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Marrick and much, much more

Marrick Kgalagadi Self-drive Cape Point National Park Mtunznin Goukamma Robberg Thendele Witsand Intaka

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#1 lmSA84

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 06:48 PM

Why call this report “Marrick and much, much more”….well I’m trying not to bury the lead and I think that of all the places we went to, Marrick was the most unique wildlife location.  

 

But Marrick wasn’t the only place we went to, in fact it was just one of 22 different places that we visited in a two month road trip around South Africa, covering over 8000KM. 

 

I hear you asking, how did I get so much time off work…am I retired?…did I take a sabbatical? Neither, I took shared parental leave. The UK has recently changed it’s parental leave laws, adopting a Scandinavian type model which allows the father to share the maternity leave. 

 

Having recently been blessed with our first child, my wife and I really wanted to take advantaged of this time to be a family and to travel. So off we went - us, our then 5 month old daughter and a Toyata Fortuner 4x4.

 

The itinerary was:

 

Cape Town - 5 nights

Franschhoek - 2 nights

Knysna - 4 nights

Jeffrey’s Bay - 2 nights

Prince Albert - 3 nights

Montagu - 2 nights

Cape Point NP - 3 nights

Clanwilliam - 3 nights

Augrabies - 2 nights

Kgalagadi NP - 6 nights

Witsand Reserve - 1 night

Marrick - 3 nights

Mokala NP - 1 night

Beaufort West - 1 night

Wolseley - 3 nights

Durban - 5 nights

Mtunzini - 2 nights

Rocktail Bay Mapatuland - 7 nights

Dundee - 1 night

Thendele Drakensberg - 3 nights

J’burg - 4 nights

 

Our itinerary was built around seeing some great places, seeing some great wildlife, enjoying some good wine and seeing my family (I’m a saffer by birth). This trip wasn’t all wildlife centric so I won’t cover all our locations but instead will pick on a few key ones that I think may be of interest. I think these are:

 

Intaka Island - Cape Town

Wild Coast Parks - Goukamma, Robberg and Wilderness

Cape Point National Park

Lambert’s Bay

Kgalagadi NP

Witsand

Marrick

Mokala

Mtunzini 

Maputaland 

Thendele

 

I won’t cover these all in detail (I don’t have enough good photos) but I’ll try cover some highlights.

 

What were some of the wildlife highlights?

 

1. On one night drive at Marrick we saw 15 Bat-eared Foxes, 2 Porcupines, 40+ Springhares, 20+ Scrub Hare, 6 High Veld Gerbil, 2 Spotted Eagle Owl, 3 Blue Cranes, Banded-Courser, 2 adult African Wild Cat, 1 Hybrid Wild / Domestic Cat, 2 Aardwolf, 1 Aardvark and 4 Black-footed cats - a mother feeding her three kittens.

 

2. In the Kgalagadi seeing a mother African Wild Cat and her two kittens one which had clearly never seen a game vehicle before and actually came up to sniff the tyres

 

3. Again in the Kgalagadi a group of five Cheetah at a kill

 

4. Seeing Green Barbets and the Spotted Ground Thrush, two rare range restricted birds, at KZN’s Ongoye and Dlinza Forest

 

As a taster this is an image of the mother black-footed cat and her three kittens

 

gallery_47987_1655_1411558.jpg

 

 


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#2 xelas

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 07:14 PM

Lovely kittens, @ImSA84 ! And I assume there will be also a couple of bird's photos?! Anyway, looking forward to add more useful info to improve on my future trip.


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#3 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 08:38 PM

Hurrah and double hurrah @ImSA84 what a trip! And what fine timing.We are hoping to include Marrick in a trip next year for our 20th wedding anniversary- well any excuse so very much looking forward to your report
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#4 kittykat23uk

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 05:47 AM

Wow!Wow! Wow! You've whet my appetite for our 3 week south Africa trip now! We have 3 night drives planned at Marrick :D can't wait!
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#5 Kitsafari

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 06:07 AM

@lmSA84 you've got me sold on Marrick now!! just to see the black-footed cats. they are stunning!

 

That's one amazing loong trip. what time of the year did you go at?


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#6 PeterHG

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 10:50 AM

Wonderful to spend such a long time in South Africa! Some excellent highlights already, so looking forward to more!
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#7 lmSA84

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 07:56 PM

Lovely kittens, @ImSA84 ! And I assume there will be also a couple of bird's photos?! Anyway, looking forward to add more useful info to improve on my future trip.

 

I think you may know me too well. There will be many, many birds  :)


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#8 lmSA84

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 07:57 PM

@Kitsafari - hope you enjoy the report. We went from Jan 2nd to March 5th of this year.


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#9 lmSA84

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 08:25 PM

To give the people what they want, rather then go in chronological order I'll go by South African province starting with the Northern Cape which was actually the third province that we visited, after the Western and Eastern Cape.

 

Our route through the Northern Cape took us from Clanwilliam via Bushmanland to Augrabies, from there to KTP, then Witsand, Marrick, Mokala and finally back into the Western Cape via Beaufort West.

