Trip September 2018
Our trip to Kruger was designed as a short stopover of 4 days to get ourselves back into safari mode and reorient ourselves to wildlife photography. A very different discipline to the predominantly landscape photography we do in our homeland of New Zealand.
I had spent a couple of days in Kruger in 2015 so was comfortable that we could drive from Jo'burg and self drive the Park. For my wife Helen it was her first visit and so she was trusting me to do all the planning and organisation. Unfortunately she had also left her drivers licence in NZ (another story) and so I was down for all the driving.
We flew into Jo'burg and landed late afternoon this gave us overnight to refresh and sleep in a airport hotel and set off the next morning for the 5 hour drive to Kruger.
Everything went to plan and we got up early the next morning refreshed and raring to go. The hotel shuttle dropped us off at the rental car depot at the airport and 30 minutes later we had our hyundai 4wd and were off on the 1st leg of our 3 week African adventure.
Being early morning we had no Joburg traffic horrors and quickly made it to the motorway for the trip north. The road was excellent and we made good progress arriving in Malalane at the southern end of Kruger in just over 6 hours.
As we needed to shop I had organised a B&B only 1 km from the Gate so we could enter the park first thing in the morning. The B&B host was excellent and quickly told us best places to get the supplies we needed. A quick shop, dinner and early to bed very excited about the next few days.
5.30 am it was still dark as we packed up and headed down to the gate, we weren't quite first but there were only a couple of cars ahead of us. I had preregistered our booking at Berg En Dahl Rest Camp on the KNP website which meant we were quickly into the Park through security and first into the Park proper. I love it when a good plan executes smoothly, this is not the norm in Africa.
The Malalane Gate is on the Crocodile River and takes you into a prolific game area at the bottom of the Park. Malane is not as busy as the nearby Crocodile Bridge Gate and in general you do not come across as much traffic. We had scheduled the trip to be outside of school holidays and we were hopeful we would miss the infamous Kruger traffic jams that happen on big sightings on the tar roads in school holidays.
A beautiful sunrise greeted our entry to the Park and we set off on our first self drive in the Park, we didn't have to check into our accommodation at Berg en Dahl until 2.00 pm
Only 7 km from Malalane Gate in a quiet part of the park Berg en Dahl Rest Camp was perfect for our stay. We had booked a self catering bungalow and it suited us well. We spend all our time out in the park so somewhere quiet and comfortable suits us fine, we are not looking for 4 or 5 start accommodation.
I have a lot more sympathy for the skills of our guides now, what with driving, spotting game, getting the vehicle into position so Helen could get good photos meant that my own photography took a back seat. But I must say the thrill of finding our own animals and the luck of the hunt, meant I thoroughly enjoyed the driving and acting as head guide. I even tried my hand at recognizing animal tracks on our early morning drives before they were over ridden by vehicle tracks. Helen and I both really enjoyed the freedom of going where we wanted stopping when we wanted to and staying on a siting as long as we wanted. (with due respect to any other vehicles that came in).
We did have many beautiful sightings and very few where there were more than a couple of vehicles. Of particular note was that we saw more Rhino than in any of our previous trips to Africa , with many family groupings and even babies. The Bush veld was very dry and apart from early morning and late evening the lighting was harsh. None the less we both came away with photos we were happy with and a definite plan to return and do a more extensive 10 days south to north self drive of the Park
4 days was a perfect time to get back into the flow of the african bush, we got our camera skills back on track ready to take on the main course of our trip, a 10 day trip to Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. But first a few days in Mozambique catching up with a very good friend.