Divided opinion on Kruger

Jul 22nd, 2008, 04:23 AM
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Divided opinion on Kruger

I’ve seen a few people on the forum discussing the merits (or not) of Kruger National Park versus the private reserves – this article in the current edition of Travel Africa magazine is an interesting read:
The whole article is not available online but the author goes on to say that Kruger undeniably offers a wildlife bonanza and it would be a shame to miss it ’for fear of a little over-intrusive tourism’.
Another of the author’s points I totally agree with is that although you may not see as much as you would with a professional guide with all the back-up they have available, there is something very special about finding wildlife for yourself. Getting charged by ‘our’ very own grumpy elephant on a back road of the Kruger park was one of our highlights – honestly! (and no, we didn’t harass him, we were a good distance away when he suddenly turned round and charged – none of those warning signals we’d read so much about beforehand!). Find ‘our’ leopard on a gravel road in Namibia surpassed the experience of being driven to one sitting in a tree by a guide.
The magazine also reviews the camps around the national park (Sabi Sand Wildtuin, Manyeleti , Timbavati , Klaserie & Thornybush) and could be useful for anyone trying to make a decision on where to visit. Incidentally the author of these reviews is a grading assessor (Carrie Hampton) with an interesting website with more reviews: www.safaritart.com
Jul 22nd, 2008, 04:49 AM
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I'm sure they are both different. Although, the SSGR does offer some spectacular sightings(notably the Big5), it is not short of traffic. It's just that the sightings are limited to 3 vehicles. A lot of the time, you have to move on after a limited time (25 mins, maybe?) and this to me is personally frustrating. I'm sure there are many others who find this okay and that's perfectly fine for everyone to have different views.
HariS is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 04:58 AM
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Sorry Hari - but what's SSGR?
Jul 22nd, 2008, 05:28 AM
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There are pros and cons for both self-drive DIY safaris in parks such as Kruger and private guided safaris in private reserves.

We have done both and enjoyed both immensely.

Whilst our overall viewing wasn't as rich and diverse on our DIY safari (and nor did we get as close to some sightings as we would have liked) there was definitely a huge thrill in tracking down each sighting ourselves not to mention identifying what we saw between similar species.

We also loved being on our own, setting our own timetable and enjoying the experiences as they came.

Kavey is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 05:30 AM
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I'll probably get flamed now, just like on "that other forum that calls this forum a fruitcake forum" (yawn) but what the heck...

My little (!) problem with Kruger is not the "masses" as such, but the fact that in order to please these masses, man has to interfere with nature too often.

"Natural balance" may be a fata morgana, like the author of that article seems to want to communicate. But that does not mean that one should start constantly relocating, culling and all that stuff, just to maintain an artificial balance based on...
- species censuses conducted in the past (when numbers of some species may have been far from corect)
- demands from tourism
- the "idea" that local climate is a never changing "given".

IMHO there's still far too much bullets flying around in Kruger. Altough things have improved. But old habits die hard. You just have to read Bruce Bryden's book to understand what I mean.

Now, please note that I do not see this as a black & white thing. Iow I know Kruger is far from a bad park, and neither do I think a park without any human interference is realistic. I know it's all a grey area. Just IMHO too dark grey for Kruger, while I prefer a bit lighter grey. Hopefully here we can discuss such things in a decent manner without getting personal?


pixelpower is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 05:41 AM
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some of the private reserves surrounding the Kruger park - that's collectively the Sabi Sands.
HariS is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 07:15 AM
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i couldn't agree more to your statement regarding kruger park wildlife management.

it's also makes me wonder that CITES just allowed SA to sell tons of ivory to china shortly after kruger decided on elephant culling.

divine54 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 07:22 AM
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my pro's in view to kruger:
relatively affordable accommodation

- mass tourism (there are a lot of videos on you tube which show that phenomena) and it's interferrence with wildlife
- big camps/lodges
- carbon footprint depending on group six per vehicle
- DYS: missing a lot of "inside" information on wildlife behaviour, species etc.
the latter is the most important to me.


divine54 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 07:49 AM
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'DYS: missing a lot of "inside" information on wildlife behaviour, species etc. the latter is the most important to me.' div

