How lucky can two people get? A 3-day, 3-night self-drive safari in Kruger National Park
It’s hard to know where to begin when describing the 3 amazing days we had recently in Kruger National Park, but with a bit of effort the following words come to mind – MIND-BLOWING, INSANE, SPOILT, INTENSE, PRIVILEGED, IN-THE-MOMENT.
We only had 3 days and 3 nights in Kruger but we certainly made the most of it ensuring we were driving out the gates in our little Ford Fiesta as they opened each morning at 6.00am and back as they closed each night at 6.00pm. We also did a 4-hour morning walk on our first day, which started at 5.30am, and a 2-hour night drive which finished at 10.00pm on our last night. Squeezing every minute into our precious time in Kruger absolutely paid off as we were spoilt with the following incredible experiences:
- Being welcomed 15 minutes after entering Kruger by a pair of mating lion oblivious to our (and the string of other cars’) presence and dominating the Crocodile Bridge to Lower Sabie road!
- Watching vultures put out their ‘landing gear’ as they descended rapidly to the ground to share what was left of a kill with a hyena.
- Hearing lions roaring back and forth as the not quite full moon rose on our first night at Lower Sabie.
- Having the most wonderful morning walk from Lower Sabie and enjoying the smells, sounds and feel of the bush, observing the small things and see a stunning leopard chilling out on the Lower Sabie river bank.
- Heading back to camp just in time to fall behind a big male lion nonchalantly strolling down the middle of the road.
- Sitting on the stunning deck at Lower Sabie and enjoying brunch while a herd of over 200 buffalo came down to drink.
- Spending time on the Lower Sabie causeway watching the hippo mess about, the pied kingfisher intently watch for dinner, the crocodile snooze on the sandbank and the elephants stroll through the reeds.
- Driving along the banks of the Sabie River and ‘playing’ with the flocks of tiny quelea birds which were flowing back and forth between the ground and low tree branches in search of seed – magic to watch just like schools of fish; watching herds of elephant work their way down to the river for a drink; gazing lovingly at the velvety impalas along the sides of the road; and being wow-ed by a male lion sitting in the middle of the riverbed while 2 lionesses and 5 sub-adults sleep with full bellies near a recent kill covered with happy vultures.
- Spending an hour before sunset at Lake Panic Bird Hide near Skukuza – hippos yawning, pied kingfishers whacking their fish before gulping them down, bush buck having a final graze before bed, the darter calling out mournfully (but to whom?), guinea fowl clumsily flying into trees for night time safety, a group of hadeda ibis like an aeroplane squadron zooming in for the night, a magnificent fish eagle calling out before flying to join his mate.
- Watching a partial eclipse of the moon sat outside our basic but lovely safari tent at Skukuza.
- What seemed to be a road side rock morphing into a concerned mum rhino with a tiny, 3-4 month old baby, who both spent a curious half hour just with us, walking slowly back and forth across the road.
- Up close and personal with some kudu who were so happy to ignore us to get to those tasty green leaves and grasses.
- Being a bit wowed by the sight of two male impalas crashing horns into each other at the start of the rutting season and then about to drive off and realising 3 white rhino were casually walking across the clearing.
- Watching a great gangly giraffe try to gracefully lower itself down to drink – just not quite achieving grace as it swings its head up in fear at the slightest sound.
- Spotting 4 spotted hyenas luxuriating on the perfect rock.
- Watching the guinea fowl make their rounds of the rest camp; enjoying so many different birds – wood peckers, grey louries (go-away birds), bulbuls.
- Being rewarded after a quiet afternoon drive and magic African sunset by a superb leopard surprised by us right by the side of the road – and she didn’t dash away into the bush but curiously and carefully walked behind our car and let us see how truly stunning she was before melting into the grass.
- Heading off on a night drive for our last night – thinking we must have surely used up all our luck … but no – a leopard, 3 white rhino, a curious hyena, a flap-necked chameleon all said hi before we came across 5 lions eating 2 buffalo calves they had killed within the last 20 minutes!
- Sleeping under thatch in our cosy round rondavel at Pretoriuskop.
- Making sure we were out of the gate at 6.00am to visit the lions from the night before – still finishing off their meals. Finding the sad buffalo herd – all clustered tightly together after their traumatic night.
- Saying a sad farewell to Kruger and the friendly, lovely staff at the Numbi Gate – knowing it surely wouldn’t be too long before we came back to this incredible part of the world.
Now that was an incredibly packed, but oh so rewarding 3 days!!
Travel Africa organised this 3 day trip in August 2017 – total cost AUD$600 for 2 people including car hire, accommodation, morning walk and night drive. Excludes conservation fees (AUD$30 per person per day), petrol (approx. AUD$65) and food and drink (approx. AUD$10 per person per meal).