It was the poet John Donne who first told us that no man is an island, implying that we cannot live entirely without contact with other people i.e. we do not thrive in isolation. Simon & Garfunkel sing the refrain, I am a rock / I am an island, claiming to be self-sufficient – for the time being anyway. To isolate ourselves is neither possible nor a good idea claims the philosopher, Karl Popper (1902-1994). According to him, we are social creatures to the inmost of our being.

True: so are many other animals in their own way, which is possibly why we enjoy scenes such as the ones below as they reflect the empathy we have for others and connect with our desire to be regarded as being ‘special’ to someone.

Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park


Zebra in Addo Elephant National Park


Yellow-billed Storks in Kruger National Park


Giraffe in Kruger National Park


Springbuck in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park


It is always fun coming across the odd porcupine quill whilst walking in the veld. These nocturnal animals are seldom seen during the day as they mostly feed at night. Many campers in the Addo Elephant National Park can probably attest to the fact that a porcupine that used to be resident near the campsite would wander through the tents at night – woe betide any potato salad or apples one might inadvertently have left uncovered, for porcupines are largely vegetarian.

The natural diet of the porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis) consists of tubers, bulbs, roots and even bark. Below is an example of the damage to a tree caused by porcupines in the Mountain Zebra National Park. The tree now has a fence around it for protection.

The white and black crest of spines and quills can be erected at will to increase the apparent size of the porcupine in a threatening manner. Some spines on the tail are hollow and make a rattling sound when shaken. These very sharp spines and quills of the porcupine come off when touched by a predator or can be shaken off, but grow back rapidly. Here are two examples of porcupine quills becoming embedded in animals that have come too close. The first is a leopard in the Kruger National Park.

The second example is a Cape buffalo in the Addo Elephant National Park.


We do not go there nearly often enough, yet the Kruger National Park remains one of my favourite holiday destinations in South Africa. From where we live now, it requires a two or three day drive to get there, depending on the state of the roads at the time. Given the ever-increasing price of fuel, it is also an expensive trip to undertake. This means that when we do go, we try to spend close on three weeks there at a time.

I grew up within such easy reach of the Kruger National Park that we could go in for day trips. Sometimes we would visit as a family or I would accompany friends. The primary school I attended was good about taking us there too – usually to play softball or tennis matches against pupils from the primary school in Skukuza. Such trips would include an overnight stay in dormitories, when we would routinely be frightened by Spotted Hyenas knocking the lids off the metal dustbins outside.

Spotted Hyena

There is such a wide variety of game, interesting insects, and birds to see in the Kruger Park that visitors have no reason to be bored. Nonetheless, many visitors tend to feel dissatisfied unless they have seen at least one lion (preferably at a kill), cheetah and a leopard (particularly elusive creatures).



Of course they are interesting to see, although I do not think it is worth sitting in a traffic jam for hours in the hope of glimpsing part of one through the tangle of vehicles. There is so much more to explore like the scenery of open veld, riverine trees, the rivers and rocky outcrops that are not only lovely to look at, but which might harbour all sorts of surprises – such as a Pearl-spotted Owlet!

Pearlspotted owlet

A sense of peace descends on me as I become attuned to the natural surroundings in which we can admire the simple beauty of an Impala:


The grace and elegance of Giraffe:


The majesty of Elephants:


Or be taken aback by the Golden Orb Spiders along a path:


One might even be fortunate enough to come across the endangered Ground Hornbills picking their way through the veld.

Ground Hornbill

I associate the Kruger National Park with diversity, contrasts and constant surprises. It is good to take a break from driving every now and then to spend the best part of a day parked at a waterhole, sitting in a bird hide, or exploring the rest camp. From the dawn chorus of birds to the roar of lions at night, there is always something interesting happening in the Kruger Park. It is a place I always leave with a heavy heart and a vow to return as soon as I can!



How can I end a round-up of our trip to the Kruger National Park without mentioning birds? I will only illustrate ten, although the list at the end shows that there were many more to see.

Crested Francolins welcomed us at our first campsite and pecked their cryptically coloured way throughout the park.

crested francolin

The beautiful colours of the White-fronted Bee-eaters were such a contrast to their drab surroundings.

white-fronted bee-eater

This Wattled Plover has a wise look in its eye.

wattled plover

As does the Cape Glossy Starling.

Cape glossy starling

It was such a pleasant surprise to see a Scarlet-chested Sunbird in the middle of what looked like barren land.

scarlet-chested sunbird

I simply have to show off the Bataleur again!


To see a Red-breasted Swallow perched right next to me was a real privilege.

red-breasted swallow

African Mourning Doves began and ended each day with a song in Satara.

African mourning dove

This colourful Crested Barbet almost climbed in through the window of our vehicle.

crested barbet

I was delighted to see a Brown-headed Parrot in the same tree that I had seen them in at Satara in April last year!

brown-headed parrot

My list of birds seen in the Kruger National Park is:

African Fish Eagle
African Green Pigeon
African Grey Hornbill
African Jacana
African Mourning Dove
African Openbill
African Pied Wagtail
Arrow-marked Babbler
Black-backed Puffback
Black-bellied Bustard
Black-collared Barbet
Black Crake
Black Cuckoo
Black Heron
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Heron
Black-headed Oriole
Blacksmith Plover
Blackwinged Stilt
Blue Waxbill
Brown-headed Parrot
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Buffalo Weaver
Burchell’s Starling
Cape Bunting
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cattle Egret
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Comb Duck
Crested Barbet
Crested Francolin
Crowned Plover
Curlew Sandpiper
Double-banded Sandgrouse
Egyptian Goose
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
European Bee-eater
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Giant Kingfisher
Goliath Heron
Great Egret
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Grey-headed Sparrow
Grey Heron
Grey Lourie
Ground Hornbill
Hadeda Ibis
Helmeted Guineafowl
Hooded Vulture
House Sparrow
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Kori Bustard
Kurrichane Thrush
Lappet-faced Vulture
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Lilac-breasted Roller
Little Egret
Magpie Shrike
Marabou Stork
Martial Eagle
Natal Spurfowl
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Purple Turaco
Red-billed Hornbill
Red-billed Oxpecker
Red-billed Woodhoopoe
Red-breasted Swallow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Redwinged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Saddle-billed Stork
Scarlet-chested Sunbird
Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Speckled Mousebird
Square-tailed Drongo
Streaky-headed Canary
Tawny Eagle
Three-banded Plover
Variable Sunbird
Water Thick-knee
Wattled Plover
White-backed Vulture
White-bellied Sunbird
White-fronted Bee-eater
White-rumped Swift
Woolly-necked Stork
Yellow-billed Kite
Yellow-billed Stork
Yellow-fronted Canary