game viewing in kreuger area

Old Dec 1st, 2008, 06:56 PM
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game viewing in kreuger area

as newbies we are not exactly sure of what we will find near kreuger in terms of differences between areas...

currently we are planning a couple of days in elephant plains and a couple more in olifants....in elephant we plan to utilize all of their services, but out plan in olifants to to drive around ourselves.

comments? will this give us different experiences?
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 07:30 AM
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Yes.

Elephant Plains is a private lodge in the Sabi Sands Reserve bordering Kruger. Olifants is a Sanparks camp within Kruger.

I'm not sure what you mean by utilizing all of Elephant Plains services, the price you pay includes the game drives which are on private land with experienced guides - they will likely be much more productive than the time driving yourself around Kruger. You will not have the option of driving yourself around Elephant Plains, if that's what you mean.

Which are you doing first?

I'm torn on whether you want to do self drive first then finish at the luxury lodge, or do the lodge first so that you have a bit more clue about what to look for when self driving. (Maybe others can chime in).

If this is your first trip, I'd be tempted to finish with the private lodge.

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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 08:00 AM
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Below you will find part of a trip report that I sent to family and friends from South Africa when we were there on a year-long sabbatical in 2004-2005. We completed a two-week self-drive through Kruger and then visited a private game reserve just outside of Kruger for 3 nights. I think it will give you a good idea of how the two experiences (self-drive vs private reserve)differ. Robin

We began our exploration of Kruger in the extreme south and slowly, over the two weeks, wound our way to the far north (380km as the crow flies, but there are 3000km of roads within the park), overnighting in the park’s rest camps, which have cabins with fully-equipped kitchens, so that you may prepare your own meals. The twenty-three camps vary in size and the larger camps, which are able to accommodate several hundred people, have a restaurant, grocery store, and petrol station. Despite their size, we found them remarkably quiet, with most people in bed shortly after 9:00 pm in anticipation of an early morning. There are five smaller camps, which offer a greater sense of being in the bush, and we stayed in those camps whenever possible. The cabins were amazing – spacious, spotlessly clean and decorated with African fabrics. The camps each overlook a river or waterhole which, in winter, when water is scarce, attract large numbers of game. Often, we could sit and watch animals from the veranda of our cabin. We would leave the windows of the cabins open at night, falling asleep to the cacophony of bush sounds. All rest camps are fenced against predators, and the camp gates are locked just after sunset and opened just before sunrise. The gate times are strictly enforced, and those visitors not back in camp before the gates close at sunset are likely to lose their permits, which entitle them to be in the park. Each morning, we would be at the camp gate when it opened. My sister, Dinah, who met us in Johannesburg after a long journey from Toronto and joined us on the trip to Kruger, admitted that she had never watched so many consecutive sunrises. Armed with morning tea and a picnic lunch, we would spend the day driving slowly (maximum speed limit on the park’s dirt roads is 40km/hr) through the bush, watching intently for birds and game. We often covered less than 30km in two hours, especially if there was much to look at. Morning tea was usually enjoyed next to a waterhole. At lunch, we would visit the nearest picnic site, where we would be relieved to escape the confines of the vehicle for a while. The only time we were allowed to get out of our car was when we were in a rest camp or one of the fenced picnic sites. Outside of these fenced areas, we had to remain in the car or be accompanied by an armed ranger. It is interesting that animals in the park show no fear of vehicles whatsoever, and will usually completely ignore a car when it pulls up beside them. If they encounter humans on foot, however, they are usually long gone before they are sighted. The exception to the latter is lions, which fear nothing and will hold their ground, occasionally to the detriment of an unfortunate poacher or ranger. Kruger is perhaps best known for its predators, which are responsible for approximately 76,000 kills a year. The most famous are the lion (there are estimated to be 2000 in the park), leopard, cheetah, wild dog, and spotted hyaena.

