The Kruger National Park - almost 2 million hectares of African bush and wildlife in its natural state- is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Africa. There is nothing in the world that can come close to an evening sitting around a camp fire, and hearing the roar of a lion as he stakes out his territory, or to watch a breeding herd of elephant lumbering past as they are ordered about by the matriarch. Viewing this primitive and beautiful world is good for the soul.
The Park was established in the late 1890s to protect the wildlife of the South Africa Lowveld and is now home to an incredible number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. Apart from the spectacular wildlife there are many historical and archaeological sights of importance including bushman rock paintings.
Visiting Kruger National Park is easy - there are many tour companies that offer tours that include safaris in open game-viewing vehicles. Or, if you would rather "go it alone" - rent a car when you arrive in the area (Nelspruit is the closest big town), and drive yourself around. It is perfectly safe, as long as you follow the rules and don't ever get out of the car.
Staying in the Kruger Park is a wonderful experience. There are 12 rest camps, and a good choice of accommodation in each - from basic safari tents or 2 sleeper bungalows to luxury guesthouses that can sleep 10 or 12 people. Booking in advance is essential - especially in the peak season months of May - August. The camps are all spotless, with good facilities and friendly staff. Most camps have a restaurant, shop and petrol station. Skukuza - the largest camp has a post office, a bank and an internet café.
For more information , the official website for Kruger National Park is www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
It was as long ago as 1898 that the park was proclaimed as Sabie Game Reserve by the president of the Transvaal Republic of the time, Paul Kruger. He saw the need to protect the animals of the Lowveld and so the area between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers was set aside for restricted hunting. By the time this area became the Kruger National Park in 1926, the idea of wildlife as a tourist attraction was already established. The value of tourist dollar was also recognized and to encourage these visitors it was decided to build a main road through the park, with various secondary roads for game viewing.
In 1928 the first three "rest huts" were built at Satara, Pretoriuskop and Skukuza . This was the start and gradually more accommodation was built, hot water provided for the visitors bathrooms, the camps were fenced and became larger providing more and more facilities such as swimming pools, restaurants and so on.
WHERE IS KRUGER NATIONAL PARK?
Kruger is in the north eastern area of South Africa to the west is Limpopo and to the south is Mpumalanga two South African provinces. In the north is Zimbabwe, and if you travel east you will come to Mozambique.
HOW BIG IS THIS PARK?
This is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers 18,989 km2. It stretches 360 kilometres from north to south and 65 kilometres from east to west. Just to give you something familiar to compare this to, England is 130,395 km2 and Scotland is 80 234 km2.
It was also recently extended through cooperation with the Mozambique authorities. This expanse of land means that the park covers six different eco systems from Mopane scrub , mixed acacia thicket and Lebombo knobthorn-marula bushveld through to Baobab sandveld, woodland and riverine forest.This means that you have the opportunity to experience not only the amazing range of southern African landscapes, but also the different wildlife that inhabits each.
BE AWARE HEALTH WISE
Kruger National Park is in a malaria area so if you go there you should consider taking malaria pills. If you are planning a trip then your local surgery in the UK will know which pills are recommended and what the possible side effects are. I have been very ill with Malaria tablets in the past so we asked which were the least likely to upset me as strangely they were the most expensive Malarone which are fairly new and meant to have fewer side effects other than a big hole in your wallet at £5 a pill. Obviously you also need to take other precautions like bug spray and covering up in the evening when mossies are around. If you are wanting more information about anti malarial drugs then I suggest you look at this site
WHEN IS A GOOD TIME TO VISIT?
South Africa being in the Southern hemisphere has their winter when we have our summer. The climate in this area is officially sub tropical which means that it never gets that cold. The best time to visit is supposed to be the dry winter season but we went in early February when it was hot but we had no rain. The vegetation was quite lush so it was harder to spot the animals but we still managed to see a lot. If you prefer cooler temperatures then head there in the winter.
WHAT WILL I SEE IN THE PARK?
If you really look hard and know what you are looking for you could see 147 different species of mammal in the park however all the Big Five game animals (lions, elephants, rhinoceros, buffalos and leopards)are found at Kruger National Park There are more species of mammals in this park than any other African Game Reserve . Then there are 517 species of birds can be found at Kruger and out of this number, 253 are resident all year round. If it is plants you are interested in then there are nearly 2,000 different species to look out for.
