The Widdows family set out in 2021 to travel across our nine beautiful provinces to see as many bird species as possible within the borders of South Africa – they dubbed it their ‘Birding Big Year’. We were honoured to host Christine and Craig Widdows and their two children, Wren and Finn, at Pel’s Post while they were in the midst of their epic mission and on the search for a few final special sightings for their lengthy birding bucket list. Read on for a glimpse of their time exploring the wonders of Northern Kruger with us, in the words of Craig Widdows.
For any birder, novice or expert, there is no area in the country that causes the heart to beat a little faster like that of Northern Kruger. From the moment you enter the Pafuri Gate, the birding prospects are mouth-watering with Arnot’s Chat, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Böhm’s Spinetail, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Dickinson’s Kestrel all on the cards. We knew this birder’s paradise would be high on our list for our Birding Big Year.
Late in 2021 we had the unbelievable opportunity of spending two nights at Pel’s Post and, after travelling over 40 000kms through some incredible scenery across the country, nothing took our breath away quite like this incredible piece of paradise. From the moment we hopped off the game vehicle we were left speechless by the immense beauty of the lodge and the stunning backdrop of the Luvuvhu River with scattered baobabs that turned orange in the evening light. As you move from the main dining area, the gently creaking wooden-decked paths and soft chorus of birds within the trees guide you to your room.
Each room is like a gateway to your own piece of paradise where you enjoy luxurious comfort but at the same time feel totally at one with the bush that surrounds you. One experience that will never leave us was sitting on the deck late at night, while the fire crackled and the bush serenaded our drowsy kids, and suddenly the booming call of Pel’s Fishing Owl echoed across the river – at that moment, we knew we had arrived in paradise.
As parents it’s always a little daunting visiting lodges with our three- and five-year-old children but we were made to feel completely at home during our stay. The energy within Pel’s Post from the staff to the décor is centered on family.
Roads within the stunning Makuleke Concession are private, providing our wandering family with an incredibly intimate experience birding within fever tree forests and traversing the rich-coloured Mopane woodlands with only impressive herds of elephants and an orchestra of birds to keep us company. Our guide, Kerry-Lee Roberg was the perfect host, not only keeping our kids entranced by her fun and kind nature but she was also instrumental in tracking down a massive bird for our year list – Dickinson’s Kestrel. The birding was not limited to drives and we spotted some wonderful birds from the lodge including the enigmatic Bat Hawk, Tropical Boubou, Grey-rumped Swallow, Mocking Cliff Chat and African Fish Eagle with their charismatic call.
Our stay at Pel’s Post was like a dream from which we hoped we would not wake up. The experience added two very important birds to our ‘Birding Big Year’ total as well as some of our fondest memories from a surreal year of travel. If you are reading this and have not had the pleasure of spending time at this incredible lodge, take it from the four of us, it’s an experience like none other.