Kruger National Park – Skukuza

About the Birding

Time spent birding in Skukuza camp will almost certainly produce African Green Pigeon while the thickets in camp are excellent for Bearded Scrub-Robin and White-browed and Red-capped Robin-Chats. Other species that are regularly seen in or from the camp include Little Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, Water Thick-knee, the stunning Purple-crested Turaco, Trumpeter Hornbill, Black-headed Oriole, the showy African Paradise Flycatcher, Arrow-marked Babbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Green-backed Camaroptera, iridescent Collared, Marico, White-bellied and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and the vocal Black-collared and Crested Barbets.

Noisy flocks of White-crested Helmetshrike are regularly encountered, and one should also be on the lookout for the much rarer Retz’s Helmetshrike, along with its seldom-seen host, the rare and much sought-after Thick-billed Cuckoo. In addition, keep a lookout for the amazing selection of migrant cuckoos that visit the park in summer, and these include African, Common, Red-chested, Diederik, Klaas’s, Levaillant’s and Jacobin Cuckoos, as well as the scarce Great Spotted Cuckoo.

While at Skukuza or any of the parks camps you have the opportunity to do a night drive. Success on these night drives varies greatly, but the list of possibilities is rather impressive and includes a good number of owls and nightjars, such Spotted and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls, African Scops Owl, Southern White-faced Owl and Square-tailed, European and Fiery-necked Nightjars and Bronze-winged Courser. On the mammal front: African Civet, both Common and Central African Large-spotted Genets, Side-striped Jackal, the beautiful Serval, Southern Lesser Galago, White-tailed Mongoose, African Savannah Hare, the incomparable Cape Porcupine and Spotted Hyena – besides the Big 5 – are all possible!

A few kilometres to the west, on the Paul Kruger Gate road, is the turn off to the Lake Panic Bird Hide. This can be a very rewarding site, with Malachite Kingfisher, Wire-tailed Swallow, Black Crake and Thick-billed Weaver among the many species providing photographic opportunities. Tall riverine woodland along the Sabie and Sand rivers is one of the best places in South Africa to search for the rare Thick-billed Cuckoo during the summer.

About the Birding Site

Skukuza is the park’s headquarters and its largest camp, and the camp grounds are well foliaged, with some lofty trees along the river’s edge. Facilities are diverse, as are the animals and plants found both within the camp and in the surrounding areas. The habitat around Skukuza comprises riparian zones, with large trees lining the river banks, and thickets away from the river courses. The permanent water sources here attract large numbers of Impala, one of the main prey items of Leopard, so be on the lookout for these and other predators such as Lion, African Wild Dog and Spotted Hyena. The riverbanks also play host to huge numbers of bird species, White-fronted Bee-eater, Crowned Hornbill, Golden-tailed, Bearded and Cardinal Woodpeckers, Ashy Flycatcher, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, gorgeous White-browed and Red-capped Robin-Chats, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow-bellied and Sombre Greenbuls, African, Jameson’s and Red-billed Firefinches, superb Green- winged Pytilia, Bronze Mannikin, Common Waxbill, Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-faced Cisticola and Southern Boubou. The large riparian trees lining the rivers provide perfect nesting sites for weavers, which are extremely well represented in the park and include Southern and Lesser Masked, Village, Spectacled and Thick-billed. The Sabi River and nearby water associated habitat harbour a number of exciting water-associated birds, be on the lookout for the massive Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed Stork as well as the more common Woolly-necked and Yellow-billed Storks, African Spoonbill, Striated Heron, the unique and monotypic Hamerkop, African Black Duck, Wire-tailed and Grey-rumped Swallows, African Pied Wagtail, White-crowed Lapwing, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Giant, the delightful Malachite and occasionally Half-collared Kingfishers and, and if you are lucky, the rare African Finfoot or the unpredictable Greater Painted-snipe.

Other Related Information

The southern camps can be accessed through the gates at Crocodile Bridge, Malelane, Numbi, Phabeni and Paul Kruger. The closest access gate to Skukuza is Paul Kruger gate and the closest town is the town of Hazyview.

Skukuza GPS Point: -24.993, 31.593
Crocodile Bridge Gate GPS Point: -25.358, 31.893
Malelane Gate GPS Point: -25.461, 31.534
Numbi Gate GPS Point: -25.156, 31.200
Phabeni Gate GPS Point: -24.970, 31.410
Paul Kruger GPS Point: -24.981, 31.485

The Kruger National Park charges a conservation fee as below for 2021: Wild cards are accepted at all the gates.
South African Citizens and Residents (with ID) R105 per adult, per day R52 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport) R210 per adult, per day R105 per child, per day
Standard Conservation Fee R424 per adult, per day R212 per child, per day

Entrance Gates Opening Times:

Oct – Mar: 05:30
Apr – Sep: 06:00

All visitor facilities, i.e. entrance gates, restaurants, shops and venues, are accessible for wheelchairs.

Contact details:
SANPARKS Central Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111

Text prepared by:

Marc Cronje (Nature Travel Birding)

Key species:

African Finfoot, Crowned Hornbill, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Southern Ground Hornbill, Terrestrial Brownbul, Bearded Scrub Robin, African Cuckoo-Hawk, African Goshawk

Contact details:

SANPARKS Central Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111