Stories Of The Kruger | The Early Years & Days In The Kruger Park

The Kruger National Park feels like home to me. There is something about the Kruger that is special. I have been to National Parks, Game Reserves and Nature Reserves, but nothing compares to it. As mentioned on the about page, When I was 8 or 9, I witnessed my first pack of Wild Dogs, on the road! That was my first memory of this beautiful place.

Interesting Things Seen In The Kruger In My Younger Years

Since that day, while I was growing into my teen years, I have seen some amazing things. Nature is great. That is why, while I write this article, I encourage you to appreciate everything about the Kruger.

Quick Overview

I have seen many strange things… Some of which people haven’t believed. It does not really bother me though, because these sightings and experiences will stay with me forever.

Kruger National Park Insects: Giant Stick Insect In Skukuza

Giant Stick Insect

Skukuza

Now Skukuza is an interesting place… It is a town, it’s normally fully booked and the overseas tourists love it. It’s close proximity to the Sabie and Sand Rivers make it a hub for wildlife.

With that being said, interesting animals are not worried about the hustle and bustle of the busy area.

There are 3 sightings that stand out specifically for me. Two of them I did not get photographs of, one I did.

 

    • Giant Stick Insect (Photographed) – This magnificent insect was something to behold. It was huge. We found it outside our chalet after dinner one night. The body of this Giant Stick Insect actually looked like wood.
      I know stick insects resemble sticks, but seeing this beautiful creature was mesmerizing.

 

    • Violet Wood-hoopoe – I saw 4 or 5 of these birds in a tree. I looked at them very carefully. At that stage the Green Wood-hoopoe was one of my favourite birds, so I could tell them from a mile away, from chicks to fully-grown adults.These were not Green Wood-hoopoes o Scimitar’s. I watched them for about 5 minutes before they flew away, I waited for that Green Wood-hoopoe call as they flew, just to make sure, and nothing! New birds are being recorded all the time in the Kruger Park, some completely out of their range. This bird was one of them.I contacted various birding organisations, national park personnel, and no one believed me. All I know is I can identify nearly all of South Africa’s bird species, and I saw what I saw.

 

  • Bushpig – Let me start off by saying there are a lot of Warthog in and around Skukuza… At this stage I never would have dreamt about seeing a Bushpig.The sun had just risen in summer, and I was walking along the fence, and to my amazement, there it was, a Bushpig! He was quite chilled but was moving quickly. People also did not believe me.Now I have a friend who works in the Sabie Sabie Private Game Reserve. He told me that he see’s Bushpig every now and then, and he believed me. Like I mentioned before, it is not about belief, but rather witnessing what you saw.

Satara

Kruger National Park Great Spotted Cuckoo

Great Spotted Cuckoo

I love Satara. It’s right in the middle of the park, and the entire area excites me. The camp has a lot of bird species. I saw my first Eastern Black-headed Oriole and African Mourning Dove here. The things I saw are not as rare as Skukuza, but these sightings were special.

  • African Wild Cat – I saw quite a large Wild Cat walk past our chalet at about 4pm in the afternoon! It didn’t seem perturbed at all. This was the 3rd African Wild Cat I had seen. (Speaking of cats, I saw my second ever Serval on a bush walk we did here).

 

  • Great Spotted Cuckoo – Ok, so this not a very rare bird, but it was on my list for quite sometime. While driving close to camp we saw it fly into a tree. I managed to get some nice photographs of it.

 

  • Verreaux’s Eagle Owl – I have seen them twice in the Satara vicinity, once on a night drive, and once in the day. There were 3 of these massive Owls in a tree quite far away. You could see them from a distance, but we would have not noticed them if they didn’t gracefully fly into the tree.

 

  • Southern Reedbuck – I haven’t seen many in the Kruger, but I saw a herd of 4 running in an area a few books said they don’t occur in the Kruger. It was magical!

 

  • Lion Hunt – At Muzandzeni, about 30kms from Satara, we witnessed 2 Lionesses stalk and chase a female Kudu. They did not catch the Kudu, fortunately for her. This was only the 3rd attempted hunt I had seen in the park after Leopard and Hyaena.

Olifants

Kruger National Park Western Striped-bellied Sand Snake

Western Striped-bellied Sand Snake

Olifants is a beautiful camp situated high above the Olifants River… You can see for miles! It’s amazing to witness, Baboon’s, Impala and Kudu come down and drink like they don’t even know you are there. Olifants was also the camp where I first saw the Common Waxbill, Fairy Flycatcher and African Paradise Flycatcher. There have been some interesting sightings to talk about in the Olifants region.