There were many memorable moments during our visit. Here are some of our favourites:
• On our first night, we stayed at Buhala, a small B&B just outside Kruger, where we were the only guests. Our hosts served us a candlelight dinner on their veranda, which overlooked the (aptly named) Crocodile River. As we sipped wine and savoured a delectable meal, we admired a spectacular African sunset, listened to hippos huffing and puffing in the river nearby, and watched enormous (>3m) crocodiles drift ever-so-silently by. What a wonderful introduction to South Africa for Dinah.
• On our very first day in the park, we were extremely fortunate to see not one, but two, leopards. Leopards are very shy, and the most elusive of the big cats. They are rarely sighted in the wild. On our first encounter, the leopard was sitting by the road, but slunk off into the bush shortly after we pulled up beside it. In the second instance, we startled the leopard when we rounded a corner and came across it as it was leaving a waterhole. The piercing look it gave us made us all very thankful that we were safely inside our vehicle, and caused my usually eloquent sister (an English major in her day!) to exclaim, “She’s real mad!” The cat looked rather bemused by the fits of giggles which emanated from the car as a result. It settled beside our vehicle just three metres away and, for the next forty-five minutes, it studied us as we admired it. It was a remarkable encounter. Later in the week, as we were making our way back to camp just after sunset, we came across a third leopard. It was sitting on the road when we drove up, and settled in the grass a few metres from us, studying us intently, much as the earlier leopard had done. We stayed and admired it for as long as we dared, and then raced back to camp, arriving at the gate about a minute late. When Robert tried to explain that we were late because we had been watching a leopard, the ranger laughed, rolled her eyes and gave us that I’ve-heard-it-all-before look before waving us through.
• We saw so many large herds of impala (beautiful, chestnut-coloured antelope with superbly ornate horns, and delicate legs with white “socks”), often 30 herds in a day, that, by the end of the first week, Laura was insisting that we only stop to admire an impala if it was being eaten. Bloodthirsty girl!
• Many nights, we were woken by the deep roaring grunts and snorts of nearby hippopotamuses, one of the classic sounds of Africa. One of our favourite things to do at sunrise, when it was often below 10oC, was to sit by a body of water and watch a school of hippos silhouetted against the pink sky. Each time they surfaced to breathe, we could see little puffs of steam coming from their nostrils. Despite their docile appearance and vegetarian diet, hippos are accountable for more human deaths in Africa each year than all other mammals combined.
• We stopped just a little too close to a female elephant and her young baby, and were surprised and amused when the baby, not the mother, charged our vehicle. The mother, perhaps not liking to be upstaged by her young, promptly threw a trunk full of dirt in the baby’s face, causing it to sniffle and sneeze. We saw many large herds of elephants, and were charged by so many huge bull elephants, that Laura concluded that her father, who would invariably park too close to the elephants for their liking, had a death wish. Several times we had to roar off, with an irate elephant, trumpeting loudly, in hot pursuit. The tendency of our rental car to stall at these inopportune moments only added to the excitement. Laura claimed that the angry elephants always seemed to be on her side of the vehicle. Robert argued that we really weren’t in any danger until an elephant hit the car, but he received little support for this thought. When we stopped for lunch at one picnic site, armed rangers were carefully monitoring a herd of elephants, which was circling the site just beyond the fence. It provided us with a wonderful opportunity to get close to elephants while we were on foot rather than in the car, and gave us a real sense of just how large and formidable those beasts are. We could not help but be impressed by the trails of destruction left by the elephants which, in winter when grass isn’t available, uproot trees so that they may eat the roots. An impressive show of strength!
• Two cheetahs wandered across the road just in front of our car, pausing long enough to allow us to enjoy a good look at them. Amazing cats – so sleek, and with such magnificent coats!
• On several mornings, always near dawn, we encountered spotted hyaenas, unmistakable dog-like animals with large rounded ears, beautiful (albeit rather unkempt) spotted coats, and forelimbs that are much longer than the hind limbs, giving them an odd, sloped appearance. One morning, we watched a female nursing her young. Another morning, we came across a large male walking down the road in front of us. When we stopped the car and switched off the engine, the hyaena approached to within a metre of it, sniffing at us with great curiosity. Several minutes passed before it continued on its journey. We followed it until it moved off into the bushes. Spotted hyaenas are very vocal animals, and we were frequently woken in the night by their characteristic whoops and giggles, which have earned them the nickname “laughing” hyaenas. Another of the classic sounds of Africa!
• While staying at one of the smaller camps, the four of us went on a morning walk through the bush accompanied by two armed rangers, Benjie and André. Both had grown up in Kruger, and their fathers had worked together as rangers many years earlier. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as walking through the silent bush at dawn, knowing that at any moment you might encounter one of the “Big 5” – lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard, and black rhino – a term coined by 19th century game hunters to describe the five most dangerous African mammals to hunt. While we didn’t encounter any of the Big 5, we did track some enormous lion prints that had been made “now now”. (South Africans use this endearing expression where we might use “just now” or “right now”.)
• We sat at the edge of a river and watched with amusement as a very large crocodile tried to figure out what to do with the large (>1m) horns and skin of a gemsbok – all that remained of the unfortunate antelope that had wandered too close to the water’s edge. We saw many, many huge (4m) crocodiles sunning themselves on the sandbanks of rivers. We watched as two particularly large crocodiles fought over a catfish.
• We saw a rare sable antelope come down to a waterhole for a drink. Sables are large, dark brown antelope with conspicuous white facial markings and very long horns, which sweep dramatically over their backs in a pronounced curve. Very elegant creatures!
