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Dave Williams

Kruger Self Drive. September/October 2019

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Dave Williams

Hot of the press from our return just yesterday I'll post copies of my Blog as I progress with processing photos etc. I intend making the report as comprehensive as possible to try and help inform anyone who hasn't been before make decisions on their trip.The total D-I-Y package needs a lot of thought put in to it and Safaritalk members provided me with a lot of advice for which I was most grateful even if it was suggested the planning thread was longer than a trip report. I aim to prove them wrong!;)


 

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Dave Williams

There are lots of blogs and trip reports about Kruger National Park, lots of social media groups from Facebook to Trip Advisor with many differing opinions about visiting, the experience, the way to do it etc etc. We all have differing expectations, interests and budgets so I had to interpret other peoples views and try to convert them in to what I hoped would be the perfect trip for me and my ever generous wife,Claire, who agreed to spend all of 27 nights out of a possible 28 actually in K.N.P. despite the fact it didn't appear to be her perfect holiday and she was agreeing for my sake!

Kruger National Park would, I hoped, offer some excellent game viewing, has reasonably priced accommodation and you are able to self drive yourself. It's also pretty big, the size of my home country in fact, so no matter how many people are visiting, surely it can't all be blocked roads at sightings, rude and inconsiderate people? I had read a fair few negative comments on various social media pages so when I decided to go ahead and book I tried to choose the road less travelled, if in fact there is one!

Booking accommodation in KNP is fairly straight forward, even if you are in another country, if you use the online booking pages.

https://www.sanparks.org/bookings

Bookings open 11 months in advance and the most popular choices get snapped up fairly quickly so you need to bare that in mind. You also have to pay upfront the whole amount but you do get a 5% discount, and you do have the ability to change or defer bookings, even cancel but there might be a cost involved. Alternatively you can forego the discount and email requesting your choice. That way you get a 24 hour advantage as the on line bookings open the day after telephone and office ones do but you do have to rely on someone else to get the bookings you want.By the time I was booking, some of the accommodation I wanted was unavailable but with a bit of juggling I think I was  95% successful in getting the standard of accommodation I wanted in the places I wanted.

September 22nd fly from Manchester UK

September 23rd arrive J'berg drive to Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp

24th-27th Crocodile Bridge Rest camp

27th-29th Lower Sabie Rest Camp

29th-2nd October  Talamati  Bushveld Camp

2nd- 4th Olifants Rest Camp

4th-8th Shimuwini Bushveld Camp

8th-12th Mopani Rest camp

12th-15th Shingwedzi Rest Camp

15th-17th Sirheni Bushveld Camp

17th-20th Punda Maria Rest Camp

20th drive to Johannesberg

21st Fly to Manchester and drive home!

 

My plan was to enter the park in the south and slowly work my way north.There would only be 6 nights in the very far south and it was a deliberate decision. This is the most densely populated area for both game and tourists! I'd like the opportunity to see the "Big Five" but not at the cost of being involved in a circus on a regular basis, besides the Big Five are just a few of the species on offer, I have just as much interest in things lots of people are not in the least bothered about.

So that was my plan of camps. The Bushveld ones have very few accommodation units, maybe around 15 so less people and vehicles around too as they have a stretch of private road to access them so you have that to yourselves. However, they don't have the benefits of shops, restaurants etc so you have no alternative other than to self cater which you need to plan in advance. My sort of place particularly as they all have an observation hide too which I hoped wouldn't be too crowded!

My original intention was to stay outside the park on our first night but second thoughts had me booking in to Berg-en-dal camp so I could at least experience that area for one night. The drive from Johannesburg is 4-5 hours so you need to make sure you have sufficient time to reach your chosen camp before the gates shut at 6.00pm.

So that was the journey plan. I estimated I'd drive 5000kms (3125 miles) and the cost of car hire, petrol(estimated at 30mpg) and park entrance and accommodation would come  to about £3500. Food and drink would be extra The flights with Qatar from Manchester,UK cost under £1100 for the two of us in economy. 

Other than that my planning included reading as much as I could, buying a good mammal and bird guide, a photographers guide and a road map guide around Kruger.I already had an in car charger  that takes a multitude of different plug types. I bought a small ultra violet torch for spotting Scorpions, and a more powerful torch for spotting other wildlife whilst walking in camp when it's dark. We had our malaria tablets ready and took a couple of basic tools like a sharp knife, can opener, ice cube bags, a couple of cool bags and a thermos flask.

