a Kruger wilderness trail