South Africa - Kruger National Park - overview
I have visited the Kruger National Park on three occasions. The first time was in 2001 armed only with suggestions from friends that had been to South Africa. On arrival I, accompanied by my eldest daughter, grabbed tourist booklets, maps and brochures at Johannesburg airport before collecting our hire car.
These really useful booklets provided lists and locations of guest houses around the countryside but, on subsequent visits, were no longer available. A pity since these were invaluable for planning a tour of the region – and there is plenty to see.
On this first occasion we drove up to Punda Maria at the top end of the park, with an overnight stay en route in a family run guest house. It was a very friendly experience. The room in which we stayed was clean, spacious and nicely decorated. Dinner and breakfast were excellent. It was a boutique style experience for only £20!
Our trip through Kruger National Park bought us out at the bottom end at Paul Kruger Gate, staying two nights in the park (luckily finding vacancies). On my more recent trips I had not been able to pre-book accommodation in the Kruger camps so stayed outside the park, buying daily entrance permits. For those planning a “safari” its well worth planning in advance to ensure accommodation in the park.
The park gates open at dawnand close at sundown (the actual opening and closing hours vary by month). The camps inside the park are gated and one must be inside the gates by those same hours. There are day-rate permits and permits for those with confirmed bookings at the park lodges. These lodges are mini-villages with coffee shops, bars, restaurants, mini-markets and souvenir shops.
We took a night tour, very cold, with an armed driver / guide, but saw little more than the reflected light from the eyes of what was apparently a honey badger! It’s the experience that counts!!
One objective of a visit to the Kruger park, or any game reserve, is to see the Big Five: elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and wildebeest. On the first trip we saw all but the leopard, so when an opportunity arose for me to make a stopover in Johannesburg I took a four-day holiday, and was rewarded with a sighting of a leopard.
The following year I took another short stop-over in which I saw a pride of lions, including three males, majestically walking on the edge of a water hole. In addition to various types of antelope there are plenty of birds, reptiles, wild cats and dogs. The only issue, all too often, is the bad driving habits of some visitors who feel they own the roads.
There is plenty to see in the park and I favour the smaller roads – dusty but less traffic!. The Official Guide is critical as it gives maps of the roads and waterholes as well as descriptions of the vegetation, camps, historical sites, animals and birds. It also provides the rules and regulations which are not simply important, they save lives!