Things we loved about Kruger

Typical Kruger scenery – Mopane shrubs in foreground with a huge Baobab on the koppie (small hill). ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

I had not been to the Kruger National Park since I was a child, and my memories from that childhood visit were very sketchy. Willie had been there more recently, but it had also been many years ago. So our visit there in August 2016, felt like we were going there for the first time.

For many people (both South Africans and tourists), Kruger is the ultimate wildlife reserve experience. It is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and is where you can see the so-called Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) in one area. We can now understand the attraction  – it is a stunning place!

So what are the things we loved about Kruger?

The size and scale

Looking at a map of South Africa showing the area covered by the Kruger National Park, and considering the statistics quoted in Wikipedia*, does not convey the vastness of this wilderness area. As we drove from south to north we passed through various vegetation zones including areas of bushveld, thorn thickets, woodlands and savannah.  To accommodate this much diversity requires space. [If you are interested in the vegetation types you can see more information and a map here.]

Map of South Africa with The Kruger Park shown in red. Map source: Honi on Wikipedia.

* Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa, and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west. – Wikipedia.

If one drives up one of the koppies on the main north-south road, one sees a 360 degree view of wilderness all the way to the horizon. We saw big herds of elephants be dwarfed by huge trees and be swallowed up by the bush as they moved away from the road.

Looking south-west from a viewpoint at . . . LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Looking south-west from a viewpoint on a koppie. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Looking north-west from viewpoint at . . . ©LB/notesfromafrica.com

Looking north-west from viewpoint on the same koppie. ©LB/notesfromafrica.com

The Huge Rivers

Everything in Kruger is big and the rivers are no exception. I was blown away at the width of these rivers. In the Southern Cape where we live, rivers are narrower often running through deep gorges. Because of the flatter landscape in Kruger one can see down the rivers for kilometres.

The rivers and river beds are also teeming with animals and birds – either coming down to the water to drink, or in the case of hippo and crocodile living in and along the rivers.

My personal favourite was the Olifants (Elephant) River which you can view from various lookout points along its course. I read somewhere that the Olifants River has one of the highest concentrations of crocodile in Africa. We certainly saw a lot of crocs there!

Looking east down the Olifants River from the Olifants camp restaurant. ©LB/notefromafrica.wordpress.com

Looking east down the Olifants River from the Olifants camp restaurant. ©LB/notefromafrica.wordpress.com

 

The Oliphants River looking back towards the Olifants camp on the hill on the right-hand side. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

The Olifants River looking back towards the Olifants camp on the hill on the right-hand side. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Early morning at the Letaba River. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Early morning at the Letaba River. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Of course with these huge rivers, flooding is a series threat. Two major floods have hit this region in the last 16 years – in February 2000 and again in January 2013. In both cases the major rivers in Kruger flooded their banks and swept through several camps. Although damage to buildings has been repaired, one can still see the reminders of these floods today in photographs and flood-level plaques at those camps.

The Impressive Trees

We usually spend our holidays (vacations) in the drier desert regions of Southern Africa, where even the biggest thorn trees do not rival the size of the Kruger trees. Before we visited Kruger, I had heard of how the big elephant population of Kruger did a lot of damage to the vegetation. That is true in some of the bushveld and thicket areas. But the elephants have left a lot of trees standing and they have grown to a majestic size. It is difficult to show this in a photo because there was not always a handy animal close by to provide some scale.

Beautiful trees lining a river. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Beautiful trees lining a river. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

 

Huge Baobab Tree near the Satara camp. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Huge Baobab Tree near the Satara camp. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Big tree in the Letaba rest camp. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Big tree in the Letaba camp with person included to provide scale! ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

The feeling of being in the “real” Africa

The feeling of being in the “real” Africa is something difficult to describe. It also means different things to different people. For me it is not just the bushveld or the presence of African wild animals, but is also the big blue skies, endless horizons, the heat and the sounds of the bush (a unique combination of bird calls, animal cries and insects buzzing).

©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Central Kruger near Satara - it is very dry at the moment and reminds me of the Kalahari. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Central Kruger near Satara – it is very dry at the moment and reminds me of the Kalahari. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

 

The Big Herds & Big Cats

Although it is exciting to see the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) in one area, what I loved about Kruger was the big herds. The herds of elephant, buffalo, giraffe and zebras, amongst other species, are often large. Even hippos and crocodiles congregate in bigger groups than I have seen elsewhere.