• As we sat at one waterhole, a herd of forty-two thirsty elephants came charging in for a drink, trumpeting with excitement as they ran. We were thankful that our vehicle was not parked in their path. We sat for over an hour and watched as the elephants drank and threw water on themselves. The herd included two very young babies, and we laughed at their childlike exuberance as they swung their trunks, rolled about in the water, and threw water in the air.
• In two weeks, we saw twenty-one lions. The first pride consisted of a male, six females and a young cub. They were sitting beside the road and, when they lay down, it was impossible to distinguish them from the dry grass. We wouldn’t even have known they were there had some of them not been sitting up when we arrived. It was immediately apparent why people walking through the bush get into serious trouble so easily. The male was bleeding from a wound in its side, and we wondered if it and one of the lionesses had been fighting over a kill. The females lead the hunt, but the dominant male then takes over the kill. Another day, we watched in surprise as a lioness splashed its way across a river and climbed into a tree. Lions usually avoid water and rarely climb trees. One afternoon, as we drove down a dirt road, we noticed that the tire tracks seemed to indicate that several vehicles had turned around at one spot. Looking around to see what they had stopped for, we spotted a lioness sitting regally in the shade of the bush. Closer inspection of nearby bushes soon revealed five more lionesses, a large male, and two young cubs. We sat and watched them for a long while. Another day, we were sitting at a waterhole when a lioness emerged from under a bush and made its way slowly to the water for a drink. Our only clue to the lioness’ presence was that several vultures were sitting in a nearby tree. Where there are vultures, there is usually a large predator! Our last encounter was the most memorable. We rounded a corner and found two lions, a male and a female, walking down the road in front of us. We caught up with them and followed slowly behind them for more than a kilometre, eventually passing them and sitting until they caught up with and then overtook us. They passed so close to our vehicle that we could have reached out and touched them. Other than casting the occasional glance our way, they completely ignored us. Several times, they settled in the shade of a bush beside the road, and we pulled up beside them. Again, it was a thrill to stare into the eyes of a lion. We watched as the lioness tried to seduce the male by repeatedly rolling onto her back in front of it. The male would respond with a deafening roar. Eventually, we were privileged to watch as the two mated. We must have followed the two lions for almost an hour, until they disappeared off into the bush.
• One of the park’s most prominent birds is the go-away bird, which makes a cackling call sounding exactly like “go away”. They would sit in the trees above our heads at the picnic sites, seemingly encouraging us to leave. Very comical!
• We sat and watched as a group of thirty impala tore back and forth across the road in front of us, practicing a series of seemingly effortless leaps and bounds, a demonstration of fitness thought to signal to predators that the animal is in good condition and thus not worth the chase. Very impressive!
• We were very lucky to see two servals, one of the smaller species of predatory cats. Servals are often mistaken for cheetah because of their long, slender bodies and black spots, but they are much smaller than a cheetah and have much larger ears. Very cute!
• Before sunrise one morning, we were lucky to spot a honey badger, a nocturnal mammal somewhat like a skunk that, despite its small size, has been known to attack elephants and buffalo.
• We saw many steenbok, the most endearing of the small antelope – tiny, with big eyes and very large ears. Very cute! Think Bambi!
• We spotted another black mamba, the most lethal of South Africa’s deadly snakes.
• We loved the baobab trees, ancient giants that look like they have been planted upside down, with their roots stretching to the sky, or that they have fallen from the sky and landed branches first into the earth.
• We saw many, many large herds of wildebeest, zebra, and giraffe. We never tired of watching the giraffes as they fed on the tops of the umbrella acacia trees - unique, very thorny trees that, as the name suggests, are shaped exactly like an umbrella (thanks in part to the continual pruning by the giraffes). The giraffes, which are very curious animals, would peer at us over the tops of the trees, with a comical, inquisitive look on their faces.
• Much of the central region of the park is covered with a large shrub-like tree called mopane. As it was winter, the mopane leaves had turned a lovely shade of red, making those of us who have resided in Ontario feel quite nostalgic. During our walk through the bush, we had learned from Benjie that when an acacia or mopane is heavily browsed upon, its damaged leaves release a chemical into the air, which alerts the remaining leaves to imminent danger. These leaves quickly produce a foul-tasting substance to reduce their palatability, causing the browser to move away and giving the tree time to recover.
• We loved the peace and solitude of the far north, which few people bother to visit because it has less game. We enjoyed the tropical, jungle-like atmosphere, and Laura wished that she could get out of the car and swing from the vines, as she had done in Australia seven years earlier. Signs nailed to some trees, which indicated the water levels in the north during the floods of 2000, were astonishing. We admired the unique yellow-green bark of the fever trees, and watched with envy as the vervet monkeys swung from tree to tree with practiced ease. We gazed across the Limpopo River to Mozambique, one of South Africa’s northern neighbours, and wished we had time to visit it.
• We laughed at the warthogs (think ugly pig with warts all over its face) which, when alarmed, run in single file with their long, skinny tails straight up in the air. This allows them to see each other in the long grass as they flee.
• We sat with the car engine switched off as a huge herd of several hundred buffalo passed in front of and behind our vehicle. We remained very quiet, remembering an earlier encounter with a much smaller group of perhaps thirty buffalo when Laura, the twit, caused a stampede by snorting at them out of the car window.
• We were amused by the sign posted in one of our cabins which read, “Bats will not harm you. There are no vampire bats in Africa.” Bats love the thatch roofs found on many buildings in South Africa, and there were many bats flying around the camps at dusk, to the chagrin of some guests, apparently.

