When people think of Africa, they think of the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. While South Africa has many, many private game reserves where you can view the Big Five up close, nothing compares to the Kruger National Park for seeing the animals in their natural habitat. The Park is larger than either Israel and Wales and covers no less than six eco-systems, the wildlife spread across its extent into the areas that suit them best – the north for elephants and buffalo; the central region for predators such as lions, cheetahs and leopard; while the south plays home to the greater population of rhino.
Having had our fill of rain and mist, Gareth and I set out from Sabie (after relying on the kindness of strangers to help us sort out a flat tyre – thank heavens it didn’t happen inside Kruger!) and entered the Park at the Numbi Gate (a great map of the Park can be found here).
We were to camp in Berg-en-Dal rest camp in the southwest for the next four days. Had I thought about it more closely before booking, I would have realised that creepy crawlies and the oppressive heat of January did not make for the best camping combination. But, we pitched our tent under the biggest shady tree we could find (on top of a thriving ant’s nest, we later found out!) and fell effortlessly into the Kruger Park routine – up at dawn for an early morning game drive, back at camp by mid afternoon for a nap or few leisurely hours in the pool, and out again for an afternoon drive before the camp gates close at 18:00.
After watching the evening National Geographic feature at Berg-en-Dal’s open air cinema, we would go to bed falling asleep to the oomph-oomph sounds of a lion calling close by, and wake up again with the little woodpecker pecking away at itself in the car’s side mirror.
It’s almost impossible to describe the sense of peace one finds in the Kruger National Park. You’re as close to nature as you can safely be. Watching a herd of elephants cross the road right in front of your car, or having a baboon sit on its roof while the little ones dangle from your side mirrors, or seeing that elusive buffalo come out from behind the bush is a thrill incomparable to any other. In the Park, we are the intruders, voyeurs into these animals’ lives. At the very least, you will come back from a visit with a new-found respect and a greater sense of responsibility for these amazing animals.
Labels: Africa, Berg-en-Dal, Big Five, Kruger National Park, South Africa