Just in case you think this is a private game park with imported animals this park only has wild animals that are native to the area. There are no hand reared animals in Kruger as some people might think as this is a national park, all the animals are wild and dangerous so naturally getting out of your car is prohibited unless in the few demarcated areas. These are the few hides which normally overlook waterholes. You sit quietly within the fenced and secure hide and watch; we saw a few crocodiles at one hide.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
You can do day trips into the park from outside but I would seriously suggest staying within the park. I would also suggest staying at a couple of rest camps in different parts of the park so that you get a chance to see a variety of animals and eco systems. We stayed at Lower Sabie and Skukuza which are quite a way apart and very different areas. There are private game lodges around the park area but I would seriously suggest staying at the official Rest camps as they are well designed, extremely comfortable and spread around the park in such a way as to give you a good look around.
The park has 21 official rest camps which offer all types of accommodation options from camping through to luxury options and have differing facilities - some are more basic whereas others have communal swimming pools and other facilities. I suggest you look at the official website: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/ and here you can select the camps that suit as well as the accommodation type and also pay the entrance fee prior to going which is what we did.
OKAY NOW TO THE ACTUAL ANIMAL SAFARIS
Sadly for those who like to lie around on holiday the animals in Kruger are early risers so the best time to see animals is early morning ( getting up while it is still dark at about 4.30) and late afternoon from about 4 o' clock onwards, although good sightings can be made any time of the day.
I have read that some people say that Kruger has become crowded and there are traffic jams when an anaimals is spotted. Well from my experience this is far from the truth. We passed the occasional car and sometimes there were two or three cars in the same spot but in realty we had many areas to ourselves so I think that is an exaggeration.
As Kruger is the largest game reserves and has such a wide variety of vegetation you would be very unlucky to miss seeing a variety of animals. You do have to drive slowly and it is better if there area few of you looking around as the animals can be quite hard to see. There were four of us looking and we saw all the 'Big Five' animals (lions, elephants, rhinoceros, African buffalo, and leopards) as well as hippos, cheetahs, hyenas, and a number of different antelope from the sweet faced impala through to larger kudu and so many more.
A lot of people having see the 'Lion King' expect little vegetation and crowds of animals but Kruger has quite thick vegetation and we tended to see animals as they crossed the road or if they were at the side of the road as if they went into the scrubby bush they disappeared really quickly as they are so well camouflaged. You would think a giraffe would stick ouyt like a sore thumb but they don't, you have to keep your eyes open and look for a movement or a change in shadows in order to spot the animals. Having said that we did come across a male lion lying in the road and his other three mates were lying or walking very close to the roadside which at this spot was quite grassy. He lay there for quite while and by the time he stretched and got up there were about five cars on either side of him waiting for him to move. Animals always have the right of way so you just wait.
We saw herds of elephants splashing in the river not so far from us on a few occasions. Up close one very large herd crossing the road and one male looked straight at us, my husband had the car in reverse ready to move in case he didn't like us. Just close to the restaurant at Lower Sabie one large elephant was grazing just below us.
Hippos we saw in the hippo pool just outside Sabie rest camp. You only really saw their heads coming up and down as they walk around in the pool. Sometimes their huge mouths open as they yawn. Another day there were a large number wallowing in the river beside Lower Sabie restaurant which we watched while enjoying our lunch.
Leopards are very tricky to spot , sorry about the word play, but once again we were so lucky as a mother with her cubs crossed the road in front of us and they disappeared from view only about three feet into the scrub. We were once again really close to her and her family which is very unusual.
Cheetahs are very rare to see as there are only about 200 in the whole of Kruger and we were not lucky enough to see any .
Zebras are herd animals and tend to like the grasier areas and we did see a number of there. They are so lovely and look so amazingly clean and healthy with chubby hind quarters.
Warthogs like Pumba, in the Lion King are hilarious as they stick their tails up as they run off and we did see quite few in various parts of the park.
Secretary birds again looking just like the cartoon version, strutting around in the grass.
Buffalo, we got in the middle of a huge herd with youngsters this was a little worrying at times but they just looked at us as we drove very slowly between them to get out.
Giraffes we saw quite a few of at different times around the park. They are so beautiful and look at you with such a superior air as they calmly wander across the road just in front of your car.