From Kruger, we headed to Honeyguide Tented Safari Camp, a private camp situated in the
230sq km Manyeleti Game Reserve, which borders Kruger. When I had booked our Kruger trip, long before we left Canada, I wasn’t certain how easy it would be for us, visiting Kruger on a self-drive basis, to find animals. Having never been on a safari before, I envisioned us leaving Kruger after two weeks without having seen a thing. A visit to a private reserve, where rangers would take us around in an open safari vehicle, was my back-up, in case we proved to be rather hopeless at finding animals on our own. Of course, as it turned out, I needn’t have worried, but I didn’t have the benefit of hindsight when I booked the holiday, so I added three nights at Honeyguide to the end of our itinerary, just in case. There are many private reserves bordering Kruger, (with no fences separating them, so that animals may roam freely between them), and I selected Honeyguide because it is small, and the camp aims to recreate something of the style and ambience of Hemingway’s Africa. We were not disappointed. It was an exceptional place and we wished we could have stayed longer.

Honeyguide was one of the first lodges to use the luxury East African-style tents which have since become so popular here. Actually, to call their luxurious rooms “tents” is an insult, as they offered every comfort while still allowing us to feel as though we were camping in the bush. Each tent and ensuite bathroom was set up on a raised, wooden platform, and was large enough to accommodate two beds, a large headboard with two bedside lamps, a cupboard, a leather sofa, a writing desk and chair, and electric floor lamp. The bathroom, accessed through the back zipper of the tent, had a double sink, two showers, a large stone bath, and a toilet. During the day, the front walls of the tents were rolled up, giving us unimpeded views of the surrounding bush and the camp’s waterhole which, while we were there, was visited by elephants, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, vervet monkeys, waterbuck, impala, and a lion. The beds were draped in mosquito netting and, at bedtime, we would find hot water bottles tucked into our beds. There were twelve tents and we occupied two of them. The first two nights, there was only one other couple in the camp. Unfortunately, on our last night, there was an invasion by a group of Australian travel agents. Meals were served in an outdoor dining area, which overlooked the waterhole. Unlike the camps in Kruger, Honeyguide was not fenced. During the day, we could wander around the camp unescorted, but were warned to stay alert. The staff was constantly raking the dirt around the tents and dining area. At first, we thought that they, like most people in this country who are constantly cleaning, were just incredibly tidy. Eventually, we realized that they were making it easier to watch for predator tracks. One day, leopard tracks were found near one of the tents, on top of the guests’ tracks. After dusk, when we walked between the dining area and our tents, we carried hurricane lamps and were escorted by an armed ranger. The tents were equipped with whistles in the event of a predator emergency. Dinah wondered aloud just what was to prevent a leopard from coming calling in the night.

