Looking back at all the places we stayed in while exploring South Africa’s wild places in 2019!
Well, if you ask us what makes the Kruger National Park “THE KRUGER”, our answer wouldn’t be the prolific game or birdlife, awesome as that might be. To us, what makes the Kruger National Park special is the wide variety of habitats and scenery where all this life finds a niche to flourish. At almost 20,000km² in size, the Kruger National Park is bigger than some countries, and naturally a piece of land that enormous would encompass many different landscapes and habitats; in fact there are pronounced differences in the scenery as one travels from south to north through Kruger’s 350km length.
The north of Kruger has a quite different character to the southern parts. Here, the Mopane and Baobab trees dominate the landscape, by virtue of their numbers and size, respectively.
This gallery of images were taken during our visit from 15 to 24 June to the northern reaches of the Park (based at Shingwedzi Rest Camp)
When talking about “game-viewing”, most people immediately have images of Africa’s iconic Big Five flashing through their minds. And of course our recent trips to the Kruger National Park did not disappoint at all when it came to these most charismatic of African mammals, as well as many other furry creatures great and small.
This first gallery of pictures were taken during my solo trip to the southern part of the Kruger Park between 30 May and 2 June 2019.
There’s also much interest in the Kruger’s invertebrates (including a bounty of beautiful butterflies), fish, amphibians and reptiles, many of which are difficult to see elsewhere in South Africa.
Returning to Kruger two weeks later, this time to Shingwedzi in the north of the Park, proved just as fruitful with memorable encounters not only with predators and rare antelope, but also a menagerie of other mammalian species.
With over 500 species recorded, the Kruger National Park deserves its reputation as one of South Africa’s finest bird-watching destinations through and through. We’ve already shown you the cute little Spurfowl chicks that strutted all over the Park during our visits in May and June this year, but there was so much more feathered variety to point our lenses at that it surely deserves a dedicated post!
Two weeks later, this time with Marilize and Joubert alongside, we headed to the north of the Kruger Park, basing ourselves at our favourite Shingwedzi for 9 nights, during which time we recorded 99 species of birds.
Dwarf Mongooses live in close-knit clans, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the occasional squabble between family members! While walking around Pretoriuskop Rest Camp on a recent visit to the south of the Kruger National Park, I spied two of the tiny tykes continuously working on each other’s nerves, until eventually and inevitably the fight escalated into blows.
During my visit in May 2019, along the main road between Pretoriuskop and Skukuza camps in the Kruger National Park, I was lucky to come across two different spotted hyena clans with youngsters – one group had three babies and the other no less than eight bouncing bundles of joy! And they were bouncing, and biting and bullying, to their hearts content, causing me great amusement but obviously not impressing their mothers very much with their antics…
One would be forgiven for expecting that the most memorable experience of a visit to the Kruger National Park would entail one of the big, charismatic mammals exhibiting some or other fascinating behaviour: a pride of lions making a kill, an elephant cow giving birth or a thousand-strong herd of buffalo stampeding to a waterhole, for instance. However, as I found out during my solo visit to the Kruger Park at the end of May, a bounty of beautiful butterflies can easily make those hairy-and-scary creatures fade into the background! In both Pretoriuskop and Skukuza Rest Camps I found blooming Lowveld Bittertea bushes (Gymnanthemum coloratum) and the surrounding gardens and lawns attended by literally hundreds of butterflies of at least 28 different species! They kept me busy and entertained for quite some time and I hope this gallery of pictures convey at least a sense of this awesome experience.
Of course, the butterflies were not the only insects making good use of the proliferation of winter flowers, and various other insects, most notably bees and wasps, were to be seen in attendance. A few dragonflies and birds then also made use of the opportunity to catch an easy meal on the wing.
Two weeks later we returned to the Kruger Park, this time to Shingwedzi Rest Camp about 280km north of Skukuza. Here we found fewer butterflies – perhaps winter had set in now, with nighttime temperatures especially being on the cold side – but there were still enough of them flitting around to keep us thoroughly engaged while spending the midday hours in camp.
I’d like to dedicate this post to a great friend to de Wets Wild and the biggest butterfly fundi I know – AJ Vosse of “Ouch My Back Hurts” .
I’ve just returned from a quick three-night solo visit to the Kruger National Park, and have some really memorable sightings to share with you. As the three of us will be heading back to Kruger again later in the month for a longer visit, I’ll be keeping you in suspense till we return – here though a little teaser-gallery just to wet your appetite for things to come!
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!).