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Yer Actual Kruger Park


Guest sniktawk
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Guest sniktawk

Just returned from 12 days in the Kruger National Park (the real bit).

 

We stayed in 4 different bush-camps for 3 nights each

 

Talamati, Shimuwini, Bateleur and Sirheni, all of which are in the Central or Northern areas of the park.

 

All were reasonably well equipped although differing standards of kitchen equipment were to be found in each.

 

Game viewing was extremely difficult although we had some good sightings these were extremely rare.

 

We glimpsed and/or saw rather than viewed

 

4 leopards none near enough or clear enough to photograph

 

2 Rhino possible to photograph but unless you like bush or grass in front of the animals face not really very good.

 

Around 25 Lions two small prides and a couple of small groups at or near the side of the road.

 

Around 200 Elephants the largest group would have been around 15.(NOT WHAT I WOULD CALL A PLAGUE!). Nor any great signs of damage caused by them.

 

Several herds of Buffalo up to 200 at a time.

 

3 Hyenas

 

1 Jackal

 

Plenty of Steenbok, not many Zebra, a few Wildebeest, some Kudu and Nyala.

 

The birding side was very poor except for a few raptors, not one perching Bateleur.

 

One bird hide we visited not only had no birds but the view was almost totally obstructed by reeds. The majority of waterholes had parking spaces a long way away and were again consistently obstructed by shrubbery.

 

The Central and Northern parts of the Park are predominately Mopane with the exception of some open areas around Satara, the nicest place was the far North at Pafuri. (the home of a Wilderness Safari Concession).

 

Why anyone would choose to pay silly prices to stay at the “private” concessions is beyond me, unless they have tame game and chop down trees so that people can see.

 

OK it is very cheap ZAR13,000 for 12 nights plus cost of food etc, the worse thing was the cost of petrol to get there and back, very disappointing indeed, but you have to try these things.

 

 

Next time it is the Kgalagadi !

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madaboutcheetah

Ken,

 

I thought they are into winter in SA? I thought the Marketing agents would say, winter the grass is short and the gameviewing phenomenal? Not so?

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Sniktawk,

 

Glad you had a good trip, reeds and all. Your photos offer much more than a glimpse. Beautiful shots and it is obvious not all the birds were hiding in reeds.

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Hi Ken,

 

Thanks for the report. Pity about the ordinary gameviewing... at least you're getting out into the bush.

 

I checked out your images (and saw that you posted the giraffe on birdphotographers.net too).

 

I like the lion walking along the ridge the best.

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Game Warden

Ken, it will be interesting to contrast your experiences to mine in Kruger, some of which was spent in similar areas, though not camps. I was there at a high traffic time, end of easter holidays, though because we were up north, Shingwedzi etc, it still felt we were alone in the bush. Some of the loops around Shingwedzi were incredible, and we found large herds of elephants with some huge tuskers in this area.

 

Matt

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wildpicture

Here are some thoughts on Kruger from me. I have been to Kruger quite a few times, the first time in 1995. Last year we went there because it was the first trip together with our two young children (aged just 3 and just 5 then) and Kruger is really "easy" with small kids. There are fenced camps, bungalows with bathroom etc. So after a day of driving around you can just leave them to play around the bungalow. And they liked the ham/cheese sandwiches for lunch.

 

We spent an entire month there, from the end of June till almost august, mostly in bungalows in the small bush camps. The advantage was that even though Kruger was very crowded we hardly saw other people. Sometimes we drove for one or two hours without seeing other cars.

 

As we were there in July, we expected to have nice sunny weather. Well, the day before we arrived in Jo'burg it snowed over there. In Kruger we had three days in a row with heavy rains. Not a problem while driving and the kids made me drive through every single pool of water. :-) But less fun when the thatch roof of our bungalow in Sirheni leaked and the water just poored through. Unfortunately within a few days of our arrival the cleaning staff went on strike. So service wasn't always optimal, but the rest of the staff was extremely helpful. It was a bit worrying though to see large groups of people marching (singing, shouting) with sticks etc through the camps. Luckily there was always immediately a group of armed police present. We also heard rumors about a building being burned down in Skukuza. Well, not the thing you want to hear when you are a tourist there with little children.

 

During the first 2.5 weeks we where mainly in the northern half and saw extremely little game. We promised the kids to see a lion every day, but nothing. We only say elephant and buffalo and occasionally an impala. One day we were lucky and saw a group of wild dogs near Babalala. But for the rest not much game. Sorry for the kids and hardly any photography for me and my wife.

 

Indeed, places where you would expect game such as waterholes are often much too far away for photography. Or they have too much shrubs, reeds and trees etc in front of them. Or you look directly into the sunlight. Often all three of these applied. Even in the special hides. With just a little more attention on how to built things, these conditions would be so much better!! At times I was tempted to get out of the car with a little saw and just fix it.....

 

Then we spent the last two weeks in the south and we saw MUCH more game. On one day we even say all of the big five within a few hours. First 7 rhino at drinking place, then 3 cheetahs on the road. A little further while we were watching lion, I though one of them passed behind our car. But it proved to be a leopard. So much more game but still very hard to get good photographs.

 

The main reason top go to Kruger is that it is relatively inexpensive and mostly "easy", specially with children. For wildlife photography and as safari experience it is certainly not the best place. Your whole experience of a safari is destroyed when you see all these normal cars everywhere. I don't like to see a freshly washed Mercedes or Audi with caravan on safari!!!! :-) And it is weird to say the least, to see posters everywhere to not waist water while brushing your teeth, while the staff offers a car wash service to the owners of expensive cars. Completely ridiculous and counterproductive of course.