Baboons were often see but it was lovely to see the families with babies clinging to mother's backs. We did have to be careful to look everything away in the lockable cages so that the baboons didn't come and steal things from the kitchen of our tent. They are quite ferocious so ypou are told to be very careful when they are around. They can get into the rest camp areas where other animals are kept out by the fences the baboons just climb over or walk through the gates.
Something you are very likely to see are antelope, mainly the lovely impala, we didn't see any of the rugby player's name sake springbok though. We did see duiker, kudu, impalas and a dik dik too and they are really tricky to spot so that was quite a thrill.
If you would like to go on safari and drive yourself then Kruger in the park to visit. We saw so many animals and we spent about four days in the park at the two different rest camps. You can see the same sort fo animals in Kenya but I would not suggest a self drive holiday there for safety reasons. A lot of people talk about the dangers in South Africa but if you are sensible and take the normal precautions then it is a lovely safe country. If you plan to visit just to see Kruger then fly into Johannesburg. If you want to see more of the country then we spent just over two weeks driving from Cape Town to Kruger and saw so much on the way. Not once did we feel uneasy. We didn't drive at night as the roads can sometimes have the most horrendous potholes which are hard to see at night.
I would thoroughly recommend this national park if you want to see animals in their natural environment. Safari reserves around Cape Town will only have imported game animals as they are not naturally found that far south. It depends on how you feel about seeing animals in their genuinely natural habitat.
I trust this has been useful to some of you and of interest to others. Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
I had an absolutely fantastic time when I went to Kruger National Park (and to South Africa in general). This isn't going to be a particularly succinct review because I want to write about my experience in SA as a whole in case it's useful / interesting for anyone who is planning on going, and also because I think that it puts the trip to Kruger in context. Hopefully if you don't want to read the whole review you can skip to the bits which are relevant for you. I should also point out that there are obviously hundreds of facts that I could give about the square footage, the history of the park etc, but this is better googled as I want to focus on my personal experience which I guess is more the point of a review. There also seem to be another few interesting reviews on here which might go through details that I haven't covered.
********** Why I visited South Africa + Journey Details **********
I have an old school friend who was living out there on a monkey sanctuary called the Vervaet Monkey Sanctuary in Tzaneen and though I would take advantage of this and go to visit her and see a bit of South Africa at the same time. I actually ended up taking my mum with me who loved the idea of safari, and I was ecstatic when she had the time of her life and has been talking about it ever since and I was so glad we got to do this together.
Tzaneen, where we stayed for the majority of the trip, is in the Letaba District, Limpopo, about 1.5 hours drive from Kruger National Park. It's a very very green, agricultural place with a tropical climate. We went for 10 days in the middle of November - 3 days safari, a few days in the hotel, and a couple of days in Grasskop which is a scenic place near to Tzaneen. It took us the best part of 24 hours to get there. Depending on your budget, you can normally get a slightly shorter flight but for more money, and of course if you're staying close to Jo'Burg there aren't the extra couple of legs of the journey at the end. Altogether we paid around £500 for our flights.
The highlight of the journey there was definitely the flight from Jo'Burg to Polokwane airport which was the final airport we flew into. It was a tiny plane which fitted about 20 people in theory, but there were only 5 of us on the flight. The funny thing was that the air hostess still acted in the same way as she would have done with a flight of 150, sticking to a strict process when handing out the snacks (which was a bag of crisps) and giving instructions. When we arrived at the other end our bags were plonked on a platform in the middle of the 'airport' which was tiny, more like a local train station if that.
When we weren't on trips, we stayed in The Old Coach House Hotel in Tzaneen which was absolutely beautiful but I won't go into more detail about the hotel as this is not what the review is mainly about.
********** Basic Details of my Kruger Trip **********
Length - 3 days 2 nights
Location - From our hotel it was around 1.5 hours and normally people will stay in one of the neighbouring areas like we did
Cost - £200 which is an ABSOLUTE BARGAIN in comparison to the amount you have to pay when you book from the UK. Luckily my friend knew an extremely experienced guide who we booked directly with. I will go into more detail about this in a bit. The cost of this included petrol, 2 nights accommodation, the entrance to the park, and the company of the guide. Also occasional food and drink.
