I thought I would write a blog to describe my thoughts on the Kruger National Park, why it holds a special place in my heart as well as some helpful tips and guidelines for anyone else who wants to experience the Kruger and get the most out of their experience.
Ever since I can remember, I have been going to the Kruger with my family and even to this day, it is one of my favourite places to visit. Considering I was a guide for a number of years and worked at one of the most prestigious and well known lodges/reserves in Southern Africa, you may ask why I still enjoy going to the Kruger National Park? Well, there are a number of reasons why I enjoy it and I will do my best to touch on each and every single one.
As I have mentioned before, I grew up in a small town called White River. The closest gate to our house was a mere 25 minute drive away and my family and I would pretty much go once a month into the Park for the day.
Some of my fondest memories are waking up early to the sound of my mother packing the picnic basket and my father packing the cooler box - preparing for a day in the Park. We would all jump into the car, my brothers and I would go back to sleep and we would head for the gate, trying to get there before it opened.
Often, we would be the first car at the gate where we would eagerly await the gate to open. We would all take a guess as to what the first animal would be and in doing all this, the excitement for the day would build. We would enter the gate, windows open - taking in the smells of the bush and off we would go.
After a good few hours of driving around, we would then stop at a waterhole, have some coffee, rusks and a toasted bacon and egg my mother prepared earlier that morning.
I think my parents played a huge part in creating the excitement we had as they were always very excited to be heading into the park and they had a huge part in creating the passion I now have for the bush. Ever since those early days, I find myself longing to get back to the Kruger.
There are so many special things about it - The smell of the thatch(grass roof), returning to camp in the evening and seeing everyone starting their campfires or walking along the perimeter fence seeing if we could see any animals walking by. Every single time I return to the Kruger, I am reminded of all those wonderful childhood memories.
You cannot compare the the experience between Private Reserves and the Kruger National Park as they are just far too different. For me, the Kruger isn't about photography and capturing my dream shots it's about the experience. Its about spending time out in the bush with no expectations.
I remember and still to this day it happens, where you can drive around for hours in the Park and not see anything, to me thats ok, that is what the bush is all about. It is unpredictable and really gives you an appreciation for the bush. Another reason you cannot compare the two is the price, there is a massive difference in the price and there is a reason for that. Having a guide who knows the area, knows the animals and follows them on a daily basis is a huge advantage. There are a number of other reasons to it as well such as accommodation, vehicle density etc. For the purpose of this blog I am going to keep it all about the Kruger National Park.
Yes, there is a high density of vehicles in the Kruger at any given time and can make sightings rather unpleasant. Sadly, it has not always been like that and only over the last 10 years or so it has gotten increasingly worse. Going to the Kruger, I never had/have an expectation of few cars and great sightings cause that can lead to disappointment. I rather go with the mind set of "whatever I see is a bonus" because in my opinion just being there is amazing. There are also ways to counteract the high number of vehicles and traffic.
Looking at the Park, it is a massive expanse of land which is an area the size of Wales with roads running throughout. From my experience, I have found that many people stick to the main tarmac roads and look for convenient routes as they move between camps and do short drives in the mornings and afternoons. So having said that, when I go into the park I try as much as possible to stay as far away from the main areas as possible.
Using dirt roads and doing larger routes, I try avoid the crowds. Doing this can be challenging in terms of game viewing as there are less vehicles patrolling the roads so you may see less but when you do find something, a lot of the time it may only be yourself in the sighting or, one or two other vehicles making for a much better and enjoyable experience.
In terms of camps and accommodation - The accommodation is rather basic and very rustic. There is also a variety of different types of accommodation from full on camping, semi luxurious tents to guest houses which have all the necessities to be comfortable. It all just depends on what your comfort level is and what kind of experience you wish to have. There is also an array of camps you can stay at. Some are very large and have petrol stations as well as a shop, while others are a bit more exclusive and much smaller.
I generally prefer the smaller camps as I like the privacy and how quiet they are. Once again, it just depends on what you would prefer. Considering the price of accommodation and if you have time of your hands you can try a few different kinds of accommodation. My personal favorite is Tamboti. It is a very small camp which contains tents only. Each tent over looks the beautiful Timbavati River bed and the evening sounds are simply incredible. On this past trip we heard a variety of owls, nightjars, hyena, lions and leopard. To me, there is nothing better than falling asleep to all the nocturnal sounds of the bush.
All in all, it is an incredible place to visit and if you are someone that just enjoys being out in the bush then this is an experience for you.
I must say, when leaving the park I always have a sad feeling in my stomach but guaranteed, I will be back soon and its only a matter of time until I plan my next adventure in the Kruger National Park.
Take a look below at some of the highlights from past visits...
Until next time,