From 26 May to 31 May, we and our friend Cathy came up to Hazyview and stayed outside of the park. From 1 June to 3 June we stayed inside Kruger at Satara.
During the time that we were in Hazyview we came in to Kruger twice entering through Phabeni gate. Both times we got there about 15-20 minutes before gate opening time and were around 4th or 5th in the queue. Which was nice as I'd heard stories of people only entering after lunch despite being there from early on. The park was however so nice and quiet compared to other times that we have been.
So before I get on to the Kruger stuff, let me fill you in on what else we did in the area (Mods permitting!
One of the reasons that we came up to the area was because Caroline's parents have timeshare in the area, you'll see which one if you look at the photo site. We spent some time walking around their grounds, but the majority of the time that we spent ouside of Kruger was visiting waterfalls.
Lone Creek falls was probably our favourite, and was certainly the one that we spent the most amount of time at. It's an easy drive, and it's an easy walk to get to it.
Horseshoe falls was not quite as impressive, but still worth the visit, and in times of heavier rain I'm sure it would be much better. Also an easy drive, and not much walking involved.
Bridal Veil falls is quite impressive and to photograph the falls you either need a really wide lens or you need to do a panoramic shot. I shot at 24mm I think and I still had to take two shots to get it all in. It's an easy drive, but it's a 400m walk to the falls. - Now before I hear you saying that 400m is not that far, let me tell you that it is 400m virtually striaght up!
- ok maybe not straight
up, but it was quite steep.
Maria Shires falls. Now this is a funny story. The entrance is opposite Forest falls (which we didn't go to), but it is difficult to find as it isn't very well sign posted. In any case, as soon as you turn in there take the road to the right, not the left. If you take the road to the left as we did, you'll end up driving all over a pine plantation and if you're lucky you'll end up parked next to the grave site of Maria Shires. In the book we bought it states that from the falls you can take a short hike to the grave site, but it is only recommended for the fit and active. Well we ended up parked right next to it. When we eventually found the falls, it was about 20m from the road! - It was however quite a nice scenic waterfall although not a very high one.
Mac Mac falls. By far the worst waterfall we went to. That's not to say that the falls themselves are not impressive, but unfortunately the viewpoint is terrible for photography and not that much better for someone just wanting a look. What amazes me is that this is the main waterfall that tourists get taken to, and if you ask me, any of the others were better.
Berlin falls is quite nice but you're not going to get the same kind of photos that you would with the other falls (except Mac Mac). Since you're at the top of the walls looking down, and it is quite a wide scene you're a bit limited in what you can do, but if you arrive there in the morning so that the sun is behind you, you should get some good shots.
Lisbon falls is also very nice but again its the same situation as Berlin falls. Just make sure you're there in the morning to avoid the sun being on the wrong side.
We also visited the Pinnacle which is a tall column of rock rising out of a deep gorge and is well worth a visit. God's Window was not as impressive as I had hoped as you look out over mostly plantations, but it is still an impressive view and is on the route around all the waterfalls and viewpoints to stop and have a look. There are plenty of nice aloes there to look at. The Three Rondavels is very impressive as well, but it's another case of visiting in the morning to avoid the haze.
About the best place that we visited, with the exception of Lone Creek falls, was Bourke's Luck potholes. These are a series of huge potholes that have been eroded into the sandstone by the sheer force of two rivers swirling together. There are many interesting shapes and sights here as well as many waterfalls and interesting water flows/streams/things. There are also some cool lizards that hang out on the rocks. Entry is a bit steep at R22 each, but it's worth it.
Now on to Kruger.
On our first day in Kruger as a day visitor, our plan was to trundle along the tar road from Phabeni Gate to Lower Sabie, then turn around and come back. Our route was similar to this: Phabeni Gate > S1 > H11 > H4-1 > Lower Sabie > H4-1 > H12 > H1-2 > H11 > Paul Kruger Gate.
We stopped at Lake Panic and Sunset Dam, we had breakfast at Nkuhlu Picnic spot and lunch at the picnic site at Lower Sabie.
At Lake Panic we saw: African Jacana, African Darter, Hippo, Bushbuck, Marsh Terrapin, Water Dikkop (sorry Thick-knee), Crocs, Black Crake and various other LBJs. Later on we were back at Lake Panic and saw Green-backed Heron and crocs eating a baby hippo. We were told that they had made the kill about two hours earlier.
At Sunset Dam we saw: Yellow-billed Stork, Crocs, Hippo.
I have to say that the monkeys at Nkuhlu are very naughty, but fun to watch the people who don't know how to control them. There were all sorts of people there waving sticks at them and the funny part is that they were the ones that the monkeys were picking on. They were so busy chasing off one monkey that another would come in and take something from behind.
Our party just sat down and ate our food and were not hassled by the monkeys at all, we did of course keep a watchful eye on them.
We do acknowledge that there is a problem though. We witnessed one brave monkey enter the shop through the front door and come out a few minutes later with a packet of chips, like he had casually gone in and paid for them! He had no peace though eating his chips up in the tree as he was constantly hounded by the others.
