Kruger National Park — A Rendezvous with the Wild

We knew about the Kruger Park. A kind of whole country of animals — elephants, lions, jackals, hyenas, hippos, crocodiles, all kinds of animals. We had some of them in our own country, before the war (our grandfather remembers; we children weren’t born yet) but the bandits kill the elephants and sell their tusks, and the bandits and our soldiers have eaten all the buck. There was a man in our village without legs — a crocodile took them off, in our river; but all the same our country is a country of people, not animals. We knew about the Kruger Park because some of our men used to leave home to work there in the places where white people come to stay and look at the animals. So we started to go away again. There were women and other children like me who had to carry the small ones on their backs when the women got tired…

The above lines are from The Ultimate Safari by Nadina Gordimer which narrates the story of a young Mozambique girl and her family’s arduous trek through Kruger Park to reach the refugee camp. This profound and touching story was part of my elementary school book and little did I know that one day I will be lucky enough to visit the great Kruger.

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves of Africa. It has been named after its founder Paul Kruger. The park is spread across 360 Kms (220 mi) from north to south and 65 Kms (40 mi) from east to west and shares the borders with South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It holds different varieties of wild animal, birds ,bushes and mainly the Big 5 lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. Guess what, we were fortunate to see all the Big 5 in a single day which is quite a rarity. The photos below will articulate the experience and delight we had in this rendezvous.

As it was a abrupt plan we couldn't get a stay inside the park. We stayed in a hotel nearby the park gate (Protea Hotels )and which was also equally wild in aesthetics. The chalet itself was a thing to enjoy with self catering design , lofts, braai area, lounge, wild surroundings with lot of animal sounds.

We saw Springbok, Impala and even Hyena at night in near our chalet

Impala behind Vikas

The park opens at 6 in the morning and we were there on dot. After clearing the gate procedures and paying fees (approx 500 Rands) ,which includes a night safari, we entered the park. There was a clear instruction to not to get down from the vehicle during the trip.

As we entered into the park we were greeted by Rhinos and African Elephants which are among the Big 5.

One among them came very close to our SUV. The big ears made them look very royal.

Few minutes drive we had the Giraffes welcoming us.

We then reached the base camp which had the park details of the park founders , a restaurant were we grabbed a quick breakfast.

Rajesh, Hari,Bharat,Raghav,Vikas,Ravindra, Vaithee & Me

As we start entering deeper into forest , the roads gets ruggeder and forest gets more denser.

Springbok and Impala can be seen all through the drive in the forest.

If vehicles are stopping or are slowing down that is a sign that there are some animals nearby.

In a similar way we got to see the Lions. The grandeur look these lions carry is amazing and we spent half an hour watching them.

We spotted the Greater Kudu which looks like deer from far but weighs around 300 Kg.

Then we saw the Waterbuck. The specialty of this one is that there is a white collar under the throat. The rump has a characteristic white ring which resembles like it has got that white ring after sitting on a toilet seat.

After a few kilometers of drive we were fortunate enough to see the African Buffalo which is one among the Big 5.

There are streams of rivers running through the Kruger and in some riverside you can animals herds drinking and having fun time in the water. We saw herds of Zebra, Hippos, Elephants, crocodiles, tortoise.

Lunch stop at a hill top with Elephant herds in view

Ina who was our guide was explaining a lot on each animals. I was amazed at the knowledge levels of Ina, Gerhard , my friends Vikas and Ravindra’s on animals.

Raghav spotted the Hyena which was on look out for a dead kill. It was Raghav who saw the Hyena even at the hotel during the dinner and chased it out of the hotel surroundings.

The only animal which was eluding till this time was the leopard and we got to see it during the night safari.

Willy our captain for Night Safari

These rangers has all the information of the entire forests. Large torches are waved from the back seat by the park tourists to watch out for the animals. The safari starts at 5.30 pm and ends at 8.00 pm.

Willy took us to the right spot were we saw the big 5 leopard which was taking rest after a kill.

Kill hanging on the tree
Leopard resting right below the kill

We spotted elephants, rhinos, zebras, hippos , baby hyenas and even lion during the night safari.

At 8 we were at the park gate and willy dropped us back at the hotel. There was some good African dances and music awaiting us. I hope Bharat still knows the dance steps.

It was Raghav’s birthday the day before and so the night ended up with birthday celebration.

It was a great learning and journey likes this brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm . Special thanks to Alwyn and his parents Gerhard and Ina for coming along with us and showing us around the Kruger. Without them this journey wouldn't have happened.

It was overall a great experience and a day to remember in life.