May 2015: As part of a larger two-week trip to Namibia and Swaziland, Paula and I visited Kruger National Park for 3 days. This was my 2nd trip to South Africa but no trip to South Africa is complete without visiting Kruger National Park. Yes, it is popular and akin to the Yellowstone National Park of Africa. But it is popular for a reason, and it is also vast and easy to have the park to yourself when you get off the main roads where most tourists remain. The park is giant and contains multiple ecosystems and quite frankly is one of the best places in all of Africa to see wildlife including the white Rhino, the largest of the rhino species, which was the main reason why I wanted to visit Kruger. Sadly, rhinos are under siege throughout their natural habitat by poachers seeking to kill them for their valuable horn, which are believed to have medicinal values in Vietnam. Rhinos are especially numerous in the southern section of the park and are easy to spot.

 

 

 

Map of Kruger

Kruger national Park is also great because you can self-drive. In many parks in Africa this just isn’t possible, and you have to join an expensive safari where a ranger drives you.  Kruger allows the possibility of more adventure and the thrill of having a lion, elephant, rhino and numerous other animals right outside of your vehicle with no one else but you and your vehicle. Kruger also has great camping opportunities and ranger led activities such as walking safaris where you can get view wildlife from a unique perspective.

 

Map of Kruger

Paula and I flew into Nelspruit just outside of Kruger, picked up a rental and hightailed it to Numbi gate before it closed at 530pm. Unfortunately, our checked bags were misplaced by South African Airlines, and we had a campsite reserved but no tent. So, we reserved a small sleeping hut where we stayed  Pretoriuskop Camp. In Pretoriuskop Camp we joined a ranger led night safari to look for nocturnal animals. We saw hyenas, and Jackels but my favorite animal was the owl.

 

Elephants

White rhino and yea those are thousands of flies on the poor rhino

Kudu

Hyena

Owl night safari

The next morning, we joined a ranger led walking safari to spot rhinos and whatever animal crossed our path. We were led by two rangers with rifles. Kruger is a dangerous place to work for rangers, who defend highly prized elephants and rhinos from heavily armed poachers. Our walking safari was incredible, and we came within 100′ of very skittish black rhino mother and baby that barked warning signs to us to stay back our be charged.

Ranger led safari

Walking safari mother and baby black rhino

We also spotted leopards and lions. This big male lion in the photo was massive and maybe one of the largest I have ever seen. Kruger is also great for spotting the rare wild dog, but we unfortunately didn’t see any.

Big male lion

Baboon

Wildebeest

The next day we drove to the far north of the park where we camped in the wild campground, at Balule Satellite camp, since we still didn’t have our tent, we slept in our car, which technically was forbidden so we had to hide it from the rangers. We had a good time chatting with our South African campsite neighbors who shared their beers with us and taught us about the wildlife of the park as we sat in our campsite watching hyenas pace back and forth along the metal fence that separated our campsite from the wild.

 

Sunset

Map of Kruger

On our last day in Kruger, we drove all the way to its southern border stopping to visit wildlife along the way. I had received word that our luggage was found, and I asked that it be delivered to the southern crocodile gate of the park, which if done according to plan would be waiting for us by the time we arrived.

 

River valley

hippo

Our favorite animals in Kruger were the grey rhino and the klipspringer

There are warning signs to avoid harassing the wildlife but the wildlife are free to harass the humans. At our picnic site vervet monekys were constantly trying to steal our food

Warthog

When we arrived at Crocodile Gate, our luggage was waiting for us, but our locks had been broken and some items like Paula’s keens, flashlights and a few other random items were stolen. I made sure to make the airline pay heavily for this mistake by trumping up the cost of our losses, which we eventually were reimbursed for months later after a significant amount of effort. From Crocodile gate, we drove all the way to Swaziland.

 

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