And then there is the chance to see the big cats – lion, leopard and cheetah. Although we did have good sighting of these, sometimes they were just too far from the road to get good photographs. The leopards in Kruger are also very elusive – you can read about our quest to find and photograph the Kruger leopards here.

A huge herd of buffalo in the early morning. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

A huge herd of buffalo in the early morning. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

A herd of giraffe so big they could not captured in one image. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

A herd of giraffe so big we could not capture it in one image. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Big elephant family group. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Big elephant family group. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

More elephants. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

More elephants. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Large group of hippos sunning themselves on a river bank. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Large group of hippos sunning themselves on a river bank. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

So if you are wondering whether you should visit Kruger, don’t hesitate. You won’t be disappointed.

This post is part of a series of Kruger National Park posts I will be publishing. It is also part of my daily posts for October 2016 – otherwise known as The October Dash

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Categories: Lifestyle/Travel, Nature/Environment

Author:lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)

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11 Comments on “Things we loved about Kruger”

  1. October 1, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    What a wonderful start to The October Dash, Lisa. I have never been to the Kruger Park, but your pictures and descriptions have made me very curious. The landscape looks so different to the parks and reserves we have down here in the Cape, a bit more like central/northern Namibia perhaps. Did you go on game drives with guides during your visit, or was it all self-drive?

    BTW, do you know whether it is necessary to take malaria prophylaxis throughout the year when visiting the Kruger? Or are there times of year when it isn’t necessary?

    • October 1, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

      Kruger is definitely worth a visit – I think you would love it there. We didn’t travel further north than Etosha, but a friend who recently visited northern Namibia and Caprivi said it was very much like Kruger.

      We mostly did self-drives, but there is the opportunity at most of the camps to do morning and evening drives with a local ranger. In some camps they also offer walking tours – so you hike into the bush with rangers (carrying rifles!). Willie did go on the night drives – there’s an interesting story to tell about the one night drive! 🙂

      We were there the first two weeks of August and were told by our doctor that it wasn’t necessary to take any anti-malaria drugs. Although it wasn’t cold there (minimums around 10C and maximums up to 30C) we only saw one mosquito which Willie promptly squashed!

      • October 1, 2016 at 9:28 pm #

        Walking into the veld with a knowledgeable guide sounds amazing… When we visited the Onjala Lodge to the east of Windhoek in 2014, there were a couple of walking trails we could do without a guide. I found that we were very alert to our surroundings particularly when the bush was more dense – you never know what you might encounter!

        I’ve not been on a night drive – I look forward to hearing all about Willie’s experience.

        Annd I’m relieved to hear you don’t necessarily need anti-malarial drugs when you visit the Kruger.

        Good luck for the rest of the October Dash! 🙂

  2. October 2, 2016 at 2:53 am #

    I really enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the park. The big herds of animals on the move are very impressive!

    • October 3, 2016 at 8:28 am #

      The bigger herds literally create traffic jams when they decide to cross the road. Will include some photos of this in a later post.

  3. Eha
    October 3, 2016 at 1:24 am #

    Well, this my second ‘go’ at trying to cross The Indian Ocean to say how interesting I found my first foray into ‘your Kruger Park’! Even reposted it . . . A much wider view than I imagined and oh so dry!! Did not expect that!! Just love the sunbaking hippos 🙂 !!

    • October 3, 2016 at 8:38 am #

      The Kruger National Park is experiencing a drought this year. Will be writing more about that in a later post. I also never knew that hippos liked to sunbathe – especially not in such large groups.

  4. October 7, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

    I don`t know why but the hippos sunning made me laugh. They remind me of one of our dogs, otherwise known as “the turgid cell” lying in the sun, bloated and blissful.

    • October 8, 2016 at 10:30 am #

      LOL Before we went to Kruger, I really had no idea that the hippos lay about in the sun like that. Always assumed that they stayed in the water during the heat of the day. What kind of dog is “the turgid cell”?

      • October 8, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

        A slightly overweight mini long haired dachshund- who just accidentally got shaved completely at the groomer, this highlighting the weight issue….

      • October 9, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

        LOL I have this very funny mental image of this poor doggie! It’s bad when even your own humans are making fun of you! 🙂

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