Tag Archives: Pretoriuskop Rest Camp

The night before we ventured into the Wilderness…

Earlier this month I was joined by my mother, sister and brother in the Kruger National Park, chiefly to participate in the Napi Wilderness Trail, one of several guided multi-day walking trails available in the Park.

However, with the trail only starting on Sunday afternoon, we weren’t going to let the weekend go to waste and got underway from Gauteng to Kruger in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Arriving at Kruger’s Malelane Gate around 07:30 allowed us time to enjoy a quick picnic breakfast and coffee before following a meandering route along the quieter gravel roads as we made our slow way to Lower Sabie, making frequent stops to appreciate the wildlife and scenery for which the Kruger Park is world renowned.

Our accommodation for the night was a basic but comfortable 4-bed hut located close to a communal kitchen and bathroom at Lower Sabie‘s eastern fenceline. These huts are surrounded by enormous trees and indigenous shrubbery frequented by a myriad of birds and small reptiles that are quite used to having humans poking lenses in their faces…

Our game drive for the afternoon took us first to Sunset Dam just outside the camp’s gates, then a quick detour across the causeway over the Sabie River, and then along the S28, S137 and H4-2 roads to the south of Lower Sabie, returning to camp just before the gates closed.

Walking around camp in the dark after dinner, looking for nocturnal wildlife with a flashlight, is a firmly entrenched tradition for the de Wets. Both inside and outside Lower Sabie, there’s always plenty to see, and we’re almost unwilling to go to bed for fear of missing out on something interesting!

Being one of the first vehicles to leave Lower Sabie when the gates opened at 06:00 on Sunday morning, we opted to take the main road to Skukuza before this hugely popular route gets too busy with traffic. A quick detour along the short Nwatimhiri causeway-loop rewarded us handsomly with a sighting of three young lions trying to hide, with limited success, in the thick riverine vegetation. Along the way we also popped into Nkuhlu Picnic Spot, Skukuza’s airport, the Skukuza Golf Club and Lake Panic birdhide, before heading for historic Pretoriuskop, all the time enjoying some more of the Kruger Park’s sights, sounds and smells.

After arriving at Pretoriuskop there’s more than enough time to pop into reception to complete all the necessary formalities for the Napi Trail and then take a gentle stroll through the camp appreciating the astounding variety of birdlife that occurs there.

Right on time (at 15:00) we were met at the designated spot by our two guides and group of four fellow trailists for the main event; the Napi Wilderness Trail (more about that wonderful experience in our next post, so stay tuned!).

 

 

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Our 2013 in pictures

As the year is rushing to its end, we’re looking back at all the wonderful places we stayed at in South Africa’s wild places during 2013:

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp, Kruger National Park

In 1927, a total of three tourist vehicles visited the Kruger National Park, entering through the Numbi Gate. A year later, the first accommodation was provided for visitors in what was then the garden of the legendary ranger Harry Wolhuter about nine kilometres into the Park. By 1931 Pretoriuskop, as the Rest Camp became known, and “The Game Reserve” had become so popular and grown so big that a permanent camp manager had to be appointed.

Like those first visitors, I had my first taste of the Kruger National Park as a small boy, four years old, entering through the Numbi Gate to overnight at Pretoriuskop, the Park’s oldest and historically richest rest camp.

Pretoriuskop scenery

Pretoriuskop scenery

Till this day, the huge “Indaba Tree” beneath which ranger Wolhuter held his staff meetings in the 1920’s can be seen inside the camp. But Pretoriuskop’s history dates back much further than that. Along the main road leading from Numbi to the camp, the lonely grave of Voortrekker Willem Pretorius who died in 1845, buried here by pioneering trader Joao Albasini, can be seen below the hill known as Pretoriuskop ever since. Albasini had a trading post to the north of Pretoriuskop, and the ruins of his house and shop can still be viewed today at the Phabeni Gate.

The Voortrekkers came along here in the 1840’s en route to Delagoa Bay (later Lourenco Marques and now known as Maputo), and later, following the discovery of gold at Pilgrims Rest in the interior, the same old ox-wagon route (Oude Wagenpad in Dutch) was used by the transport riders carrying goods between the gold fields and the harbour. Today, the H2-2 tourist road still follows the same general course as that historic trail, and along the way a number of historic landmarks can be appreciated. One of these, visible from quite a distance, is Ship Mountain – a strange rocky outcrop in the shape of a ship overturned – which was a popular place for the transport riders to camp out. The birthplace of South Africa’s most famous dog, Jock, is another point of interest along the way. In the 1880’s Jock, and his owner Percy Fitzpatrick, then a transport rider, had many adventures in the lowveld, immortalised in Sir Percy’s book “Jock of the Bushveld”.

Ship Mountain, seen from the “Oude Wagenpad”

Today, Pretoriuskop is one of the Kruger National Park’s bigger rest camps yet it retains its historic and quiet, friendly character, with impala and guineafowl moving peacefully around the terrain. Accommodation ranges from camping and very basic huts to luxury guest houses, a beautiful pool built into a natural rock face is available for guest’s enjoyment and a fully stocked shop, restaurant, cafeteria and petrol station makes for a comfortable stay. Wolhuter’s Hut (no longer used to accommodate guests) has been preserved  to show today’s visitors the accommodation provided to those first guests at Pretoriuskop in the 1920’s.

