What better time to recap our trip to Kruger in April than the day before we leave for our next Kruger experience! We visited Kruger from 10 April – 14 April directly after our wedding at Karongwe Private game reserve. Because we had almost 20 family and friends joining us we kept it simple and stayed the whole time at Skukuza rest camp in Riverside Bungalows and the Wild Fig guesthouse (very difficult to book mind you, unless you have Kruger booking skills). *Note: out of respect for anti-rhino poaching efforts I am not going to talk about rhino sightings in these blogs. Suffice to say we did see rhinos, but I will leave out details where it would give indication as to their location (so pretty much all the time)!
Stayed: Skukuza (Riverside Bungalow)
No. Days: 4 days
Saw: Everything except wild dogs (all the main animals anyway – no pangolins unfortunately!)
Most exciting sighting: Leopard with fresh kill right beside road
Best roads: H7, H4-1 & S65
Trip rating: 3.75 stars (out of 5)
Note – you can click on the image to bring up a lightbox for easier viewing.
The Full Story:
We entered at Orpen gate at about 11am and had about 6-7 hours to make it to Skukuza – well enough time but we did have to make sure we didn’t dawdle too much. The drive in was pretty successful – we saw zebras, giraffes and elephants before we even reached the gate! Driving the H7 (in the middle of the day mind you – so not peak sighting time) we had two lion sightings – both with cubs! One was right by the road, where I got some cute pics of mummy and cubs grooming and cuddling. The second was further away though the cubs did run down to the waterhole for a drink. Plenty of elephants, giraffes etc on our way to Skukuza, including one giraffe that seemed to be having a little too much fun with a tree – much to my dad’s delight. It was REALLY enjoying that tree. Nothing like some good giraffe tree porn, am I right? (no.)
I was desperate to find the Wild Dogs – which Van and I have had good success seeing in Kruger – because my sister has never seen them before and really wanted to see them (the last time the fam was in Kruger we left the tar road and drove the S28 to Crocodile Bridge and missed the wild dogs on the tar!). Unfortunately we didn’t see them, but three of my friends in a different car ahead of us were lucky to see them right near Skukuza! That was the only wild dog sighting of the trip, which makes it two consecutive trips we haven’t seen them! Hopefully we will get lucky this trip.
The next day we left Skukuza bright and early and had a relatively slow drive, until the same three friends who spotted the wild dogs caught up to us – and of course – had already seen a leopard cross the road in front of them! They drove ahead and low-and-behold, about half an hour later we come across them pulled over (by themselves) as they found a mating pair of lions on the road… and had seen ANOTHER leopard cross the road! I almost abandoned Van and got into their car – talk about beginner’s luck! The lion sighting turned out to be an amazing sighting – and patience as well as Van’s amazing driving skills paid off with some pretty cool photos (including with my sister and brother in law who had showed up at this point too). The lion walked past our car so many times (Van kept driving ahead to get the lion walking towards us) – at times we could have reached out our windows and touched him (I resisted that urge… just. They look so cuddly when they are outside the car!). And of course my sister was too INCOMPETENT to get any photos or videos of this, like I had the foresight to do for her. [angry face].
We stopped for brunch at the Mugg & Bean at Lower Sabie and then were planning on taking the S28 but stopped to ask someone driving out if they had seen much – only hyenas – but apparently there were lions just down the road so we continued on and got a few shots of these lions hanging out in the shade. The rest of the drive was mostly zebras, elephants and buffaloes.
The next day was a quieter day until we hit the S65 – Van and I in one car and Kelly and Paul (sister and brother in law) following in their car. We were driving down and we hear impalas alarm calling. Slowing down, we can see the impalas looking across the road… we quickly drove back up a bit and left Kelly and Paul at one end, so that we didn’t miss a leopard (which we assumed was upsetting the impalas) crossing the road. WE DIDN’T MISS IT. Paul spots the leopard dragging a poor dead impala under a tree. We found a kill site by ourselves! I have to admit, seeing awesome sightings close to the road is always a thrill in Kruger – but nothing beats FINDING the animal/sighting in the first place -particularly when it’s due to your supreme ranger skills! The only downside was mr dead impalas friend stood there crying for what seemed like an eternity, which was a bit heart wrenching for those of us with hearts (my sister and I).
That leopard kill was soon to become a Kruger hot spot for the next couple of days, causing traffic jams galore and eventually ending with the leopard being chased up a tree by a lioness who stole the kill! You just never know what is going to happen when you are aimlessly driving around Kruger! When we decided to leave the leopard to his sleep (that first morning), we enjoyed one of the best elephant sightings I think I have ever had just a little way down the road. A small herd of ellies were hanging out under some shade during the heat of the day and playing with each other. I took SO MANY photos of them (unusual for me) with their trunks entwined, and some of them were jostling one young male and he kept running out and trumpeting. It was a really special sighting. Eventually we tore ourselves away and ended up at Delaporte waterhole, where a giraffe was steeling itself to risk a quick drink. It was almost excruciating how long it took this poor boy to work up the courage to drink – what a life it must be to be that fearful of taking a drink of water! It took me back to my travels in Egypt and India.
The rest of the trip was less eventful – some good ellie sightings, the best waterbuck sighting I have ever had down near Pretoriuskop and some cool time spent with some baboons (they are always interesting and SO PHOTOGENIC)! Combined with some nice sunset and sunrise pics and you have an awesome photo collection of yet another eventful Kruger trip. IT NEVER DISAPPOINTS!!! Although I was slightly surprised and disappointed by our drive out of the Park – we took the H4-1 and H4-2 out (Skukuza to Crocodile Bridge via Lower Sabie) and didn’t see ANYTHING other than a couple of elephants and giraffes. It is so unusual not to see any cats on this road, particularly early in the morning! In June 2015 we drove out from Lower Sabie to Croc Bridge and saw everything including lioness and cubs on the road and a huge male leopard walking up the road as well as everything else except elephants – just in that one short drive. Some of my relatives took the Malelane gate exit and had a much more eventful trip including lions and cubs – that’s the way Kruger goes – you never know if the route you are taking will pan out. You win some you lose some… but you always win at least a little! Less than 24hrs until we are off on our next South Africa safari adventure so stay tuned for more updates!