Temperature - We went in the middle of November which in theory is their summer season but also their rainy season. I think in general we were fairly unlucky in one sense with our weather as throughout most the holiday, apart from when we were at Kruger, it rained and was fairly cold. From what the locals were saying though it's normally a good temperature and decent weather most year round, but then everyone seemed to have different thoughts. The fact that it wasn't too hot was actually good on safari, because when it's hot the animals are lazy and hide in the shade so you don't see them as much. When it rains they also don't come out though so it's difficult getting a balance. Because we were there in low-season the park was not full of tourists which was good. I think whatever time of year you go there are pros and cons.
Type of Safari - Our safari was fully experienced from the car. You can choose an on-foot safari where you go off into the bush and camp, and may wake up in the morning to see interesting looking footprints next to you!
********** Our Guide **********
Our guide was one of the things that made this as fantastic as it was. Because he wasn't too busy it was just me and my mum in the car with him and so could tailor the trip to exactly how we wanted it which was absolutely fantastic. It also meant that he was our own personal guide for the whole trip and while we were driving along we could benefit from all of his knowledge about the animals but also South Africa in general which was absolutely fascinating. We learnt so much on that trip about many of the different aspects of South African and also about animals.
********** The Accommodation **********
On the first night me and my mum stayed in a little chalet-type / hut place on one of the camps. It was extremely basic (two beds, very basic bathroom with shower, a small kitchen) but all that we needed as you spend very little time in your accommodation on safari. It was surrounded by other huts and even had a little swimming pool nearby that I took a dip in, but was also accompanied by a couple of frogs which I found quite funny. The camp you stays in depends on what route you are doing around Kruger. The second night we stayed somewhere different as we had travelled through to another part of Kruger. It was very similar. I can't remember the names of the camps but I think unless you specifically want to pay extra for somewhere more fancy with jacuzzis etc (which you can do!) they are all similar.
********** The Food **********
The first night, our guide cooked us a traditional South African Brai - in fact this is just the SA word for a BBQ! We had picked up lots of nice meat from the supermarket before we got into Kruger and I think the only thing different from English food was the Pap that our guide made us. Pap is a traditional SA food which is like a maize porridge which he added a few other ingredients too. It's very fulfilling and tasty from my point of view, but as usual I'm not sure everyone would like it. It was lovely eating outside our hut with all the bright stars above us and every now and again a South African deer (have forgotten the name of the one I mean!) would hop past or we'd hear the sound of birds, it was lovely. The funny part of the story is that when we were eating on the patio it was difficult to see our food so me and my mum kept backing our chairs back into the light but our guide would try to subtly encourage us to stay where we were. When we were all friends a few days later he admitted that this was because it's not uncommon in SA to be happily munching away at your food only to look down and see a couple of bugs in it! So instead of trying to avoid this I think they often just go with it and try and pretend they aren't there - I'm not overly squeamish so although finding this pretty disgusting I moreso just found it funny.
The second night we just grabbed some fast-food from one of the camps fast-food restaurants - I think this is mainly the other option.
********** ANIMALS **********
So here I am at the most important part of the review!
If you want to make the most of your time on safari in Kruger, you should get up at about 5am. At different times of the day and in different parts of the park you are likely to see different animals. A huge misconception that a lot seem to have of safari is that it's like the Lion King where you see hundreds of animals hopping around everywhere you look, and that lions will commonly hop in front of you or stroll along next to you. If this is what you want, you 'could' be disappointed. I actually found it a lot more exciting that you don't see animals everywhere you turn because when you see one it makes it more special, especially if it's a lion or a cheetah. Let me go into detail about some of the animals I saw to help:
Cheetahs. These are very rare, only about 200 in the whole of Kruger. We were extremely lucky and saw two sets of two during our 3-day trip and it was fantastic and a really special experience. They were beautiful.
Leopards. Also very rare, we saw one from a distance stretched out on a tree.
Lions. These are also fairly rare and we saw a family of lions from a distance but not close up - it was still quite exciting! When there are viewings of the more rare animals like this you normally get a small (or large in high-season) crowd of cars gathered around so you know something is going on. It can sometimes be difficult to see. In a typical 3-day trip you would hopefully see a couple of lions but not much more than that.
Elephants. You will hopefully see quite a few elephants (more than a few a day) like we did. They are so impressive and absolutely huge and often walk across the road and you need to keep your distance in case they want to charge you!
Zebras. So pretty! You should see quite a few of these too.