One thing the article was saying is that Kruger is not just about self-drive - the morning walks and Wilderness trails are a fantastic opportunity to get away from the 'crowds' - on the Wilderness Walking Trail we tracked a rhino and calf on foot then sat on a rock watching them, oblivious to our presence thanks to the guide. We then climbed up a koppie and watched wild dogs hunting while elephants fed around us - I don't think a private reserve could have delivered much more in terms of expertise and wildlife experience.
Jul 22nd, 2008, 07:58 AM
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Twice we have begun our safaris with Kruger. After flying into JNB, rent/hire a vehicle, drive over and spend a few days there. We think its a great way to begin after the looooong flight into JNB. If soemthing gets messed up with your flights, you have only missed a bit of Kruger and not a $1,000 a night camp. You set your own pace and recover from jet-lag as you wish. Although we are always so excited that we go go go all day long. After a few days at Kruger you go on to MM or Singita or another South Africa camp. I would not want to do it in reverse, that is, other luxury camps first and then finish at Kruger.

As for being crowded, we have not found this, being there in Sep of 2006 and 2007. I have heard that school holidays brings crowds into Kruger. Many times we were the only vehicle on one of the many back gravel roads in the midst of an elephant heard or alone with buffalo, zebra, giraffe. I'm looking foreward to going back.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 08:11 AM
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Firstly Kruger Park was never intended to be a destination for rich tourists who worry about what to wear for dinner.

It was and is for normal people without vast disposable riches, it is designed and succeeds as allowing “normal” people to experience viewing wild life, albeit mostly not of the intensive nature experienced in other places.

It is however a relatively safe area for animals and without it and the other parks in South Africa, there would be for instance no Rhinos for the rich tourists to gawp at in the Okovanga.

Comparisons with Sabi Sands area is strange as there is far more animal management there (baited leopards), and costs are around 10 times as much per day.

As to the question of fences, when do we ever hear about the fences in Botswana, which have wiped out the wildebeest migration .The Delta is fenced on two sides just like Kruger.

Divine 54 (pippa etc)
The comments about culling are reprehensible and totally unfounded. The lifting of the ban on sales was for 3 countries none of whom were South Africa.


The expertise there is unquestionable in particular well said Rockdassie!

Jul 22nd, 2008, 09:47 AM
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I liked that article that you posted, rockdassie. For me, it was thought-provoking in many ways.

I like the way the writer presents the two extremes of Kruger--the tranquility and thrill of a morning on a Wilderness Trail as well as the "start your engines" atmosphere of the opening of the rest camp gate.

I've made two visits to Kruger now and have experienced both of these extremes during each visit. Obviously, the mornings on the Wilderness Trail are more enjoyable. However, my sole wild dog sighting occurred just outside a very full Skukuza, and I didn't even leave the gate until 10 minutes after opening. Some of my other rare animal sightings (e.g., leopard, serval) have also occurred during some raucous park-sponsored game drives.

To be honest, the crowds don't bother me much. To me, a million visitors a year is about on par with some of the US national parks that I have frequented. Anyone who has been to Yellowstone in August around any major animal sighting knows that it's arguably even MORE chaotic than a Kruger lion sighting. After all, people are allowed to get out of their cars in Yellowstone to take that all-important picture. It gets complicated dodging cars and self-absorbed pedestrians in those situations. Of course, I wouldn't want to deal with people like this throughout an entire vacation, which is why I schedule the Wilderness Trails.

To me, Kruger is very unique because it allows the individual to find animals on their own. Personally, I'm not looking for someone to find animals for me for an entire visit--I want to spend at least some time finding and learning about them on my own. This is just a personal preference of mine, and of course guides and private reserves have their place. In fact, I've learned a lot from watching the virtual game drives available over the internet that are broadcast by one of the private game reserves.

I've looked a little bit into what other locations have to offer, but I keep coming back to Kruger because it provides the activities that I want to do at a cheaper price. It also seems to be more innovative in the guided "products" that it offers. For example, I would like to try the mountain bike rides that they offer. And, I don't know of too many places that offer guided multi-day walking safaris where you have to carry all of your stuff with you (which, in my opinion, is the only way to experience TRUE wilderness while still keeping it that way).

As for the opinions expressed regarding wildlife/ecology management, I'm busy learning more about the issues. However, sniktawk brings up an important point--the other reserves in southern Africa have benefited from the intensive management of Kruger. It seems like Kruger has been a living laboratory of sorts, with lots of management experiments that have succeeded and failed.
Gritty is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 10:02 AM
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Allow me if I may to tell the difference between Kruger and the Sabi Sands.
I have spent many many years in both places and they are both breathtaking to say the least.
Here are the differences:
Kruger: This is a vast area where you do your own thing and you really will feel what it is like to be out in the wilderness, however, you are restricted to the roads and game viwing is poor as if you come into a sighting you have to negotiate your car with the other 20 or so cars and this can be a serious annoyance as the sighting is usually about 200 or 300 metres in the bush and all you get to see in the daylight hours is a flicker of the lions ear.
Sabi Sands:
My favourite:
The upside here is that you really go into the bush with open vehicles and really get to see them and this to me is the answer if you are into game viewing. The downside is you have to be on a schedule with other guests and the ranger but if you do it right and get a private landrover you will have the best.
Popeye is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 11:31 AM
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Everything is relative. Compared to the National Parks here in the U.S., in which I have experienced bumper-to-bumper traffic jams in certain areas during high season(Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Smoky Mountains, Acadia), Kruger seems absolutely deserted. We have been there twice (once during the week between Christmas and New Years) and had been warned about the "crowds" -- of which we experienced none. Yes you will see other cars, especially in the southern part of the park, but still very few by our standards. We found that in most areas we could drive for miles without seeing another car. Accommodations are reasonably priced and comfortable. There is no thrill like the one we experienced near Olifants where we came across a lone lioness walking down a dirt road directly toward us, with no other vehicles in sight. At almost all of our sightings we were the only vehicle (the lone exception was one of a leopard in a tree near Lower Sabie), where there were several other vehicles. I still think Kruger is one of the best values in travel. Sabi Sands is wonderful too but totally different.
lisa is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 11:48 AM
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I am so glad to see some Kruger commentary on this board!

We are planning 9 days there in September '09 (including 3 days on a wilderness trail) because we CANNOT AFFORD the private reserves. Or, rather, WILL not spend that kind of money. Airfare from California will cost enough.

The S. Africa parks website, Sanparks, has a great forum.
gigib is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 12:12 PM
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both are lovely experiences.

Last year we splitted our 8 nights, 4 and 4 between Kruger Park and Sabi Sands private game reserve.

Private game reserves: this is absolutely great: you have the guide, the tracker and can go off road to spot wildlife and predators so close that you cannot even imagine the first time ! You just have to sit, listen to, asking questions and take shots or videos. You can share your comments and emotions with other guest in the vehicle. You often find luxury accomodation, if this is one of your priority.

Kruger NP: cheaper accomodations, the freedom to drive yourself, the fun to put down your own daily itinerary from the camp, the joy to spot your first leopard at 7am when you and your son are the only one in that area so that you do not have to share that magic moment with no one else, the chance to stay even 2 hours, or less, or more at the hippo pool to wait until you get the best picture of the open mouth !! We were lucky, we saw all the BIG 5 in the same morning at Kruger with no guide !

If I go back to South Africa some day I will absolutely do again the same ! Some nights in the private reserve and other by myself in Kruger !
Fabio is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 12:50 PM
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Glad to read your comments on Kruger and Sabi Sands area! After much reading and planning, we will be self driving in Kruger staying at Satara and Lower Sabie. We have also booked time at Kirkmanns for March followed by a week in Cape Town then a week split between Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and the Sengetti. If the situtation allows we will start our first visit to Africa with a visit to Victoria Falls and a stay at Matetzi. Hopefully this will give us a great variety of experiences
cwn is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 01:08 PM
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gibgib--You're going to enjoy your trip.

Which Wilderness Trail are you planning to do?
Gritty is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 03:20 PM
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I think we will do the Sweni trail. We will start our trip with 3 days at Lower Sabie, the trail, then 3 days at Olifants. This seems to give us a nice loop, without TOO much driving. Afterwards, we will probably spend 1 night at the Blyde Canyon area before heading back to Johannesburg.

(Is it rude to type Joburg?)

We only have a bit over 2 weeks to spend on this trip, travelling back and forth from California will eat up a lot of time!

I'm anxious for some calendar days to pass so we can make our rezzies a year in advance!
gigib is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2008, 06:40 PM
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Do make your Olifants reservations as soon as you can, especially if the time is over a weekend.

I wasn't paying close enough attention to the calender. When I went to book, the dates had been open for reservations for several days. The cottages we wanted were already booked for the March weekend days we needed at Olifants so we booked at Lower Sabie.

The wildness trails sound really neeat-have fun.
cwn is offline  

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