On safari in Kruger National Park

Zebra skin at Kruger National Park
South Africa has long been on my bucket list, I’ve dreamed of seeing the Big Five in the wild, so when the chance to go on safari in Kruger National Park, I jump at it.

The four-day adventure with Viva Safari Tours is a mix of a full day game drive in Kruger, early morning and sunset game drives on the private game reserve and a sunrise bush walk. The first two nights are staying in a treehouse at Marcs Camp, I feel like I’m getting back to nature with the mosquito net around my bed and friendly frogs hopping at the bottom of the shower.

Mosquito nets are a must when staying in the Kruger
Mosquito nets are a must when staying in the Kruger

There are only 2,000 lions living in the wild in South Africa and despite rhinos being the species that is well known as being endangered, lions are fast becoming the ones that also must be protected.

Stop Killing Rhinos
Between 2009 and 2010, CITES (Cities on International Trade in Endangered Species) estimated that the export of lion bones rose by 250 per cent. Lion bones are used in China to make lion wine, a supposed “cure all”. Grrr!

Elephant, lion cubs, giraffe at Kruger National Park
During my time at Kruger and while staying at Tremisana Lodge, I’m lucky we’re able to get up close and personal to two female lions and their six cubs which are only two months old. The benefit of staying on a private game reserve is that the guides are not restricted to the paved roads.

Why did the water buffalo cross the road?
Why did the buffalo cross the road?

Our lion sightings take us into a dry river bed, with one female lion 5m from the 4WD while the cubs purr and play together in the grass. The other female lion is on the opposite bank, gnawing on a zebra carcass and doesn’t hesitate to scold with an almighty roar when one of her cubs tries to get in on the feasting.

Lionness, antelope
Four days at Kruger and I’m extremely lucky to see all the Big Five, given the name as they are the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot – lions, elephants, buffalo, rhino and the leopard which is the most elusive. And of course there are giraffes, elephants and all the other wildlife up so close and personal it gives me goosebumps. Thousands of elephants in Africa are still killed each year for their ivory – 2011 showed the highest ever recorded elephant poaching rates.

Did I mention the traffic jam?
Did I mention the traffic jam?

With the numbers of lions dwindling, a visit to South Africa to see them in their natural habitat should definitely be on anyone’s bucket list. Here are the facts:

  • Kruger National Park is larger than Israel. Nearly 2 million hectares of land that stretch for 352 kilometres (20 000 square kilometres) from north to south along the Mozambique border
  • This is the land of baobabs, fever trees, knob thorns, marula and mopane trees underneath which lurk the Big Five, the Little Five (buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhino beetle), the birding Big Six (ground hornbill, kori bustard, lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, pel’s fishing owl and saddle-bill stork) and more species of mammals than any other African Game Reserve
  • The Kruger Park is a self-drive destination, although there are guided tour operators, with an excellent infrastructure that includes picnic sites, rest camps, waterholes and hides
  • Up until fairly recently the only accommodation was the government run rest camps. However, large tracts of untouched land have been leased, in a fairly unusual commercial move by the park, to private operators who have established lodges run in a similar way to the luxurious private reserves on the western boundary of Kruger National Park.
  • More info: www.sa-venues.com

All pictures courtesy of Teresa Lane

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