Just returned from my first visit to Kruger, and it was phenomenal. Being from Canada, I've only ever seen 95% of these animals in the zoo! I stayed from April 2 to April 6, 3 nights at Lower Sabie and 1 at Orpen. I was in S. Africa for a business trip (week in Johannesburg, week in Cape Town) and decided to extend the trip a week and travel to Kruger.
First 3 days at Lower Sabie were great. It's a nice camp with plenty of people to keep you company. A fellow in the hut next to me taught me how to braai (burn the coals with fire lighters, wait until they get really hot, etc.) and I felt like a real safari nut that first day. However, the sightings were pedestrian at best. Having already been on a 3 hour safari at Pilanesburg, the 2 animals I really wanted to see were lion and leopard, since I had seen the rest. On 2 of the 3 days, there were reports of leopard in the area. In fact, the first day I came across the traffic jam near Sunset Dam who had just witnessed one 5 minutes before. On the second day, on a night drive a car stopped us on the road and said there was a leopard on the road a km from where we were. On both occasions, nothing! However, I was lucky enough to have seen a family of cheetah on a road on a morning drive from Lower Sabie.
My final day was at Tamboti Camp, near Orpen Gate, and I was feeling anxious because I had this huge monkey on the back (no pun) in seeing lion and leopard. I had booked 3 nights at Lower Sabie because there's a general consensus that this area has the best game viewing, and I felt disheartened that I was leaving this area and heading to Orpen. Odds were not looking good. On a whim, I decide to book a night drive and a morning drive when I arrived at Orpen. I don't know when I'll be back since S. Africa is super far away from Canada (and expensive to get to!), so I take the chance.
On the night drive, which is 2 hours long, an hour and 45 minutes have gone by. Dammit, nothing's happening tonight..right? And all of a sudden, our guide says "There's something up ahead..a leopard!" I'm shocked and see it briefly before it runs in the bush. However, because of the terrain (short grass with sporadic bush), the leopard is still visible. It perches itself beside a bush and poses for our camera for a good 2 minutes! It was a beautiful creature, and I have to say that I was smiling the rest of the night and in my sleep.
Next morning I wake up bright and early for the morning drive. There were reports of lions the previous day and I heard them from my tent in Tamboti ALL NIGHT from across the river. About an hour into the drive, our guide spots a magnificent male lion sitting about 40 m from the road, keeping tabs on some impala. I get a nice minute of video before we decide to move on. Following that morning drive, I left Kruger feeling like a champ.
My first visit to Kruger couldn't have ended off any better and with more suspense! I was super glad to have booked those 2 drives on a whim! Seeing the Big 5 and the Magnificent 7 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, elephant, cheetah, hyena?) in Kruger is something special, and for me made this trip worth it. On this visit, Orpen was the golden gate. While I did see many creatures near Lower Sabie, it was Orpen which shockingly delivered the 2 big cats which I really wanted to see. I guess there is always a bit of luck involved!
Apologies for the long post, maybe I should get a journal and not bore you guys! Also I may sound like I'm bragging, because I sort of am! This is one of those feelings I'm sure many of you know really well - that feeling you get after a great sighting (or great string of sightings). I just HAD to let the forum know of my experience