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Kruger self-drive 7 day trip, Jan '10


Shreyas
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Hello all! My first post here.

 

I’ve been a long time lurker to the forum, and could never get the time out to be actively involved here, until now.

I’ve seldom read one page at a time the many beautiful stories/adventures written by you fine folks. Absolutely loved the trip reports from atravelynn, twaffle, etc. … your trip details and descriptiveness are awe-inspiring :))

 

Well, for me, am a sucker for wildlife in general, and Africa in particular, as most of you folks are (I assume)! With which, I’m into wildlife photography and conservation as well, and these two reasons got me to Africa for my first trip in January 2010.

 

I stayed in South Africa for a month, out of which I spent 3 weeks in the Makalali game reserve involved with a conservation program, and 1 week on a self-drive trip in Kruger National Park (KNP) with my dad. I had a good share of adventures at Makalali as well, but in this report, I’ve included my trip in Kruger which was completed in 7 days, covering 3 camps: Satara, Lower Sabie, and Skukuza.

 

With this being my first trip to Africa, I got real good help on accommodations and routes to do the self-drive from the “sanparks” website (http://www.sanparks.org/forums/). Its forums actually helped to nail down the exact chalet or room that one should consider in order to have the best wildlife viewing possibilities and/or the best overall stay when at the camp.

 

Itinerary after leaving Makalali reserve:

Day 1-3: Satara Camp

Day 3-6: Lower Sabie Camp

Day 6-7: Skukuza Camp

 

We started off for Kruger from Hoedspruit – the town from which I picked the rental car. A nice little town with a few malls, lodges, restaurants, and a train station. The “blue line” passes from this town.

We picked up a few essentials from Hoedspruit and started off for the Orpen Gate. The rains were a little late in the season of 2009-2010 around Kruger, and which gained momentum during end of January, when I was travelling. Therefore, we had some showers on our way to KNP, which on one hand I enjoyed a lot because it brought up the most beautiful scenery and smell of the land, but had some worries regarding the drive inside the park due to dirt roads. Turned out the dirt roads of KNP were well maintained for the most part!!

 

An excellent map for KNP can be found here

 

Day 1-3: Satara Camp

 

We arrived at Orpen gate at around noon time, and were welcomed by a cattle crossing right after entering Kruger. The heard was of decent size and it took a few minutes for all the buffalo cross over.

 

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Orpen to Satara is a pleasant drive, tar road all throughout. We came across small waterholes on the side, and a bigger pond about 7kms before Satara camp. I had already chosen the spots that I was gonna rush to right after checking into the camp. We reached the camp about mid-afternoon, and me & my dad jumped right on to use the remaining 4 hrs to explore the dirt-roads around the camp.

 

We headed out to the pond on the W of the camp that we’d just crossed over, saw a few hippos and the regular birds and storks, and then drove along the banks to the back roads.

Saw a heard of impalas crossing the road in front of us. While I was sorting the pics, came across an interesting observation: the leap of most of the animals was at the same pace, which can be seen in the picture below :)

 

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After a few kms, we ran into a large heard of buffalo.

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One of them had a chunk taken off her belly and was constantly licking it. Other than the buffalo, we did not have luck with any other major sighting for the day. The camp closed at 6pm and we then made our way back.

 

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A kudu with his alter ego :)

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If one sees the map, there are many roads around the camp, out of which S-100 turned out to be the most promising. I shuttled S-100 for about 5 times in our stay of 2.5 days and saw Lions, hyenas, elephants, buffalo, zebras, kudu etc.; ironically NO Leopard (which I was much desperate to see)! The second day morning, we started off from the camp at 4:30 am. It had rained the whole night and was still drizzling in the morning. We started off on S-100 and were welcomed by 4 hyenas parading right in the middle of the road. After a few kms, we saw two lionesses coming out of the gorge that flows parallel to the road. The moment they came out, we saw the vultures waiting on the trees jump right into the gorge…..breakfast was served. Wished it was served closer to the road :(

 

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Miscl birds along the way

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Saw a hyena mom with her cub who had made a drainage pipe running under the road their home. The cub was very playful and was running around across the road, not 3 feet away from our car. The mom looked pretty beaten up though.

