Welcome to the Wonders of Kruger Park Safari
This page takes a look at a few tours from Kruger National Park. Imagine this: The ranger hands you a glass of champagne as you stand on the sandstone cliff and take in the sun setting over kilometres of sandveld as the shadows grow in the deep gorge below. You’re not sure what you’re celebrating, but being here seems reason enough. Lanner Gorge can only be visited if you’re a guest at one of the two private lodges in die Makuleke Contract Park or on the Nyalaland Wilderness Trail. The gorge was named after the lanner falcons which nest in the cliffs here. There’s also a resident population of peregrine falcons, the world’s fastest bird.
From Brave Beginnings on the Kruger Park Safari
The park was opened to visitors in 1927. A few cars visited that year and they all headed for Numbi Gate and Pretoriuskop, the first rest camp. Black-and-white prints in the reception give you an idea what a trip to the park used to be like: no luxuries, shops or petrol stations; in fact not much but cold water tanks and camp sites. Today you’ll get a smile and free glass of chilled fruit juice at reception.
I was hoping to get accommodation in one of the new tents but couldn’t get in at all, so we spent an extra night at Crocodile Bridge. Croc Bridge is located on a loop of the Olifants River, the park’s southern boundary, and turned out to be among the very best. It’s just that the sight and noise of sugar-cane farming across the Crocodile kind of breaks the mood.
Associate editor Nigel Dennis says in his “Where to Watch Game in the Kruger National Park” that Croc Bridge “is probably one of the most underrated in the entire park. As well as having a high density of general game, there is an excellent chance of seeing all of the Big Five in this area.”
Normally, old Kruger hands will tell you, the best way to see game is to sit and wait at water holes in the early mornings and late afternoons. This year the problem was copious, very late summer rains. Well into winter there was still green, dense and high grass and bush cover, as well as water everywhere. You had to work extra hard to find game, though we still managed to see the Big Five. We also spent more time than usual enjoying the little things. One time we stopped a car behind us to allow two stick insects to cross the road … then the car squeezed past and promptly crushed them.
New visitors to the park are customarily frantic to see the big and hairy animals, and in doing so miss much of what Kruger National Park tour has. Most often they end up chasing away the very animals they are trying to see.
It will be different in a normal, dry winter year, but the only productive water hole in this area was Gesantfombi Dam just two kilometres from camp on the H4-2. Otherwise, the tarred H4 north and dirt S25 east were by far the best game-viewing routes. Elephant, white rhino and buffalo were particularly apparent. For cheetah, among the best places are the open plains along the Nhola Road (S28)… but forget Nhlanganzwane Dam which proved a long drive to see not very much at all.
Hippo Pools a short way west of camp on the Crocodile River gives the chance to get out your car and take a walk down to the pools with an armed guard. The rock art there, alas, was all but washed clean by the 2000 floods. Given that the paintings might have been there for 2 000, or 20 000 years, you can get an idea of the magnitude of that recent deluge.
Off-roading Pretorius Camp -Southern Kruger National Park
After riding the Kruger National Park tour road network for a while and staring sideways into the bush looking for beasties, a desire starts growing to get out there into the wilderness. Near Pretoriuskop, there’s a 4×4 trail that does just that. The Madlabantu (Man-eater) Trail circles the camp, using a combination of visitor roads and off-road paths, beginning at the Fayi Loop. For me, the highlights were the huge bushveld trees and looming granite whalebacks that seemed to attract kudus, buffaloes and perky klipspringers. The trail can be booked at Pretoriuskop reception.
The Mananga Adventure Trail at Satara is Kruger’s answer to the Serengeti. You don’t need a 4×4, just high clearance, and around you the game-rich plains stretch to the horizon. The trail takes about four hours and meanders through grasslands and along rivers lined by giant knobthorn and marula trees. At several places, I opened all the windows, switched off the engine and wallowed in bird song. Glossy starlings, desert cisticolas, southern black tits, magpie and red-backed shrikes, shaft-tailed whydahs, lilac-breasted and purple rollers in profusion and the tap-tapping of woodpeckers was ample reward. The trails takes around five hours.
Leopard Sighting – Southern Kruger National Park – NHLAMBANYATHI HIDE
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of the first leopard sighting. Nocturnal, secretive and with a distaste for humans, leopards are the megatick encounter in Kruger. Mine was a big male snoozing on an outstretched limb of a large leadwood on the S28 just near Nhlambanyathi Hide. It was picture perfect but seemed disinclined to move. I watched and waited. Other drivers got bored and left. Then sky behind it darkened and the first spatters of rain hit the windscreen. The leopard sat up, clearly irritated, its ears flat. Then it picked its way along the branch and leapt down the tree. I just kept my camera shutter clicking.
Lake Panic bird hide near Skukuza provides secret views of a hippo- and croc-filled dam which is a magnet for birds of all stripes. Big raptors, herons, jacanas, thick-knees, kingfishers, ducks and many more inhabit the convenient dead leadwoods and thick surrounding bush, or dart around on the lily pads. Best sightings are early morning or sunset. One story is that Lake Panic got its name from a year in which the river feeding it flooded and threatened to break the wall. If it had, that would have been the end of the golf course and staff village. There are other versions — it depends on who’s telling the story.
Contact us to find out more about our wonderous tours from Kruger National Park!