I figured that we could probably drive ourselves and see the majority of the game ourselves. That had worked pretty well in other parts of Africa. I wasn't sure what Kruger would be like though as far as vegetation and staying on the roads, so we elected to do a game drive with a guide first. We figured we could do it on our own the next day if we went again. It turns out that we probably could have done fine on our own, but the guide Cliff was pretty cool so it was an enjoyable day and I have no regrets. Plus, since we came close to drinking Kruger out of Savannah dry cider and honey meade, it was probably good that we didn't have to drive ourselves.
As it was, the Southern part of the park had quite a bit denser vegetation than anywhere else that I had been on safari so it was a little trickier to spot game that wasn't quite near to the road. Plus, you are not allowed to get off the road, and in a lot of places, it wasn't possible anyway. That made it a little more challenging to find the animals, since in other parts of Africa you can see great distances. That means you need only drive to where other vehicles have congregated to see lions, cheetah or other big game. We were pretty lucky to see lion under these circumstances but we did see them, and only about 10 minutes after entering the park. Without a guide who probably had a good idea of where they would be, we probably would have missed them. They do have maps set up at the lodges in the park where you can place pins based on animal sightings, so the self driver does have a fair chance at scoping out the big five. We were pretty lucky to see a good variety of animals, but I have still never seen those darn leopards!
Back at Needle's Mike set us up with some guys who ran a microlight operation near the park. He passed on to them that we were both pilots, so they were pretty cool and let us fly. We were supposed to fly in formation, which I was really looking forward to, but alas my microlight wouldn't start, so I ended up about 15 minutes behind. It was a great time with a low level down the crocodile river which forms the southern border of Kruger park. You are not supposed to fly into the park, but we might have strayed just a little bit it. All of the action that we could see was pretty close to the river anyway: crocs, waterbuck, hippos, and cranes. Awesome. I think I almost ended up in the river a few times when my muscle memory was having a tough time adjusting to the reverse controls.
Apparently the guy that I flew with was the South African microlight champ, which I'm not sure what that means, but he let me fly the entire flight so he's all right in my book. SPECIAL NOTE: They do sell calamari burgers at the restaurant in Kruger park. How can you not try it? It's squidlicious!
Mike runs the Needle's lodge on the outskirts of Kruger park. He was really hospitable and very helpful in setting us up with some fun activities. We definitely wanted to spend at least one day in Kruger.