Tag Archives: Olifants Rest Camp

Our 2016 in pictures

Looking back on another year of enjoying South Africa’s beautiful wild places!

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Never miss an opportunity to go back to Lower Sabie and Olifants!

There was a reason I dedicated the previous two posts on de Wets Wild to Lower Sabie and Olifants, two of the most popular camps in the Kruger National Park. That is because I had the opportunity to visit both camps again earlier this week, and now that you have been introduced to both destinations we can all just sit back and enjoy some photos from this latest trip. Here’s hoping you enjoy the gallery as much as I enjoyed putting it together!

 

Sweeping views over the Olifants

Olifants Rest Camp, Kruger National Park

Olifants Rest Camp undoubtedly offers the best views of any of the Kruger National Park‘s camps, situated as it is on a cliff high above the Olifants River in the central regions of the Park. Many guests spend all day on their accommodation unit’s veranda, using their binoculars to scan the river below and the plains beyond for wildlife, or simply soaking in one of the grandest vistas in wild Africa.

Olifants was opened in June 1960, though it was closed for a 16 month period in the early 1970’s after a fire destroyed the reception, restaurant and shop. The cliff-top viewpoint near the restaurant is one of the most popular spots in the entire Park, and during the day is always packed with spectators enjoying the wildlife show along the river banks below. The camp offers guests a choice of 112 accommodation units, ranging from 2 and 3 bed bungalows to two luxurious and very exclusive guest houses that accommodate up to 8 guests each. Some of the accommodation units have been built right on the edge of the cliff, offering guests the most exquisite views, but you have to book a year in advance if you want to secure one of those. The two-bedroomed cottage number 14 is a personal favourite of ours. Olifants also offers guests a Mugg & Bean restaurant (itself with stunning views), a shop, filling station, small meeting room, swimming pool, picnic area for day visitors and guided activities.

Nearby, tiny Balule is a much more rustic camp offering accommodation in a small camping area and six very basic three-bed huts on the southern bank of the Olifants River. The huts were built in 1930 in the “Selby” style: a rondavel (round hut) without any windows, just a gap all around between the roof and wall for ventilation. The huts share a communal kitchen (with a paraffin freezer) and ablution block, and the same applies to the camping sites. Balule has no electricity and paraffin lamps are used to provide light at night. During the Apartheid years Balule was available only to non-white visitors.

Just outside Balule, a low level causeway crosses the Olifants River. The pontoon-crossing that operated over the river since 1929 was replaced by the causeway in 1937, but the old bridge was extensively damaged in the massive floods of January 2012 and had to be rebuilt. The high-span bridge across the same river, on the main tarred H1 route through the Park, lies about 5km due west from Balule and affords visitors the opportunity to stop and stretch their legs while enjoying the views up- and downstream. Both bridges are very popular with guests to Olifants, as they allow close-up views of so many of the river’s denizens.

South of Olifants, the roads initially follow the course of the river before leading down to the Satara-area. Nwamanzi offers more spectacular views over the Olifants, and the open plains south of the river host a huge number and variety of game and birds. Bangu waterhole and the Hlahleni stream crossing on the S90, as well as the Ngotso Weir on the S89, are especially rewarding spots to wait for the herds (and the predators that prey on them) to come and drink.

North of Olifants you enter the mopane-dominated northern plains of Kruger. There’s two general options of routes leading northwards from Olifants, both leading to Letaba Rest Camp. The quickest route follows the tarred H8 and H1-5 roads and is often very quiet game viewing-wise, especially once the road turns away from the river. The gravel S44, S93 and S46 roads follows the course of the Olifants and Letaba rivers through some very rocky terrain with several stream crossings and, apart from a lovely viewing point downstream from camp and the historic Von Wielligh’s Baobab, usually also offers lots more wildlife to see.

For scenic splendour alone, there’s no other camp in Kruger that can compete with Olifants. Combine that with the camp’s great facilities and excellent game viewing drives in the vicinity, and you’ll understand why it has become a firm favourite with many Kruger visitors.

 

Summer heat at Olifants

After three nights at Lower Sabie it was time to move northwards to the central regions of the Kruger National Park. Just as we set off, a light drizzle started falling, and kept falling for the entire 50km or so distance between Lower Sabie and Tshokwane picnic site. While the low clouds meant that we could not enjoy the magnificent view from the top of Nkumbe mountain, we did not mind having a break from the previous few days’ oppressive heat! Pretty soon little puddles were forming on rocks and in the road, and while the shower would not have broken the drought, it would have brought a little bit of relief to the parched veld.

Between Tshokwane and Satara we encountered two more pairs of mating lions. While one couple moved away from the road for more privacy, the other was a lot more relaxed in the company of the few cars that had gathered to watch them. The prevailing drought makes catching prey much easier, and the way the lions are going on there will soon be many more young and hungry mouths to feed.

After lunch (take-away pizzas enjoyed in Satara‘s day visitors area) we tackled the final stretch of the long drive from Lower Sabie to Olifants Rest Camp. The plains between Satara and the Olifants River were positively teeming with wildlife of all descriptions.

Checking in at Olifants Rest Camp, we were given the keys to our cottage, number 14, one of the most popular units in the camp, and for good reason. The view of the wide bend of the Olifants River with its pods of hippos and lurking crocodiles far below, the endless wild plains beyond and the continuous stream of game and birds arriving to slake their thirst, is almost unrivaled anywhere on the continent, and you can take it all in from the comfort of a sofa on the wide veranda!

