Heaven could definitely be a place on earth. It is called Shingwedzi.
Shingwedzi is our favourite rest camp in the Kruger National Park. Located in the far north of the Park, on the bank of the Shingwedzi river, it’s as far away from the hustle and bustle of the city as you could hope to get.
Shingwedzi feels genuinely untouched by the passing of time. The exteriors of the huts built when the camp first opened in the 1930’s have remained largely unchanged, though the interiors have been modernized over the years, and the camping area is very, very spacious. Over the years additional accommodation units and facilities have been provided and these days the camp has a restaurant with a thatched veranda overlooking the river, a medium-sized shop stocked with curios and basic commodities and a filling station, while the swimming pool offers welcome respite from the heat of Shingwedzi’s tropical summers. None of the additions however has detracted from Shingwedzi’s old-world charm.
Inside the camp, small animals and birds abound and have become quite accustomed to having people in close proximity, providing excellent photographic opportunities.
The Shingwedzi is a temperamental river; devoid of surface water for most of the dry season it can quickly swell to incredible dimensions after a deluge. We witnessed one such flash flood in January 2006; the pictures below were taken one day apart:
The low level causeway across the river outside Shingwedzi’s southern gate is a particularly beautiful spot to while away the last minutes just before the gates close in the evening, and there’s always some interesting birds and animals in the vicinity.
There are three excellent game-viewing drives to undertake from Shingwedzi. The first, to the south-west (road S52), follows both the southern and northern banks of the Shingwedzi river towards the Tshange viewpoint. The spectacular cliffs and pools at Red Rocks are well worth the short detour along the way.
The second route (S56) follows the course of the Mphongolo river to the north, through beautiful riverine woodland, and ends at the Babalala picnic site.
Our favourite Kruger Park route of all (the S50) follows the Shingwedzi River in a south-easterly direction towards the Lebombo Mountains. Numerous little loops offer peaceful vantage points over the waters of the Kanniedood Dam and the hides at Nyawutsi and Kanniedood are enjoyable alternatives to driving around. Along this route we’ve often seen crocodiles using their bodies to herd schools of fish to the bank where they can then be picked off easily.
This is elephant country. Large breeding herds, bachelor groups and lone bulls can be expected along any of the drives that radiate from Shingwedzi, and not all of them are equally happy to share their living space with curious humans so are best appreciated from a safe distance. Over the years we’ve had the pleasure of encountering a number of elephant bulls carrying extraordinary ivory whilst staying at Shingwedzi.
Another reason why we like Shingwedzi so much is that you have a very good chance of getting good sightings of the rarer antelope species that occur in the Kruger National Park.
In the late afternoon one often find baboons and vervet monkeys lounging in and under the large trees on the river banks, getting ready for the dark of night ahead. Their antics can keep you entertained for hours.
In the far north of Kruger, Shingwedzi is your best bet at finding Africa’s mega predators, with hyena, leopard and lion being relatively plentiful and often found along any of the roads in the region. Taking part in one of the guided night drives on offer often results in good sightings of these sought-after animals.
And now that I’ve pondered over all the reasons Shingwedzi’s so close to our hearts, I still can come to only one conclusion.
It’s true: Shingwedzi is heaven on earth.