Each morning, we were woken before dawn by the sound of drumming. This would be followed by trays of tea, fruit juice and rusks, which were slipped under the doors of our tents. We were warned to grab the trays the minute they arrived, otherwise the vervet monkeys, who liked the bowls of sugar, might reach in and beat us to them. We would depart on our first game drive of the day at 6:30am and return to camp around 10:00am, to find a sumptuous hot breakfast awaiting us. After breakfast, we could go for a walk with an armed ranger, relax at the pool, sit by the waterhole and watch the game and birds pass by, or snooze in our tents. After a “light” lunch at 2:30pm, we would depart on an afternoon game drive, which would continue until well after dark with the aid of a spotlight. We would return to camp around 7:00pm, and enjoy a drink around the campfire, before an extravagant, candlelight dinner. The morning game drive would include a break for tea and at sunset, during the afternoon drive, we would stop for “sundowners”. We crawled into bed shortly after 9:30pm, snug under warm duvets, despite temperatures dropping below 10oC at night.

Our guide for the duration of our visit was André, who was white and grew up on a nearby game farm. He was full of wonderful stories, and told us that when Paul Kruger, the then president of South Africa, declared Kruger a national park in 1899, his conservation efforts weren’t appreciated by the local people, who didn’t like to be deprived of their right to hunt. When they complained that they were being terrorized by lions, which frequently chased them up trees, Kruger sent them ladders. Our tracker, Vestment, was black, and knew the reserve like the back of his hand, having grown up in a nearby village. During apartheid, when blacks were not allowed to visit Kruger, Manyeleti was considered “their” reserve, and Vestment had spent much time there with his father. Like most blacks, Vestment spoke several languages, including English, French, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, Tsonga, and his native language, Shangaan. He was astonished that many Canadians speak only one language, and are not even conversant in the country’s two official languages. South Africa has eleven official languages, and most blacks speak seven or eight. Most whites, on the other hand, speak only English and Afrikaans (a South African version of Dutch). He taught us a few Shangaan words, including the greeting at the beginning of this letter, and the names of some of the animals that we were tracking (nkombi = rhino, ngala = lion, ndlova = elephant, nyari = buffalo).

During the game drives, while the rest of us were tossed about within the relative safety of the open vehicle, Vestment perched precariously on a seat over the front bumper, from where he could scan the road for tracks. First thing in the morning, when the temperature hovered around 10oC, the wind chill factor caused by the moving vehicle made it feel bitterly cold. We would don toques, mitts, scarves, fleeces, and windproof jackets, and then wrap ourselves in the blankets provided in the vehicle. We looked forward to morning tea, when we could wrap our hands around steaming cups of tea or coffee.