Then there's the camera gear...it's a decision on what not to take rather than the other way around. It's my passion! 

My list was crazy and took up most of our hand luggage as well as a fair chunk of the hold allowance, probably about 25kilos in total:-

Camera bodies- Canon's 1DX2 and 5D4 and a "point and shoot" Olympus Tough and Apple 5Ds phone.

Lenses- Canon's 500mm, 100-400mm, 70-200mm, 24-105mm

1.4 and 2.0 teleconverters.

Others- Canon Infra red remote control unit, flash gun, spare batteries, spare camera cards, battery chargers and leads .

Binoculars

Gitzo tripod and Wimberley head.

My Macbook , 2 external hard drives and a few other bits and pieces


Claire took her iPad mini and her iPhone, 

Oh, and the one thing most don't take...a sun lounger . In fairness Claire told me not to bother but as they are in short supply where we were going and we had the luggage allowance, why not I thought? Wildlife watching isn't her thing really, certainly not for a month. She was sacrificing her holiday choices for me to get mine so it was the least I could do.


I took a limited amount of cash in sterling and some plastic cards. I had been recommended getting a preloaded credit card called "Revolut" so I organised one for both of us. I must admit I'm impressed, very impressed. You download currency from your bank account and then convert it to the foreign currency of choice at the time and current exchange rate of your choice. The exchange rates they give are spot on with the international currency rates traded between banks across the world and they fluctuate by the second so it's up to you when to hit the exchange button! When we visited Namibia in 2017 the rate for rand had fallen to just 16R to the £ so I was happy to be exchanging at 18R as I loaded my card. I spread the loading over a few days and the rate improved to 18.30, alas it continued rising and hit over 19 today as I write but with the UK's economy looking very uncertain I just wanted to guarantee that our spending wouldn't fluctuate too wildly .Having loaded what I believed to be sufficient funds and knowing how many Rands I had on our cards as well as some back up in case I had got my sums wrong was good for peace of mind.

Let the trip report begin and hopefully I can answer some of the questions I didn't ask before we left, and give further information about some of the things we discovered on our travels!

T.B.C.

 

 

 

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soleson

Really looking forward to this trip report and the detail!   I have been wanting to do a Kruger self-drive but haven't had the chance yet (or the vacation time).  Would you say that 4 weeks was too long?  Your wife is a saint.  No way I can get my wife to join me for that many days of wildlife viewing.  I would have to bribe her with some beach time in the middle.  To date we settled for a week at a time in each Trimivati, Thornybush and Phinda.  

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wilddog

27 days! Wow.  Really helpful start to your TR; thanks @Dave Williams 

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Dave Williams

@soleson You will have to join me for the ride to find out! However, all worked out pretty well!! Not sure how quickly she'll agree to go again, but although I was sad to leave I do think it necessary to leave a gap before returning anywhere, not just KNP. You don't want trips to be too repetitive.

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wagtail

Dave, this is one report I am really looking forward to!

What are you waiting for.... it's been a hour since your last post?

Cheers

Ian Hargreaves

 

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Towlersonsafari

hurrah! looking forward to this @Dave Williams

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Dave Williams

@wagtail It's going to be lengthy I feel but as we are no longer heading to Goa thanks to the collapse of Thomas Cook I shall take my time and get on with some other duties as well!!

However, the next one is upcoming now!!

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Dave Williams

There are many ways of getting to South Africa, several options of how to get to Kruger when you get there including self drive or a flight to Skukuza  Living in North wales it's easier to fly from Manchester than to drive to the southern airports near London. Qatar and Emirates are the obvious options but the journey is two legged and means diverting via the Middle East for a short stop over ( if you book the right flights!) before continuing south to Johannesberg.

We chose Qatar  as they were a) cheaper b) I actually prefer their planes as a window seat enables you to rest your head against the cabin wall. Emirates huge A380 doesn't make that possible and we, as "economy" passengers, have to try and make the journey as comfortable as possible.

Some can afford "business class" but the added luxuries come at a price which I'm not prepared to pay. The difference in cost for the two of us is more than the cost of the the next 4 weeks so a bit of suffering on the journey offers a huge payback. The fact the flight is split in to two sections I quite like as it does give a break and an opportunity to stretch your legs ( and be prepared for a long walk to the next departure gate too). Join the Qatar Airways privilege  club and you can spend your airmiles in their duty free shop getting a 30% discount in the process. 

