My journey to Kruger National Park
The land is enchanted. Not suddenly, but very cautious. With an area of over two million hectares, an overnight transformation in the Kruger park would be too much to ask, even from the weather gods Zeus or Jupiter. Dark clouds and flashlights are covering the gray sky and rain are pouring over the dry, water-crawling savanna. Soon the first fruits of the Marula trees will appear and the pleasant smell of acacias will attract the first giraffes. Antelopes give birth to their offspring and the migratory birds find sufficient nourishment. Those who discover the park in the months of September until November will see the nature in its summer dress.
September was certainly a good time for me to discover this fascinating place. On the first day of my Kruger NP jeep tour, I was already able to shoot some lovely wildlife pictures. Back in the hotel, I order myself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, enjoy the red sunset on the horizon and study my new information guide about the park, that I have bought at a souvenir shop in Skukuza camp.
Kirkman was one of the first rangers in this park until 1969 when he got retired. He was later working as an overseer in the private Sabi-Sand Game Reserve (put it on my bucket list) and it is thanks to people like Kirkman, who made Kruger NP famous for wildlife-rich areas in southern Africa.
The next morning I and my travel companions are leaving at 6 a.m. It’s still dark and creepy noises are coming from the garden under the wooden bridge which is leading from my lodge to the main building of the hotel. Once arrived at the Paul Kruger Gate, I take my seats in one of the 4×4 jeeps. It is chilly and slowly the first awaited sunbeams warm up my entwined hands. The rich colors of the vegetation are a great backdrop. The guide wants to show us the “Big Five” and as many visitors of Kirkman’s Camp, I am also more than excited to see the elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and buffalos. Nothing remains hidden from the sharp eye of our ranger, who did just spot a huge python in a dry branch of a tree.
A zebra nibbles happily on the branch. Yes, there is sufficient nutrition for all animals here in the Kruger National Park, especially in the East of the park. Not only now in the warm and humid summertime, but even in the dry season, there are many watering places. At each corner, there are antelopes, zebras, giraffes, and impalas standing, while some lion rudel stay close to them. The lion babies can survive because of sufficient food.
- The summer in the Kruger NP starts in October until April. There are short rainy seasons in the afternoon. Personally, I recommend visiting the park in the second half of September until the end of October. The weather is mild and enjoyable, warm during the day but still quite chilly in the mornings and evenings.
- A malaria prophylaxis should be considered. Please ask your home doctor for more information.
- The entry to the Kruger National Park costs approximately 300 Rand for adults (children have a 50% discount). There is an option to purchase a “wild card”, which will allow entering all national parks for one year (1 person – 2200 Rand, a couple – 3500 Rand, family – 4200 Rand)
- Some routes in the park are passable only in companion of a park ranger (not for campers or visitors with own car)
- I highly recommend taking a warm jacket with a T-shirt below, trousers, comfortable shoes, sunglasses, hat and gloves on the trip with the jeeps. The mornings in the park can be cold. It gets warm at noon.
- Don’t forget your camera with a good lens. You can use it to take stunning wildlife pictures but also enlarge the animal shapes on the route.
- Be careful while eating at the camps located in the Kruger National Park. Food lying on the tables with most likely be stolen by the apes. If you get bitten by the ape than you should immediately visit a hospital and get a rabies vaccine (and/ or other).
- Don’t forget to take a bottle of water on your journey.
- Tips for the rangers are welcome. They really do a great job for us!
- Check out South African Airways (www.flysaa.com) for flights to Johannesburg. Take a rented car at the airport (for eg. Tambo 4×4 cars with camping equipment). The fastest route from Johannesburg to the South of the Kruger NP is the highway N12 and N4 (approximately 400 km).