Satara is unique among the Kruger National Park‘s camps. It is not situated on a serene river bank or atop a hill commanding views over the wilderness. Instead, it is located seemingly in the middle of a vast plain of flat grasslands and thornveld as far as the eye can see, inhabited by thousands of grazing animals and of course the predators that follow them. And that’s exactly the reason for Satara’s popularity; it probably has the highest density of large African predators in the entire Kruger.
Satara is a misspelling of the Hindi word “satrah”, meaning seventeen, and so named by a land surveyor and his Indian assistant measuring up this piece of the lowveld for farmland in the late 1800’s. Colonel James Stevenson-Hamilton appointed Tim Healy as the first ranger to the post at Satara in 1910, and he was followed by ranger W. Lloyd, who met an untimely death due to pneumonia and was buried by his wife and a servant in a coffin made from ceiling planks, just outside the present perimeter of the camp. By 1929, 3 years after the Kruger National Park was proclaimed, the first twelve huts at Satara were made available to overnight visitors, and by 1974, with the threat of malaria and soggy roads in the rainy season adequately under control, visitors could enjoy Satara all year round (instead of just during winter).
Today, Satara is the second biggest, and by far one of the most popular, rest camp in the Kruger National Park, offering a variety of accommodation and camping options to overnight guests, serviced by a restaurant, shop and filling station. Satara has a large amphitheatre where wildlife filmshows are presented in the evenings, and in the projector room is an interesting display about the camp and the Park’s wildlife. The camp also has a large swimming pool and play area for those hot summer days, and guests can join a variety of guided activities like walks and drives. Inside the camp a rich variety of smaller animals and birds are quite at home; Satara’s famous for its owls, badgers and wild cats.
Mention Satara, and anyone who has ever been there will likely immediately think about the S100; a gravel road leading to Nwanetsi Picnic Spot and the most popular drive in the Satara area. The S90, S100, S41 and H6 roads explore the game-rich area to the east of Satara and seldom disappoints. Nwanetsi has a cliff-top viewpoint overlooking a peaceful stretch of water, while the Sweni Hide nearby is probably the better option for serious photographers.
The most direct access to Satara is through Orpen Gate, about 50km to the west along the tarred H7-route. This road offers excellent opportunities for seeing the “Big 5“, especially near Nsemani Dam, or along the short detour to Girivana waterhole. In fact, we often end our time at Satara by spending our final afternoon at Girivana, enjoying the procession of animals and birds coming to slake their thirst in the golden light of the setting sun.
Two long but very rewarding gravel roads turn of the H7 about 20km from Satara: Turn north and you’ll be following the S39-road to the popular Timbavati picnic spot and Ratelpan Hide (and onwards to the Olifants River if you wish), or turn south and follow the S36-road towards the rustic, and much quieter, Muzandzeni and Nhlanguleni picnic spots. Over the years, we’ve had excellent sightings on both roads though the road towards Timbavati probably offers slightly more frequent encounters with Kruger’s big game. Along both routes there’s also turnoffs that will get you back to Satara quicker, if you find yourself pressed for time, and that also provide good game viewing opportunities.
The H1-3 road south to Tshokwane Picnic Spot, and the H1-4 northwards to the Olifants River, both passes several waterholes and often offers wonderful sightings of the big cats, especially in the early morning. It’s also worthwile taking a longer detour to the Lindanda Memorial, at the site where ranger Harry Wolhuter had his epic battle with a lion.
Satara’s an excellent choice for those hoping to see Africa’s big predators in abundance, but it has so much more to offer and enjoy. Spend a couple of hours at Girivana, soaking in the peace and quiet of a golden African sunset, and you’re sure to agree.