We both managed a decent number of hours sleep during the flights, the onboard staff are very helpful and friendly, drinks are available freely on request and my only complaint would be the "food".

I don't understand why they bother , the packaging is wasteful and awkward but I suppose it passes some time trying to deal with it. The food within was largely disgusting!

Qatar Airways cuisine

I guess if you are hungry enough you can eat it but personally I'd rather they just gave you a sandwich which would be a cost saving and more acceptable than the gloop which is supposedly scrambled egg in this meal box.

Qatar Airways cuisine

Yes, I usually have a red wine with my breakfast when it's served in the middle of the night!

Anyway, flights and transfers were bang on time or early. Landing in Johannesberg you will be accosted by a porter, I read that they are worth using and I have to agree. The terminal building is pretty big and you can easily get lost on a first visit. For 50 rand we were guided to the ATM that charges the least for withdrawals and then on to our car rental company office, Bidvest. When you are concerned about the camp gate closing time deadlines any time savings along the way are wholly welcome.

I had asked for advice on which car to choose and settled for a Toyota Avanza rather than an SUV or  4x4. I was assured you didn't need the latter options in KNP and with hindsight I would largely agree although some of the corrugated gravel roads were a bit uncomfortable. The Avanza has the huge advantage in that the rear passenger windows fully open to make life much easier from a photographic point of view. They also have plenty of luggage storage space, more than most options unless you go to the very largest vehicles on offer.

I do my bookings through Rentalcars.com because they allow a free cancellation almost up to the day you are due to hire. They also compare the market. My investigations proved that they actually quote a cheaper price than booking directly online with the rental agency too. That I don't understand!

However, my booking for an Avanza dropped in price by well over a £100 as we neared our departure date so I simply booked the cheaper price, made sure it was confirmed than cancelled the original one. One word of warning though, all these car rental companies advertise as "model x or similar"

We didn't get an Avanza, we got a 7 seater Suzuki Ertiga instead. Almost new it was in pristine condition so no need to do any further checking other than to make sure there was a spare wheel. For KNP I think that is essential.

Suzuki Ertiga

The one thing I didn't think to check, and you wouldn't would you, was the screen wash bottle didn't have a leak in it. In the dry weather we had it wasn't a problem but would have been had we had muck splashing on the windscreen. The other thing about being in the park is that repair options are going to be limited and even swapping hire cars might prove problematic although with hindsight it is probably easier than you think. There are rental offices at Skukuza and Phalaborwa and perhaps others I'm unaware of too.

Anyway, the Suzuki proved OK to drive and surprisingly economical on fuel although a little unsteady in cross winds on the toll roads.

For those who are unsure about driving in South Africa all I can say is it's very easy even if you are not used to driving on the left side of the road. Heading to Malelane to enter KNP in the south is straightforward and mostly dual carriage way. You need to prepare for unexpected hold ups of course, one that we managed to avoid was a spot where they were due to start explosive blasting which could apparently last 30 minutes. We saw several police cars and speed checks along the way so pay heed to the local speed limits and all will be well. Our hire car included a toll road tag so we didn't pay going through ...and for that matter haven't yet either but as they don't take plastic from non SA issuing banks it avoided the need for cash. Just in case though I had withdrawn 4000R to cover eventualities such as there might be.In the end cash was hardly required other than I always tip in cash to make sure the service provider gets the money and not their employer.

Anyway, leaving the airport within 2.5 hours we were on our way before noon and arrived in Malelane at around 4.30pm. Just enough spare time to nip in to a supermarket and pick up a couple of essentials to see us through the first 24 hours. Aware that there were reports of security issues about leaving valuables on show in the car I remained in the vehicle while Claire did the shopping. The Suzuki was pretty basic and didn't include any cover for the rear space where cases are kept. Anyway, while waiting and guarding the gear I took a snap of my first bird species of the trip, a Common Mynah Bird which proved not so common as I only saw one at one other place. I had ambitions of a hefty count of bird species to help hit may target  500 for the year so the sooner I started the better!

Common Mynah

Checking in at the park gate was squick and easy, as was the check in at Berg-en-Dal camp.

