The Best Safari Ever!

Hi friends,

It’s been 2 weeks since I returned from Kruger Park and I can’t help but wonder about all the animal sightings I’m missing out on. My trip however, was INCREDIBLE. It was by far the best trip to Kruger I’ve ever had and I’ve been visiting with my family at least once a year for the past 8 years!

We arrived on Sunday morning at about 9am after over-nighting in Nelspruit. We were met by Carley, the owner of A Zaganaga Kruger Lodge in Marloth Park, she happily checked us in before the standard 2pm arrival time and we settled comfortably into our home for the next few nights (Do check this place out as it’s affordable and very comfortable). After a quick unpack, we hopped into the car and started the 20 minute journey to Crocodile Bridge Gate. By 10:30am we were on the road to Lower Sabie to have breakfast at Mugg&Bean. We must have driven about a kilometer from the gate and we were greeted by a huge herd of buffalo! Another kilometer up the the road was a rhino resting under a tree. 2 of the Big 5 within 10 minutes? Not a bad start to the trip..

As South Africa is struggling with a drought at the moment, the rivers were teeming with IMG_4797wildlife. Herds of elephants splashed about on the other side of the Sabie River that flows in front of Lower Sabie camp while we had brunch. Trumpeting in delight as they played in the water. The babies were throwing themselves into the mud and rolling around. It was amazing to watch them all in their natural habitat. They eventually crossed the river and came right in front of the walkway at Lower Sabie which resulted in a fantastic background for those taking selfies!
After brunch we had a quick browse around the curio shop and I spotted a beautiful tea light holder that was painted with an incredible sunset safari seen. I had to have it. Unfortunately the one on display was the last one they had and they weren’t allowed to give it to me. Since it was still early, I managed to convince my dad to drive to Skukuza camp which was about 45kms away and it was a good thing I did..

Driving along the Sabie river on our way to Skukuza, we spotted buffaloes, hippos, water buck and elephants all grazing alongside the river. The temperature was teetering on the 40 degree Celsius mark! On the road to Skukuza, we came upon a couple of cars parked off to the right hand side. We knew it had to be something good. Looking through the thicket you could just make out the shape of a male lion resting in the shade, struggling to see him, I asked my dad to pull forward a little bit, that was when I spotted a second lion! A lioness to be exact. I could see her much better than the male and manage to get a few  decent photos of her!

Arriving at Skukuza, I made my way down to the river to say hello to the old Sabie railway bridge that brought passengers through the park in the 1920’s. The last train passed IMG_4724through in 1973 after too many animals were maimed and killed.
Satisfied that I hadn’t missed any animals lurking in the reeds, I made my way back up towards the curio shop (Probably the best one in the Southern Kruger area) crossing my fingers in the hopes that they would have my tea light holder.They had it! It looked even more amazing than I had thought! Happy with my purchase, we hopped back in the car and headed towards Transport dam. Not long after departing Skukuza, we came across a few cars that had stopped, unable to see what they were looking at, we slowly drove passed, I turned to look back and caught the sight of what I thought was a rather large dog ear. Shouting “STOP! I see something!” my dad flung the car into reverse and my suspcions were confirmed. A pack of wild dogs lay cozily under a thick bush, giggling to each other. Just as were about to drive on, a male wild dog darted from the bush, running past our car toward the pack under the tree, he was met with hostility and proceeded to retreat to the other side of the road, where he lay down right next to the tar looking sorry for himself. Buzzing after seeing wild dogs on our first day in the park, we came across another traffic jam about 2kms up the road. It was chaos! Needing to tick one more of the Big 5 off the list, we were excited to hear from an English couple that there was a leopard sleeping in the shade of a tree trunk quite near the road. We patiently waited for our turn to spot the leopard and when we eventually did see it, I was amazed as to how someone had spotted it (pardon the pun). Lying right a the base of a tree, barely visible was part of a leopard, I think I seen what was I thought was legs and perhaps the outline of a head (Let me know what you see in the photo in the gallery below). So happy and pleased with our sightings, we decided to head for Crocodile Bridge because it was starting to get later and we didn’t want to be late for the gate closing time!

Arriving back at Marloth Park, rather famished, we headed straight for Aamazing River View Restaurant a few kms from where we were staying in Marloth. Arriving just as the sun was about to disappear, we were greeted with an amazing view of the Crocodile River and a few hippos said hello from below. I ordered the lemon and herb half chicken and it was delicious! Definitely recommend checking this place out! I went back the next night as well!