With the area around Olifants suffering from an extreme drought and intense heat, we thought it best to stick to the routes along the Olifants River and some of its tributaries that still held water for our afternoon drive. The high bridge and low-level causeway crossing the Olifants, and the weir at the Ngotso-crossing (on the S89 route) proved to be hot-beds of wildlife activity, though in the areas in between, away from the water, there were few animals to be found.

Next morning we were already waiting, with a few other cars, at Olifants’ gate for the 04:30AM opening – that’s the way to maximise your chances of encountering large predators on the prowl in the hot summer and we didn’t have to drive far before encountering two spotted hyenas just as first light started painting the African morning. Our drive took us along the Olifants and Letaba rivers, an area of rugged beauty, to Letaba Rest Camp, where we planned on enjoying our picnic breakfast. We didn’t however bargain that we’d be joined by a snake, even if only a slightly venomous Olive Grass Snake. Happily the snake was very well behaved and totally relaxed, and so he enjoyed the warm morning sun while we enjoyed our rusks and coffee…

Seeing as the Olifants river delivered such enjoyable sightings to us the previous day, we again focussed on the H1-5 tar road and the connecting S90, S91 and S92 gravel roads the following afternoon. This time we worked a quick detour to Bangu waterhole, some distance to the south of the river, into our drive as well – a well rewarded decision as we found a pair of black-backed jackals and flock of Temminck’s Coursers at the Xipembane stream, which still held a bit of water.

Driving up to Olifants two days earlier, the tremendous concentrations of game around Satara really drew our attention, and we decided that we had to explore that area a bit more on our final full day at Olifants. With the tarred road between Olifants and Satara carrying most of the tourist traffic, we opted to rather follow the gravel S90 “old main road”, past Bangu and Gudzani waterholes, to Satara, and then return to our lovely cottage at Olifants along the tar route when the day starts hotting up. Ticking excellent sightings along the way; a large pack of hyenas, showboating hippos, a rarely seen honey badger, two regal lions, more jackals and a quick view of a pair of cheetahs surrendering their kill to descending vultures, not to mention a huge number of more commonly seen birds and animals, and despite heavy cloud cover, a howling wind and the irritation of a punctured tire (quickly fixed at Satara’s car wash), you’ll appreciate that we were a very happy group when we arrived back at Olifants that morning!

After spending the hot midday hours in camp appreciating the enchanting view and the accompanying birdlife, it was time for our final leisurely afternoon drive along the Olifants and Letaba Rivers. While the drive wasn’t anywhere as exhilarating as our drive that morning, it did give us another opportunity to enjoy the rugged scenery of the valleys these rivers have carved over aeons through the Lebombo foothills.

We still had three nights left at Shingwedzi Rest Camp after our time at Olifants, and we’ll be telling you all about those next week. We’ll also be telling you more about Olifants and its environs in an upcoming edition of de Wets Wild.

 

Our 2015 in pictures

Looking back at the marvelous places we stayed at while exploring South Africa’s wild places in 2015 😀

 

> Glen Reenen, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, January 2015

> Forever Resorts Loskop Dam, Loskop Dam Nature Reserve, April 2015

> Glen Reenen, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, April 2015

> Kamberg Nature Reserve, uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, May 2015

> Kgaswane Mountain Reserve, May 2015

> Cape Vidal, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, June 2015

> Mpila, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, July 2015

> Lower Sabie, Kruger National Park, July 2015

> Sweni Wilderness Trail, Kruger National Park, July 2015

> Thendele, Royal Natal National Park, uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, August 2015

> Ntshondwe, Ithala Game Reserve, September 2015

> Mopani Rest Camp, Kruger National Park, October 2015

> Pafuri Border Camp, Kruger National Park, October 2015

> Lower Sabie, Olifants and Shingwedzi, Kruger National Park, December 2015 (trip reports to follow soon!)

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If you enjoy de Wets Wild as much as we enjoy sharing our love for South Africa’s wild places and their denizens with you, please vote for us in the 2015 South African Blog Awards.

We’ve entered the categories for “Best Travel Blog” and “Best Environmental Blog”, and you are allowed to vote for us in both. Clicking on the badge below will bring you to the voting site.

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Almost orphans

On the 15th of December, making our way to Olifants Rest Camp, in fact just about a kilometer before the camp’s gates, we came across two tiny warthog piglets, probably not any older than a day or two. They were frantically running around in the road, squeeling to high heaven, and approaching every passing vehicle seemingly hoping that it was their mother.

It seemed they were abandoned and they were clearly in distress.

However, after spending a few minutes at the scene we noticed their mother hiding in the thickets, grunting to her little ones but probably frightened of the vehicles gathered around her babies. We decided to leave then, hoping that as soon as there were no more cars around she’d come and collect the errant piglets and take them back to the safety of her burrow.

When we passed the scene again a little later, the warthog family was nowhere to be seen and we hoped that the story had a happy ending.

________________________

If you enjoy de Wets Wild as much as we enjoy sharing our love for South Africa’s wild places and their denizens with you, please vote for us in the 2015 South African Blog Awards.

We’ve entered the categories for “Best Travel Blog” and “Best Environmental Blog”, and you are allowed to vote for us in both. Clicking on the badge below will bring you to the voting site.

SA Blog Awards Badge

Thank you very much for your support!

Reflection

During our latest visit to the Kruger National Park, we saw this crocodile lying in a pool near the Olifants Rest Camp, likely pondering just how and where its next meal would come from…

Reflection

Reflections” is the theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge.