Second Visit to Kruger

First elephant

First elephant

About two weeks ago, we headed out with Ren and Patrick to let them experience the amazing animal encounters possible at the Kruger Game Park in South Africa. Although the second visit for Karen and I, we knew we would have unique experiences at this very large park filled with African animals. This time we would stay again at Berg En Dal camp, and try Lower Sabie for our second camp. In our first evening arrival into the park, Ren and Patrick saw giraffe, elephant (first Big Five), tortoise, impala, birds, and rhinocerous. A great start!

African wild dogs sleeping

African wild dogs sleeping

The next morning, we took a sunrise drive, and we saw cape buffalo (second Big Five), more elephant, giraffe, rhino, kudu, zebra, and more. We also visited a hide and saw a crocodile, terrapin turtles, and many more birds. As we were finishing this drive, we saw a bunch of cars near the gate and there were several wild dogs lying right by the road in tall grass. This was exciting because African wild dogs are nearly extinct, so rare to see.

Lionesses and cubs

Lionesses and cubs

That evening, we went on a sunset guided tour. I had been watching a chat app used by animal watchers in the park to report unique sightings and lions had been seen down one road. I gave the information to our driver before we started and he did some checking. He also checked with other drivers along the way. He slowed down in the reported area and one of the other tourists spotted a male lion in the grass – but, hard to see. The driver let us all try to peek. We knew more lions had been reported and we spotted a lioness in the grass too. The driver went down the road a bit, and turned around. As soon as we started back, 3 lioness came walking into the road towards us! Then another…then 6 lion cubs! Then another lioness joined as well. The driver stopped the car and shut the engine off. The lions all walked slowly, and quite majestically, right past us only a few feet away. Everyone kept their hands inside, but cameras were shooting! It was especially exciting when the cubs came by. The lionesses and cubs ended up just a few feet behind the vehicle. Then the young adult male came out and sat right in front of the truck. Within moments the lionesses and cubs were laying on the road, or nearby, and were falling asleep. The male adult went up into the grass and laid down as well. The driver turned the truck around so we could watch as the lions stretched and slept while some kept an eye out. Check the album below for several photos of the lion experience! One other highlight on that tour was that I spotted a gennet (a small feline animal with spots), and this one sat on it haunches perfectly still while we all watched and tried to get photos in the dark.

When leaving Berg en Dal, we chose to take a three hour drive through the dirt roads towards Crocodile Bridge. It turned out to be a bit of a challenge because you aren’t allowed out of your car, and so bladders were about to burst by the time we got to a safe stopping point. We had some snacks after our potty break at Crocodile Bridge camp, and then went to a hippo pool where Ren and Patrick saw their first – of many – hippos.

View at Lower Sabie

View at Lower Sabie

Along the way up to Lower Sabie, we saw some new animals including wildebeest, and baboon. One troop of baboon we saw also had some young babies. We finally got to Lower Sabie camp and liked the looks of our lodging which had a nice view of the river on the other side of the fence. There was a Mugg & Bean restaurant with a very nice view of the river for dinner. During the course of our stay, we saw hippo, elephant, cape buffalo, deer, crocodile, and many species of bird on the river there.

We made several excursions from the camp, and did one night tour. The night tour didn’t net us any exciting new finds (like the leopards we were hoping for), but Patrick really enjoyed using the spotlight to “hunt” for the animals. We did find cape buffalo, impala, hares, and other critters during that drive.

Bats under our roof

Bats under our roof

During the first night, Ren woke up when she realized something landed on her hand. It turned out to be a bat! They didn’t get much sleep that night worrying about it. We told the management the next morning and they said someone would come by the next evening to look. We discovered a nest of them outside under the roof. They sent some guys to put some netting in the likely entry points. But, both rooms had a bat the next night! Karen and I managed to get our bat to go into the kitchen, so we slept fine.

