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Birding the easy way at Lake Panic

Lake Panic bird hide near Skukuza provides secret views of a hippo- and croc-filled dam which is a magnet for birds of all stripes. Big raptors, herons, jacanas, thick-knees, kingfishers, ducks and many more inhabit the convenient dead leadwoods and thick surrounding bush, or dart around on the lily pads. Best sightings are early morning or sunset. One story is that Lake Panic got its name from a year in which the river feeding it flooded and threatened to break the wall. If it had, that would have been the end of the golf course and staff village.

Leopard Sighting - Southern Kruger National Park - NHLAMBANYATHI HIDE

There's nothing quite like the thrill of the first leopard sighting. Nocturnal, secretive and with a distaste for humans, leopards are the megatick encounter in Kruger. Mine was a big male snoozing on an outstretched limb of a large leadwood on the S28 just near Nhlambanyathi Hide. It was picture perfect but seemed disinclined to move. I watched and waited. Other drivers got bored and left. Then sky behind it darkened and the first spatters of rain hit the windscreen. The leopard sat up, clearly irritated, its ears flat. Then it picked its way along the branch and leapt down the tree.

Off-roading Pretorius Camp -Southern Kruger National Park

After riding Kruger's road network for a while and staring sideways into the bush looking for beasties, a desire starts growing to get out there into the wilderness. Near Pretoriuskop, there's a 4x4 trail that does just that. The Madlabantu (Man-eater) Trail circles the camp, using a combination of visitor roads and off-road paths, beginning at the Fayi Loop. For me, the highlights were the huge bushveld trees and looming granite whalebacks that seemed to attract kudus, buffaloes and perky klipspringers. The trail can be booked at Pretoriuskop reception.

From Brave Beginnings - Southern Kruger National Park

The park was opened to visitors in 1927. A few cars visited that year and they all headed for Numbi Gate and Pretoriuskop, the first rest camp. Black-and-white prints in the reception give you an idea what a trip to the park used to be like: no luxuries, shops or petrol stations; in fact not much but cold water tanks and camp sites. Today you'll get a smile and free glass of chilled fruit juice at reception.

Lanner Gorge - Northern Kruger National Park

The ranger hands you a glass of champagne as you stand on the sandstone cliff and take in the sun setting over kilometres of sandveld as the shadows grow in the deep gorge below. You're not sure what you're celebrating, but being here seems reason enough. Lanner Gorge can only be visited if you're a guest at one of the two private lodges in die Makuleke Contract Park or on the Nyalaland Wilderness Trail. The gorge was named after the lanner falcons which nest in the cliffs here. There's also a resident population of peregrine falcons, the world's fastest bird.

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