Have you always wanted to go on a safari, maybe the next step up for visiting Australia Zoo. Well I’m going to paint you a picture as to what it’s like visiting Kruger National Park in Southern Africa.
Going on safari is one of those true life adventure experiences that no David Attenborough film can ever recreate. When you set out on your first game drive you have a sense of anticipation, although you have safety in numbers, another six traveling with you, your sitting up high in an open Land Cruiser and the tracker in the front seat is holding a rifle, just in case. Its still a little unnerving as you enter the bush for the first time, the ranger stops, everyone is very quiet, sun is just rising, you pick up the crunching sounds of breaking branches getting closer. Within seconds you’re up close and personal with a massive bull elephant as he appears through the camouflage of the bush and passes by you within a couple of meters, my first lucky sighting.
Every game drive is different.
Activity in the bush centres around first light and again around dusk, which means if you are staying in a Private Lodge within the park you are going to have some very early starts. Expect to be gone by 5:30am and return to your lodge around 9 for breakfast. If your thinking about sleeping in one morning and giving your daily am game drive a miss you’ll be bitterly disappointed. You’re in an uncontrolled eco environment where its guaranteed you will never see the same thing twice. So if you have been waiting to photograph a rare white rhino….you guessed it!
What happens during the day.
For Lodge dwellers, after breakfast you will have the morning to visit cultural villages, get driven into townships for shopping, hot air ballooning or any number of adventurous activities. Afternoons tend to centre around cocktails by the pool and sleeping before you hop back on the horse and head out for your sunset safari drive before dinner.
If your staying outside the park your traditional activities could be centred around, guided game drives, Hiking trails in the Sabie Valley area, white water rafting, visiting the endangered species rehab centre and tours of nearby schools and cultural villages for souvenir shopping.
What are my accommodation options.
Accommodation at Kruger varies from high end Private Game Lodges, which are built within the park and tend to have concession or exclusive areas for game drives, meaning less congestion and wildlife sightings will be closer and more intimate. Other options, B&B’s, guest houses, lodges, hotels and self-catering facilities, which are great for families. Other than the Private Game Lodges these accommodation offerings tend to be outside the boundaries of Kruger and provide guests a variety of options for day safaris into the park.
As you know, the better the experience the more expensive, and I mean expensive. Private Lodges or Safari Camps are at the top of the tree. My experiences were at Kirkman’s Kamp, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, adjacent to Kruger. www.andbeyond.com and Simbavati River Lodge, in greater Kruger National Park. www.simbavati.com I suggest you consider staying at more than one lodge. In my case I chose Kirkman’s because of the standout historic original homestead and Simbavati because it offers tented accommodation. Two totally different experiences. The average stay, I think about 4 days in each is plenty.
Choose to stay in different regions within the park. Kruger is around 20,000 square klm’s. Its a huge area and encompasses a vast array of habitats and species that are unique to different areas within the park. Although you will of course find the Big Five roaming throughout, but as I found, no guarantee you will see everything you hope for.
Stay with me and in a later Blog we will travel to Cape Town on the world famous Blue Train and visit the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, experience the Cape Winelands and drive down to the trendy beach town of Camp’s Bay to see the Penguin colonies.