We spent the week trying to spot something before Vestment, but never succeeded. He had an incredibly sharp eye, an ability no doubt honed by years spent in the bush. André was amazed and somewhat perturbed when we listed the animals that we had sighted in Kruger, but we assured him that we never tired of seeing any of the animals and would be quite content to see any of them again. Robert did express an interest in seeing an aardwolf (similar to a hyena), a pangolin (surely the weirdest animal of all – picture a large groundhog covered from head to foot in rows of large, overlapping, plate-like scales, that are tough and sharp as razors – the armoured vehicle of the animal kingdom!), aardvark (like a big pig but with an even longer snout and elongated, rabbit-like ears – another finalist in the world’s pageant for odd-looking animals), or wild dog (similar in size to a domestic Alsatian dog, with a beautiful, heavily blotched black, white and brown coat), all very illusive animals. André admitted that he too would love to see any of the four and that, despite years in the bush, he had never seen an aardwolf or a pangolin. He suggested that we had been incredibly lucky with our sightings to that point, so perhaps we might just be lucky enough to see one of the four in the next three days.

As Kruger had done, Honeyguide provided many wonderful moments.
• One highlight of our visit came on the very first game drive when, to André’s amazement, word came from Honeyguide’s other vehicle that they had found a pangolin. We raced to the spot where it had been seen, and found it curled up into a ball (to protect its only vulnerable body parts – the face and soft belly) beside the road. We took turns getting out of the vehicle to have a closer look. I don’t know who was more excited, André or Robert. André shook his head in amazement and said that he just couldn’t believe our luck. He had waited years to see a pangolin. It was a rare find!
• Another highlight came on the second afternoon game drive, when word came that there was a lioness nearby. We held on for dear life as we sped there, flying along the bumpy, deeply rutted dirt roads. Dinah and I kept checking to ensure that Robert and Laura, who had been stupid enough to sit in the raised back seat, had not been pitched out. Mongooses and birds, which were sitting on the road, were forced to flee from our path. We arrived to find a beautiful lioness prostrate in the grass. It didn’t move when we pulled up beside it. We sat patiently, willing it to get up, but apart from the occasional twitch of an ear, it lay motionless. As we were about to move on, it reared suddenly, startling us all. Then, to our delight, it gave a long series of roars, which lasted for almost a minute. We could feel the sound vibrating in our chests. It was incredibly loud and powerful! The first series of roars was followed shortly thereafter by a second equally impressive series of roars, and then a third. We sat mesmerized! We learned from André, who was in radio contact with the other Honeyguide vehicle, that it was responding to a male lion calling from about 12km away. André suggested that we go and try to find the male and, although we were reluctant to leave the female while it was putting on such a magnificent performance, we agreed. Following directions given by the ranger in the other vehicle, we again sped across the reserve, hoping to find the lion before darkness fell. To our delight, after twenty minutes or so, we rounded a corner, and found a huge male lion walking along the road towards us. André quickly turned the vehicle around and, for the next hour or so, we tracked the lion. Sometimes we would follow behind it, and other times, when it veered into the bush, André would race ahead and we would sit and wait for the lion to catch up to us. When it passed us on the road, sometimes within two metres of our open vehicle, we felt very vulnerable. We sat very quietly, not wishing to startle it in any way. While it ignored both us and the floodlight that Vestment kept trained on it, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a limit to its tolerance. At one point, when we had temporarily lost sight of the lion, a large, male kudu dashed across the road just in front of the vehicle, nearly unseating Vestment, startling us all, and causing the usually unflappable André to exclaim out loud. It took our heart rates a while to return to normal. The lion walked with great purpose, heading towards the female that we had watched respond to its calls earlier, pausing every once in a while to give a deafening roar. At one point, we watched, fascinated, as it stalked a herd of antelope. The piercing shrieks of fear given by the antelope once they had smelled the lion were like nothing any of us had heard before. The lion, its thoughts elsewhere, soon abandoned the chase, and continued on its way. Eventually, by this time rather late for dinner, we left the lion in peace and made our way back to camp, all of us feeling that we had just experienced something very special.
• We watched in amusement as Laura confirmed her course registration for next fall at the University of Western Ontario whilst perched on top of a termite mound – the only spot at Honeyguide where there was cell phone reception. Graham had kindly offered to complete the registration process for Laura, since we would be at Honeyguide, where there wasn’t any internet access, on the first day that it was possible for students attending Western in the fall to register for classes. Laura wanted to ensure that Graham had not encountered any difficulties and perhaps, more importantly, not followed through with his threat to register her for several English courses – Graham’s major at the University of Waterloo, but Laura’s least favourite subject (sorry Ms. Scott!). Laura was relieved to learn that she is registered for first year courses in calculus, statistics (both half year courses), biology, physics, chemistry, and psychology. The past few months have had a considerable impact on Laura, and she has chosen courses that will allow her to complete an Honours Bachelor of Science with a joint major in biology and photography, with the goal of becoming a nature photographer in mind. The attached leopard photo, a favourite, was taken by Laura.
• The candlelight dinners next to the waterhole were wonderful and the food, amazing – treats like oxtail ravioli, caramelized onion and beef crepes, scalloped potatoes, and roast oryx. The trick was to remember to leave enough room for the sumptuous desserts. The chef was very attentive of Laura, producing nut-free versions of several dishes and desserts just for her. In the afternoon, we would return to our tents to find small canisters of freshly baked cookies awaiting us.
• As we had done in Kruger, we enjoyed an exhilarating walk through the bush, this time escorted by André. We encountered a large herd of impala and some fresh elephant dung. Recalling that a Kruger ranger had been killed by an elephant not long before our arrival, we were somewhat relieved not to find the elephants.
• The sounds of the bush, especially at night as we lay in our tents, when we would be woken by the roaring of lions, grunting of hippos, and laughing of hyaenas, were delightful. The performance put on by the lions the first night was so wonderful that I hardly slept a wink, not wanting to miss a moment of it.
• After one particularly chilly night, we woke to a very misty morning. The visibility was poor, but we did encounter three huge male kudu which, with their long, spiral horns and elegant profile, looked spectacular silhouetted against the silver mist. A lasting image of Honeyguide!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 09:22 AM
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rhkkmk,