 

Still, in two months I will be there once again. Why? Because I will be very close to the entrance gate (Wildlife College) and I have only one week. So going to Kruger once again is an easy and inexpensive choice. I have been invited to one of the neighboring private reserves for a few days. That will be great! really looking forward to that! For the rest I hope to get some decent photography in Kruger this time.

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I must point out that we have had good summer rains and true winter has been a little late, and is not expected to be that harsh this year. The result is that the grass is very high and you can drive past animals just a few meters from the road. The roads are miles apart and much of kruger park is never seen. With the private game reserves bordering kruger, the network of roads is far more comprehensive, which will allow you to get up close and take good pictures.

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I have visited Hulhulwe/Umfolozi a few times and in the middle of the rainy season. I had always thought Kruger would be a bigger and better experience. What I can say is that hulhulwe is really good. You will see plenty of rhino and elephant, also some lion. I see that they have also introduced cheetah there, although the vegetation is not ideal.

 

Much of my earlier days I went to parks in Kwa-zulu natal. Mkuzi and Ithala are also great. I remember camping at Ithala at the campsite there. No hot water and no electricity and only R7.00 per person per night, that was ten years ago. Weenen game reserve is also very highly rated, yet I found the game viewing very disappointing.

 

Try the Eastern Cape - Addo or Scotia? I found Scotia great. Packed with game, but they got a lot of aliens. Hog deer etc. Then if you want photography try Kragga Kamma (sp) There is game everywhere, and great photo opportunities. I spent a week there, and impala used to sleep on the verandah. Sometimes the rhino would stand between the front door and the car.

 

There are benefits to smaller farms with a higher concentration of game.

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wildpicture

One more thing about Kruger. Last year we booked a 4x4 trip in the "Northern Plains". Although we hardly saw game and the tracks aren't real 4x4 stuff, we enjoyed it very much. We were alone all day, no other cars anywhere. And if you are out of view of the normal roads, you are allowed to get out of your vehicle and walk around (at your own risk). The kids enjoyed that and we were able to show them all kinds of interesting small things. For example we stopped at a Baobab and I cut open one of the fruits to show them the contents. These little things are very interesting for kids (and grown ups) to do. The best thing about such a route is the sense of freedom. No other cars, no other people, getting out when you want. Great!

 

In a few years when the kids are a bit older, I hope we can take them to the real wilderness in Botswana.

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  • 3 months later...

sniktawk, sorry your Kruger sightings were so dismal. I was there last year and saw an incredible amount of game, particularly elephants, hyenas and lions. The waterholes weren't obstructed...at least they were working compared to Kgalagadi's waterholes which many were not in operation. I did like Kgalagadi but other than the sightings at Grootkolk camp in the north, we saw hardly anything in the last three camps. And like you, we drove for hours without seeing a single anything....except the lone ostrich. Kgalagadi is laid out in basically a north-south route and an east-west route from Twee Rivieren (entrance gate) and a few (very few) options for any other drives than back and forth on the same road for days. We stayed at three Wilderness camps that were on this route, so for 6 days we traveled the same path over and over. It was the only time I really wanted to come home...that's how boring it was. After 5 safaris, I know that nothing is guaranteed but the overall layout (of Kgalagadi as opposed to Kruger) made it very bad for viewing animals...if they weren't on the road, you weren't going to see them. I know with the delicate desert ecosystem, it would be impossible to have all the routes and loops that Kruger has, but because of the layout, I wouldn't return to Kgalagadi and would really hesitate to recommend it-especially if you wanted to experience all of the wilderness (unfenced) camps like I did. It is a beautiful place for the scenery and the animals that we did see, but not worth returning to.

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  • 3 months later...
Talamati, Shimuwini, Bateleur and Sirheni, all of which are in the Central or Northern areas of the park.

 

Sniktawk,

 

I am soon to organize a safari in Kruger. Do you recommend any of these camps in particular?

 

Thanks in advance.

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Sniktawk, sorry to read about your disappointments with Kruger and thanks for the report on how you found camps in the Northern areas. I too have been reading about these with the impression that viewing would be better because of reduced presence of visitors/ less camps so it's helpful to know that this was not the case, on your visit.

 

When we went to Kruger in June 2004 we enjoyed it but it certainly didn't compare to our experiences in Botswana (not that we expected it to, as you said also). We did enjoy the density of birdlife. We didn't get great photos but did have some enjoyable sightings of a variety of species. For mammals, we found Kruger so so. For predators, very disappointing. In 4 days we had one glimpse of a lion and cub mostly obscured by the bushes and another of a leopard in a tree, so far away that, even with 'nocs, all we could really see was a silhouette.

 

We preferred Hluhluwe--Umfolozi for overall viewing though we didn't have huge luck with predators there either, our other viewing was good, with the exception of birding where Kruger was better.

 

We also loved Ithala, which was so quiet, very few other visitors. Not great game viewing or birding but we found it so beautiful we didn't mind, we just loved being there.

 

Ndumo was also beautiful. Partly because of the unusual setting, with large water pans surrounded by yellow fever and ficus trees with their trunks reflecting into the water. Also, this one we didn't self-drive, we stayed in the now-defunct WS camp there. We were the only visitors on our 2 nights (though they had many that left just as we arrived and more arriving as we left). We were lucky with our bird viewing which was ironic as the guests that had just left were birders and had been desperately searching for two species. They didn't see them, we did. We also enjoyed viewing smaller critters such as porcupine and antelope and learning about plantlife.

 

I'd still recommend Kruger for those on tight budgets and especially for those with kids (though I wouldn't recommend promising sightings of lions, that's a promise you certainly can't be sure you'll be able to keep).

 

But for intimate and prime wildlife viewing, espeically with a view to photography, I don't think I'd recommend Kruger unless that is all one's budget affords.

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