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We made our way towards the camp in the early afternoon and ran into some elephants. Quite a few of them were with babies.

 

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.....to be continued

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I'd say that's a pretty good first post and no doubt it will get better... welcome to Safaritalk. I couldn't get into Lower Sabie a few years back but did have breakfast on the wooden deck overlooking the river... had some great rhino sightings close by...

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Can't wait to read more! Great first post, as GW says!

 

Would love to hear about your Makalali experiences, too!

 

x

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Welcome! Way to jump right in. I look forward to more.

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Shreyas,

 

Welcome to ST! Your reoprt looks great and I look forward to reading more. I've never been to SA and have never done a self drive so I find this particularly interesting. Also, thanks for including the Sanparks links as these help others in planning/researching upcoming trips.

 

Cheers,

 

PT123

 

PS -

 

Great emoticon - Rhinos are my fav.

Edited by PT123
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As everyone else has said, pretty special opening post!

Welcome.

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I'd say that's a pretty good first post and no doubt it will get better... welcome to Safaritalk. I couldn't get into Lower Sabie a few years back but did have breakfast on the wooden deck overlooking the river... had some great rhino sightings close by...

 

Thanks Game Warden!

I have a few pics of the restaurant deck that am gonna include in the Lower Sabie chapter of this report. The Sabie river was pretty swollen due to the rains at that time, and had lots of hippos around the camp. I had good White Rhino sightings too while exploring the loop towards Crocodile Bridge camp.

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Thanks all!

 

@Kavey, will add the details from Makalali along the way. It was a heck of an experience,... had close calls with Hyenas and Elephants there :huh: A glimpse of what we did there can be found here if interested

@ PT123, I think self-drive is the way to do south Kruger as there's so much to see. Not that I've explored the whole par inside out, but the locations I went to, I covered all the loops and hides that were around the area. It was a total of 1493 kms traveled at the end of this trip.

The Rhino in the Avatar is one of few that I shot @ Makalali game reserve!

Edited by Shreyas
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Adding my welcome to the chorus of welcomes, Shreyas. Enjoyed your 1st post very much and looking forward to more.

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Just saw the Hyena Den video, Shreyas. The babies were really cute, but I'm curious about the lighting. Was that video taken using a night vision scope? And do they allow night drives within KNP or was the den inside the boundaries of the camps you visited? Thanks.

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Great start to your report, looking forward to more. And welcome. :huh:

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Just saw the Hyena Den video, Shreyas. The babies were really cute, but I'm curious about the lighting. Was that video taken using a night vision scope? And do they allow night drives within KNP or was the den inside the boundaries of the camps you visited? Thanks.

Sangeeta, the video is not from Kruger but from Makalali game reserve where we were monitoring a clan of Hyenas, and we'd used spotlights and a regular camcorder.

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Thanks, Shreyas.

 

Will you be doing a separate report on Makalali? Would be very interested in hearing more about the actual program you worked on. Was it hyena-related?

 

BTW - liked the kudu shot very much.

 

Sangeeta

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SATARA continued.....

 

 

A heard of wildebeest made a crossing right in front of the gates of Satara one morning. One of the males had special interest in mud bathing in the wet sands and this is how it looked

 

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On the second day drive, we were greeted with a troupe of baboons and it was quiet amusing to see their comic behavior

 

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As elegant an animal a giraffe is, I was very lucky to watch an interesting sighting of how these animals look out for each other, especially when drinking from a small water hole.

 

I call it – Life in 3-D :)

 

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In the following pictures, observe the formation of the 3 giraffes: First, the biggest one leading with the smaller one geometrically equidistant from each other; and then the order is reversed!!

 

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A pride of lions was found again on S-100, and was already flocked by 5 cars. The pride made their way into the bush with a few members coming out of the creek flowing by.

 

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Going further down, elephants galore….again!

