I am an Ex South African that spent the first seventeen years of my life in South Africa. At the age of 5 my Dad took myself and my 3 year old brother to Kruger. We were hooked and for the next nine years went to Kruger at least five times a year, averaging about 25 – 40 days a year.
Over the past 20 years I have returned four time once in 1989, 1995 first time with my wife and 1999 (Wife was pregnant she couldn’t come). We planned a trip for 2002 again and once again my wife was pregnant so we had to delay the trip.
In January 2006 we began planning our trip to South Africa to begin November 22, 2006. The planning included reading the Forum for advice on a daily basis, which turned out to be very helpful and informative. This would be the first time I would have the privilege of introducing my three sons age 8, 6, and 3 to the magic of Kruger, which made it the most exciting and memorial trip yet. In addition my mother in law decided she wanted to see South Africa too.
The six of us started our 30 hour Trip started in Orlando Florida at 6:00am on the morning of November 22, 2006. We arrived at O R Tambo airport the next afternoon at 4:00. It was raining heavily, and the power to the airport was lost. Once the power was restored the retractable gate would not work, so they had to scramble to find a stairwell. Because of the power failure the airport was in chaos and we had to wait an hour to de-plane. After the rain cleared, the rest of the check in went fine, we rented a phone at the airport and spent the night in a nearby hotel, to get some Z’s.
The next morning we flew to KMIA at 6:40am, picked up our KOMBI and headed for Phabeni gate. I have to admit I was very nervous after reading about all the crime etc in South Africa. After about 30 minutes of driving the fears had disappeared and never again during our trip was I concerned. We were always cautious about our whereabouts, but felt perfectly safe during our entire trip.
We arrived at the Phabeni gate around 8:30 am, check in was a breeze, tied our yellow ribbon onto the car and drove to Skukuza had breakfast at the Deli, saw the bats in the thatch and continued our trip to Lower Sabie H4-1. Saw lots of game including a few herds of Elephant, lots of Hippo out of water and antelope. Check in at Lower Sabie was a breeze. Purchased out Wild card and settled into Keartland house for the next three nights.
After a few hour break we headed out around 4:00 pm again. We headed south on H-28 to Duke dam and returned to camp on the Tar road. The roads were teaming with game impala kudu waterbuck, herds of Ellies with babies and Buffalo. Every one wanted to see a Giraffe and a just before we returned to camp we spotted one. Everyone was so excited, and savored the spotting as if they would not see another giraffe for the rest of the trip. Rest assured they were wrong we saw plenty over the next six days.
We had dinner at the restaurant on the water and headed for bed. After being a sleep for an hour we were awakened by a squeaking noise. We turned on the lights to see a Bat flying around our room. While the rest of the family slept we were able to catch the bat in record time and release it. Having the bat in our room was not as bad as the squeaking sound it made.
The next morning we woke at 4:00am got to the gate at 4:30 and headed south on S28 towards Crocodile Bridge. Once again saw lots of animals, Ellie Buffalo and the Rhino. During the 70’s the Rhino population was low in Kruger and Rhino sighting were infrequent. This again would be the beginning of numerous rhino sightings. We continued on S25 and found our first pride of 16 lions including cubs, in the road. We spent the next hour watching them play around, a couple of the younger lions climbed some trees. One of the cubs was very sick, skinny and I’m sure it would only live a couple of days. This was a lesson to my kids of the realities of nature. We continued to Skukuza on the Dirt road, had a scary moment when we stopped at a heard of elephants and scarred them. One of the elephants trumpeted and called for the matriarch. That was my signal to move and the next thing we saw was the Matriarch in the road behind us at full charge. Had breakfast at Skukuza again, and spent some time shopping. We found the store wonderful and brought lots of t-shirts and Curios. The day was overcast, so it did not get too hot, and we realized we had been in the Kombi for over six hours. We were having such a wonderful time and the kids were behaving unbelievably well. Headed back to Lower Sabie via Salitjie. Game was abundant. We had our only negative experience with a Safari Jeep operator on this road. The operator had stopped and we asked her what she was looking at she rudely replied an animal, and was very unfriendly. Returned to camp for a break. We spent the afternoon watching game coming to the river hippo out of the water right in front of us.
For our afternoon drive we headed for Mlondozi dam, one of my favorites, and decided to drive south again, seeing lots of animals and plenty of ellie’s with babies. In the past I always remember having to travel north towards Letaba and Shingwedzi to see herds of elephant. Not this trip spottings were frequent with lots of babies. We saw three or four more rhino sightings too. Headed back to camp feeling relaxed and the entire family falling in love with Kruger.