The excitement of actually driving inside the park is amazing when you first arrive. Almost immediately there is wildlife to see. I had pre determined three bird species I wanted to see and couldn't believe my luck to be looking at a group of three Southern Ground Hornbills already.

Southern Ground Hornbill

Apologising to Claire for stopping to dig out the big lens to take some snaps, we had after all been on the road from home for about 32 hours by now and I assumed she had other priorities, I hurriedly took a few more shots "just in case" . I was glad I did because I never got a better view and only had four sightings in total during the month in the park. Claire was happy to let me stay longer but I pushed on to camp. We both wanted to stop when we saw a group of five Rhino though! 

Five!

I had never seen a White Rhinoceros before, never mind a group of five, three of which are in the shot below.

Rhino

They ask you not to report the spot for Rhino sightings for fear that it will aid poachers. It is however common knowledge where best to look for them and poachers are not stupid. The south of the park is the best place. I was over the moon already.

The accommodation I'd booked was the best they have for a two bedroomed unit, a BA3U bungalow.

We were pleasantly surprised.

Berg-en-Dal BA3U

We'd read many complaints about the accommodation through out the park's camps but if this was the standard we would manage very nicely.

There were three single beds, two were pushed together to form a large double

Berg-en-Dal BA3U

There is an open plan design that includes a kitchen area and breakfast bar.

Berg-en-Dal BA3U

with a toilet and shower room leading off the main accommodation room.

Berg-en-Dal BA3U

Everything was spotlessly clean, even if slightly tired in one tor two places such as the electric hobs looking well used but we were delighted. I would be happy if all the rooms we had booked would turn out so well.

The view from the perimeter fence was not exactly wonderful but we saw a passing Bushbuck on our first morning, and better still, glimpses of a passing Civet ( but no photos unfortunately) whilst having a pre dinorial beer sat on out patio.

Berg-en-Dal BA3U

We ate in the restaurant and both enjoyed the meal we chose. Nothing particularly memorable but it filled the need nicely. We didn't want to cook our selves on our first night, there was plenty of opportunity for that later, but had we wanted to the shop offered enough choice to have put together a decent meal on the "Braii". Our unit was well equipped, a fridge freezer, microwave, electric kettle and all the utensils were probably there although we didn't actually check. The only point worth noting was that in poor weather the seating area outside was not under cover and that breakfast bar the only choice. Likewise, if it's wet or very windy a B-B-Q might not be an option so you have to consider that you only have two hobs and a microwave at your disposal.

Or the restaurant of course!

No, so far so good. Tomorrow was the first big day and we were both looking forward to it immensely.

T.B.C.

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TonyQ

A great start @Dave Williams  with lots of practical detail.

I am looking forward to this report 

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Dave Williams

Thanks @TonyQ I'm hoping to point out the things we didn't know or had forgotten about despite all the preparations we made as well as the more obvious details.Of course if you have never been to KNP or read anything previously it will all be new and I'm hoping anyone that follows the report will be even better prepared than we were!!

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michael-ibk

A great start, Dave, and many thanks for all the practical information from me as well - very helpful! Never heard about Revolut, very interesting.

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Dave Williams

@michael-ibk The Revolut card is European based and as such isn't covered by the UK financial protection if they go bust which other cards that are UK based are however I'm confident they won't, and as a precaution won't load it with too much cash even though it's tempting to change money when rates are in your favour. How I wish I'd been able to stick a few US dollars away when we were getting 50% more to the £ than we are now...it wasn't long ago either. Meantime my savings are earning a pittance and loosing money against realtime inflation. You can store umany different currencies on your account too.If you have insufficient in the local currency the card will deduct from your native currency balance at the current rate.You can programme the card to exchange money if and when the rate hits a target figure you set it to, that way you can take advantage of both rising and falling rates to your advantage without having to constantly monitor things

One of the best features is the security it offers. You can programme the card via your mobile phone to not allow cash withdrawals, stop working altogether until you cancel the instruction or not work if your mobile isn't nearby. If you lose the card you don't have to worry about it being misused.You can also disable the "contactless payment' ability as well.

When you use the card the payment appears instantly on your phone ( if you have a wifi connection)so you can see what the payment has been, and any others you have made previously are on record too.If you are in a group who also have the card you can split a bill between you , handy in a group situation say having a meal or ordering drinks over a period of time. Look in to it, may be ideal for your travelling needs.

