safari tour, Kruger National Park
As part of the price of the safari tour with Viva Safari I had a full day Kruger Park driving safari which included the price of the park entrance and an all day safari drive.
The vehicle sits up to 16 passengers in a jeep which allowed for excellent game viewing which is driven by an experienced ranger who knows all the flora and fauna of the park and has his eyes wide open for any animal that he may see.
Having a guided safari allows you the luxury (if you will) to give someone else the responsibility to do the driving while you keep your eyes wide open. The ranger encourages everyone to keep their eyes open and if they spot an animal to annouce it without yelling (more on this in a minute).
Our ranger was excellent, he is an employee of Viva Safari and was a wealth of information. He spotted the majority of the animals knowing exactly what road to drive through so that we may have the opportunity to view as many of animals in the park as possible.
Keep in mind the park is massive, and there is no way you can ever cover all of the park, and a 1 day safari is not nearly enough in my opinion.
I had my eyes wide open that I spotted the majority of the animals the ranger did not spot. I saw a jackal, hare, monitor lizard, terrapin, vervet monkey, alligator, and a few other animals that my fellow passengers didn't spot. One of the passengers spotted a few rhinos and screamed it out that the rhinos made a mad dash. This is why you communicate with a lower voice, you scare the animals away :(
Some of the animals I was so excited to see where of course many of the Big 5 especially the elephants and rhinos, but the warhogs, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe were also some of the animals I wanted to see and thankfully I did.
I did not see the leopard, hyenas, wild dogs or any of the small mongoose type animals like the meerkats. Hopefully next time.
Transport within the park has to be done either with Safari Company or with your own vehicle. In the environment of Kruger Park unlike the Etosha Park in Namibia, where the grass is lower and there are hardly any trees, the safari vehicles are more appropriate because they are elevated and the view of the animals is better. Especially lazy lions lying in grass are particularly difficult to spot from a sedan.
An alternative is to take a full guided safari tour in the park, I guess for some it is nice and interesting, but for me, just seeing those cars with the large group of people watching animals from the bus window, it is not really my thing, but, it is better then not at all.
The light aircraft shuttle service from Kruger Nelspruit airport takes about 15 minutes and costs from £65. The direct air shuttle from Jo’burg costs from £145.
It is not difficult to drive to Sabi Sand and Vuyatela. The journey takes a little over two hours from Hazyview. The road goes through rural villages, and the route is safe for tourists.
We just got back from a 5 day safari trip in and around Kruger National Park. The trip was arranged and guided by Wild Wings Safaris, a small outfit which we found on the web ( www.wild-wings.co.za ). We dealt directly with them from the US, using email and wire funds transfers. The four of us were very pleased with the trip.
Wind Wings suggested staying in two places to get two different, but both great, safari experiences. They also picked us up at Nelspruit airport and arranged our return to Jo’burg for our return flight.
The first few days were spent at Buckler’s Africa, a B&B just outside the park’s Crocodile Bridge Gate. The property overlooked the park across the Crocodile River. We could see animals from the pool and lounge chairs. We awoke before dawn to drive to the park and see animals as they became active. Simon, our guide, was very adept at spotting and identifying animals, especially birds. In Kruger, you must stay on the roads and in your vehicle, but an experienced guide like Simon makes sure you see everything! Though many South Africans visit the park in their own cars, first timers should have a guide, or they will miss a lot! The food and rooms at Buckler’s were excellent.
The remaining days were at the Elephant Plains Game Lodge in the Sabi Sand Reserve. In a private reserve, you ride open Rovers and can leave the roads to follow the animals, even at night (how you find leopards!). The lodges provide trackers and drivers for morning and evening rides; Simon rode along to take pictures himself. The trackers know were the animals are, so you do spend lots of time driving around on rough roads. The food at Elephant Plains was also excellent. (Actually, the food and wine were excellent all over South Africa.) We had the standard rooms in a Roundevel; They also had larger suites overlooking a plain with animals roaming free.
From Cape Town we flew into Nelspruit where we rented a car from Hertz, which is located in the airport. We found this to be the cheapest place to rent a car for a week. From the airport we drove to the Crocodile Bridge Gate where we entered Kruger National Park. The drive from the airport to the Crocodile Bridge Gate took us about 1-1.5 hours. It was a very easy drive, nice road (we took N4) and felt safe during the day. Road signs were clear and directed us in the right direction all the way to the park.
The Kumuka was an excellent way to see the wildlife of Kruger National Park. The high vantage point allowed you to see over the top of the vegetation and also allowed for excellent views of some of the animals that attempted to hide in the roadside vegetation. This vantage point allowed for excellent photo opportunities by opening windows in total safety.
Anne and I travelled on a Kumuka overland safari through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The group pictured are the tour group that travelled from Victoria Falls, through Zimbabwe, Mozambique and back to Johannesburg (via Kruger National Park.)
Taking a tour is definately the best way to see the animals at Kruger Park. There are some expensive ones and some that are quite affordable. The reason for taking a tour is because of the guides. These guys know exactly where to find the animals and they can give you good facts about them. For instance, I didn't know that male giraffes had white on top of their horns, while female giraffes didn't. Things like that can make you differentiate all the animals, and see the difference between, for example, a kudu from a waterbuck.
We took the 4-day-tour with wagontrails. It's a nice tour which includes the Blyde River Canyon and some town in Mpumalanga. It's not luxurios. In fact, we had to sleep in tents and cook our own meals, but that made the trip much more interesting. If you're into the adventure and camping thing, then it's the best option for you.
You can travel around Kruger in a car or you can take a trip in one of the many 4x4 safari vehicles. These are highly recommended as you can't take a personal vehicle off the paved roads in Kruger.