Push-me-pull-me Rhino

Push-me-pull-me Rhino

While everyone else was napping the next day, I took a solo drive south of Sabie. I had some amazing encounters with elephant, zebra, and two towers of giraffe. The one with giraffe and zebra was especially interesting because two giraffe were having a fight. They stand next to each other and they swing their necks and heads down and up and try to hit their bony horns into the neck or body of the other guy. It looks very odd and entrancing to see these huge necks arching back and forth. I hope to share video I took someday. Meanwhile, the zebra appeared to watch, and then would do their own fighting as well. Very exciting to see. I also watched one large family of elephants who were quite active and playing together. They also had a quite old female “grandmother” who had a 2.5 meter tusk on one side that was hanging low. Her other tusk was much shorter (probably a re-growth). Later I saw a rhinocerous get on the road, then another joined from the other direction. From my angle it looked like a two-headed push-me-pull-me rhino.

There was a dam down river from our lodge, and the next morning while others were sleeping, I noticed several cars on the dam. With my binoculars I saw a herd of elephant were on the land downriver of the dam close by. What was amazing was that one of the young bull elephants was apparently angered by the female matriarchs. He went practically berserk with rage and ran in several directions without hitting anyone. But, although I couldn’t hear him, he was literally screaming and shaking. At one point he went running towards a large bull near the river. But, the big bull just turned towards him and took a couple of steps and he ran away. When I last saw him, he was running up into the hills. I suspect he had been “told” to leave the family because that does happen when the males reach a certain age. I was so entranced, I forgot to get my camera out – although they were so far away even with my telephoto it would have been hard to get good photos.

Cheetah hunting

Cheetah hunting

The second day, we did some more excursions by car. Ren and Patrick finally got to see a male waterbuck, a large tower of giraffe, and many more sightings of rhino, elephant, and hippo. That evening, we saw some cars stopped and they said they had spotted two cheetah in the trees. Karen thought she saw one of them with binoculars, but they moved off. The other cars went around a road to the other side, so we followed. On that side, we saw several kudu. Oh boy, we thought they might be getting hunted. Sure enough, just a moment later we saw one of the cheetah in the grass near the trees and got a few photos! A moment later the kudu and the cheetah almost simultaneously took off! They went behind trees, so we didn’t see what happened. But, it seemed like the kudu might have got away. We saw several of the quite disturbed kudu stop a 100 meters away.

Four adventurers

Four adventurers

The next morning we had to get up at 3:30 AM to be ready for a pre-dawn departure for a walk in the bush with two guides (carrying guns). We started just before dawn and thanks to some clouds, were treated to an awesome sunrise. We also saw a rainbow shortly after sunrise. It was beautiful out there! It is also stimulating being out there in the wild, although most large animals keep their distance as they are very nervous about the strange tall human creatures. We were able to get within 100 meters of a small herd of zebra and wildebeest standing together. They kept a close eye on us as we circled around them.

impala remains

impala remains

Another highlight of the walk was seeing the remains of an impala hanging in a tree limb. It was clearly taken up there by a leopard, and the guide showed us the claw marks in the truck of the tree from when the leopard took it up there.

We had to leave after the bush walk, so we got our belongings, packed the car, checked out, and began the drive out. Along the way, we spotted a rhino we had seen before who had some unique wounds on his face. We also saw the largest herd of elephant we have seen at once. There were at least 30 of them. We also witnessed a large bull elephant who asserted his dominance on another younger male by chasing him off into the bush quite dramatically. This was a great encounter to finish up our visit to Kruger.

We left the park and drove to the airport and flew back to Cape Town. Ren and Patrick stayed at the airport after we had lunch together as they began their flights back home. We had a great time with them, and saw some really unique sights at Kruger. Check out the photo album below of just about 165 photos of the more than 2000 photos we took during the four days.


View full-sized slideshow

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One Response to Second Visit to Kruger

  1. Richard says:

    It’s a coincidence that you are here in S Africa as I write to you from Johannesburg. I trust you are enjoying the Kruger Park.
    Your name came up in a search relating to Google Earth images of aircraft in flight, but the reference was several years ago. Are you still collecting?

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