I haven't done the private lodge thing, just the self-drive, but I think I can still say that each will give you different experiences.

While I haven't stayed in the private lodges, I have had guide-led trips in Kruger. It is very nice to have someone with experience to show you things you don't know about. I'm particularly fond of bush walks, and I don't think I could do the safari thing without doing a bush walk of some sort.

However, after doing 2 self-drive trips, I don't think I could do the safari thing again without doing some self-driving, either. I love going at my own pace, stopping for animals that others may find boring (impala never bore me!), just sitting all alone in an area and listening to the sounds of the bush, exploring new roads, etc. I find it satisfying to find animals on my own without a guide or spotter.

As far as landscape, the Elephant Plains and Olifants areas are markedly different, too. The view from Olifants is fantastic, and I've had good luck finding animals in the area between Olifants and Satara camps.

I really don't think you can go wrong with doing both.

As far as which to do first...I don't know what would be best, either. I've read about using the private lodges as a "mop-up" to see the animals you didn't see in Kruger. However, spending time with experienced guides first will help you later.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 05:19 PM
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thanks for all this info...

our plan is to go first to the more organized camp--elephant and to do all that they offer....next we plan on olifants where we can direct our own time driving around using what we may have learned in a couple of days at elephants...

your info above has reassured me that our plan is a solid one...i was not sure if in kreuger we could see a sufficient number of animals on our own....again the info above has reassured me that we will see tons of animals in both places...

we look forward to our time in SA in october....

thanks again
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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 06:22 PM
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rhkkmk~our first day in Kruger, ten minutes from camp we came across our first rhino. While in Kruger, plan on getting out when the gates open and stay out all day. We saw most of the "cool" animals during the time you'd be having siesta at a private lodge.
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Old Dec 11th, 2008, 08:06 PM
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thanks for this additional info...you are all such a big help...let me know if i can help you with SE Asia
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Old Dec 12th, 2008, 01:54 AM
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Oliphants is a camp with a beautiful view, we were there in April and had river view rooms and it is breathtaking. Do have a look at my SA trip photos which cover 7 nights self driving in Kruger covering BnD in the South, Satara and Oliphants, at http://www.abidally.com/mp/home

The pics IMG 7842 onwards are the Oliphats area, Img 8040 is the view from our room at Oliphants camp, and 8056 is a view of he room verandah area etc.