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp

Pretoriuskop swimming pool

Pretoriuskop swimming pool

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp

Wolhuter's hut in Pretoriuskop

Wolhuter’s hut in Pretoriuskop

Because Pretoriuskop is located at a higher altitude, the camp is much cooler, even during the height of summer, than the rest of the Park. This also means that Pretoriuskop has a higher annual rainfall, and the sourveld vegetation around the camp is characterised by tall grass and dense bush, making game viewing tricky. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance of encountering large predators on any of the roads that radiate from the camp, kudu are numerous thanks to the thick vegetation, and it is here that the first white rhinos were reintroduced into the Kruger Park in 1961, having been wiped out of the lowveld by hunters by 1896. Another special reason to visit Pretoriuskop is the chance to encounter some of the rarer antelope, like sable, lichtenstein’s hartebeest, tsessebe and reedbuck, that still occur here in small groups.

Waterbuck at Shitlhave Dam near Pretoriuskop

Waterbuck at Shitlhave Dam near Pretoriuskop

Helmeted Guineafowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

White rhinoceros

White rhinoceros

Lioness and cub atop Shabeni

Lioness and cub atop Shabeni

Black-Headed Oriole

Black-Headed Oriole

Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus

Waterbuck

Waterbuck

Water monitor

Water monitor

Warthog

Warthog

Kudu

Kudu

Kudu cow and calf

Kudu cow and calf

Lichtenstein's Hartebeest

Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest

To us, the Pretoriuskop area’s scenery is the biggest attraction though. Mestel and Shitlhave Dams are near the camp and aside from residents pods of hippo and herds of waterbuck attract streams of game looking to quench their thirst. The enormous granitic outcrops, like Manungu and Shabeni, so characteristic of this area, offer beautiful photo opportunities and driving slowly around them in the golden light of the late afternoon, with magnificent views in all directions, is a truly relaxing, almost meditative, undertaking that has to be experienced to be appreciated.

Rocky outcrops lending character to the landscape around Pretoriuskop

Rocky outcrops lending character to the landscape around Pretoriuskop

Rocky outcrops lending character to the landscape around Pretoriuskop

Rocky outcrops lending character to the landscape around Pretoriuskop

Stream crossing near Pretoriuskop

Stream crossing near Pretoriuskop

Rocky outcrops lending character to the landscape around Pretoriuskop

Rocky outcrops lending character to the landscape around Pretoriuskop

The massive granite dome of Shabeni

The massive granite dome of Shabeni

Pretoriuskop vegetation

Pretoriuskop vegetation

Kruger National Park, April 2013

We recently had another (long awaited) breakaway to the paradise that is the Kruger National Park, spending one night in historic Pretoriuskop Rest Camp followed by four nights in Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp. Both these camps are located in the very popular south of the Park and we’ll bring you more detail on each in future installments of de Wets Wild.

Thanks to two consecutive years of exceptionally high rainfall the Park is lush and green with surface water abounding in all the watercourses and seasonal pans. Of course this made searching for game a little harder but we still had numerous excellent sightings of the spectacular wild animals and birds for which the Kruger National Park is known the world over. The weather also played along beautifully and for six days we could forget that winter is hiding just around the corner here in South Africa.

Click on any of the images below to view them all in a carousel gallery, and have a look at the links provided at the end for some additional photos taken during our most recent trip to heaven.

Birds of a feather

26/04/2013

27/04/2013

28/04/2013

29/04/2013

30/04/2013

Birds of a feather

We’re participating in the online adventure travel and photography magazine LetsBeWild.com‘s Wild Weekly Photo Challenge for bloggers. This week’s challenge is “Birds of a feather” and we’re submitting a collection of photographs of some of the more than one hundred bird species we’ve identified over the last five days that we’ve been spending here in the Kruger National Park.

Blue Waxbill

Blue Waxbill

Pied wagtail

Pied wagtail

Hooded (left) and Lappet-faced (right) Vultures

Hooded (left) and Lappet-faced (right) Vultures

Tawny Eagle

Tawny Eagle

Wire-tailed Swallow

Wire-tailed Swallow

Lilac-breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

Pearl-spotted owlet

Pearl-spotted owlet

White-crowned Lapwing

White-crowned Lapwing

Yellow-billed Hornbill

Yellow-billed Hornbill

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

Helmeted Guineafowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

Ground Hornbill

Ground Hornbill

Black Flycatcher

Black Flycatcher

Fish Eagle

Fish Eagle

Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard

White-fronted Bee-eater

White-fronted Bee-eater

Bateleur

Bateleur

 

Kruger Park 26/04/2013

Yep, we’re back in the Kruger National Park – we simply cannot get enough of this paradise!

Tonight, we’re sleeping in  historic Pretoriuskop Rest Camp. Depicted below is the nearby Ship Mountain (so named because it resembles the upturned hull of a ship) used as a landmark by transport riders and explorers more than a hundred years ago en route to Delagoa Bay (today’s Maputo in Mozambique).

Pretoriuskop_26042013

If our internet connection allows, we’ll again try to post a picture or two on a daily basis while we’re in the Park, and there will definitely be a full report back when (unfortunately) we have to return to the city…

Change

A look at the evolution of tourist accomodation in the Kruger National Park

The Wolhuter Hut in Pretoriuskop Rest Camp dates from the 1920’s and has been preserved to offer a glimpse into what a visit to the Park was like when it was still in its infancy (it is no longer used to accommodate guests):

Wolhuter's hut in Pretoriuskop

Wolhuter’s hut in Pretoriuskop

The accommodation on offer today is much more sophisticated and spacious – this is one of the new bungalows in Lower Sabie Rest Camp:

Bungalow in Lower Sabie

Bungalow in Lower Sabie

There’s a huge variety of accomodation options available in the Park today, ranging from the very rustic to the very luxurious, to cater for almost all tastes and budgets.

This post is in response to this weeks’ photo challenge from WordPress: Change