Crimson-breasted Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus)

The Crimson-breasted Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus) or the Crimson-breasted Gonolek, (‘gonolek’ – supposedly imitative of its call), is a southern African bird. The species is closely related to two other bushshrikes, the yellow-crowned gonolek (Laniarius barbarus) and the black-headed gonolek (Laniarius erythrogaster) of East Africa.

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The Crimson-breasted Shrike occurs in a broad swathe from southern Angola to the Free State province in South Africa. Its preferred habitat is drier thornbush areas, in thickets and riparian scrub. It makes small seasonal migrations, preferring lower altitudes during cold periods.  The brilliant flash of crimson gave this little guy away in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

crim breast shrike




Biodiversity Explorer


This guy really wants to eat that grasshopper!

An even braver bird takes on a scorpion!


Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Night Safari Experience Pictorial

A night safari in any South African game park is a magical experience and should not be missed.  Most of the Sanparks rest camps will have them so be sure you book one as soon as you arrive at reception.  You are not allowed in the park in your own vehicle after sunset, the gates will close at 6pm-ish and you could be fined if you are late.

The safari vehicles are large and comfortable and your guide will be a ranger who is very familiar with the park and knows what all the animals and birds are.

Here’s a few pics from our night safari at Mata-Mata Rest Camp.  The sunsets are unreal!  Sorry I didn’t get more but it’s hard to focus in the dark although they will shine torches on any animal found.

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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Daytime Safari Experience Pictorial

This is doing the Kgalagadi safari the easy way – in our own rented sedan car just cruising down the main road which had TONS of wildlife!  Sit back, relax – it was a bumpier ride for us than it will be for you!


Secretary birds, Sociable Weavers, Bee-eaters, raptors & more!

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Lions, Wildebeest, Antelopes and even an oryx!

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About halfway between Twee Rivieren & Mata-MataIMG_0943 IMG_0944 IMG_0945

Lodge Review: Mata-Mata Rest Camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

We only had 2 nights here and wish we had more as this place was amazing!  Mata-Mata Rest Camp is the perfect solution for people who want to feel like they are in the remote wilderness yet still have the convenience of 2wd sedan car access.

Mata-Mata is a very small camp with limited facilities so book online in advance and make sure you have enough food and drink with you to last your stay.  We took one of the budget chalets (shown in yellow).

Kgalagadi MataMata


Our chaletIMG_0885 IMG_0886 IMG_0887

“Please can I have some of your sandwich”?

The correct answer is no!IMG_0889 IMG_0890

You can book these excursions with rangers for both evening and night safaris.  Book them with reception as soon as you arrive.   More on that later!IMG_0897

Planning A Visit To Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

If you have already been to Kruger and think you know everything about visiting South African game parks, think again!   Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park couldn’t be more different!  It’s located in a very remote part  of South Africa and it takes a couple days to get here if you want to enjoy the trip and not rush it.

Make note of what time the gates open and get in line as soon as possible.  We drove up early from Moloko Kalahari Lodge and were 1st in line.

Foreigners pay a conservation fee of R280 per adult, per day.

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Coming from South Africa (as opposed to Botswana or Namibia), you enter the park at Twee Rivieren.  There is a good network of roads but some of them are 4×4 access only so make sure when you choose a rest camp you choose one that you can get to!


We were limited by budget, could only afford the cheapest automatic sedan car, but we still wanted to get as remote as possible so Mata-Mata Rest Camp was the perfect choice.  It’s deep enough in the park and small enough to make it feel more like wilderness.  It’s also very small and fills up fast so best to book it online as soon as the dates become available.  If you have a 4×4 and want to be even more remote, there are several excellent rest camps but once again, you should book as far in advance as possible.

Kgalagadi MataMata

Plan on bringing your food with you.  They do have a small store but no restaurant so you should bring either something to BBQ or sandwiches and drinks for your stay in the park.  The nearest large city with good shopping is Uppington.

Lodge Review: Molopo Kalahari Lodge, South Africa

After leaving Oudtshoorn, our next destination was the Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park.  It’s quite a ways and I wasn’t confident of reaching the park entrance before it closed so I played it safe and booked the Molopo Kalahari Lodge by email (on the 2009 trip).  There wasn’t a lot of information about it that I could find back then but they now have a nice website with tons of photos.  It seems to have expanded a lot since we were there!

We arrived around 4pm-ish so had time to check the place out and even get some laundry done!

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We stayed in this cute rondavel.IMG_0813 IMG_0814 IMG_0815

The facilities are beautiful with a natural garden and swimming pool.  There are a lot of birds on the property and (in 2009) they had a Blue & Gold Macaw in an aviary.IMG_0816 IMG_0817 IMG_0824 IMG_0825


We probably weren’t supposed to hang laundry here (which we hand washed in the sink) but it dried really quickly in the hot dry air.IMG_0826 IMG_0827 IMG_0828 IMG_0819

The restaurant has some amazing African decor and the food was really good and not expensive.  IMG_0818 IMG_0823 IMG_0822 IMG_0821 IMG_0820

You can book the Molopo Kalahari Lodge on their website.  It isn’t instant, it’s an email system.  It wasn’t expensive when we were there and it looks like it is still budget priced going by Trip Advisor.  Of course it’s best to stay in the park but if you need an overnighter, this is a nice place to stay!

Eco-Lite Mini-Trip: Cango Wildlife Ranch, Oudtshoorn

Are you a busy executive traveling through and need a break from work?  Are you traveling with kids too small to take on expeditions in the bush but want to let them see bird up close?  Do you want a closer look at the birds you saw/will see in the wild?  Then Eco-Lite Mini-Trips are for you!


Cango Wildlife Ranch is much more than just an aviary and offers some exciting natural encounters with South African animals. You can pat a cheetah or tiger cub and hold a snake if you want. Bird lovers will enjoy the lorikeet enclosure where you can feed the birds. They are friendly and curious and always hungry!


Cango Wildlife Ranch is a few km out of Oudtshoorn.  A Google map is available.


Standard Ticket

Adult: R140.00

Child: R90.00 (5 – 13 years)
Premium Ticket (includes entrance and 1 encounter of choice)

Adult: R270.00

Child: R180.00 (5 – 13 years)


We were there for about 2 hours and saw the main attractions and did an Animal Encounter with the cheetahs as you will see in the photos below.  You could easil spend more time here if you want to cover all the animals and do more encounters.


Very extensive involvement in several conservation programs.  Details are on their website.


Oudtshoorn is a fairly small town and has no major international chain hotels.  Most people stay in local guesthouses and backpacker places.  You can earn airline miles if you go through PointsHound.


Through the jaws!


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Walkway leading to crocodiles, fish tanks and other smaller exhibits.IMG_0734 IMG_0728 IMG_0725 IMG_0726 IMG_0737 IMG_0736 IMG_0718

Big cats have their own large enclosures.IMG_0579 IMG_0580

Tiger cubsIMG_0585 IMG_0670 IMG_0669 IMG_0667

Stunning eyes!IMG_0666 IMG_0675 IMG_0676 IMG_0662

Lorikeet Aviary – you can feed them and they will come to you.IMG_0588 IMG_0590 IMG_0600 IMG_0604 IMG_0606 IMG_0611 IMG_0616 IMG_0619 IMG_0636 IMG_0640 IMG_0651

Snack barIMG_0663 IMG_0664

Animal Encounter with Cheetahs.  This costs extra but is worth it!  The money raised goes to their conservation fund.IMG_0709 IMG_0707 IMG_0704 IMG_0702 IMG_0697 IMG_0683

Short Break In Oudtshoorn, South Africa

If you are heading from Cape Town to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Oudtshoorn is a nice place to break the journey.  There are plenty of attractions here to occupy a tourist for a couple days.

Oudshoorn is a small town and has no hotels available on points.  You can EARN points by finding a place on PointsHound or look on any other hotel booking engine.  We were there back in 2009 so this is a historical post and unfortunately I don’t seem to have any photos of the guest house we stayed in.  I can’t even remember the name!  It was pretty cheap, around $40 a night.

Oudtshoorn is known for ostrich farms and also for ostrich cuisine.  One egg can feed around 12 people and some backpacker places will do ostrich omelets.  Ostrich meat is served everywhere and is more like a red meat than poultry.



You enter the caves in small groups with guides who operate the light effects.  It’s really stunning!

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This was an interesting visit and we did get very up close and personal with some ostriches.  Some of the souvenirs creeped me out.  Who would buy a dead baby ostrich in an egg shell?

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There is so much to see here, I am giving it an post on its own!

Road Trip Through South Africa’s Cape Provinces

South Africa is so easy to travel around by rental car.  We usually use Avis and get the Super Cover for peace of mind although we have never had any issues with them.  I always found the best prices on the South Africa site but you should check a few options like the USA & UK sites as well to see if there are any specials on.  Distances are great and towns can be few and far between so it’s best to top up your fuel tank each time you pass a major town.

We did the trip from Cape Town to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in 3 days with a 2 day break in Oudtshoorn to check out some of the attractions there.

Cape Road Trip

The scenery on this route isn’t that interesting but we did make excellent time as the terrain is flat and easy to drive and there wasn’t much traffic.

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We left Cape Town very early in the morning and drove hard to Birds of Eden so we could have as much time as possible there.  It was so amazing, we went back in 2014 so I have good coverage of Birds of Eden.     2014 Part 1      2014 Part 2

We stayed there until it closed, then drove to Oudtshoorn arriving very late at night at a small guesthouse.



Eco-Lite Mini-Trip: World Of Birds, Hout Bay, South Africa

Eco-lite Mini-trips are for everyone!  Families with small kids, busy business travelers who need a break or eco-tourists who want to see the birds up close to be able to recognize them in the bush!


World of Birds is the largest bird park in Africa and one of the few large bird parks in the World.  Over 3 000 birds (and small animals) of 400 different species are uniquely presented in more than 100 spacious landscaped walk through aviaries, allowing you the most intimate closeness with nature.   A tropical garden setting in the Hout Bay Valley
is the environment in which the aviaries are spaced over 4 ha of land, framed by the back of Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles, Constantiaberg, Chapman’s Peak and Little Lion’s Head. A paradise for nature lovers and photographers, the World of Birds is one of Cape Town’s premier tourist attractions which no visitor should miss.


The Hout Bay Fishing Village and Fishing Harbour just 10 km outside Cape Town can be reached either along the scenic routes of the Coastal Drive via Camps Bay and Llandudno or via Kirstenbosch and Constantia, or on the way to and from Cape Point Nature Reserve via the spectacular Chapman’s Peak Drive.


Entrance fees are:

Adults R95
Children R45
Pensioners and Students (with card) R55


We spent a couple hours there leisurely wandering through the aviaries.  It looks like it has grown since we were there in 2009 so maybe allow 3 hours.


World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary is an independent institution.

Preservation, breeding, education and research projects undertaken by World of Birds can be supported through
The Wild Bird Trust (Reg. No. T834/91)

(Wild Birds & Small Mammals Preservation, Education & Scientific Research Trust)


Numerous options are in Cape Town.


Here is a day we spent exploring this wonderful bird park where we got a close glimpse of many African species we normally wouldn’t get to see up close. Originally published on Feathered and Free which is now being merged to MTTW.

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