For as long as I can remember a trip to Kruger National Park has been a part of every journey that my family and I take back to South Africa to visit my Ouma and the rest of our family. Kruger is as much a part of who I am as the Afrikaans language that I speak. For those of you that don’t know, Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest game reserves that stretches over nearly 2 million hectares, which to give you perspective is only slightly smaller than Belgium, and features a large diversity of wildlife, historical sites, and archaeological sites. A trip to South Africa wouldn’t be complete without going to Kruger and spending a few nights in camps and spending the day driving around looking to see what exotic creatures you can find. What exactly is Kruger like from a visitors’ perspective? Just keep reading and you’ll get a glimpse into what a day is like on safari in Kruger.
A typical day in Kruger starts bright and early, often times before sun rise. After scrambling about in the hut because you stayed in bed an extra 5 minutes everyone jumps in the car and heads to the gate where early risers like yourself are waiting for the gates to open and for the day of game sighting to begin. Animals are most active early in the morning because the temperature is cooler and the animals are calming down after a nightly hunt. So, to optimize your chance of seeing the big five (lions, leopards, cape buffalo, elephants, and rhinos) you sacrifice your beauty sleep. And trust me when I say it is well worth it. After a few hours of hopefully seeing a variety of animals ranging from Springbok, zebras, elephants, giraffes, an array of birds, baboons, and if you’re, lucky one of the big cats it is time to stop at one of the rest camps for coffee, a morning braai, and mingling with others about what they’ve seen and what roads to take next.
After a late breakfast, it’s time to hit the road again in the hopes of seeing more wild animals. You can sometimes go hours without seeing anything and other times you can see everything which is what makes a safari at Kruger so much different than anything that can be found in the US. Unlike a zoo where animals are guaranteed to be in a particular spot, the animals in Kruger and other game reserves move around from place to place. You’re in their territory and it’s up to them if they want to see you or not. A lot successful sightings also has to do with luck, and lots of it. You also have to keep your eyes open for the slightest movement in the bush or trees because of the animals’ ability to camouflage so well with their surroundings. In Kruger, it truly is a combination of being in the right place at the right time and just plain luck.
After the drive, which can either feel like hours or minutes depending on how much you see, it is time to check in to your new camp for the evening. Kruger itself has 12 camps within the park that visitors can choose from. Each of these are enclosed by electric fences that keep visitors safe and the animals out. Depending on the size of your party and your personal preferences, guests have the option to stay in a hut, a bush tent or in old fashioned tents or RV’s. We normally stay in huts with at least 2 bedrooms. Each hut has a kitchen with amenities and of course an area for the evening braai. Each camp also has a ‘park shop’ where guests can find almost everything that they need for a comfortable stay, including jewelry and other gift items. Staying in these huts is probably one of my favorite parts because you’re completely secluded from the outside world. There aren’t televisions or computers in the huts and Wi-Fi/cell reception is pretty spotty. All you hear is the laughter or your neighbors and the beautiful sounds of God’s creations. The later the night gets the more animals you hear and often times you can be awoken by the roar of a lion in the distance. After dinner and late-night conversations, it’s time to go to sleep and dream of the beauty that you witnessed that day and smile knowing that you get to do it all over again tomorrow.
Trips to the Kruger and seeing the immaculate size and beauty of the animals really gives you a greater appreciation for mother nature and for the absolute magnificence of God’s creations. If you ever have the opportunity I recommend that you go to the Kruger. It’s an experience unlike any other, one that will leave a lasting impact on your life.