Looking back at all the places we stayed in while exploring South Africa’s wild places in 2019!
The September school holidays presented the perfect opportunity to visit the Kruger National Park again, this time basing ourselves with family and friends in the south-eastern corner of the Park at Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp.
Crocodile Bridge is located in one of the Kruger’s most game-rich areas, and even inside the camp there’s an abundance of wildlife that I found quite distracting from camping chores… From blossoms to butterflies and birds, bats to bushbuck, all placed themselves in the cross hairs of our camera lenses, and when we were quite certain we got enough shots of them we could peer just over the fence (or through it, in Joubert’s case) towards the Crocodile River flowing in front of the camp for even more subjects.
Despite being right at the southern border of the Kruger Park, Crocodile Bridge offers a multitude of drives to choose from when heading into the Park. Heading in a northerly direction towards Lower Sabie is a selection of different routes making for comfortable excursions and providing great sightings along the way. Whether you choose the main H4-2 road or one of the gravel S28, S130 or S82 routes, you are bound to arrive at Lower Sabie excited with what you’ve seen. You can then return to Crocodile Bridge along an entirely different option, getting a glimpse at different habitats and having all new wildlife encounters to boast about too!
Whether you stop in Lower Sabie for a simple body break, an ice cream from the shop or a meal at the Mugg & Bean restaurant overlooking the river, don’t miss the chance to stretch your legs with a walk on the lawns along the river in front of the bungalows. From the deep shade of enormous trees you can gaze over the river, perhaps being lucky like we were to see a pair of lions hunting right there, and revel in the songs of a multitude of birds flitting about the branches above you.
Quite literally a stone’s throw north of Lower Sabie is the Sunset Dam, one of two wonderful wildlife magnets no visitor to this part of the Kruger Park should miss out on. There’s a constant stream of wildlife coming and going at Sunset Dam at anytime of day, and the resident crocodiles and hippos (including these boisterous buddies) are easily among the most habituated of their kind anywhere in Africa, making for excellent photographic opportunities.
Just on the other side of Lower Sabie, the causeway over the Sabie River is another highlight. Here too there’s always crocodiles (like this one having fun in a cascade), hippos, terrapins and all manner of wading birds in attendance, often accompanied by elephants, buffaloes, antelope, baboon and giraffe, while the elevated vantage point provided by the bridge offers excellent views into the clear water of the Sabie below.
Because there was so much to see around Crocodile Bridge and Lower Sabie, we didn’t really feel the need to venture farther, and only took two extended drives to other parts of the Park. One of those excursions was to Skukuza, roughly a four hour drive from Crocodile Bridge along the most direct route past Mpondo Dam. After spending the midday hours at Skukuza’s nursery and a delicious buffalo pie at the golf club, we headed back to Crocodile Bridge via Lower Sabie again.
We only wandered north of the Sabie River once, putting a full day aside to traverse the routes between Lower Sabie and Tshokwane Picnic Spot – where we had to contend with a dusty, blustery wind of note while trying our best to enjoy our picnic lunch! Our rewards for sticking to the planned route despite the deprivations of sand and dust on our ham-and-cheese sandwiches was the little leopard cub and flashy hornbill we showed you a few days ago, so you’ll hear no complaints from us!
Sad as it was to return to Pretoria at the end of a fantastic week, we could at least console ourselves with the knowledge that the December holidays aren’t that far way… Guess where we plan to be heading?
Impala Street is a road through the staff village at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, and it leads past the indigenous nursery where the public may purchase local plants for their gardens at very reasonable cost. And just to prove how well deserved the name is, a male Impala was available to pose perfectly on cue for Joubert to take this picture in September.
We should have taken a drive to Lion Street, just in case…
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.
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.