King's Camp Private Game Reserve

Trip Start Jun 09, 2013
Trip End Nov 15, 2013

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Flag of South Africa  , Kruger National Park,
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

They weren't joking when they said we would be staying at some nice places.  We stayed a King's Camp for almost two full days, from Wednesday afternoon until Friday late morning.  We went on four game drives and saw all the main big game animals, ate way too many meals to remember and washed them down with quite a few drinks.  

To get to the camp, we took a 45 minute flight from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit.  The flight was gorgeous seeing all the mountains and the terrain change from city sprawl to the bush.  Taxiing back to the terminal (which looked more like a game lodge than an airport terminal) we saw some warthogs and zebras and then had to sort through about 15 different guides waiting for all the people going on safari.  It was then a 45 minute commute to get to King's Camp by a private mini-van with a trailer for all our gear.  

Safari Schedule
To summarize the way the safari lifestyle works is: you eat, you drink and you look at animals.  The days are jammed packed and the schedule is:
  • 5:30am - Wake up
  • 5:45am - Coffee/Juice/Muffins
  • 6:00am - Morning Game Drive
  • 9:00am - Coffee/Muffin Break 
  • 10:30am - Two Course Breakfast (Cold Buffet and order Hot Meal)
  • 11:30am - Day Hike
  • 1:30pm - Three Course Lunch
  • 3:30pm - Afternoon Game Drive
  • 6:30pm - Evening Drinks and Snacks
  • 8:00pm - Three Course Dinner
The accommodations and the facilities at King's Camp were absolutely incredible.  The camp sleeps up to 22 people of which we had 11, so we pretty much took it over.  The rooms were little bungalows that have bathrooms with baths, indoor and outdoor showers, living room areas with couches and zebra rugs, fully stocked bars and patios with chairs and hammocks. The camp had a full bar, a pool with lawn chairs, a gym, and a second story deck with a fire pit and couches to view the local watering hole and all sorts of areas for dining.

Game Drives
The game drives were awesome!  There were tons of animals throughout the reserve and we knocked off the "Big 5" pretty quickly. The "Big 5" consists of Rhinos, Elephants, Leopards, Cape Buffalo and Lions.  The name was derived from hunters because they are the most dangerous animals to hunt.  For instance, the Hippo is not on the list because although they are the deadliest animal, they run right into the water after they are shot. 


Some of the highlights of the different things that we saw experienced on the game drives consisted of:
  • Mother leopard with her two cubs and an impala kill.
  • 25+ baby hyenas that were curious about the vehicle and literally coming up to it and chewing on the tires.
  • Male elephant looking to mate.
  • The same mother leopard with her two cubs and an impala kill up in the tree with hyenas circling underneath. 
There are several animals that you see constantly that we don't even stop for anymore.  The impalas are referred to as "McDonalds" because they were everywhere.  After our first game drive we wouldn't stop for zebras, nyalas, bushbuck, kudus and several other animals because they are all over the place and you want to focus your time on the harder animals to find.

  It is amazing how versatile the jeeps are and the terrain they can cover.  Typically, you stay along dirt roads, but when you see a certain animal you can bulldoze trees and off-road with the jeeps.  You are not allowed to go off-road from animals that run from the jeeps such as impala, zebras, giraffes, nyolo, etc... Once you decide to go off-road there really isn't any terrain that you can not get across or around.  It is amazing that they don't get flat tires either.

The jeeps are operated by a ranger/guide who drives and a tracker who sits in front of the vehicle and looks for animals and helps point out routes to get around vehicles.  They operate as a team to and their communication skills with hand motions and a mixture of different languages is impressive.  They also have radio's and communicate with other vehicles throughout the park to share information regarding different animals locations. 

The animals familiarity with the vehicles is also quite amazing.  You can get extremely close the the animals and they aren't bothered one bit.  The only rule is to not stand up in the vehicle, because it changes the profile of the vehicle which can be seen as a threat to the animals.  Also there is a tracker that sit at the front of the vehicle and we literally saw elephants and lions a couple feet away from him and a leopard actually walk right underneath him.

The mornings and evenings were extremely cold (approx 9 degrees Celsius) and with wind in your face during the drives made it a little uncomfortable.  Luckily they had blankets in the vehicles and "warm water pads" in the mornings to help keep it comfortable.   Wearing a bandanna around your face like a gaiter, hats and gloves were a must.  After a couple of drives we all got down our layering and made it much more pleasant for the rest of the trip.

During the day it was pretty hot (approx 27 degrees Celsius).  This involved wearing short sleeves and luckily there are no mosquito at this time of year.  I had already begun taking my malaria pills at the direction of my travel clinic doctor (woops!) and will therefore continue to take them for the remainder of my trip.  They haven't been a problem on my stomach either.

The amount of food we are expected to consume is absolutely ridiculous, we can never stop eating.  We basically have 6 meals a day and never the same thing twice.  The breakfast is a cold buffet with cereals, yogurts, pastries, cold meats and cheeses and then there are hot breakfasts you are supposed to order like eggs benedict, omelets, or french toast.  The lunches are three courses with several appetizer choices, lunch choices and deserts (and even a fresh fruit smoothie on top of that).  Dinner is another three courses.  Then before the game drive there are muffins or pastries, at the morning break there are a different type of pastry and the afternoon break there are snacks like game jerky or chicken wings.  On top of that add in mimosas in the morning, coffee/hot chocolate mix with Amarula Lapa (South African liquor), vodka iced teas and beers drinks at lunch and then wine in the afternoon breaks and at dinner.  There have been several times it has just been too much and we have to skip the meal or break as a group.

The Group
Our group is 11 people total.  I only knew 7 before the trip, but after spending some time with the others, they definitely right in; we have quite the cast of characters.  There is a lot of teasing and joking that occurs which makes it quite entertaining, but I am sure we must be obnoxious to the guides, trackers, lodge staff and other guests.  Hopefully we will be able to make it the full 10 days without throwing someone off the vehicle when some lions are around.  
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