Oh, one other drawback is you can only withdraw the equivalent of £200 per month in cash. That's presumably how they make their money by investing the cash you have stored until you spend it yourself but you can of course use it like a normal credit card whilst at home if you want to get rid of the money you have banked on it.

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JayRon

Great beginning with loads of info. Kruger is an awesome place :)  I am very curious about what sighting you got. And your itinerary looks good, even though you missed my all-time favorite Satara;). But really looking forward how you liked the bushveld camps. I am thinking of adding a couple of nights on my next trip in july. But I am excited and really looking forward to the next part...

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Towlersonsafari

you are so right @Dave Williams there is nothing like the excitement of arriving at a new reserve at the start of the holiday!

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Dave Williams

We didn't stay long enough to draw too many conclusions about Berg-en-Dal but I'd certainly consider another visit. We got up reasonably early and were greeted to a rather dull overcast day...not what we'd been hoping for! We took a walk around the trail inside the camp to give us a feel for the place, a peep at what was on offer if we decided to come back and to compare the various positions and types of accommodation there was on offer. To be honest there wasn't that much advantage having a perimeter fence view, after all it would be dark most of the time we'd be in the room anyway however, it might be quieter and more private , well as far as other humans are concerned.

There wasn't too much avian activity but the one bird I was delighted to see was a few Brown-headed Parrots. I have seen them at long distance before when visiting The Gambia where they are on the bird guides speciality list which helps sell their services. Here they were right outside our door and posing nicely too.

Brown-headed Parrot  Poicephalus cryptoxanthus

A great start to my day but nothing compared to what followed as we journeyed across to Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp!

What a drive that turned out to be!

We didn't take the most direct route, we had all day to get there after all.

I decided I wanted to take the local gravel roads around Berg-en Dal then head up the tar road to Afsaal picnic site which had been reported as serving the best bacon, egg and cheese roosterkoek ( a grilled bread bun) in the park. Ideal for a breakfast stop then!

Delicious and not expensive it was but we had to wait some time to get one. The place was heaving!

When booking our trip I hadn't realised that we were visiting during the school holidays for the first week, not only that but our first day was a national holiday.....Heritage Day!

Oops! We were only spending a limited amount of time in the south of the park to avoid crowds and I'd gone and booked a busy week. Too late now.

Moving on well fed, we were soon into some fabulous sightings. Off the tar road we saw my first ever Klipspringers thanks to a handful of cars that had stopped to look. I'd have missed them otherwise.

Klipspringer

Likewise a sighting of Rhino right next to the road was shared with just three or four cars.

White Rhino

I could live with those sort of numbers! The tar roads were supposedly the busiest.

We ventured off down a gravel route and then I found out what things could get like.

Leopard jam Kruger NP

The road was totally blocked by all those trying to get a better view. What of? A dead Impala hanging in a tree. A Leopard's dinner in waiting but no Leopard in sight. These folk were waiting for the moment it returned and were prepared to spend an age doing so. The big cats are the be all and end all for some. I was instantly annoyed at their selfish attitude in blocking the road but I eventually got through. Mr Grumpy was being counselled by his more tolerant wife but it was soon forgotten when we had our next sighting and this time all to ourselves!

White Rhino

Amazing to see these magnificent beasts so close to the car. We went on to see over a dozen during the course of the journey which was truly amazing as I had expected them to be hard to find. 

There was still more to come though....much more!

A stop at Biyamiti Weir was very special. You can park on the road with the water at eye level.Biyamiti Weir  Kruger NP

Game hopefully will come down to drink at the edge of the pool beyond the wall.

Waterbuck were there when we stopped.

Waterbuck

A Malachite Kingfisher was sat just a few feet away.

Malachite Kingfisher

Amazing eye level views of a Black Crake, a normally shy and confiding bird but hidden in the car the bird approached to within a few feet.

Black Crake  Amaurornis flavirostra

and all the time the occasional odd sound. 

A snort it seemed.

Then all was revealed!

Hippopotomus

I could have spent hours there but I was moved on, big style.

Elephant at the weir

You don't argue with these characters, especially if they have young ones around. 

We decided it was time to leave.

Our next stop was forced when a herd of Buffalo decided to cross the road in front of us. 

Buffalo

They don't hurry if a car is there either, taking their time, often it seemed with a big bull taking the role of blocking the road whilst the herd crossed.

