28 November 2012

Gomo Gomo to Kruger National Park

A stop at PicknPay in Hoedspruit
After renting our eight-seater Hyundai (a very comfortable vehicle!) in Hoedspruit, our first stop was at the Standard Bank to convert US dollars into Rand.  Then we made the first of many visits to the PicknPay to buy travel essentials:  biscuits (cookies) and snack food, water (although we could drink tap water), a Coke Light and naartjies (tangerines).  It was interesting to mix with the African people and note the differences in customs and cultures.  For instance, check-out clerks sit down as they scan groceries and there is a charge for the plastic bags to carry the purchases. We found many examples of recycling and conservation conscious policies during our trip.

We drove north from Hoedspruit on the highway to the Phalaborwa Gate and the entrance to Kruger National Park (KNP).  

One of the first animals we saw in KNP - a baboon

The Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq miles) and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west, not including the Private Reserves which adjoin it on the west side. To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. Gomo Gomo, where we had spent four wonderful days is in the Klaserie Private Reserve which is now part of the Greater Kruger Park Wildlife Management area.  The objective in spending three nights in the Kruger Park was to be able to see what a unique conservation area it is and to experience its wildlife while self-driving.

A Ground Hornbill

One of the oldest in the world, Kruger National Park (KNP) was first designated a Government Wildlife Park in 1898 before being expanded and named the Sabi Game Reserve.  It officially became the Kruger National Park in 1926. It receives over a million visitors a year now and is a favorite vacation destination for most South Africans, offering a wide range of affordable accommodation from basic camping, to RV’s, cottages and luxury lodges. It is important to plan any visit to Kruger Park outside of school holidays!

On our drive through KNP to Letaba Rest Camp we again saw wildlife; ground hornbills, giraffe, rhino, buffalo, elephants and a baboon sitting high on a rock.  We didn’t stop too long for photographs as we had to reach camp before the gates closed at sunset.



We had a bungalow with two bedrooms and two baths for two nights.  Each bedroom had three single beds.  KNP thatched camps are set up for self-catering and each unit has a fully furnished kitchen, dining table and sitting area as well as a covered porch.  There is also a filling station, restaurant, gift shop/grocery store, camping area, ablutions, and washer/dryers.  Guests are cautioned that monkeys, baboons and honey badgers are problematic in the camp so food should be securely stored and doors to bungalows should be kept closed at all times.  Resident bushbucks were wandering around the camp.  We walked along the river path to the restaurant for some dinner and bats flew overhead.   The air was filled with the smell of outdoor cooking from the many self-catering residents and campers.  The seating was outdoors and the night air was quite chilly; our bungalow wasn’t much warmer.  The service was slow—something we noticed everywhere on this trip—and the menu limited.

We rose at 6:00 a.m. Sunday, July 22, and went for a short game drive to the bridge over the Letaba River.  It was cold and we were grateful to be in an enclosed vehicle.  We returned to camp and had breakfast at the restaurant and although we ate indoors, we were still very cold.  Most foreign visitors would not think of Africa being a cold place but if we visit again in July we would bring more suitable, warmer, clothing instead of trying to wear multiple layers to ward off the chill. We decided to buy some bread, peanut butter, jam, cheese and other provisions at the store and we needed to stock up on biscuits before returning to the bungalow.

Carol, Kevin, Jan and Joe once again left camp for a game drive.  Michelle and Avery stayed behind to relax and have a swim.  The day warmed up nicely once the sun came up.  Kevin took the wheel and he too turned on the windshield wipers when he meant to signal a turn and we all laughed. 

Hippo in the Olifants River

We drove the dusty back-roads to Olifants Camp and stopped often to photograph giraffe, elephant, and baboons. Olifants is one of the most picturesque camps in the Kruger National Park.  Joe had visited here in 1958 and, although the camp had been enlarged and modernized somewhat, the spectacular panoramic views over the Olifants River had not changed at all.  CJ became the crocodile and hippo spotter with the aid of binoculars.  They blend in so well with the landscape they are difficult to see with the naked eye.  We stopped for lunch on the veranda at Olifants and enjoyed the beautiful view of the river while we patiently waited for our Greek salads.  On the return to Letaba we spotted a fish eagle and a jacana (lily trotter) as well as many other birds and antelope—yes, more impala.

Little Bee-eater
The bird-life in Kruger Park is quite remarkable and we extended the checks on our list almost hourly.  Some of the bird photos are shown with this narrative.

Pearl Spotted Owl at Satara Camp
Joe and Jan had made plans to meet old friends at Letaba.  They had visited their lovely home in Tzaneen (a two hour drive west of the Park) on a previous trip and they came to KNP to spend a night so they could see us.  We enjoyed a short visit and Joe and Mike toured the elephant museum at Letaba in the afternoon.  The four of us met later for very enjoyable dinner and the hake was delicious.  The family stayed in and had sandwiches and Michelle made a trip to the laundromat.

Everyone packed up early Monday as we left Letaba for Satara Rest Camp.  We stopped again at Olifants Camp for breakfast and enjoyed the game drive along the way.  Again we saw ground hornbills, which are endangered, ho-hums, hippo and crocs, thanks to CJ.  There were a large number of cars parked on and beside the road at one point which indicated something worth seeing.  We followed the lenses and finger pointing and saw a fresh impala kill in a tree in the distance, which meant a leopard was in the area.  We wove our way through the maze of cars and drove on.  We checked into Satara and had to wait for our bungalow which gave us time to explore the gift shop and have a bite of lunch.  A sign pointed out the “most photographed Scops Owl in Africa” sitting in a bush.  The photographers kept up the tradition but then a Pearl Spotted Owl was spotted in a tree near the shop.  A monitor lizard peeked over the roof of the lodge as he slept in the sunshine.

Once we were in our bungalow, similar to the one at Letaba, we went different directions.  CJ, Kevin and Joe went on a game drive, Jan read while she did the laundry and Michelle and Avery visited the swimming pool.  A large herd of waterbuck was seen, a new antelope to check off the list, as well as zebra, impala, elephant, and giraffe.  Kevin was keeping track of game and birds spotted.

We ate in our room for dinner and breakfast the next day.  We had purchased staples and were already a bit tired of “eating out” and spending an hour or more waiting for a meal.  Fruit, PBJ, pasta with butter for Avery, cereal (Wheatbix) and toast filled our tummies.

After breakfast Tuesday we loaded the car and did our final game drive on our way out of KNP through Orpen Gate.  Someone mentioned we hadn’t seen buffalo as we neared the exit and, wouldn't you know, there was a herd just off of the road just a few yards from the gate.  More photos.  We stopped again at the gate shop for a leg stretch and a cup of coffee as we had a long drive ahead.






1 comment:

  1. When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in. – D. H. Lawrence Flights to Accra
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An active blogger since 2004, I will write about travel to Africa and/or about publishing books, both of which are passions. I lived in southern Africa for 25 years and have run a book publishing business since 2007.