Warthogs. So ugly but adorable and nutty in their own way, we saw more than a few of these on our trip.
Ostrich's. So much bigger than I imagined! We saw about 4
Various birds including eagles and owls
Snakes - we just saw one long green snake in a tree
Crocodiles - we saw one, on our night trip
Hippos - you'll see a fair few but normally just with their ears and back poking out the water, so unsociable!
Lizards - lots of different kinds including a huge scary one which looked like it was out one of those bad 80s reptile horror films!
Deers - Various kinds. If you are like me and you get one of the guidebooks which have the pictures and names of all the different varieties of animals, you may even just get excited about ticking off all the different types of deers and birds you see, I really did!
Insects including dung beetles pushing dung across the road, very funny!
Monkeys - lots and lots. Vervaet monkeys are the most common. They're very playful and you are likely to come across a huge gang of them lying in the road playing and as animals have the right of way in Kruger you have to just wait until they decide to move on. They are also soooo cheeky so watch out - when we stopped at a cafe for lunch a money ran up and tried to grab my mum's cake out her hand. The funny thing is she wasn't having any of it and grabbed onto it and eventually the monkey gave up - this may have not been the most sensible decision on her part as apparently they can get quite aggressive.
You'll also probably see a few baboons.
Giraffes - a good few a day probably. They're so elegant and absolutely huge.
Buffalo - loads, often in big gangs around water
Hyenas - just once we saw some baby hyenas lying by the side of the road. They were absolutely gorgeous. Then on the night drive we saw a grown-up hyena and it was so ugly (sorry hyenas)
I mentioned the night drive a couple of times. It was very windy when we went on our night drive (not with our guide but with a big group of people, it was still free though) so we didn't see a lot. It was then that we saw the crocodile and the leopard though. Even though we didn't see much it was still very exciting driving around the park at night.
********** Be Careful **********
I won't harper on about the dangers in South Africa, especially as on safari there's no reason you would come into any danger as the park is safe and full of tourists and is surrounded by gates. However I should mention that South Africa, as everyone is aware, can be a very dangerous place so you should always stay with your guide or at least be properly informed about what you are doing and where you are going as if you end up off the beaten track you can get into a lot of trouble.
********** The Summary **********
Do you need to love animals to go to Kruger? Hard for me to say, as I do like animals, not that I particularly watch a lot of documentaries or anything like that, but I do find many types of animals beautiful and fascinating. If you are expecting non-stop drama you may be disappointed. In fact our guide said that this happened a couple of times with him. If you can appreciate everything - talking to your guide or the other people you're with, appreciating the drive and the scenery, ideally getting interested by animals + birds, and enjoying the experience as a whole, you will absolutely have the time of your life and remember it forever.
During the best experience of my life in Africa last year, I was lucky enough to visit the Kruger National Park. I spent a day there from sunrise until sunset and I got to see such a wide array of plant and animal species. The park is enormous but it is well laid out. There are routes that you can follow which are well sign posted. There are also many places to stop on the way around where you can not only get refreshments but there is information on where the animal sightings have been in the park that day. This is great as it helps you to target the parts of the park where you are more likely to see certain types of animal.
The only drawbacks to the park are that due to the sign posted roads and other tourists you do not feel as if you are lost in the bush. However you will see beautiful scenery, a whole load of animals and stunning sunsets.
I have visited South Africa a number of times and stayed at several Game Reserves around the country. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit the Kruger National Park as well.
Kruger is the largest game reserve in South Africa (and I think in most other African countries too) at a massive 18,989 square km. It was also recently extended through cooperation with the Mozambique authorities. And in this case size really does matter. For one thing the pure amount of land that the park covers means that there are many different types of environment covered within the same park, from scrub and bushveld through to sandveld and forest. This means that you have the opportunity to experience not only the amazing range of southern African landscapes, but also the different wildlife that inhabits each.
Being one of the largest game reserves, Kruger has a formidable line up of star attractions when it comes to animals. All of the 'Big Five' animals (lions, elephants, rhinoceros, African buffalo, and leopards) are represented within the park as well as other favourites like hippos, cheetahs, hyenas, and so many more. In fact, the Kruger park contains more mammals within its boundaries than any other game park in Africa.
