One of my all-time favourite places in the world is that of Kruger National Park in South Africa. I have visited on three separate occasions’ thus far and plan to revisit at least double that in the future. There is simply just something extremely magical about being out of your element and in natures grasp.
Kruger National park is one of South Africa’s greatest tourist attractions along with Cape Town, Robben Island, The Garden Route and of course my Uncle Geoff! Hundreds, if not thousands flock to this experience every day, in the vague hope of witnessing a glimpse into the true African wilderness. The Kruger National Park is huge, and there is absolutely no guarantee that you will see anything – it is left as nature intended it to be (or as close as we can get in this day and age). Its second selling point is that due to its size it encompasses numerous different natural African landscapes, such as the plains or prairie, the forest regions and the mountainous regions. Its landscapes are so diverse and wild that a pack of lions could be 10 metres away from you and you would never know! But when you do see them, the experience is natural and incredible. I remember going for hours without seeing a single car, being told that the park itself is almost the size of Wales the country.
My first visit in 1989 left a huge impression on me, not just for what I saw, but how all of my senses felt. The air was warm and clear, the sounds were eclectic (from roars in the distance, to crickets in the grass), the tastes of the local food, the stories of the local people, and it was all simply something very special. Although young I can still visualise the sunrise over the plains and that just left me fuzzy inside. That trip opened up my eyes to the natural wonders of the world, and I remember seeing Cheetahs, Lions, Giraffes and all sorts of Antelope not as they were in the zoo, but roaming free. This truly was the place of dreams.
One of my most vivid wandering memories was of dad driving a tad too close to a troop of Elephants. Hasten to say the troop didn’t like it and the matriarch started to rear up his trunk and head towards the car… Mum shouted at Dad, I jumped on my sister in fear and my sister jumped on my uncle, you’ve never seen anything like it absolutely hysterical. Anyhow we did make it out alive leaving a very angry elephant in the rear view mirror. However as we turned the corner we saw a game warden on his push bike cycling towards the troop… Ha, well there’s a contrast for you!
Since that trip I have had wandering memories in 2010 and more recently in 2014, and although the above description sounds like the inner rantings of an excited child, it didn’t feel any different. It’s this place it fuels me with excitement, there is nothing so intoxicating in the entire world than being out in nature’s wilderness, searching for just a glimpse of something special.
I am sure special happens every day in the Kruger, it’s just, is anyone there to see it? We personally have never witnessed the lions hunting or a crocodile snapping its prey, however we have witnessed something just as special. One moment we were travelling along the open Savannah road, the next moment we were surrounded, and I mean surrounded by hundreds of Buffalo. No idea where they appeared from but one minute we saw one, then there were 10, then all of a sudden we were in the middle of a huge herd – simply magical. My overall highlight, in terms of animals has to be the Cheetahs, their magnificence astonishes me even today, such proud and beautiful animals wandering the wilderness, it was incredible to see them so close after a few failed attempts prior.
Safari holidays are expensive by mere definition, however the Kruger offers the opportunity to take your own car and go into the wilderness. Granted you don’t get the experienced guides or knowledgeable trackers than some day tours present, but again you may see something they don’t. I have done both, and found that both reap the rewards. South Africa also offers many private game parks where the probability of seeing the Big 5 is higher, but having experienced both sides there’s still nothing like the Kruger National Park.
Staying in the Kruger is relatively safe, but can be expensive, therefore there are many different choices from camping (in enclosed areas) to full on hotels, or even just staying a stone’s throw outside of the park. The choice is endless, and we have always found the accommodation and locals to be very forthcoming and extremely friendly. Although poaching does exist even in the Kruger what I would commend the authorities on is keeping this sanctuary as close to what nature intended it for – A True Wilderness.
After all of those experiences I have shared, and all of the animals we have seen, I still revert back to that incredible sky overlooking the plains of the Kruger in 1989, that’s what brings me back so many times. My wife and I would recommend it as highly as we would recommend anything…
I wanted to say thank you to ‘A day in my dreams’ who inspired me to write this after reading her blog on an Indian safari and the experience seeing a Tiger nonetheless read it here.
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