South Africa, Kruger National Park Day One

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Jun 9th, 2012, 10:52 AM
  #1
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South Africa, Kruger National Park Day One

After spending the night in Nelspruit, I wake up excited to head to Kruger National Park. A few hours of carefully getting lost through small South African towns and I end up at the Numbi Gate entrance of the park. A brief informal registration and I am made aware of the parks rules along with what to except for the next few days.

I am told it is about fifty miles to my accommodations for the night and that I should allow at least four hours to get there. Since there is no driving in park after dark I will have to manage my drive time accordingly.

It is not long before I am welcomed to the park by a family of impalas that dash across the highway in front of me. A detour loop and soon I am watching some of the most feared and unpredictable animals in the park taking an early morning bath. A herd of water buffaloes are getting cleaned up before starting their day.

Next, it's a mother warthog with her kids followed by an almost never ending sightings of the park's other residents just mere feet from the highway. A brief stop and I am surprise to find some dude is staring me down like a wild animal. In the end, I think he is just as curious about me as I am about him.

A pause at a roadside marker and it is hard to imagine that had I been here a few years ago, at six feet tall I would be almost submerged under water. It is a vivid reminder of the contrast of the seasons here. This time of the year is the dry season. However, during the rainy season many of the roads in the park become impassable.

An almost dried up waterhole provides yet another sign of the sometimes harsh conditions here. A hardly visible hippo has taken claim to an area of it as few birds occasionally drop in for a drink. Meanwhile, an eagle watches from above probably waiting for an unsuspecting meal.

Giraffes and elephants become common sightings in the park as I continue my drive towards Satara Lodge. Kruger National Park is not the place that one would expect to pick up hitchhikers but I do. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, I keep a clear distance between us but he seems to be enjoying the ride as we cruise along about thirty miles an hour down the highway. I guess it's easy to hang onto a windshield when you have six legs.


A few days ago when I arrived in South Africa I was given an introduction to the Baobab Tree at Mandela Square. Now, I am less than a mile away from seeing a real one but I have to wait patiently as a huge obstacle is in my way.

After about ten minutes my patience wears thin and I feel the urge to move on. Putting my car in gear, I begin to inch forward hoping to not get noticed. Not taking kindly to my actions I am a lot closer and almost face to face with more tons of gray wrinkle skin than I ever hope to encounter again. For me, fortunately my ignorance is forgiven and I don't end up like a cigarette inside of a crushed beer can.

Leaving tons of bones and flesh in the distance, I catch my breath and I am soon fascinated by rolling poop. Well, to be politically correct it's rolling dung. Watching another level of nature at work leads me to plagiarize one of the more old school sayings with a new twist.

What's one animal dung is another one's dinner …. Rollin, rollin, keep them dungs rollin... rawhide!

Looking ahead in the clear blue sky, something seems a mist as the world seems upside down. However, this is normal as I am looking at the Baobab Tree. Symbolic to many Africans, the Baobab Tree also known as “The Tree Of Life” seems to be growing upside down as it towers over the neighboring vegetation.

A short drive from the Baobab Tree I arrive at the fenced in and gated Satara Lodge. What would have been a straight four hour drive has taken me almost ten. At the front office, I complete another registration process then head for a cute round bungalow that is well equipped. The ice cold air conditioner is welcoming.

A little wine down and I walk across the lodge to watch an outdoor theater. Playing on the big screen is one of those films that fascinates and attracts all of us to Africa and the untamed part of life. A nice way to end the night.

The only thing missing, popcorn.

Video:http://youtu.be/32Sfn4x8zxg
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Jun 9th, 2012, 04:15 PM
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I'll never listen to the Rawhide theme song in the same way again.
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Jun 9th, 2012, 06:39 PM
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Thanks DMBT. Kruger NP is an amazing place. One of my favorite in all the world. I'll never forget my sister's astonishment as we very slowly drove along a back gravel road and suddenly were surrounded by a large breeding herd of eles. We stopped the car, they were in front of us, behind us, both sides, meandering along and occasionally giving us a look over. Amazing, as good as any private camp I've ever been to. (Only by being in a totally open Land Rover does it get better!!!)

regards - tom
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Jun 9th, 2012, 06:59 PM
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atravelynn,

Sorry to ruin "Rawhide" theme song for you
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Jun 9th, 2012, 07:04 PM
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cary999,

Couldn't agree with you more... I loved just driving down those gravel roads and been surprised by what you might find around the next corner.