When it comes to accommodation there is also plentiful variety. The park is dotted with 21 rest camps, as well as private lodges and private safari lodges. These cover all types of accommodation options from camping through to luxury options and have differing facilities - some are more basic whereas others have communal swimming pools and other facilities. You can check out the options on the Kruger Park website: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/
Or for full information, including prices etc, see: http://www.krugerpark.co.za/
I recommend choosing a couple of different rest camps in different areas and moving between these spending a night or two at each. This gives you a chance to see different parts of the park.
All in all I would thoroughly recommend Kruger - the landscape is absolutely beautiful, it is a peaceful escape from hectic city life, the camps for the most part are authentic and charming, and the animals of course are just stunning. Seeing those animals in their natural habitat, free of the boundaries of zoos or cages, is a magical experience.
Definitely an experience you'll never forget!
Just about everybody has heard of the Kruger National Park in South Africa, if not, have a look at this webpage: http://www.ecoafrica.com/krugerpark
Kruger is a vast and expansive game park and has a large variety of fauna and flora. At night hearing the night life in the camps is an experience never to be missed. Shining a torch along the fence at night reveals a lot of nocturnal life. The large number camps make it easy to spend days moving through the park form camp to camp.
There are no hand reared animals in Kruger as some people might think as this is a national park, all the animals are wild and dangerous so getting out of your car is prohibited unless in demarkated areas. There are hides which normally overlook waterholes which are good for relaxing and spotting animals, the best time to see animals, both by driving and in the hides, is early morning and late afternoon although good sightings can be made any time of the day. The night drives are something to enjoy and spotting the nocturnal animals is a great experience.
The only large drawback of Kruger is the number of people. There are often traffic jams when one of the big five or a predator is spotted which makes it extremely difficult to see the animal. Due to the large number of people, Kruger has also become expensive and very commercialised and therefore lost a lot of it's true african feel. There is a large number of game farms in South Africa which still have a true african feel about them where there are not a lot of people and you feel alone with nature.
A short summary
Nikki and I went on a trip to Johannesburg in South Africa in the period December 13th to December 31st 2004. The main goal for our trip was to see Nikkis family and friends but we also got a chance to take a look at places like Apartheid museum, Constitution Hill, Soweto, the theme park Gold Reef City, Cradle of Humankind, South African National Museum of Military History etc. But we also got to go on a wonderful safari at Djuma Game Reserve located in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve near the Kruger Park and this is what this trip report will be all about :-) Get in touch if you have any questions or comments and Ill do my best to answer. If you would like to see pictures from this safari please visit my homepage http://gardkarlsen.com.
Before we went to South Africa this time, I had been to Johannesburg and South Africa 3 times before. But I had never been on a safari before and this is one of the things people associate with South Africa. We were not quite sure where we should go on the safari but we decided to go to the Kruger Park area. In the end we booked our safari through Siyabona and we booked at a place called Djuma Vuyatela Game Reserve which belongs to Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Our trip included the flight from Joburg, more or less all inclusive at the camp, morning and afternoon drives etc.
Remember that the Kruger Park is in a malaria area so if you go there you should consider taking malaria pills. We went to a travel clinic in Joburg and got a prescription for Malarone pills (they go under the name Malanil in South Africa). These pills are quite expensive (about 450 Rand per person for a 3 day stay in a malaria area) but there are not that many side effects and you only have to take it a week after you return for the malaria area. You will get concise information about what to do to avoid malaria - mosquito repellent, use long sleeves and pants etc.
Lets go out in the bush!
After a few days with the family in Joburg, we went to Joburg International Airport on December 17th to catch our plane to Djuma. When we checked in the lady behind the counter said See you later. I thought this was quite odd but when we went to our gate and were ready to get on board the plane the same lady was checking our tickets. She was also the driver of the minibus that took us to our little plane :-) Soon we were of in a tiny 8 seats plane (this includes the 2 seats for the pilots) and on our way to the bush. After about 1 hour and 15 minutes we started descending and we were aiming for a small dirt road in the middle of the bush. The pilots seemed pretty confident and the landing was not a problem at all. We were picked up buy a Toyota Landcruiser and driven to the Djuma Vuyatela lodge where we were greeted by Mark Labushagne (Manager at Vuyatela) and shown to our room.
The room and facilities
There are only 8 chalets at Vuyatela and we got number 1 which is located close to the main building. I think this might be the best chalet because from the private deck we had a wonderful view of the watering hole which is located right next to the lodge and we could see animals stopping to drink on a daily basis.
