On Safari

Trip Start Oct 26, 2009
Trip End Nov 23, 2009

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kruger Park Day One

We reached Melalane Gate the entrance to the park and were immediately meet by a huge Elephant crashing through the bush. We grabbed our maps and paid the entrance fees and took to the roads that were really well developed. We had the remainder of the afternoon to explore the park and make our way over to Crocodile Bridge Rest camp. That first couple of hours in the park was amazing. We came across so many different animals and any worries about the suitability of the car were gone. Giraffes, Impalas, Monkeys, Elephants, Zebras, Stags, Wildebeest were all on show. The highlight was a couple of Hyenas that come trudging down the road right past without a second glance at us. Really Amazing. We checked into our first pre-arranged bungalow near dusk and enjoyed a couple of beers listening to the noises in the bush beside us.  

Kruger Park Day Two

 The next day was wet. But nothing was going to curb our enthusianism. We were up really early and on the road.  By early morning we reached Lower Sabie Rest camp where I had originally wanted to stay but had been booked out. It had awesome views over a river below from the huge deck with loads of animals grazing around the waters edge.

By the end of the day were had reached Olifants camp perched high on an enscaprment overlooking the rugged Limpopo River. Hippos and Elephants dotted amongst the bush-land.  We very quickly got to work quenching our first with the cheap beers on offer at the camp and decided to dine in the restaurant. 

Kruger Park Day Three

In the morning we decided to take a tour on one of the big open trucks. We were up at the crack of dawn and slowly making our way down the roads. It was quite cold but we had big warm blankets to warm us up and we got to see many animals.It was good to get a local guide to explain things for us and she had a very keen eye for spotting things.  She joked about who was excited in seeing the Impalas, but described them best as the friends that are always present. We seen a Hyena with a cub laying by the side and got very close. We also seen a Hippo up close, Jackals, Baboons and heaps more. It was good to experience the Park in this way however I felt we could have seen just as much in the comfort of our own car.
 Leaving Olifants in the shoebox we came across a long line of cars peering into the bush around midday but after investigating decided it was nothing more than some stray buffalo. We
found a bigger group up the road and this was the first time we had seen them. Being part of the big five we stopped the car and had a good gaze. A car came past from further down the road where we had been and told us there was actually a Lion in the bushes so we rushed back down the road. It took a while to spot the lion but eventually we found it. The lion was a long way off and we could only see the outline of its head move and its tail whip occasionly. The other cars lost interest and left so we were left alone and Steve tried to lure the Cat out with an array of impressive animal noises but to no avail. Eventually we left happy to have seen our first lion but a little frustrated it had been so far off. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving further up into the Park. The weather was patchy. But for the most part the scenery was stunning. Stopping at lookout of the Savannah I noticed a huge snail twice the size of my fist climbing the rocks another one of the odd sights I hadn’t expect to see. And another highlight was a troop of monkeys hiding in the trees near our camp.  The camp was a sort of cross roads from the neighboring countries and us tourists gained a few stares from the African families staying at the camp overnight.

That night we got to watch the final of the Super 14 Rugby, with quite a big group of Africana’s watching the all South African Final. A few more beers were consumed as well.   

Kruger Park Day Four

An agreement to sleep in never eventuated as we were eagerly awake by five, showered, feed, gassed up and out of the camp by 6am. There was a near riot at camp during breakfast as an array of birds and squirrels competed amongst themselves to share our food.

The day turned out to be an absolute cracker, which was a welcomed change from the overcast drizzle of the past few days.  By the end of the days my forearms would be charred from leaning out of the car window. 

Backtracking down the main road we took it quite slowly basking in the savannah sunrise that was glowing a vivid orange.  All the usual suspects greeting us in the morning warmth.

Just before Mopani we were boxed in by a gigantic herd of buffalo crossing the road and in no rush to do so.  We nervously held our position on the road, stopping the engine and watching the huge beasts stroll past us at all angles.  It was quite a surreal experience and a little nerve-wracking in our little rental.

I discovered today that what I thought to be caterpillars on the roads in the park were giant centipede type things called Shonggalolos as I later discovered from a mate. We stopped at one point and got out to have a quick look and I found one as big as my hand.

We headed back down the road towards Olifants and reached the long bridge where you are allowed to get put of your vehicle in the centre of the bridge. Below were a huge array of Elephants, Hippos and a few crocs.  With the sun out it made for an impressive African panorama.

After the bridge we headed inland via the S39 gravel road to try and hunt some lions on the back roads. The scenery was excellent and felt more remote with the lack of other vehicles.  Again every animal was on show bar the allusive big cats. We had both developed Lion fever and spent numerous occasions trying to confirm spottings that turned out to be tree stumps or mounds of dirt on the horizon.  Still the surrounds were enough to keep us occupied and by days end we had clocked up the longest day in terms of Kms driven and checked into our modest bungalows at Orpen. Shoes were kicked off and a few cold beers were most appreciated. 

Kruger Park Day Five
We were fast running out of time to spot another Lion and were starting to get very worried. Sure we had seen one but that lion was an absolute mile off and hidden by a tree. We wanted to see one up close and personal. We got that wish in the late afternoon of our last full day in the park. We had stopped off in a number of spots along the Sabie River when we came upon another carload of people concentrating on the bush ahead of us.  We couldn't really tell what they were looking at when I glanced to the side of me and there sat a lion a stones throw away. We had pulled into the prime position. It was such an exhilarating experience. I shut the engine off and had the windows fully down when the Big Cat got fed up with the attention of the onlookers that were increasing in numbers. It got up and walked right past the car and took a seat by another tree – needless to say I had hastily winded the window back up. We followed it over and spent a long time admiring before we moved on down the road and came across another 5 lions lying across a riverbank together. We could finally go home happy with seeing not one but six lions up close. It was such a buzz.

Kruger Park Day six  

The last morning in the park turned out to be the highlight of the trip. We were already satisfied with what we had seen in the last few days of exploring, especially having seen a number of Lions yesterday. We got up early and left the Pretoriuskop Camp intending to spend a couple of hours making our way down towards the gate we had entered earlier in the week. About 30km out from camp we came upon a huge buffalo that had obviously been caught not too long ago that morning. The huge beast was stripped of all its meat with even its checks and lips having been ridden of its flesh. There was a god-awful smell of death in the air. If this had been a startling reminder of the land we were in the sight of nine Lions lying in the grass not more than 10 meters away blew us away. They were like giant household cats that had just had a huge meal and were content with full bellies to lye in the rising sun. Red blood still stained their mouths and paws. They didn't seem to have a care in the world. We were so lucky to have came upon this and we sent a good hour just watching the big cats.

With the inevitable arrival of the tour groups we took off further down the road only to come right up close to two huge Rhinos. Our previous spottings of two other rhinos had been from quite a distance away, so this was another special moment.  In the space of 40km we had seen four out of the big five animals with just the leopard the only one to escape us. (My friend who’s wedding we would attend next week would see 3 leopards on their first day!!)

We left Kruger National Park on such a high. This has definitely been one of the highlights of my travels. It is so easy to make your way around the park and the accommodation is basic but that’s they way you want it out here.  By just sticking to the main sealed roads there are so many chances to spot the animals. It also helps by having other cars on the road as they act as another set of eyes. If there are cars stopped ahead of you its usually for a good reason.

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