The next morning we headed into Komatipoort in search of somewhere for brunch, we stumbled upon Kambaku Golf Club which overlooked Kruger Park, a beautiful setting indeed! Check out this place if you’re looking for a round of golf or just a different scenery! It’s about 40km from Marloth Park and a relatively pleasant drive, you’ll get a look into the life of the Komatipoort residents.Panda From Kambaku, we headed back up towards Crocodile Bridge for a quick afternoon drive. We headed for Lower Sabie again to have some ice cream overlooking the river, once again we spotted elephants, rhino, hippos, buffaloes and water buck grazing along the river. Enjoying a lovely afternoon overlooking the Sabie River while indulging in ice cream and chocolate sauce from Mugg&Bean we decided to head back a bit earlier as we had a night drive at 8pm. Before we left, I made a quick stop at the ladies loo’s which lead to a rescue mission of a young gecko. He somehow fell in the toilet after I had flushed and I couldn’t figure out what was swirling round the bowl. When I realised it was a gecko, I thought it was too late and he had drowned but he was alive! I stuck my hand in the toilet (I would do anything for an animal) and scooped him up. He was sitting on the palm of my hand and I was about to put him down safely when he decided to fling himself into the air toward my face and he ended up landing on my shirt. Quickly washing my hands, I walked back outside with my new friend who was making his way over my shoulder. By the time I arrived back at the car, he had settled on the back of my neck and I had to get my dad to gently lift him off. I popped him on a log in the gardens near the car and said goodbye. Good deed done for the day!

Checking Latest Kruger Sightings before leaving Lower Sabie (and losing signal) someone had spotted cheetah on the S28 and that loop came right back out onto the road to Crocodile Bridge. We thought we’d take a chance, not feeling hopeful as they had been seen about 3 or so hours before. We drove the 24km road, losing hope every few kms we drove. Only seeing a few buck along the way, we stumbled across to cars parked off to the left hand side. Our spirits lifted, we all fought over the one pair binoculars, I won eventually and shouted “Their they are!” as I made out a pair of cheetah resting in the shade on a dirt mound. I have never seen wild cheetah before and it was absolutely awesome! We sat watching them for a little while and were lucky enough to witness one of them standing up and having a nose around before moving into another spot under the trees. A lovely sighting to end our day, we headed back to a Zaganaga to make some dinner before our night drive. I was sitting outside on the veranda just enjoying nature, a herd of zebras trotted past and the birds were quietening down for the evening. I heard quite a lot of noise coming from my left hand side round the corner. Sitting with baited breath, trying to figure out was it was and deciding whether a lion had escaped the reserve and I was about to become it’s dinner, I was relieved when a cheeky, rather massive, male warthog came trotting round the corner with a smaller friend in tow. I said “hello” to him and he proceed to grunt and stare at me. My dad then came round the corner and started feeding them some sausage rolls! Who would have thought warthogs would have eaten that? I tried to give them some of my salad but they refused to eat it! After they had their fill, they trotted away onto the next lodge, not even a grunt of a thank you..

There is nothing quite a eerie and amazing as the bush at night. It is completely different from the day time. It’s almost as if you’re in a different place than you were during the day. We hopped into our game drive vehicle with our guide, a German couple who I recognised from Lower Sabie earlier in the day and a mother & daughter who lived in the area. The great thing about night drives is that you might be lucky enough to see the nocturnal animals like the civet, genet and white tailed mongoose. We seen those as well as what must have been about 50 scrub hares who feel safer at night than in the day. As we drove further down the road in the direction of Lower Sabie, our guide decided to turn back as he said “it was too dry out this far and all the animals are near the rivers” so we headed back the way we came. Spotting eyes reflecting up ahead, we came across a mother hyena and her two young pups. The youngsters were very curious when it came to the humans and the game vehicle that they right up and had a good sniff of it. They then dissappeared into the bush again. We drove along for a little while dodging scrub hares and marvelling at the night sky when up ahead there was movement on the road, our guide dipped his lights and raced towards them. Lions! Five young lions out on the prowl apparently being taught by an older lioness who was last to cross the road.The beauty of the bush is not knowing what may have crossed the road behind you or a few seconds before you rounded that bend. The lions walked off into the bush as if they had never been there. Lastly we spotted a rhino, an elephant in the water, a few hippos grazing, a crocodile, a few more civets and even a dead hippo. Everyone climbed off the safari vehicle feeling satisfied by our sighting, thanking our guiding with a tip, we headed back towards Marloth Park.

I spent the remainder of the evening, sitting on the upper deck of a Zaganaga capturing star trails and listening to a lions communicating with each other and every now & then, the chilling whoop of a hyena would break the silence left by the lions calls…

 

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Keep an eye out on my new Youtube channel, I’m thinking of posting a video from Kruger!

Till next time friends,
Panda Kennedy
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