When we had finished our breakfasts we packed up and handed the plates to the waitress specifically so that she could take them back inside and the monkeys would not be able to get the butter, jams and other left over goodies. Instead she just plonked them down on the nearest table and continued to do what she had been doing, sweeping or clearing other tables. Of course within a minute the monkeys were coming towards our plates so we picked up the plates and took them inside ourselves. We would have thought that people working at the picnic spot would know how to deal with the monkeys. Perhaps they do and this is their solution.
On the road we saw: Lappet-faced Vulture, Vervet Monkey, Lilac-breasted Roller, Kudu, Warthog, African Fish Eagle, Elephant, Grey Heron, Lion, Pied Kingfisher, Waterbuck.
On our second day in Kruger as a day visitor we decided to go south to Lower Sabie and then north to Tshokwane and back. Our route was: Phabeni Gate > S1 > H11 > H4-1 > H10 > Tshokwane > H1-2 > H11 > S1 > Phabeni Gate. We also took a detour down the S65 to N'waswitshaka waterhole and back.
On the road we saw: Spotted Hyena, Buffalo with calves, Kudu, Elephant with young, White-fronted Bee-eater, Klipspringer, Hippo, Yellow-billed Stork, Crocs, Impala, Water Dikkop, Burchell's Starling, African Jacana, Waterbuck, Grey Heron, Giraffe, Lion, Glossy Starling, Bateleur with young, Hamerkop, Grey Duiker.
On our first full day in Kruger we entered at the usual Phabeni gate, and were destined for Satara, so we took a leisurely one way drive up that way. Our route was: Phabeni Gate > S1 > H11 > H1-2 > H1-3 > Satara.
During this drive we saw Lion (actually we were looking at two rhino and a lion came strolling past!), Rhino, Kudu, Ground Hornbill, African Jacana (again at Lake Panic!), African Darter, Wire-tailed Swallows with chicks feeding right below us on the struts holding up the hide (and flying around catching food), Marsh Terrapin, Jameson's Firefinch, Hippo, Crested Francolin, Wahlberg's Epauletted Fruit Bat (with young), Waterbuck, Elephant, Chacma Baboon, Buffalo, Burchell's Coucal, Leopard (young near the road), Leopard (far in tree).
Our second full day in Kruger was divided into two drives, although its not like we spent much time in the camp at lunch time! The first drive was a trip to Orpen camp and back and followed the route: H1-4 up to Ngotso Dam, then back to the S127 and across to Timbavati Picnic spot. Then down the S40 and the S12 joining up with the H7 to Orpen Camp taking the S106 when we got there. Turned around in the camp and took the H7 all the way back to Satara.
We visited the Timbavati Picnic Spot and discovered two semi-tame bushbuck who posed wonderfully for us and allowed us some great photos. The attendant Craig Sono was extremely friendly and helpful and you could see his passion for the animals that he indirectly works with.
For the afternoon drive we took the much praised S100. The intention was that we would come back on the H6, but the S100 was so good that we a) would not have had enough time to do the H6 as well; and b) wanted to do the S100 again. So again we did the S100, and while not as good on the way back it did provide us with a serval at the last minute!
We had lion on the S100 in the riverbed. Someone in a red VW Combi came and asked us what we had seen and we politely told him the truth only for him to really act like a complete moron later. After a few minutes the usual Kruger traffic jam had formed and the lions crossed the road behind us. We had no chance to move because Mr Combi reversed back there at approximately warp 10, almost knocking the lion flat on the road. They escaped into the bush seconds later (the lions, not the moron) and the sighting was over. We drove off only to be overtaken by Mr Moron Combi in a cloud of dust moments later. Some people...
So our sightings for that day are: Giant Eagle Owl, Elephant, Secretary Bird, Impala, Bushbuck, Burchell's Zebra, Giraffe, Waterbuck, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Little Sparrowhawk, dead Boomslang in road, Slender Mongoose, Crested Barbet, African Mourning Dove.
On the S100 specifically we saw: Elephant with baby, Tree Squirrel, more elephant, Lion, Little Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, Impala, Serval.
Our last day really consisted of driving from Satara to Crocodile Bridge where we exited the park and began the long nine hour drive home. Our route within Kruger was: Satara > H1-4 > H1-3 > S35 > S32 > H10 > H4-2 > Croc Bridge. Because it was cold and rainy we really didn't see much.
What we did see was: Wet Kudu, Chameleon (probably also wet), Wet African Fish Eagle.
Amazingly we saw no other yellow ribbons while in the park. Only as we were driving out of Croc Bridge did we see another person with what we think was a yellow ribbon. A "NUR" vehicle (registration plate, same as us), with what looked like a yellow sponge or cloth wrapped around the driver side mirror. I had already removed ours at that point, not that ours was much of a ribbon either! We had forgotten ours so we used the gold string that goes around the neck of an Amarula Cream bottle.
So that's our trip in a nutshell.
Take a look at the pictures here
. They're not all SANParks related so I won't post them on the forum. There are 74 photos in total.