I was by myself on this drive and saw some elephants crossing over from the creek onto the road. I stopped at a very respectable distance, shut of my car and was watching. For about 15 min the eles kept pouring in, and before I knew it, I heard some cracking of branches next to where I was parked, not 10 ft away. Turned out, many of the members of this heard decided to take the road where I was observing them and loving life 

A quick sniff on my car, as I held my breath sitting next to this mammoth which was separated from me just by a flimsy car window, and he moved on.

 

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Other miscl sightings around the Satara camp:

 

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That evening, just before the sunset, I was making way for the camp (as it closes by 6pm and has heavy fines for late comers!), had a great sighting of 4 shy white rhinos. I couldn't stay for long to see them, so never got a clear good shot of the animals.

 

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Overall, Satara turned out to be quite promising a location for wildlife viewing. The camp is pretty big, has a good sized eating area and a restaurant. A gas station is also available within the camp. The room that we chose to live in was right by the fence that overlooked the savannah. Therefore the voices of the African night were more prominent there. I totally enjoyed my stay in this camp. Ironically, I do not have a picture of the rooms, but they were small and comfortable.

 

 

To be continued for Lower Sabie.............

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Thanks, Shreyas.

 

Will you be doing a separate report on Makalali? Would be very interested in hearing more about the actual program you worked on. Was it hyena-related?

 

BTW - liked the kudu shot very much.

 

Sangeeta

 

Sangeeta, I was involved with a program researching on Hyenas and elephants at Makalali. It's an outstanding experience to see and hear these animals under the stars. Although had a close call with the hyenas as the two local clans found our bushcamp as their brawl ground, and who almost ripped a tent apart unknowingly while fighting,....and these folks are LOUD!!

 

Btw, more Kudu shots coming later. A very skittish animal, but I got lucky to find a relatively brave heard at Skukuza camp.

 

Shreyas

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Am enjoying this report along with the great photos very much. Thanks.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Satara to Lower Sabie (LS) stretch

 

 

After our last drive around the Satara area, we started off towards Lower Sabie camp. The speed limits for tarred roads withing the park is 50 km/hr, and we did come across a cop hiding on a bend with his radar gun. Good to see law at work!

 

The scenery from Satara to Lower Sabie (LS) changed a lot. The South of Kruger seemed much open and wider, with a lot of long grass. There were quite a few lookout points and places of interest, and we visited many of them, eventually reaching Lower Sabie at around 1 pm. A quick check-in, dumped the luggage, and dashed off to explore the area around LS.

 

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Our tent at Lower Sabie

 

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Right next to the camp is a pond with a lot of hippos and a dead tree in the middle with weaver bird nests. A small croc was hanging around the shoreline and a yellow-billed stork was looking for food right next to it.

 

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Any place that has a river running by it becomes special by itself, and LS camp area is no exception. I simply loved the camp layout which is right by the banks of the Sabie river, and has very nice forested area along the banks. The restaurant onsite overlooks the Sabie river and one can easily spot Hippos floating around.

 

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Lower Sabie’s area with the river running thru it gave a lot of opportunity to view good thick bushveld and lots of wildlife. Although I in particular missed on the wild dogs and the leopard sightings that people were ga-ga about (grrr…..), I got lucky with an exclusive rendezvous with a pride of lions, elephants, zebras, and 4 white rhinos.

 

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A large troupe of baboons was found along the way. It's amazing how these animals have become so comfortable with vehicles that I (my car) was approached by many where they sniffed and held the tires etc. in great comfort.

 

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On one of the days at LS, I was more than half the way towards the Skukuza camp (from Lower Sabie) and wanted to check out a bridge over the Sabie river before heading back to the camp. And that’s when I was blessed with this pride of lions crossing over the bridge right in front of me, and with no other vehicle around. It appeared to be the female lioness on her way to leave her grownup male cubs away from the pride. They passed as close as 3 ft from my vehicle.

 

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Back towards the camp, the pond next to it had much to offer during the dusk.

 

Yellow billed crane (with a small friend)

 

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Loving the lions on the bridge. If you liked being on the river at LS, next time you must get up to Shingwedzi... Matt

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