I'm not sure if this is the most appropriate place for this post, so I'm hoping the moderator will move it if necessary. My wife and I and our (nearly) 6 year old have just returned from a truly fantastic trip to Addo, Mt. Zebra, and Kruger. I'll be assembling a trip report soon, but I want to "give back" some advice in return for the many tips that we gleaned from this forum in preparation for our trip. A quick summary of the outcome: we saw more than 225 bird species and 51 mammal species (including Homo sapiens) during our 18 days in South Africa - our very first trip to the continent. The trip definitely exceeded even our VERY high expectations!
Things we are glad we did:
1. Read this forum thoroughly. I can't begin to thank all of you who provided advice, either directly or indirectly.
2. Curbed our inclination to cover too much distance. Our early itinerary in Kruger would have had us driving from Malelane to Shingwedzi during our 8 day visit. Based on advice from Forum regulars, we changed the schedule (as cancellations arose) so that all of our time was spent in the southern 1/3 of the park, with 2 days at Berg-en-dal, 2 days at Skukuza, and 2 at Biyamiti. We did plenty of driving as it was - I can't imagine going the distances we had once scheduled. Some day we'll be able to check out the rest of the park, I hope.
3. Booked a couple of sunset drives. We went on 2 drives, both very productive. One was with Lourens - a highlight of our trip. He is a gem - we even have a picture of him for the trip report.
4. Shopped at the Super Spar (Malelane) before entering Kruger. The shops within the park had even less selection than I had imagined, and of course the prices were much higher. Eating at the takeaways and restaurants in the the park was nice and not too expensive, but early morning food and snacks definitely were important.
5. Flew to Mpumalanga Airport from Johannesburg. The airport at Nelspruit was really nice, and we gained an extra full day in the park. Coming from overseas, each day in Kruger was precious.
6. Drove mostly on the gravel roads. Virtually all of our "quality" experiences were away from the crowds. Even the most corrugated roads weren't too bad (at least compared with Wisconsin/Minnesota back roads). We had a rental Hyundai Tuscon mid-sized SUV that worked flawlessly for us.
7. Started the day early. Except for our last day at Berg-en-dal, we were one of the first cars out of the gate. This paid off big time.
8. Exercised patience at prime locations. Toward the end of the trip just about the only "target" species that we hadn't seen (other than sable) was cheetah. We asked whoever we could for tips, and heard that some had been seen at the Mpondo Dam, so we went there. We read a book to our 6 ear old and waited. Wildebeest, waterbuck, zebra, a huge herd of buffalo, impala, and others came and went (like quite a few cars) during our 2+ hours there. Sure enough, eventually we saw a herd of impala running fast and furious, with a chetah close on their heels. The chase was unsuccessful, but exciting. I think the cheetah had been there hiding all along - we just hadn't seen it. (I guess this makes sense. Why would a cheetah in hunting mode be conspicuous?)
9. Stayed at Biyamiti. What a place! If I were a regular at Kruger I would hesitate to mention this, for fear that it would become even more difficult to make a booking.
10. Brought 2 cameras - one with a telephoto, the other with a "standard" lens. Both were ready for action. We also brought a Wolverine card backup system, which gave us peace of mind that our images were safely stored.
11. Packed lightly. We were able to do laundry during the trip, which kept us comfortable. We needed warm jackets and even gloves on the sunset drives. We could have left our shorts at home.
12. Tried some SA Pinotage wine. Hmmm. That was very nice. I am finding it hard to find here in Wisconsin, unfortunately.
I think I could go on, but this is long enough already.
Things we wish we had done.
1. Stopped at the fruit stands on the way into the park from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga. We ran out of fresh fruit fairly early, and didn't find much within the park.
2. Re-arranged our luggage for the flight from J'burg to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga. The plane was small and had no overhead compartments, so my standard carry-on (with all of my camera gear + binoculars) had to be stowed underneath the cabin. I was not comfortable parting with this stuff, although everything was delivered without a hitch.
3. Kept the fuel tank on our car closer to "full" than
"empty". I had a close call one of the last days because I thought Lower Sabie would have an ATM machine for petrol-funds. Unfortunately it is just a mini-ATM that does not accept foreign cards. We ended up going back to Skukuza for cash and filling with petrol there - the tank was nearly empty.
4. Planned "bladder-stops" more strategically. This seemed to be a recurrent problem for us.
5. Spend more early-morning time between Croc Bridge / Lower Sabie. We didn't do very well in this area, but I think it was partly due to time of day. One desired bird species that we missed was Kori Bustard, which seems to be reasonably common in these open areas.
It's late here, so I'll end with only 5 points. This is appropriate since I think we did more things right than wrong in retrospect.
I will send more details in the trip report.
All the best,
Last edited by bobandamy on Wed Jul 25, 2007 6:34 am, edited 1 time in total.