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Recalling Kruger


Game Warden
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Posted previously in my Safari planning. South Africa and Kruger March '08 thread, this was the itinerary booked directly with SanParks, www.sanparks.org. However this was to change slightly during the safari, which I'll comment on later.

 

Fri 28 March - Leave Sanwild morning for Kruger. Entering Phalaborwa Gate. Overnight at Mopani.

 

Sat 29 March – O/N Mopani

 

Sun 30 March – Leave Mopani to Shingwedzi Overnight Shingwedzi.

 

Mon 31 March – O/N Shingwedzi

 

Tue 1 April – Leave Shingwedzi to Letaba Overnight Letaba

 

Wed 2 April – O/N Letaba

 

Thu 3 April – Leave Letaba to Skukuza. Overnight Skukuza

 

Fri 4 April – Leave Skukuza exit park Melalane return to Estcourt. Overnight Estcourt.

 

Prior to Kruger we had stayed with Dikdik and his wife at their farm near Durban, which I talked about here. Bugs had very kindly loaned us his 4x4 for the long drive north and had even gone as far as putting Safaritalk magnets on the side.

 

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The drive up from Estcourt took approximately 8 hours: and our first stop was for lunch with Ian and Michele Merrifield at Daktari. From Daktari it was a short drive to stay with Louise Joubert at Sanwild, and my poor navigation is best overlooked, the short drive between the two locations ending up as quite an adventure...

 

Breaking the journey at Sanwild was ideal, as we had booked to stay at a couple of the more northerly Kruger camps to begin with, Mopani and Shingwedzi, and thus we entered Kruger at Phalaborwa Gate at approximately 2 pm.

 

kruger1.jpg

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I wonder just who's big mouth that zebra is representing with your vehicle logo? These are all exciting new places to me.

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Wow - how nice is Dikdik to lend you a car like that? I love the branding too....

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Prior to entering the park via the above pictured gate, we stopped in the town of Phalaborwa, at a large petrol station with burger bar, and shop from where we bought braai supplies, and a few bits and pieces, water, crisps, biscuits etc. There was really the feeling of being right on the edge of something, everyone seemed to be dressed in safari gear, all the vehicles were 4x4, and you could almost sense the excitement in the air. I was keen for the off, and probably hurried along Lizzie and Carolina too quickly, such was my enthusiasm to get into Kruger.

 

Checking in was quick and easy, presenting the printed reservations form emailed from Sanparks, passports and car details. Very important to buy the map pack and booklet at reception, for although Bugs had provided a GPS unit, Carolina became chief map reader and the brochure proved a very useful tool for her in identifying the wildlife we were to see. An interesting conversation occurred with the chap at the desk upon realising I hailed from both England and Portugal for he was both a Manchester United supporter and a great fan of Christiano Ronaldo. (In fact this is not the first time football has broken the ice, as many young African men watch the English premier league.) It ended with arranging to meet up for the World Cup in 2010, sitting together to watch England vs SA in the final. A warm handshake and I was gone: you cannot imagine how excited I was when the barrier was raised and we were through.

 

With driving the 4x4, I wanted to leave the tarmac as quickly as possible: off roading is not permitted in Kruger, the tarmaced roads take away a little of the wilderness sensation, and I found are inhabited with normal saloon cars so as son as there was a dirt track option we took it: the S131 which later joins the H14 heading north. Of course, whichever route you take there is always the thought of "what if?" but this option proved ideal for the first elephants we came to were between the Ngwenyeni and Nandzane windmills / waterholes. To stop the car, and say look, and see the awe on both Lizzy and Carol's face was worth every penny we had paid - yes we had briefly seen the Sanwild herd, but here we were, on our own, and on the track in front a beautiful elephant strolling across the road. We sat for minutes transfixed by this event, which I only knew to be an introduction of what lay ahead.

 

Soon after, a second, on the turn off at the Nandzane windmill.

 

kruger2.jpg

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The H14 winds its way north, and we found this route very good for elephants: I was mindful of the time, to arrive at Mopani before the gate close, but we had to keep stopping for small groups beside the road and crossing, which possibly formed a bigger herd on opposite sides of the road.

 

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There were a couple of interesting river crossings, the main being a low concrete bridge / causeway across the Letaba River on which we stopped to watch a small pod of hippos,

 

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and water birds. Branching off the H14 are the S141 leading to the Shimuwini Bushveld Camp (no access to non guests) and similarly the Boulders Bush Lodge Camp road. I knew with the numerous elephants we hadn't had time to stop and see this is where we'd be coming back to in the morning - it certainly looked productive. The H14 joins the main H1-6 north south road and from there it is a short drive to Mopani Camp, the first of our stay.

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  • 1 month later...

Mopani, despite us being full of excitement for our first camp in Kruger, proved to be the poorest IMHO to stay. My reasons for this being that the vegetation surrounding this area, mopane forest was dense and difficult to spot wildlife within. Secondly I felt the rondavels to be run down, not in a charming, olde worldly form as later in Shingwedizi, but just uncared for. However what stands out about Mopani for me is the view across the lake from the Fish Eagle terrace and restaurant, there being ample space for those wishing to record the sunset, directly opposite. A number of dead trees protruding from the water would prove to be excellent perches for those fish eagles, but alas, we were to see none. Not yet.

 

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Immediately outside the reception is a huge boabab tree which delighted my daughter: it is surrounded by explanation plaques and one can walk up to it.

 

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