i’m so excited to share these photos of our trip to the bush! a lot of what we saw couldn’t be captured on film – the animals are simply too fast for you sometimes, and most of the time they’re too far away to get a great shot – unless you have a telephoto lens (and you’ll see a lot of people with SERIOUS lenses in the park, trying to get that perfect shot). our best moments were experienced through binoculars – which are an essential item to have if you’re ever considering a trip to Kruger (or any game park in Africa).
for those of you who have never been to the Kruger National Park – or even to South Africa for that matter – i’ll give you some idea of how things go. the park is situated in the north east part of SA, and it’s fenced all around its boundary (see a map of it here). you can only get in and out by one of the 9 entrance gates that are on its perimeter. these gates are open between certain times (usually around 6am-6pm depending on the season). there are many rest camps inside the park where you can stay – from camping accommodation to luxury guest houses. you are not allowed to hang out in the park after closing time because it’s obviously insanely dangerous to be out in the wild after dark.
we stayed just outside the park by the Paul Kruger gate, so we had to be up every morning at 5am to get to the gate when it opened, because you’re most likely to see the best game early in the morning and late in the afternoon. around lunch time when the day is at its hottest, and animals are probably snoozing in the shade somewhere, we’d find a picnic spot where we’d make toasted sarmies – or burgers if we were feeling fancy. then we’d head back out for another drive, reaching the gate before closing time.
driving in your car is fine though, you don’t have to worry about safety unless you come across a tetchy elephant in the road – in which case you need to reverse away slowly… and maybe a bit faster if he starts charging you (let’s hope that never happens). the rule of thumb is that if the elephants are in a herd you don’t have to worry, they’re pretty chilled. but if you come across a lone bull, he might not be as friendly. same goes for a lone female if she has a calf with her. if an ellie starts flapping its ears at you, and shaking its head from side to side, back away… and leave it alone.
we were lucky enough to see all the big five – including a young leopard that eluded us until the very last day. we also saw an amazing encounter between wild dogs and hyenas (pics further down). it’s quite rare to spot wild dogs in the park, so this was a super special thing to have seen. the wonderful thing about the park is that you get so excited about all the wildlife, even the birds and the insects. seeing dung beetles rolling dung and kingfishers catching fish – that’s the magic stuff.
anyway, enough of my rambling. here are some general tips if you’re ever planning a trip to Kruger. and if you’re not planning a trip, you should. it is one of the most amazing places in the world.
- binoculars are your best friend. get a good one, your dad’s old binoculars from the eighties won’t do.
- you don’t need a 4×4 for kruger – a normal car is totally fine. just drive SLOWLY.
- take lots of snacks in the car. a flask of coffee and rusks is the best thing early morning when it’s fresh outside and you’re parking at a waterhole. don’t forget the sweeties.
- some of the picnic spots have Cadacs that you can rent, so take stuff in a cooler box that you can make. eggs, bacon, burgers, toasties… the options are endless
- get a good map of the park and take a different route every day, try to stay off the main roads. we hung out mostly in southern kruger, but managed to see a different section of the park every day (it’s a big place!)
- don’t get out of your car unless you’re at a picnic spot, a rest camp or you’re with have rangers that have BIG GUNS. also be careful of the elephants!
- try to visit in autumn / winter (may-august). it’s much cooler, and it’s the dry season too – which means that it’s less green and far easier to spot game. the animals also chill at the waterholes because water is more scarce.
- go on a game walk with some rangers, you can organise trips like this at the rest camps. they can be pretty scary (if you’re a wuss like me) but most of the time you’re not likely to see any big animals as they smell you and get out of the way long before you arrive. also, the rangers have big guns. did i mention that already?