The room itself was very impressive. When we came to the chalet we went through a gate where we reached our own private deck with a couple of sun beds and a plunge pool. The entrance to the room is through sliding doors and inside we found a big king size bed with a mosquito net around it. There were also mosquito nets within the sliding doors and air conditioning (with remote control). The welcome also included a bottle of sparkling wine in a bucket of ice at the end of our bed. The room itself continued into a hallway where we found a wardrobe with hangers and shelves. In here there were also a desk and a chair. The hallway leads to the bathroom which was interestingly decorated. We had two sinks, a large bathtub and an outside shower. In the bathroom there was a box that included stuff that you might need .sun screen (SPF 15), mosquito repellent and the usual shampoo, moisturizing cream etc. We also had lots of towels and a robe each. The whole place was decorated in a uplifting and colorful way (a sort of modern homage to South African tribal art) and the same goes for the rest of the Vuyatela place.There was also a little room next to the main room. This room had a small fridge with cold drinks, a water boiler to make tea and coffee, some chairs around a table and some books to read. This is where we got our morning tea and coffee before going to the safari. After we had unpacked some of our stuff, we got into our swim wear and jumped into our little pool to cool down a little bit because it was hot indeed.
The main house at Vuyatela contains a bar, a long table inside and also places to sit outside. There is also a small library with some books covering animals and plants of South Africa. Around the corner there was also a little work out room but I doubt that it was much in use. But it had the regular stuff thread mill, manuals, a stationary bike etc. There was also a small room with a couple of PCs where you could get on the internet. From the bar and restaurant we had a lovely view of the water hole where the animals relaxed more or less all day. There was also a small tower at the camp where we could climb to the top and sit down and enjoy the view of the water hole
Time to meet the wild animals
At about 4 pm we had afternoon tea/coffee and got something to nibble on before we got ready to get into the Toyota Landcruiser. Before leaving we were all asked what we wanted to drink and they brought along a cooler bag so that we could have a cold sundowner and eat some biltong. We were 8 people in the car including Charles (our guide and driver) and a tracker. We didnt drive very far before we got off the dirt road and into the grass. And before we knew it we were only a few meters away from a pride of lions. The guide told us that they had killed and eaten a Blue Wildebeest earlier and now they were just resting. It was amazing and scary to be this close to lions at least when sitting in an open car. I dont think I would have spotted them if I was on my own. Due to the rain in December the grass had grown and when they lions were laying down it was very hard to spot them.
We continued to drive on the dirt roads and Charles was in contact via radio with the other Vuyatela cars to share information on where to find animals. We drove past some buffalos and antelopes but our main goal was to find a leopard. Charles and the tracker had picked up tracks and they kept on getting out of the car to look at it and for a while it looked like we were just driving around randomly. But all of a sudden we found it not far from the dirt road we were on. The leopard got up and walked right past our car and it was even scarier then getting close to the lions. We followed it for a while before we drove to park to enjoy our sundowners.
Evening dinner at the camp
When we got back to the camp we had a little bit of time to freshen up before we went up to the main house. I had a couple of beers and Nikki enjoyed her Savanna Cider and we were getting ready to dine with the other guest. But then we were told that we would dine alone at our chalet :-) When we got to our room a table had been set up on our private deck and there were candles around on the deck. When we sat down we were served a tomato soup as a starter with sunflower bread on the side. The main meal was either chicken or tenderloin and the dessert was bread and butter pudding. It was a strange experience to sit outside and look out into the darkness while eating a good meal and listening to the sounds of nature.
All the other guests where South Africans by the way and that surprised me a little bit. I thought that this would be mainly a tourist spot.
Early in the morning
At 5 am we heard a friendly knock (as the manager Mark put it) on our door and it was time to get up. Tea/coffee water was already boiled for us in our little dining room next door and there were also some rusks that we could nibble on. At 5.30 it was time for departure and we got into our Landcruiser again. Even if the temperature was pleasant at the camp, it got a bit cold when we were driving. Fortunately there were blankets in the car that we used to keep warm. We started out where we saw the lions the day before. The lions had gone and there was not much left of the Blue Wildebeest .a skull, spine and ribcage was basically all that was left and it was eaten clean. On the road that day we drove paste Blue Wildebeest, giraffes etc. At one point we were driving pretty fast on the dirt road and all of a sudden we stopped. Charles backed the car up and all of a sudden we saw a big elephant in between some trees. It just shows that Charles was pretty awake driving and spotting animals at the same time :-) We came to a water hole in the end and in the water we saw three elephants playing around. In the lake we could also see the ears of a hippo that was happily submerged in water. Along the route we used the Djuma check list that we got on arrival. This was a little booklet that contained names of animals, birds, trees etc and we could just check of when we saw the different items.