There was just so much to see and witness and amazingly with no other cars to share it with.

Next up a Spotted Hyena, again all to ourselves!

Spotted Hyena

All this in the crowded south and on Heritage Day! We later found out that both the southern entry gates to the park had been closed to further day visitors as the maximum number of allowed entries  had been passed. They must all be in the picnic sites as far as we could see!

The next major sight was one that took me totally by surprise, it was one of my best ever.

No, not the Natal Spurfowl that I had spent several minutes waiting to try and get a clear shot of.

Natal Spurfowl Pternistis natalensis

Well I wasn't to know how common and widespread they are was I? Had I known I couldn't have stopped for so long but in doing so missed the opportunity for the following shot.

Wild Dog

Yes, Wild Dog! one of the rarest mammals in the park with an estimated total of less than 300.

It just emerged out of the bushes and started to trot alongside the road. I hurriedly put the car in reverse and overtook it, stopping just in time as it came to a hot right in front of us.

Wild dog

What a day this was turning out to be, the only problem was how to top it and this was only day one.

It was starting to get late so we moved on at a slightly faster pace now ignoring anything that we'd seen before, however, I couldn't resist this shot of a mother and baby Giraffe not far from our next stop over at Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp.

Giraffe mother and baby

The baby is so young it still has it's umbilical cord attached.

Giraffe baby

It was a real WOW of a day but we were ready to settle in to our new camp for the next three nights, sit back with a sundowner and reflect on the day whilst watching the flames from our Braii gradually reducing in size ready to cook our first meal of the trip.

T.B.C.

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pedro maia

What a great start Dave, and the wild dog makes me very jealous, I still haven’t seen one.

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refox3488

Wow, i'm in love with that baby giraffe! Great photos all around and thanks for the wonderful narrative.

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shazdwn

Fantastic start and I am looking forward to more - will also help with planning a trip I have in mind for 2021.

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Towlersonsafari

lovely photos and splendid sightings  @Dave Williams 

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xelas

Absolutely top notch, mesmerizing report and photos. Which, to be honest, is what I have expected from @Dave Williams.

 

About food on flights, as one economy class traveller to another, if my carry-on will allow, I will bring some sandwich and steaks next time with us. The food quality really dropped in last years. Even with Turkish.

 

Looks like Toyota Avanza is in short supply :huh:? How were the windows behind? Fully or semi retracted?

 

Glad to read about your lodge accommodation specifics, and see photos. Prices can be found on-line. What you have not mentioned, and I suppose you have get, is the Wild Card. It saves a lot of money to an international visitor, specially a couple, and on a longer visit. Maybe some details later on?

 

 

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Dave Williams

The windows were 95% retracted at the back Alex, ironically most of the time the two of us sat in the front! Only saw one other Suzuki and only a few Avanzas too.

To say the Suzuki was basic is an understatement but it did have AirCon and an unused radio. The locking wasn't by remote, you had to use the key to open the drivers door, then unlock the rest via a switch. Actually a good move as it makes the vehicle protected from "jammers" . Manual gearbox is what I'm used to but I would have loved a cruise control button, particularly on gravel roads where my foot went numb resting on the accelerator due to the vibrations ( partly due to my back problems I guess). I would have benefited from rear parking sensors too but that's another story! In different conditions an SUV would be a better choice.

 

Yes, we got a Wildcard in advance, 4 days before we left. I produced the email as proof of purchase at the gate. I decided to do so before we arrived to save time just in  case we were running late. The Wildcard lasts for a year, just need to persuade Claire we need to go back sooner or later, not necessarily to Kruger, it covers 80 parks in total! The actual card was in the mailbox by the time we got home.

By waiting, not only do you have the opportunity of a future visit to a park FOC, the exchange rate improved in our favour and it cost £244 not the £273 I had predicted.However, I could load my Revolut card to maintain the current rates until I need to spend them.

 

I'm going to try and cover everything you need to know but happily will answer any questions along the way.

Yes, the prices for the various accommodations are available to see online and are likely to have changed for anyone planning a future booking.

 

To get the two person units ( which often accommodate 3) you need to book asap I think. You can of course book a 4 person unit too but they are almost twice the price.

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Soukous
On 10/23/2019 at 9:46 AM, Dave Williams said:

Camera bodies- Canon's 1DX2 and 5D4 and a "point and shoot" Olympus Tough and Apple 5Ds phone.

