I have travelled to many of Africa’s great parks. I have camped on the shores of the Mara River and walked beneath the Albida forest canopy in Mana Pools. I have explored the seemingly barren sands of the Kalahari and have crossed the channels of the Okavango Delta.
Yet there’s one place that causes a little butterfly to take flight within me, yet sadly seems forgotten by many others. It’s a place well visited and explored, yet never seems to grow old or tire.
This is the Kruger National Park, the absolute gem of South Africa’s National Parks.
I was fortunate to have practically grown up in Kruger. I spent my younger years in a little town called Phalaborwa. As a child I will always remember the lions calling almost every night. Some nights they would walk beyond the boundaries of the park and into the outskirts of town. My dad would wake my sister and I, and spotlight in hand we would jump into the car at 3am and go in search of the vocal big cats.
Seeing impala & warthog grazing our lawns would not be anything out of the ordinary, and one would have to be careful of driving at night as hippo’s are a common sight after dark.
Kruger was my back yard where I would spend every single weekend with my dad. He showed me the wonders of this great park and laid the foundations of who I am today.
So why visit Kruger for yourself?
Well, simply because it is one of the greatest wilderness area’s in the world!
The park itself is massive. It is one of Africa’s largest parks covering an area of 19,633 square kilometres (7,580 sq mi). It extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from North to South. The first protected areas of the park was established 116 years ago, giving the park a rich ad fascinating history.
The park is very rich in fauna and flora!
The park boasts roughly 517 species of birds, 147 mammal species (more than any other African reserve), 114 reptile species, 33 species of amphibians and 50 species of fish. What a wealth of natural beauty!
It is great to see all of the statistics mentioned above, yet they are not the only reason for my love of Kruger.
Kruger has this magical way about it. It has a way of romancing its visitors in a charming manner which is sure to grip hold of your heart.
Exploring Kruger can be likened to a journey filled with exciting adventures. The vastness of the park is addictive; one can’t wait to see what is waiting around the next corner.
The south of the Park is popular as it hosts a large amount of animals. Sighting of elusive leopards and rare African wild dogs are not uncommon. The scenery is stunning with several large rivers cutting through the landscape.
As you move further north the landscape will open up and large herds of general game can be encountered. Following close behind the herds are large prides of lion. Cheetah are also common within these area’s, as are leopards. The grasslands around camps such as Satara can play host to incredible numbers of game & predators alike! Large elephant bulls also call these areas home.
As you move north of the Olifants River one enter Mopane country. This tree species seems to dominate most of the park.
To the far north of Kruger one will enter one of the most beautiful and scenic areas in Africa. Storybook-like forests of yellow Fever Tree’s are abundant. The bird life here is spectacular and one can often be rewarded with special animal encounters. This part of the park also tends to be quieter than the south, a great getaway for those who prefer the sensation of “losing” themselves with nature.
One of the most exciting offerings of Kruger National Park are the private concessions and adjoining private reserves. These private lodges & camps will give you a glimpse into the lives of Kruger’s animals like never seen before. Yes, they are more expensive than the classic rest camps on offer within the park itself, but the game viewing experience is incredible, as is the experience at the lodges themselves.
I have been fortunate to have guided at a few of the best lodges within Kruger. The sightings one can enjoy here of Kruger’s predators simply can’t be beat. As a photographer this is undoubtedly the way to go and will allow you the best opportunities of photographing your favourite animals, all whilst enjoying the luxuries that come with staying at a private lodge. The fact that the animals within the private areas are more relaxed, and that you can follow a few of them off-road makes for fantastic viewing.
All in all, Kruger has so much to offer it visitors. Every day seems to offer something new and exciting.
For those who have spent some time within Kruger, I am sure you can relate with me.
I absolutely love the feeling of arriving at one of the Kruger rest camps. It is tough to put my finger on one specific aspect. It is the smell of the thatch and freshly varnished wood, the views from the lunch deck and the sense of excitement from all of the other visitors. It is all the birds that come and visit you at breakfast. Yellow-billed Hornbills, Starlings, Red-eyed Doves, Crested Barbets and Black-capped Bulbuls all make your breakfast table their feeding ground; much to the amusement of the visitors.
Each camp also seems to have a special little attraction to look for. It might be a pair or resident African Scops Owlets, friendly bushbuck or perhaps a Thick-tailed Bushbaby.
If you have visited Kruger you will know exactly what I am talking about. Don’t you?
Kruger is special.
Kruger is timeless.
Kruger deserves a visit.
The magical landscape within the incredible park with grab a hold of your heartstrings and I can promise a first visit will not be your last.
Until next time,
Marlon du Toit
* * *
Join Marlon in the Kruger National Park
Marlon will be hosting our 4 and 8 night Kruger National Park Photo Safaris in May 2015.More Info...