This is the itinerary of my first adventure in Kruger National Park and first visit to Africa.
Long flight from Auckland to Johannesburg via Perth.
Johannesburg to Nylsvley with pit stop in Bela-Bela,
Nylsvley Nature Reserve, Sun 23rd Feb 2014
Nylsvley to Punda Maria Gate, Kruger National Park, Mon 24th Feb
Punda Maria camp, Tues, 25th Feb, leopard, warthogs, zebra
Punda Maria camp, Wed, 26th Feb
Shingwedze, Thurs, 27th Feb
Olifants, Fri 28th Feb
Orpen, Sat 1st Mar- First bat experience, lions roaring, elephant chase
Orpen, Sun, 2nd Mar, giraffes fighting, dead elephant
Skukuza, Mon 3rd Mar- more bats
Skukuza, Tuesday, 4th Mar, dead bat on pillow, still no lions
Skukuza, Wed 5th Mar
Skukuza, Thursday, 6th Mar, Still no lions
Skukuza to Johannesburg then the long flight home via Perth, Friday, 7th Mar-Sun 9th March
My travelling companions were my husband and my daughters. This was my first, hopefully the first of many, visit to Africa. I spent a large chunk of my youth dreaming of travelling to Africa. However, I got waylaid with studies, a science career and children. Now as I meander through mid-life and down the other side of the mountain I need to make up for some lost time!
We entered Kruger National Park via the Punda Maria gate having run the gauntlet of a well-used road with pedestrians, cyclists and lots of cows. Giraffes, impala and an elephant were the first magnificent animals to be seen on our way to Punda Maria camp. We settled into a family cottage, “it was bigger than our house” my daughter wrote in her travel diary. We loved the two levels, the dark, chunky wood furniture and earthy coloured décor. It was a gentle, cool relief from the intense, bright midday sun. The view from the upstairs balcony was pretty good too. I was delighted by a steenbok which had ventured out from the undergrowth to the edge of the veranda.
We set off in the late afternoon on the Mahonie loop. There were plenty of European rollers, an elephant, some kudu and impalas to be seen.
That evening we went out on our first sunset tour and the highlights were a couple of genets, several spring hares and our first sunset in Kruger National Park. One thing I particularly enjoyed about the evening drives was the smorgasbord of smells, ranging from sweet, hypnotic herby or woody to the intense and unmistakable assault of animal. I guess that as the light fades senses other than sight start to wake up.
Day 2, we headed north to Parfuri. Getting up early was quite easy due to our jet lag. My husband was particularly hoping to see Pels Fishing owl. On our way to the bridge we saw our first big groups of zebras, a greater blue-eared, glossy starling and impalas. Warthogs are comical and we stopped to watch a family of them.
I was wonderful to get out and stretch our legs at the bridge. We spotted a fish eagle, a baboon troop and a stunning fly.
We all piled reluctantly back into the car and set off toward Parfuri picnic spot and Crook’s Corner. Suddenly a leopard leapt out of the bush and onto the road in front of us. It paused on the road to peer at us then sauntered off into the grass. We drove slowly to the point where it entered the bush on the other side of the road. It had moved into the grass but stopped. All we could see was a long tail, swishing petulantly for wee while before it moved gracefully on and was swallowed by the lush, long grass. I was so moved by my first big cat sighting that a couple of big tears rolled down my eyes.
On route to Crook’s Corner we saw nyala, kudu, more impala, vervet monkeys and a magnificent martial eagle.
Crook’s Corner inspired an immense childish delight – I think it was the combination of its colourful history and my Australian upbringing- it’s a novelty to be able to stand in one spot and survey three different countries! I took a picture looking up into a big Acacia tree here. By now the sun was directly above and the shade of this magnificent tree was a relief.
We spotted an elephant on our way back to Punda Maria who also clearly appreciated the shade of a big Baobab tree. I think the shot of the elephant from a different angle illustrates how such a large beast can seem to vanish as if moving into a portal to a different dimension.