 

gallery_47987_1655_234754.png

 

The Northern Cape stops that I'll cover are Marrick, KTP (Twee Rivieren and Mata Mata), Mokala and Witsand.

 

Marrick

 

For those that don't know, Marrick is a game farm located about 20mins from Kimberley which has gradually developed a reputation for delivering South Africa's most consistently productive night drives.

 

They're are famous for the three Aarde's - Aardvark, Aardwolf and Miershoop Tier (the black-footed cat's Afrikaans name which means Anthill Tiger, hence the link with Aarde) but they're are many other rare sightings to be had including Zorilla, Hedgehog, Rock Elephant Shrews and Smith's Red Rock Rabbit.

 

We stayed at Marrick from Feb 7th-9th, in the family cottage and we went on two nights drives whilst we were there. The cottages there are basic but they're very spacious and comfortable.

 

What really makes the place though are the staff. They really went out of there way to make us feel welcome - providing baby sitting, serving special dinners at our cottage (guests normally eat the dining hall), staying out extra late / alternating routes to try get target species and doing special trips in the day to pick my up if they found a good bird on the farm (like the Eagle Owl below). Most of all though you get a real sense that they are very passionate about their farm and the wildlife. 


Edited by lmSA84, 03 April 2017 - 08:26 PM.

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#10 lmSA84

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 08:42 PM

Whilst Marrick might primarily be all about the night drives they're things to see in the day. For one you can go on game drives and they offer self drives and walking. We though were using it as a base to see Kimberley and relax so the only day time activities that we did (really just me, whilst my daughter napped) was bird watching.

 

View looking out from home base to the farm

 

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The family cottage which we stayed at and my principal birdwatching haunt

 

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This yellow flowering weed covers the area and looks beautiful but it is covered in a billion thorns - I have a tendency to go bare foot so I paid a heavy price!  :wacko:

 

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As well as many birds they're are a resident group of Meerkats

 

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...and the occasional wild antelope - grey duiker in this case

 

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The birdlife is excellent.....

 

Yellow Canary

 

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Pririt Batis

 

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Spotted Eagle Owl

 

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African Hoopoe

 

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Red-headed Finch

 

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Golden-tailed Woodpecker

 

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...all of which really helps to pass the time whilst you wait for night  :ph34r:

 

gallery_47987_1655_953600.jpg


Edited by lmSA84, 03 April 2017 - 08:43 PM.

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#11 michael-ibk

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 02:58 PM

Just wow about your sightings at Marrick - and make that double-wow! Definitely on my list, in combination with a return to Kgalagadi. Also interested in your Mokala experience since that was also recommended to me. Some stunning pictures, especially like the Batis.


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#12 Treepol

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Posted 05 April 2017 - 05:32 AM

@lmSA84 oh wow - Marrick. I have a 3 night stay in my 2018 itinerary, this place looks fantastic!


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#13 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 05 April 2017 - 11:43 AM

looks like Marrick's  is going to be very busy next year with safaritalk people!   looking forward to your further thoughts on this and also Mokala and witsand. Looking at your map, did you drive in one day from there to Beaufort West? we are looking to go from Samara-near Craddock-to Marrick but even though we are ok with driving a fair distance,thought we would need a stop over just to break things up-somewhere like the Gariep Dam for example. We are hoping to stay three nights at marrick and potter about doing some walking on the property -we think in August just in case any cold nights persuade the Aardvarks to surface in daylight! I do like your spotted Eagle Owl!  @ImSA84


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#14 PeterHG

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Posted 05 April 2017 - 11:57 AM

Great pictures @lmSA84 and it looks like a marvelous place!


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#15 lmSA84

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Posted 05 April 2017 - 05:09 PM

Without further ado - the night drives! 

 

We stayed a total of three days at Marrick and we did two private drives. There is the option to share vehicles but we wanted private tours so that if need be we could race back in case our daughter woke up. The private option is quite pricy but in the end was worth it for us. 

 

Our drives were conducted in a large converted bakkie which has had open air seating added, with one spotter and one driver. 

 

They seem to be quite flexible in terms of when they leave for the drives, going between 19.00 and 20.30 depending on the season. I asked if there was any advantage to the timing - our driver suggested that largely not, except that sometimes one of the male Aardvarks is out quite early after dusk so sometimes if they’re out early they will head straight for that area.

 

The main three factors which seem to influence the drives are the wind, temperature and season. 

 

Wind wise, a light breeze is ideal because it masks the smell and sound. Our spotter told us this was particularly useful for getting close to Aardvark and for Zorilla. 

 

Season wise, the dry seasons seems to be best because you get an enhanced chance of seeing Zorilla, Elephant Shrew and Hedgehog - although the night before our 1st drive they saw a hedgehog.

 

Temperature wise if it’s too hot or cold it will influence when the animals appear - heat appears to encourage them to come out later and this really did seem to be the case on our second drive!

 

Our two drives could not have been more different. Our first drive as I mentioned above was spectacular - ticking off everything on my list. 