When in Oliphants do take a drive along the following route S92 which takes you over the causeway and then the S90 to Gudzani is pretty wild and we encountered a pride of lions there. Also the S89 and then the S39 is very interesting, do try to make it up to Roodewal waterhole, this area is actually bordering the Timbavati PGR. You will need to buy a Kruger map booklet which is freely available at all gates/camp shops etc for only R35 and navigating is very easy. Full day drives and stopping by a picnic site for a DIY lunch is great. Camp shops have plenty of suitable foods etc and BBQ's are fun and easy.


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Old Dec 12th, 2008, 02:08 AM
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One more thing I would really avise you to have a high SUV type vehicle, Nissan X Trails are common and good, this is so that you a a higher line of sight over the tall grass so makes game viewing better. The 4WD is actually not needed at all as the roads are very well maintained.
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Old Dec 12th, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Hello,

I am also new to S.A. planning my first trip. Any thoughts of tours in Kruger such as this one
http://www.ecoafrica.com/african/saf...gerSafari.html



Based on the feedback on other posts, I might also look at Madikwe and Phinda as an addition to Kruger.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Connie
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Old Dec 12th, 2008, 06:29 PM
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BZ - ecoafrica, other than getting you to/from Joburg to Kruger and driving you around Kruger, I'm not sure how much ecoafrica can add to your Kruger experience. You did read canadian_robin's report above, right? You'll stay at the same public camp facility as anyone can and are subject to the same driving restrictions as everyone else, as I understand it. Unless ecoafrica has a special arrangement with Kruger to go off road or radio information on game locations, you will see what everyone else does in their own automobiles. And that is an advantage of doing Kruger on your own, with your own automobile you choose sightings and come and go as you like. With ecoafrica are you part of a group?? How large?? I notice that ecoafrica makes a point of your guide cooking your meals for you, you wouldn't go hungry in Kruger, every camp has restaurants and a general store for supplies.

No hint of cost for ecoafrica. I will tell you that a camp bungalow costs $70 USD per night (two people) and restaurants are moderate cost. Rental cars are on the expensive side, at least $50 per day.

As for also going to Madikwe reserve, I've been there and much prefer the Timbavati or Sabi Sand reserves that border Kruger. (I've not been to Phinda, but many people like it). You'll have a plane flight to Madikwe, cost you $$$ and a day. Timbavati and Sabi Sand are a short 3 hour drive out of Kruger. Get there same day and do an afternoon game drive at a luxury private camp. Stay at private camp for 4 or 5 nights. Then it's a short flight on SAA back to JNB for home or wherever. We did this in Sep of 2007 with my sister, her first safari, here is my Fodors trip report -

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=35083850

And will do this again in Sep of 2009 (with a few changes).

regards - tom


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Old Dec 12th, 2008, 07:30 PM
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Another thing, on ecoafrica's site they show two photos of leopards and two of lion. In our thus far total of nine days in Kruger we have never seen a leopard and lions probably five times, four of those they were sleeping, flat cats. This as compared to the private reserve camps where you will most likely see leopard and lion every day up close and personal. We still very much like Kruger, elephants are numerous and can be quite close to you. Zebra, giraffe, buffalo are also common. Plus of course many other animals and birds.

regards - tom
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Old Dec 13th, 2008, 03:34 AM
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Tom, I love it "flat cats". I'll put that into my book along with "bird on a stick", another favorite.
Chuck
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Old Dec 13th, 2008, 09:43 AM
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Chuck - "bird on a stick", new one for me Do you know DLT? Deer Like Thing. Very useful, covers- impala, bushbuck, waterbuck, kudu, gazelle, dik-dik, steenbok, duiker, etc. etc. etc.

regards - tom
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Old Jan 7th, 2009, 06:55 PM
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great info...thanks so much
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