At one point we got out of the car to go trekking a bit to see if we could find a rhino. Charles led the way with a big rifle but I was not feeling that safe anyway. We didnt find the rhino on this little walk but we found it later on when we were driving. Charles didn't want to get to close to it but it was pretty amazing to see it walking about. Later on we also had a stop next to a little lake. Charles and the tracker pulled out a table and flasks and then we were ready to have some morning tea/coffee (with Amarula if you wish) and some muffins.
We were back in the camp at about 8.30 am and then it was time for breakfast. All the guests and all the guides sat down together and enjoyed a selection of cereals, eggs made the way you want it, toast etc. It was very nice to sit down with the guides and management and have breakfast. Most times when you go to a resort you have the guests and then you have the employees. But at Vuyatela there was a nice mix at the table of guests and employees and it made us feel like we were visiting some friends.
Lazing about during the day
Getting up at 5 am takes its toll :-). So between breakfast and the afternoon drive we didnt do much apart from lazing around. We enjoyed some cold drinks, read a good book and watched the water buffalos relax at the water hole. I was hoping to go on a bush walk but this was cancelled because it was too hot. I was a bit disappointed by this of course. We had a light lunch at about 1 pm and at about 4.30 pm we were ready to go out on another game drive. Once again we came across the pride of lions that we saw the day before. They had moved to another location but they still looked pretty full from the meal that they had the day before :-) It is a pretty scary feeling to see a big lion getting up and looking right into your eyes. In other instances they looked just like a bigger version of cats. We also came across other smaller animals on our drive kudus, antelopes etc.
At night it was dinner once again. Most of the other guests had left so we were only 4 guests there at one point. But it was nice to have dinner, some nice South African red wine and talk to the other guests and the management.
Morning glory again
Once again we were woken up at 5 am. On this last drive it was only Nikki and I in the Landcruiser together with Charles and the tracker. It was a pretty grey morning and in the end if started raining. We didnt get that wet because we had been equipped with rain ponchos when we left. We drove around for a while without seeing anything and it looked like all the animals had taken shelter. But in the end we came across a family of black backed jackals and we also found a new pride of lions. These lions were also just relaxing like the other ones that we had seen the previous days. We also came across 2 male lions and an elephant in the end.We came back to the camp at about 9 am and had a large breakfast. Due to the rain that morning some pretty big snails had come out of their hiding. These were called Giant Land snails accordning to one of the other guests and they were huge :-) Norwegians complain about the slugs we have here in Norway in the summertime but they are nothing against these monsters :-).
Return to Johannesburg
At about 1 pm it was time for us to return to Joburg and we were driven to the little air strip again. A plane was waiting for us and after climbing on board we drove to the other side of the strip. This was done to lift up against the wind but also to make sure that we scared away the giraffes and the zebras that were on and close to the runway. The flight back to Joburg was pretty bumpy as we ran into a thunderstorm on the way. But the pilot managed to land safely at Johannesburg International Airport.
We paid about 10.500 Norwegian kroner (about 1700 US dollars) each for the safari including everything. For us this was pretty expensive but we figured that this would be a once in a lifetime experience so we went for it. For the money we spent we got an amazing experience. We got so close to animals that I have only seen on TV and in zoos, we got to see the famous big five, we got a room that was amazing and a staff that was so nice and friendly. So the questions is really was it worth all the money? Well, it is always hard to set a price on a unique experience. Some things are just priceless I guess. I still think that it is expensive but we enjoyed our 3 day stay at Djuma Vuyatela. Vuyatela means come and visit again according to the Djuma homepage. I wouldnt mind going back there once in the future.
Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa. It is roughly the same size and shape as Wales. It covers 18,989 square km (7,332 sq mi) and extends 350 km (217 mi) from north to south and 60 km (37 mi) from east to west. To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.