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Kruger National Park- A winter visit
Always surprises as you visit Kruger!
Kruger Game Reserve-at the end of winter.
The veldt is dry, the rivers without water and the animals and plants call out for the spring rains that usually come in the first week of October. Along the fence of the Berg-en- Dal rest camp in southern Kruger a Hyena calls out its hooping call as the campsite settles down for the night.
Driving through the reserve one is reminded of the dramatic scene in Walt Disney’s Lion King as the whole African landscape is withering away as it awaits the refreshing of the first rain of summer. In a couple of weeks the rain will come and the grass will change from its drab brown colour to the green of summer. The trees that have shed their green leaves from last year will begin to sprout new growth, changing the landscape dramatically. The rivers that are sandy, rock filled hollows will begin to flow and new life will begin.
As we travelled through the southern parts of the park today we were lucky enough to see four of the big five and many with young in tow. The Elephant herds had many young ones under the close supervision of their mothers. We also saw young Hippos, Buffalo and Rhinos. The three Lions we saw in the bed of the Sabie River were all adults but a few days ago on the Pretorius Kop road we saw our biggest pride of Lions we have ever seen, with young and old resting near the road in anticipation of another nights hunting. Sleeping in yesterday we missed the two adult Leopards with a cub seen by those who left the camp as the gates opened at 6.00. We did see a mature Leopard in a tree about 5 km from the camp making this another big five visit.
It is however the birds that we really enjoy and today our list reached the 100 mark as we added Yellow-billed, Marabou and Black Stork to our count. It was however some of the small birds that excited us such as the Little Bee-eater and the Double-banded Sandgrouse, also birds that we do not see in the Easter Cape where we live. According to the bird guides a “competent” birder can expect to list 100 birds in a day during summer in Kruger. The bird list for the game reserve is about 450 species with some being summer visitors.
There are different ways of visiting this world renowned Game reserve situated on the N/E border of South Africa. You can take a package with one of the many tour operators that ply their trade in this area. At a price they will put you up in luxury accommodation in or near the park and then drive you in their game viewing vehicles in search of the animals and birds.
Another way it to self- drive and stay in the comfortable self- catering accommodation provided in all the camps in Kruger. A cheaper option is to camp in the excellently equipped camp grounds that are found in most camps. Bathroom and kitchen facilities are available and boiling water for coffee/tea. This is our choice as it is reasonably cheap and provides an atmosphere that is truly African safari style. As the braai fires are lit in the evening the sounds of the animals in the surrounding bush gives one a real feel for Africa. Campers around their fires share stories of animals seen or missed and this is what makes Kruger the magic place that it is. Some in the campground have caravans or mobile homes while other simply have a tent and a couple of deck chairs, it is all a matter of personal choice or economics.
Every camp has a shop that sells essential food and curios. There is also a restaurant for the visitor who does not want to self-cater. Most camps have a swimming pool where you can cool off in the heat of the day. Yesterday temperatures rose to 38 degrees but today it was much cooler at 22 degrees. This in South African Lowveldt and temperatures in summer can be very hot. In winter they are pleasantly moderate.
Kruger is large and extends some 350 km from north to south while its average width is about 60km. It has a variety of vegetation regions with several important rivers flowing from west to east, providing excellent game viewing and birding along the riverine forests. The area around Berg en Dal where we are staying is mountainous and so a good area for Leopard. Further north the landscape becomes more plains like and that is more suitable for the Cheetah.
A plaque in the camp tells of a young game ranger who was killed by a Leopard recently. All over the world game rangers die while on duty every year. 80% while fighting poachers.
Many people rate this game reserve as the greatest in the world and in our opinion is takes some beating because of its excellent infrastructure and great variety of birds, animals and other wild life. Today we saw our first really big snake in the form of a huge Python that was curled up in the fork of a tree. Every visit is guaranteed to provide a new surprise or two!