Lenses- Canon's 500mm, 100-400mm, 70-200mm, 24-105mm

1.4 and 2.0 teleconverters.

Others- Canon Infra red remote control unit, flash gun, spare batteries, spare camera cards, battery chargers and leads .

Binoculars

Gitzo tripod and Wimberley head.

My Macbook , 2 external hard drives and a few other bits and pieces

 

Crikey, and I thought I carried a lot of gear. The bid question is, how much of it did you use and could you have left some behind?

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Dave Williams
57 minutes ago, Soukous said:

 

Crikey, and I thought I carried a lot of gear. The bid question is, how much of it did you use and could you have left some behind?

 

Without a doubt Martin, much of it was unnecessary but I wasn't to know that was I !

I'll sum up on gear, both photographic and otherwise at the end on the report!!

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Dave Williams

We'd booked in to Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp for three nights. It's right next to the gate and it's a small camp with only 46 camping sites and accommodation units. Lots of folk don't seem to like the place as they feel it's too close to the outside world. You can actually see uncivalization lit up from the camp but that didn't bother us one jot. It's a neat little camp and ideally situated for exploring the south eastern corner of KNP.

Our BD3 bungalow had three single beds.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger NP

Two to sleep in and one a useful depository for all my gear!!

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger NP

We'll discuss that issue at a later stage!!

The room had a decent bathroom

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger NP

and was spotlessly clean.

Unlike Berg-en-dal there was an outside kitchen.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger NP

Sorry the pictures are gloomy but taken on arrival and on an iPad before the placed is messed up!

The benefit of an outside kitchen compared to the inside one at Berg-en-dal is that if one of you gets up early to make a cup of coffee you can do without disturbing your partner. Nothing was secured but they don't seem to be bothered by Monkeys, Baboons or Honey Badgers and of course you have to trust your fellow campers too.

Once again, the main cooking source is the Braii.

If the weather turned you might be a bit stuck as the kitchen only offers two electric hobs and a microwave as alternatives. The eating area is well covered though.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger NP

Although the units are fairly close, they are set on an angle so you feel a bit more private unless you venture out to use the BBQ.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger NP

That can't be said about the camping site though.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger NP

The camping sites are basically unregulated from what I can gather. As a caravanner myself I have been in similar situations and I have to say, it's not my personal choice to have someone else so close I can hear everything next door are up to! However, if I lived in South Africa I'd put up with it as the camping site is just 20% of the cost of a bungalow and you can bring all the necessary you need with you too. I'd be making many visits over the course of a year and many do! Being near the gate makes it popular for weekends I imagine.

Crocodile Bridge doesn't have a restaurant and only a small shop which closes early at 6.15pm.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger NP

You could make a meal on what's on offer but it's better to go outside the park to stock up on supplies. I have seen criticisms that the park shops are expensive but I didn't think they were too bad at all, a large can of Castle Larger was exactly the same price in the shop as it was in the local Spar. The camp shop though is aimed at tourists, more space given to profitable souvenirs than food.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger NP

and this was the case through out the park.We had purchased sufficient provisions at Berg-en-dal in preparation for the first night, the shop there was bigger and has more choice. I had read that they allow you to leave the camp to dine in the local town of Komatipoort even after the official gate closing times. I can't verify if it's true because we were happy to Braii every night. On our second day in the camp we went shopping in town to stock up enough supplies to cover our next 7 nights at least. The next camp had a restaurant but the one after, Talamati doesn't have anything so you need to go prepared. Careful purchases are needed, consideration for sell by/use by dates and suitability for freezing need to be taken in to account. You don't just stick everything in the freezer immediately either, there is every chance it will defrost during the move from one camp to another, fine if you intend eating it soon but not otherwise! It needs planning carefully as does where the camps are located in relation to outside KNP access.

Anyway, we really enjoyed Crocodile Bridge. It was nice and quiet there were open views beyond the fence, in some places down to the river bed below where our neighbours spotted two Lions chasing but unsuccessfully catching an Impala at 2.30 pm . The camp was empty at the time. Everyone was out looking for Lions!!

Fortunately the Lions were outside the camp but what appeals to me is what's inside too. Crocodile Bridge is supposedly good for birds but it wasn't particularly so while I was there. Wrong season perhaps? It did have some interesting alternatives though.

