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Kruger National Park Safari Day 1

South Africa (Kruger National Park) . 2017 . May 11


This post is part of our South Africa / Zimbabwe / Botswana Trip Report and Itinerary. Do check out the full itinerary and our reviews here

Many people choose to do a 1-day safari in a touch-and-go attempt at seeing wild animals at their natural habitats.  However, what you see and how much you see will depend very much on your luck in this case.  
After all, unlike the zoo, wild animals do not wait at the roadside for you to drive by, and if you understand the scale and magnitude of the natural environment, you will begin the appreciate that the chances of seeing an animal with a low population count (such as lions, leopards and cheetahs) are virtually close to zero if you do a one-day drive.


Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, covering close to 20,000 square kilometres of protected land.  Doing a game drive (safari drive) in Kruger National Park is the primary reason why we were in Africa in the first instance (and a dream come true for me).


We picked a 5-day drive in an open-top vehicle to maximise our chances of seeing the Big 5 and other wild animals.  This means that we would have to stay overnight inside Kruger National Park, and while various categories of accommodation are available depending on how much you are willing to pay, our arrangements with Wild Wings Safaris include only the most basic accommodation at Satara Rest Camp and Skukuza Rest Camp.


Our game ranger picked us up in a van at our accommodation at Perry’s Bridge Hollow Boutique Hotel in Hazyview (together with 2 other folks who will be with us throughout the next 5 days), before transferring us to the open vehicle that will be our transport in Kruger National Park.


Our first glimpse of Kruger National Park in the open vehicle.  You need to be there to appreciate the vastness of the landscape.


Plenty of bird-lovers come to Kruger National Park just to do some bird-watching, and while I am not an expert in this field, I have to agree that the variety here is amazing, most of which are species that we will never get to see in our part of the world.  There are even multiple books and field guides published on this topic.



The very first wild animal that you are likely to see in Kruger National Park (or perhaps most other National Parks) are the impalas.  Due to their sheer population size, they are easily spotted almost everywhere either in small groups or as a herd.


And because they are so easily available to predators as a cheap source of nutrients, the impalas are labelled as the ‘fast-food’ of the wild.  Well, if you observe the impala’s rear end closely, you will see black curved strips that resembles the logo of MacDonalds!


As a newbie to Kruger National Park, spotting your first wild animal was an exciting experience.  But as you begin to get used to the landscape and with spotting the impalas anywhere you go, they soon begin to fade into the background and very soon, we couldn’t even be bothered to stop to see them.


Kudus are also quite a common sight in Kruger.


The first thing that our game ranger Neil did was to bring us to the Skukuza Base Camp to deposit our belongings before continuing on with the game drive.

This smurf-like cottage will be where we will call home for the next 2 nights.


Every cottage comes with an outdoor kitchen and barbecue area, where on most nights, our game ranger would make use of to make us dinner.


The amenities provided in the base camp were very basic, and as I was to find out for myself the hard way, some of the amenities that we have been taking for granted, such as hairdryers are not provided at the camp.  To my immense relief, there was at least a functioning air-conditioning unit in the room.


At least there was also hot water for the shower.


As we continued with our first game drive and got used to the rolling landscape of Kruger, we find so many different kinds of habitats - and even a swampy area (Sabie) where crocodiles thrive.


Rivers and watering holes are the best places to spot wild life in summer because of their need to get water to sustain life.   However, there was no such luck for us today at this watering hole although it was a very hot day.  As I’ve said, being able to spot a wild animal depends very much on luck.


It does however make a beautiful picture even without the animals.


Very soon, we spotted the first animal of the Big 5 - a Lioness!  And that’s within less than half a day of a game drive.  That’s so very fortunate for us!

In Africa, the Big 5 animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo.  They refer to the 5 most dangerous and difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot, but has since been used for marketing purposes by safari tour operators.
This particular lioness was peering intently into the bushes in front, and we speculated that her cubs were playing in there and she was simply keeping watch over them.


That’s the actual distance of the lioness from our open vehicle - but we did not feel unsafe at all.


She was definitely aware of our presence though…


All too soon, she got up to leave (probably unnerved by us stalking her).


We continued our way under the blazing African sun.


And very soon, I spotted our 2nd Big 5 animal of the day - the elephants!


Driving past the safari plains so quickly can make it difficult to spot an animal, and you need to be sharp and quick to detect movement in the bushes.  In the case of the elephants, they are so easy to spot simply due to their sheer size.


It was a herd of elephants that I spotted, together with a young one in tow.



It is not often that you can spot a wild animal relieving itself, but this elephant decided to give us a front seat view of it doing exactly that.


Very soon, the herd of elephants went on their way.


And who should we meet but a herd of impalas and a macaque sharing the same road.


This cutie sat itself nicely by the roadside for me to snap some photos before it left.



We drove around until the evening when we stopped to see our first African sunset.  This was our first sunset in the wild.  This would be what the animals would be seeing everyday as night approaches and the nocturnal animals get up for their turn in the wild.


By far the most beautiful sunset I have seen...


It was back to the Skukuza camp after that, for us to pick up a few essential items, have dinner, and retire for the night in preparation for an early start the following day.


Essential supplies are available at the Park’s Shop at Skukuza camp.


All meals are included in our arrangements with Wild Wings Safari, and tonight, our game ranger decided that dinner will be at the Cattle Baron restaurant at Skukuza Camp.


This concludes Day 1 of our 5-day safari drive.  Join us next as we continue on with the rest of the game drives.

This post is part of our South Africa / Zimbabwe / Botswana Trip Report and Itinerary. Do check out the full itinerary and our reviews here


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