A Travellerspoint blog

August 2011

Enjoy the bush


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My time here in Kruger National Park is sadly coming to an end. The past 28 days has come and gone and my experience here has exceeded well beyond my expectations (although I must admit I didn’t quite fully know what I was in for, all I knew was that I will get to spend a whole month in one of the best wildlife parks in the world!) Each week brought new and unexpected experiences. Even on one of the rare rainy days when we had to get up early to go on a bush walk, it was I think by far the best walk we had. It was a bit chilly with light rain when we started the walk, but soon we spotted a couple of rhinos and later some buffalos. It could be a herd of 20 plus buffalos, we don’t know and as much as we want to stay longer to observe these animals, we don’t want to take any chances. It is special to see these animals in a bush walk, but being safe and keeping our distances from them is our priority. So we did a small detour to avoid the buffalos, but as we climbed up a small slope from a dried up stream, we heard barking and growling! We all froze and I felt my heart rate increased. I was the last person in our single-file walk formation and looking ahead through the bushes about 20-30m in front, I saw the profile of one wild dog (we guessed there must have been at least three). The barking was to let us know that we are getting too close and certainly our guides were quite surprise by this encounter. It didn’t last long, the dogs turned and ran away. What a rare moment it was to see them during a bush walk! This story quickly spread to the field guides and some of them were quite jealous. The wild dog population in the Kruger area is estimated to be around 300, and Kruger park is over 19,000 square kilometers, so it was indeed one of those rare once in a life time moment.

The bush walks were definitely one of the highlights and in some ways, they were even better than the many safari game drives that we went on. Yes we can cover greater distances and hence see more wildlife in a game drive, but it is through the bushwalks where we really get into the heart of Kruger and feel how “wild” this place is. I think for those of you who have gone backcountry camping anywhere, you will know what I mean. Going on foot with a backpack is when you can truly experience nature. This past week we spent two nights camping out in the park---this was the other favorite part of my time here in Kruger. We spent several mornings the week before building a corral with sticks (like a circular fence) to protect us from the animals and we did a “very good” job according to our lead instructor. It was hard at the end when we had to break it apart and take it down but we understood that we had to leave the place like it was before (“no trace camping”). It was beautiful sitting around the fire at night with the stars overhead and the sounds of animals out hunting at night. It was incredible.

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beautiful sunsets here

After two days enjoying our time out in the bush with no shower and covered with dirt, we hiked back to the lodge under the heated sun (must have been around 30C) and just as we can see the gate (at that moment I was thinking shower and running water!), we spotted three elephants in the bush very close to the gate. I thought it was quite ironic that in our very last walk and when we are just steps away from being back to ‘safety’, we were stopped by elephants (my favorite animal). We watched and waited, but they didn’t move very far, so we ended up taking a slightly longer way around to the back gate. I thought it was a great moment to feel that we as humans are not in control here in the park. It is the animals who we respect and we give way to their “home”. There have been moments in the past weeks when I felt that I was the one behind the fence being “caged” in while the animals have all the freedom and space in the park to wander around. I really like that. To top off my experience here in Kruger, that very same day in the afternoon, those elephants we saw earlier went for a swim in the pond/dam right in front of our lodge. The three male elephants (“teenagers”) were like kids splashing around with their trunks and pushing and jumping on each other. It was an amazing moment to watch them play and they put on quite a show! And this is the last image I am quite happy to leave Kruger with…..at least for now since I will be coming back to Kruger for a couple of days at the end of November. By then I am sure things will look very different, at least much more green and I am already looking forward to that very much.

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Posted by RobertaS 08:27 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Hello from Kruger National Park!


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Okay I’m not actually sitting in Kruger Park right at the moment but I did type most of this up yesterday during our free afternoon. In fact, I’m sitting in a mall right now that is like any mall that you would find in North America. It was a strange feeling when we got off the mini van and a sign close to the entrance says: “Sushi is Sold Here.” Am I really in Africa????

Indeed I am. Today is our only day off over this 28-day field guide/park ranger course to come into town to buy things and to use the internet café. We arrived here Monday night from Johannesburg (~4.5 hour drive). After 6 days, it is still a bit surreal that I am actually living right inside Kruger National Park where there are elephants, lions, rhinos, hyenas and giraffes roaming around freely. There are seven of us including me taking the course this month. All really great easy going people: 2 from Germany, 1 from UK, 1 from Holland, 1 from Belgium, and 1 also from Canada (Halifax). We are staying in Nkambeni Tented Lodge, located close to the Numbi gate in the southwest corner of the park. It was a complete surprise to me when I heard that there are keys to our tent!! A “tent” that can be locked plus it has a bathroom?!?? WOW, is this luxury style camping or what! As it turns out, the so called “tent” is more like a canvas style cabin. There are two beds in each plus ensuite bathroom (I must add that there are two showers, yes TWO, one indoor and one outdoor!!)
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bunch of hippos sunbathing by the water edge

The temperature varies greatly throughout the day. At night and early morning, it is below 10C and in the afternoon when the sun is beaming on you, it feels more like 25C. The weather has been gorgeous, sunny and cloudless every single day---great for star gazing at night :) (actually today is cloudy). If you don’t mind the cold evenings, it is a really good time of year to come to Kruger, plus there are no bugs!

Over the past four days, we have both hiked and driven through the park. When we hike, in case we run into problems with any animals, we are accompanied by two guides that carry rifles. So far we have seen three of the BIG FIVE---an elephant (saw it at breakfast in our first morning here!), several buffalos and a white rhino (a young one during our night drive), we have yet to see a lion and a leopard (the guides said we probably will since we’ll be here for a month). Other animals that we have encountered include hippos, warthogs, and many from the antelope family: zebra, steenboks, waterbucks, impalas, and kudus. I wish to see more elephants (have seen many sightings of their poo/droppings on the road---yes we are learning how to identify animals from their poos and tracks!) I would really like to see a giraffe as well---such an elegant animal!

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Adding on, last night we had an amazing game drive in the evening. The highlight was following a cheetah on the road for about 20 minutes!! We think it was a male. We followed quite close to it in our Landrover, closest was probably ~15 m away. It certainly knew that we were there because we had a spot light shining on it, but it knows that we are not a threat, plus we guessed that it had just made a kill (its belly was quite full, wallowing side to side as it walked....if it was a female, it certainly looked pregnant!). It was just taking it easy patrolling his territory, giving us quite a rare experience to observe a cheetah so closely. Very impressive!!

I am really having a great time here and really looking forward to all the activities planned for the next three weeks including two full-day safaris through the park, plus camping out for two nights under the stars in the last week of August! The Kruger adventure has just begun, I wish you could all be here :)

Posted by RobertaS 05:47 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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