South Africa: Kruger National Park

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:

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Of course, there were the usual big mammals – zebras, giraffes, wildebeest and more elephants. We also saw hyenas and jackals (not pictured).

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In terms of antelope, the most prevalent were impalas but there was also the occasional waterbuck.

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There was a lot of bird life, including intimidating-looking marabou storks, hornbills, starlings and my favourite – lilac-breasted rollers.

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The baboons were very playful and often in very large troops, obstructing the road.

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Spotting hippos and crocodiles was tricky but we did see a few from a distance.

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We also came across a leopard tortoise or two.

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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!

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Just before we left, we had one last little drive to try and get sight of a rhino. We got lucky!

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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.

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