 

Our second drive though, was one of the worst that our spotter has ever experienced! He said that in all of 2016 they only had three nights when they didn’t seen an Aardwolf (which he considers to be the equivalent of seeing Impala) but on our second drive we saw far less (it was still good by normal standards). I have no real explanation for this other then we went out much earlier, leaving 7.30pm, got back much earlier (10.15pm - at our request) and it was a much hotter day. For reference on our first drive we left at about 20.40 and got back at about midnight. It wasn’t planned that way - there was a mixup with the babysitter.

 

Also one tip I would share with everyone is consider wearing a scarf or a tight jacket. Once the lights are on they attract a bizillon bugs and in particular tiny dung beetles which fly down your top and bite!

 

Drive no.1

 

After a kerfuffle about the babysitter we set off at 20.40 on our drive. 

 

As we come out of the property, the lights go on and the bush is alive with the eyes of Springhares and Scrub Hares -  after about 20mins we give up counting - they’re everywhere.

 

Not long after we begin we come across our first family of Bat-eared foxes. These would be the first of 15 or so that we would see. They typically kept their distance.

 

gallery_47987_1655_4719696.jpg

 

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Not long after these guys we come across our first African Wild Cats (quite far), a hybrid wild cat, a Spotted Eagle Owl and Banded Courser (a target species of mine).

 

Hybird domestic / Wild - African Wild Cat

 

gallery_47987_1655_637059.jpg

 

Spotted Eagle Owl

 

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Banded Courser

 

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Next up is a small Porcupine family

 

gallery_47987_1655_2407791.jpg

 

It would then by a while, maybe an hour, before we would find the first of our three Aards - the Aardwolf. This guy would be the second of two that we saw, the first being quite far off. This guy though came quite close getting to within 20-40 metres. 

 

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It’s a real joy to watch him go about his foraging. As I mentioned above these guys are very common at Marrick.

 

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We see these guys a few times in the road but I only get one good shot. This is the High Veld Gerbil, the critical part of the ecosystem that makes this one of the best places in the world (along with Benfontein probably the only place in the world) to regularly see the small spotted cats.

 

gallery_47987_1655_706742.jpg

 

Up until this point we had searched high and low but had no luck finding the small-spotted cat. Our spotter though was keen to return to an area that we had searched previously - he had been telling us about his drive the prior night on which they had seen a mother and her three kittens! Seriously! It was getting late and we thought we might have missed them when he spotted a small movement - one kitten, the tiniest version of the world’s smallest wild cat.

 

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But where there is one they’re will be more and so we soon saw all three kittens

 

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And whilst we were watching the most magical moment happened…..mom appeared ladened with food

 

gallery_47987_1655_4524042.jpg

 

You can’t see it clearly in the first image but you can see here a bit more clearly that she hasn’t got one gerbil in her mouth but two!

 

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She drops the two gerbils and kittens coming running…

 

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…the first one gets gerbil no.1

 

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…the second kitten gerbil no.2

 

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…and the third one gets nothing!

 

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Not to worry though, as super mom has a consolation prize - a suckle and clean from mom - not bad hey!

 

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It was a fantastic, fortunate experience

 

After watching them for 30 or so minutes it’s time to get back to the lodge. 

 

As we’re driving back the driver suddenly says gives me a big fist pump and under a hushed breath…says we just got the “big three” - I can't see it yet but off to left is our final target - an Aardvark.

 

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All in all it will be a tough gaming viewing experience to ever  beat. It was very special and shows why Marrick deserves it’s reputation.   


Edited by lmSA84, 05 April 2017 - 05:17 PM.

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#16 Towlersonsafari

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Posted 05 April 2017 - 05:22 PM

Those cat photos are just magical! I can't imagine the grins on your faces as you watched them!

Edited by Towlersonsafari, 05 April 2017 - 05:22 PM.

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#17 michael-ibk

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Posted 05 April 2017 - 05:48 PM

Very, very special - thank you for sharing.
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#18 kittykat23uk

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Posted 05 April 2017 - 06:10 PM

Wow! Wow! Wow! You got it all!!! :)
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If an experience is amazing enough to be "once in a lifetime," I want to do it every year.
Alex: "Whoa! Hold up there a second, fuzzbucket. You mean like, uh, the live in a mud hut wipe yourself with a leaf type wild?"
King Julian: “Who wipes?”

#19 janzin

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 03:26 AM

Okay, I may have to plan a trip back to South Africa as those three are on my "most wanted" list for sure!! Awesome sightings, and all in one drive!


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#20 Alexander33

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 03:21 AM

@ImSA84

I've never heard of Marrick in my life. That's the thing I love about Safaritalk. Its members help introduce others to overlooked and unsung locales. Thank you so much.

That first aardwolf photo is incredible. I've not yet had the good fortune to see one.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to temper my envy that you got two months off to do all this. Makes me want to have a baby! (Well, okay, maybe not, but the thought is more tempting now....).

Looking forward to more. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
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"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."  -- Unknown 

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." -- Ursula K. Le Guin





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Marrick, Kgalagadi, Self-drive, Cape Point National Park, Mtunznin, Goukamma, Robberg, Thendele, Witsand, Intaka


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