Karoo Gariep, Marrick, Mokala NP, & Kgalagadi TP, South Africa
Nocturnal Beasts of the Northern Cape
£4,450 pp sharing
At a Glance
Dates: May 1st - May 11th, 2025
Extension: No extensions currently available.
Prices: £4,450 pp sharing (with a single supplement of £250), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: Far from the crowds of Kruger, this delightful itinerary offers the chance to spot some of Africa's rarest mammals after dark - from caracal and wild cat to aardvark and aardwolf.
South Africa's northern reaches are dripping with riches when it comes to rare wildlife. This trailblazing tour takes guests to the very heart of ecosystems that support these incredible species, from Benfontein to the Kgalagadi to the incredible Tswalu Kalahari. Previous visitors to these remarkable areas have left with not only a sense of privilege at accessing such impressive wildernesses so close to the developed world, but also memories of sightings of caracal, pangolin, aardvark, black-footed cat, aardwolf and much more. The jewel in the crown of this region, though, must be the vast cross-border Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, where we spend three nights. Here, herds of springbok and gemsbok draw in lion, leopard, cheetah, wild cat and caracal, making for one of the premier wildlife-watching destinations anywhere on the continent. An optional new addition to this itinerary, Tswalu Kalahari, must offer the best night drives anywhere in Southern Africa, with caracal, pangolin, aardvark and much more recorded very regularly indeed.
On arrival into Bloemfontein guests will be met by their Pictus Safaris tour leader, local guide and the remainder of their group and transferred directly to Karoo Gariep, a three-hour drive. This stunning reserve has long been overlooked by visitors to South Africa, but offers a wonderful welcome to the country. Comfortable rooms, superb food and, importantly, great game make this a fantastic first stop on this itinerary.
After a long flight, this afternoon will be set aside for some rest and relaxation ahead of your first night drive of the tour. And what a night drive it promises to be! We have a 100% success rate in getting excellent views of aardvark and aardwolf here, and is not uncommon to see these species several times in a single drive. There is a rich supporting cast of smaller mammals here too, and we are sure that your tour will start with a 'bang' tonight. Wild cat, porcupine, spring hare, zorilla and even black-footed cat have all been seen here on previous tours, so your chances of several excellent sightings are high tonight.
Days Two to Three
The next two full days (and nights!) will be spent exploring the reserve by vehicle and on foot. Night drives will focus on ultra-rare mammals including aardvark and aardwolf, whereas morning and afternoon drives will allow for ample birding opportunities, and for mammal-watching at a more sedate pace. There are no large predators or big game species here, so this is a great area to do a bit of walking too, which offers a refreshing perspective on this wilderness area. Each night, dinner will be served by the local team, and the food here is as good as any served on any of our tours.
After a final morning in Karoo Gariep, and a relucant goodbye, it is time to head on to Marrick, about four hours' drive north. After a chance to settle in to our new surroundings, we again head out on a lengthy night drive tonight. Marrick has a well-earned reputation for being one of the best locations anywhere in Africa to see a number of rare and beautiful species, including black-footed cat, aardvark, aardwolf, caracal and even pangolin. The absence of large predators here has seen the populations of mesopredators, such as black-footed cat, do very well here, and sightings are regularly recorded - we sincerely hope to have luck on our side tonight before returning to our accommodation.
Days Five to Six
The next two nights will be dedicated to combing Marrick for the very rarest mammals on the continent. By day, we will have one morning drive over the next two days to admire the many attractive antelope species reared on Marrick, and one full-day trip to the nearby Mokala National Park. Mokala is a lovely park, and little-visited, with a good head of rhino, giraffe, buffalo and much more, which all certainly add depth to the ecosystem. Each night will be spent in rustic accommodation in Marrick.
After a final morning in Marrick, we drive four hours west to Upington this afternoon, where we break our long journey to the Kgalagadi in a comfortable guest house.
We complete our journey to South Africa's premier wilderness destination today, with the two-and-a-half hour drive north into Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. We will have time for an afternoon drive today, and this is a superb opporunity to spot some wonderful species. Big cats, namely lion, leopard and cheetah, are common here and it is arguably the best place to see caracal and wild cat on the continent. Brown and spotted hyena are regularly seen, as are honey badger, meerkats and much more. We overnight at basic but comfortable accommodation in Twee Rivieren tonight.
Days Nine to Ten
Two days to spend in this incredible desert ecosystem are a real privilege. At this time of year, grazers drop their young, with the resultant impressive herds of gemsbok, red hartebeest, springbok and greater kudu set against sporadic wildflower blooms making for an amazing sight. What is even better is that these grazers draw in cheetah, lion, leopard, caracal and even wild cat - the Kgalagadi is the best spot in South Africa for all of these species. Morning and evening game drives are likely to reveal at least three of these iconic cat species, and our chances will be boosted by a night drive from Twee Rivieren Rest Camp during our stay.
Today, we sadly say goodbye to this special corner of Africa, returning to Upington for homeward flights.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may
occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in May 2025, aiming to take advantage of the end of the wet season, when the northern reaches of South Africa are at their prettiest. The tour will run from May 1st to May 11th, 2025.
The cost of this trip is £4,450 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals (excluding lunches), accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £250 for this tour. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,350 must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Upington or Johannesburg at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Upington after 14.00 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Upington to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do not require a visa to enter South Africa. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in northern South Africa in May is dry and cool, with maximum temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 7 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing South African Rand.
Safety and Security
There are no security issues in any areas visited by this tour.