Kruger National Park has been on my bucket list for a very long time but it’s taken a while to convince Dean that South Africa is somewhere he’d like to visit. Finally, I succeeded! We planned a two-week self-drive itinerary which incorporated the additional countries of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Lesotho and promised to deliver a range of landscapes and wildlife, as well as some cultural experiences along the way. In total, we clocked up around 3000km with the following route:
We both thoroughly enjoyed our trip: the people were lovely without exception; the scenery was almost permanently breath-taking; driving on the roads was safe, easy and cheap; and the weather – although wildly varying from 5-34 degrees – was generally very pleasant.
En route to the National Park, we stopped briefly at this quaint wild west-esque town named Pilgrim’s Rest and a natural land formation called the Three Rondavels with a view over Blyde River Canyon.
While in the National Park, we stayed in two separate rest camps: Satara and Crocodile Bridge (which was recently in the news because of lions eating a poacher). The first was an en-suite rondavel and the second was a safari tent, the first of many weird and wonderful accommodations!
Although it’s possible to drive yourself round the Park, we booked a couple of guided drives so that we could get out and about beyond the 6am-6pm curfew. First, we had an evening/night game drive – a time when the animals become a little more active. It was quite fruitful!
Early the next morning, we joined a dawn bush walk – a rare opportunity to look for animals on foot we thought. Whilst still on the jeep, we were fortunate to see this elephant at close range.
The guides and their guns did their best, I’m sure, but we really didn’t see a lot beyond a few distant skittish wildebeest. It was still a very pleasant walk and a privilege to tread where the lions had left their paw prints.
Here are the photos from the rest of our self-driven miles, starting with a very intense encounter with a giant bull elephant! It really seemed for a moment that he was deciding whether to charge at us!
Of course, there were the usual big mammals – zebras, giraffes, wildebeest and more elephants. We also saw hyenas and jackals (not pictured).
In terms of antelope, the most prevalent were impalas but there was also the occasional waterbuck.
There was a lot of bird life, including intimidating-looking marabou storks, hornbills, starlings and my favourite – lilac-breasted rollers.
The baboons were very playful and often in very large troops, obstructing the road.
Spotting hippos and crocodiles was tricky but we did see a few from a distance.
We also came across a leopard tortoise or two.
At the second camp, we did a morning game drive where we saw a lot of the previously mentioned animals but we also interrupted a pair of lions on a date!
Just before we left, we had one last little drive to try and get sight of a rhino. We got lucky!
Overall, Kruger was a great experience. If I had to compare it to Kenyan and Tanzanian safaris, then there was much less to see – or it was certainly harder to find the wild inhabitants. However, as part of a varied South African adventure, it was definitely a highlight.