What time of the year did you visit? I was there in Nov but heard Jun/Jul can be a goood time also.
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Jun 9th, 2012, 08:56 PM
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I've been in Kruger three times. Years, 2006, 2007, 2009. Every time in September, in camps Mopani, Satara, Letaba, and Olifants. These as you know are in central Kruger, we have not been to the southern area, i.e. Skukuza and south. My only "caution" about Kruger is seeing the big 5, in our about 14 days total there we have seen lion about 6 times, leopard once, and rhino never. Yes, I know some visitors have seen the big five in the same day, but what are the odds? Still, would go back to Kruger any time.

We like to start our safari in Kruger. Fly into JNB, rent/hire a car and drive to Kruger. After 3-4-5-6 days in Kruger go to a private reserve bordering Kruger in the Timbavati or Sabi Sand reserves.

Here's link to some snaps of our 2009 Kruger visit -
http://tomgraham.smugmug.com/SAFARI-...9892105_RpLrLk

regards - tom
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Jun 10th, 2012, 05:01 AM
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cary999,

Wow.. Great Photos! Makes me want to hurry back to Kruger
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Jun 10th, 2012, 08:26 AM
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Really no rhino? Hard for me to believe, we just returned & saw rhino everywhere & every day. We were in south area, entering thru Numbi Gate.
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Jun 10th, 2012, 08:50 AM
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Really, no rhino in around 14 days total there, out everyday driving for 8 or more hours. Guess we were there about 3 years too early .

I Believe you. Rhino (and big 5) probably more likely in south area. Was just in Timabavati (private reserve) 3 weeks ago and saw rhino, 7 in one day. Then none for 5 days.

And leopard in Kruger only once. And for lion not even one really great sighting, up close, good for photos. Our best lion sighting (couple of snaps at above link) there were about 20 cars lined up both sides of road, blocking road. When lions got up and moved off we could not move/reposition to see.

We still love Kruger. Safari camps are kind of like different sports and different teams, lot of variety and very unpredictable. Lots of choices and always something to love.

regards - tom
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Jun 10th, 2012, 10:32 AM
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>> I'll never listen to the Rawhide theme song in the same way again.

I second that.

Very weird to see no rhino. Just back from Kruger area as well. We saw 3 to 4 per day on average. Max was 8 together.

Goes to show that everyone gets a different treat!

Ciao,

J.
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Jun 10th, 2012, 10:40 AM
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Thanks for the report & video DMBT.

Can anyone tell me what the name of the bird you hear at 3:03 on the video? It's a sound I miss that reminds me of the African bush, just don't know what's making it.
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Jun 10th, 2012, 11:18 AM
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J - rhino in what area of Kruger?
Any lion or leopard?

regards - tom
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Jun 10th, 2012, 02:15 PM
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We only saw two lions, one near the road lying down after a kill the other walking off in a distance. The one leopard we saw was walking down the road and then disappeared into the bush. As for the rhino they were everywhere we had them across the street behind us we saw them on a night safari, we saw them close, we saw them far away. We saw black rhino and white rhino.

I have posted some pictures from south Africa on my website. Http://ofmyheart.net

We haven't got our video slideshow together yet.
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Jun 10th, 2012, 06:17 PM
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Lovely drinking lions. How did you get that young female leopard to pose on the tree for you?
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Jun 10th, 2012, 06:36 PM
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Oh, those are Tom's photos. I should have known when I started reading "King's Camp!"
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Jun 10th, 2012, 10:26 PM
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Tom,

I'm talking about the private reserves, mostly. But one day we drove through Kruger, in at Paul Kruger gate, out at Orpen gate ...and en route we had two rhino sightings as well.

No lion or leopard on that day in Kruger. Saw plenty of them in the reserves though.

Ciao,

J.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 05:38 AM
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I think Tom jus had the animals eating out of his hand for those photos... Again "Great Shots"
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Jun 11th, 2012, 05:43 AM
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Neuman605,

Also entered park thru Numbi Gate... Did you get close enough to tell the difference between the white and black rhino's?

Square or pointed snout.. forgot which is which.

Best lion sightings were in Pilanesburg N.P where I could hear them breathing
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