It was interesting that after the first camp I would enquire when booking in at reception as to what animals were likely to be seen in camp and the answer was always "None!"

I'm not sure why but perhaps they think it will scare you!

Crocodile Bridge had some welcome visitors and one not so welcome one!

Warthogs Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp

Warhogs wandering around the place...no problem!

Banded Mongoose

An invasion of Banded Mongoose every morning..welcome!

and the speciality of the house an absolute dream come true!

I had read that Lesser Bush Babies have made their home in a fence post that surrround the camp. Don't ask me why but it's been a lifetime's ambition to see one ever since I read an article in the national Geographic when I was about 10. This was my big chance!

On our first evening I enquired with a near neighbour if she knew where I might see one and she pointed me in the direction of the post they usually live in. There's a bench nearby so sat with a beer, Claire and I waited patiently for dusk to fall. Unfortunately the wind came up, it had been dull all day and so was getting colder. We retreated to the warmer sheltered area of our bugalow.

The second evening they appeared and moved so fast I missed them again, and told the same lady it was not looking good.

Next day we returned from a day out and there on our dining table was a bottle of wine and a good luck note to tell me the Bush Babies had moved to a new post...the one in front of our bungalow!

That was it, I was going to nail the shot tonight. My last chance.

How was I going to do it I pondered.

Canon 1DX2 for best low light performance.

70-200mm f2.8 again, let's more light in!

Stick them on a tripod, prefocus on the top of the pole and retreat. Sit on my patio with a cup of something and wait. The minute the Bush Baby appeared fire my camera via an infra red remote control unit so the little critter wouldn't be put off by my presence!

Sounds simple doesn't it! It's not that easy though. 

What shutter speed should I use, I needed it to be low due to the lighting. 

What f stop? Initially I thought f2.8 again, for more light, then I thought insufficient depth of field so I changed it to f4. Do I focus on the post or the space just above hoping the Bush baby is in the right place? Manual focus or auto focus. Time was running out as the light started to fade and I still hadn't decided.

Too late now, I went auto focus, f4, 1/100th of a second. Shutter on silent high speed release.

Up popped the Bushbaby and I started firing off the shots! Fortunately the shutter speed seemed to catch it's attention and instead of leaping out of the top of the pole it started looking around for the source of the noise!

I took dozens of shots of the back of it's head, the side on view, some with nothing other than the pole as it had ducked back down. This meant I was now out of focus until it reappeared in the right spot so I got lots of blurred images next!

Anyway, fortunately for me a few of the very first ones came out well.

Lesser Bushbaby

Yes I can crop in much further than the one I cropped above and retain some details.

Lesser Bushbaby

But if I was going to shoot at f4 why didn't I use my 500mm lens to get much closer. Maybe next time eh?

The other thing I didn't realise was the Bushbabies didn't seem to concerned about my presence either.There were three of them living in the pole and in turn the leapt to the nearest bush then back on to the fence. I lifted the camera off the tripod and tried to get some more pictures hand held. By now it was too dark really but at least you get to appreciate their overall size.

Lesser Bushbaby

I didn't use my flash attachment as I thought it would be too strong a light on these nocturnal creatures and instead asked Claire to shine our torch on them as it has a low light setting.

Lesser Bushbaby

For me, probably the most satisfying experience of our whole trip.

The least enjoyable one was from Claire's point of view. Packing up to leave Crocodile Bridge she moved a case that was against the wall to see a snake wriggle out! She kept back in horror, a nightmare come true. She was trapped inside our room as the case was near the door! Fair play, she had the presence of mind to grab her iPad and take a picture of it before it wriggled under the case again! When I returned from taking things to the car I was amazed how calm she was, I'd have expected a scream but she did admit she didn't want the snake to react to noise and had called me in a low voice!

I went off to seek help and a ranger appeared complete with all the snake catching gear. The photo helped him identify the species which turned out to be a harmless Green Spotted Bush Snake.

Green Spotted Bush Snake

Of course we didn't know if it was harmless or not and as the Ranger told us, they are often mistaken for the deadly Boomslang snake so caution is always the best policy.

Fortunately it was the only snake we saw but Claire was a little on edge in every other place we stayed!!

Me?

I was delighted to get the pictures of course!

Green Spotted Bush Snake

 

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