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Chris Bates Safaris Newsletter 5



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Welcome to Chris Bates Safaris latest newsletter.


The month of August was quite busy visiting one of my favourite areas – Makuleke – where I trained as a field guide and have accumulated almost 170 hours of trail walking.

This area was given back to the local community by South African National Parks a few decades ago, who then leased the land back to Kruger. The area is known as Makuleke Contractual Park in the northern section of Kruger National Park, Pafuri.

I was fortunate enough to spend 10 nights in this region, staying the first 2 nights at the Return Africa Pafuri Camp. This lodge was truly amazing. It sits on the edge of the Luvuvu River which is the border between Kruger and Makuleke. The lodge is fairly spread out, spanning a couple of hundred metres in width, allowing every bedroom and entertainment areas a beautiful river view. The accommodation was very comfortable, with indoor/outdoor showers and an over head fan to keep you cool on hot days.

The food was exceptional; friendly staff did whatever was necessary to make the stay that much more enjoyable, and nothing was too much to ask. The guide did a fantastic job, with amazing elephant and buffalo encounters as well as finding the elusive Pels Fishing Owl (which I have been trying to find for the last 13 years). I even managed to get a photo of it!

From the Return Africa Pafuri Camp I went to the Hutwini Trails camp. This is set deep in the Anatree Forest on the banks of the Luvuvu River. The camp consists of a kitchen with good chefs producing scrumptious food, 6 tents (4 for guests and 2 for the guides), en suite toilet with basin – and a shower unit not too far away. Hot water is prepared twice a day in a big drum heated by a fire.

There is a lovely lounge set up under a large Jackal Berry tree, a boma fire area with chairs around it and a communal eating area in the heart of the camp. The camp is unfenced so you definitely feel at one with nature.
From here we drove out of camp to various locations from which we walked to selected water pans. Sightings consisted mainly of elephant and buffalo, but we also saw eland and other general game (zebra, impala, wildebeest, etc).

Following this I went on a backpacking trail with lead guide Rhodes Bezuidenhout, with whom I have walked with a few times before. No tents are used and we sleep under the stars in sleeping bags and an inflatable or foam mattress. The group was made up of 8 guests and the 2 of us. This was to be the most productive trail I have been on so far. We had 10 encounters of elephant over 4 days, some fairly close forcing us to make quick decisions to move out of their path.

Every night was something special as the guests were trying to out-cook one another in flavour and ingredients. I can just image the weight of those backpacks with everything they carried. The aromas coming from the bush kitchen however were mouth watering.

Ending off the 10 nights, I had a stay at one of the first lodges I visited in the Makuleke Contractual Park back in 2007 – the Outpost Lodge.
What an experience this was. The views were breathtaking, the expanse of bushveld one can see from every room was incredible and the food was excellent. I would go back there in a heartbeat.

When I arrived at the lodge, the welcome was warm and friendly. I caught up with a friend who has a very special story to tell as to how he became known as “The Unlikely Bird Man” (|the title of his book) – the story and life journey of Samuel Japane is incredible and a true inspiration to all.

The Outpost maintained my sighting luck in the park – 2 visits, 2 leopard and some special birds, many of which I haven’t seen before.
I am currently planning a birding safari to this lodge and if you’d be keen to share in what could be a memorable experience, please let me know and let’s see how many new birds we can find together.

The coming few months till year end are slowly filling up with freelance work in the Black Rhino Reserve, Pilanesberg. We have a few trails available in October in the northern Kruger Park and the best part is that the migrant birds are coming back, so there will be much chirping in the morning chorus which is as near a perfect alarm clock as one could wish for.

Overall, I was blown away with the 10 nights in the park and they confirm my love for the area, why I go there as often as I do and why I wish to share this area with guests.

I am heading back up to the Pafuri region next month with my parents for a few nights and am looking forward to showing them areas of sheer beauty and tranquility. The birding will be fantastic too as the migrant birds return to the pans, forests and grasslands.

Some exciting news, I have given away 2 day trips to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in exchange for some advertising at a golf day and advertising on air with a radio station – Mix FM (93.8 FM).
I hope that this will help spread word of the safaris that are on offer.

I wish you all a wonderful season ahead.


Chris Bates

Chris Bates Safaris

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