 

  • My first ever Night Drive – I seem to have noticed a trend in the Kruger… Sometimes doing something new or something different often results in some amazing experiences. My first night drive was amazing. Listening to the noises, smelling the air and so on.On this night drive we saw all sorts of nocturnal creatures, animals I never thought I would see: Genet, African Wild Cat, Bushbaby, Civet and Porcupine.Besides that, we saw a group of around 10 Steenbok, which is weird. And then to top it all off, we saw a Leopard stalk and try and catch a female Impala. The hunt was unsuccessful, but this was the first hunt I had ever seen. What a night drive.

 

  • Helmeted Terrapins – The strangest thing ever… We stopped on the dirt road bordering the Olifants, and all of a sudden about 20 Terrapins came out of the water and went under the car. The aircon was on, so I am not sure if they were attracted to the noise, or to the shade the car provides. The Kruger Park is a mystery.

 

  • Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake – My favourite snake. We were eating lunch at Olifants when out of nowhere, this Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake then proceeded to slither its way down the wooden pillar. Didn’t pay any notice to what was going on, it just happily moved along.

 

  • My first bush walk – Once again this was a first for me, and at the same camp. All in all it was a great walk, lots of birdlife, Elephant, Giraffe, Black-backed Jackal (Who was quite aggressive) Impala and a few others. We then stopped for a bush breakfast, and scanning the area I saw 2 people walking through the bush.One of the rangers then borrowed my binoculars and saw them too. He immediately called it in. We don’t know if they were poachers or immigrants, but on the way back we saw some directional signage in the road. Arrows marked in the sand and rocks pointing in a specific direction. There was also some writing (Can’t remember what its said), but needless to say we got rid of any signs of it.

Letaba

I haven’t experienced anything out of the ordinary in Letaba. Has some great fun watching the friendly Bushbuck and find Scops Owls and Pearl Spotted Owlets in the camp. There is a funny story relating to this camp, you can read it here.

Mopani

Kruger National Park Crested Barbet

Friendly Crested Barbet

Mopani is different to a lot of other rest camps in the Kruger National Park. It is modernized and fairly new. It has a lovely walkway with views of the Pioneer Dam. You can see some amazing sunsets and sunrises here. As per the name, Mopani Tree’s and Mopani scrub dominate the area. I have had some special moments here.

 

  • The first morning Aimee and I stayed here we went out for an early morning self-drive. We only drove around the area for an hour. The amazing part of that hour is we saw 3 different Leopards. How incredible is that? It just goes to show that the Kruger Park can throw anything at you. How does the saying go? Right place, right time?

 

  • The second morning, we did the same thing. We stopped at Mooiplaas picnic spot. While we walked back to the car (We were the only people there), we stopped to photograph the friendliest Crested Barbet. As we took photo’s of the Barbet, a Lioness ran across the picnic spot about 25 meters away from us. We got in the car and tried to scour the area as much as we could, but nothing.Just after this we spotted some restless Southern Reedbuck, and as they often do, as we turned our cameras on, they bolted through the thicket.

 

  • We went on a sunset drive at Mopani. We were lucky to see a Lioness and a few cubs in a den in the hill right outside the camp. They were quite far away, but the binoculars helped us get a lovely view. Just before it got dark, after we bumped into a small herd of Elephants, we saw our first ever Pygmy Kingfisher.

 

Shingwedzi

Kruger National Park African Rock Python Tracks

African Rock Python Tracks

Shingwedzi is a lovely camp, but gets very busy over public holidays. I have literally seen the entire camp full of visitors. It seemed like a festival. It is the best place in the Kruger National Park to see the African Rock Python. There are a few interesting things that have happened over the years.

 

  • The first time I stayed there was in my mid teens. I woke up in the morning to walk around the camp birding and looking for any wildlife. To my amazement, amongst the beautiful Impala Lilies, there were huge snake tracks all around the chalet in the dirt. They were all over in one area. It had to be an African Rock Python.Unfortunately my father found a dead, run over, African Rock Python a few years after this trip.

 

  • The Red Rocks loop. This loop is amazing; it has that feeling like anything could happen at any moment. This one of my favourite roads in the Kruger National Park. I will never forget when I was 20 or so. My mother and I were arguing about going the wrong way on the loop. While this was going on, we stopped to see a beautiful Leopard sitting right in the middle of the road. The Leopard moved on after 30 seconds or so of us watching it. Needless to say, the argument did not continue after that.

 

Punda Maria

Kruger National Park European Nightjar

European Nightjar On A Walk

I could full a book about my love and experiences in and around the Punda Maria rest camp. Hands down, this is my favourite camp in the Kruger National Park. The road towards Pafuri is something special. I experienced one of the most unforgettable moments of my life in The Kruger. This deserved an article, which can be found here. I won’t mention anything about that here.

 

  • I was blessed to experience something else amazing, a morning walk. I have mentioned this story on the Stories Of The Kruger before, but it is just too special not to share again.As I approached the rangers (I was the only one on the walk), they asked me if I wanted to go on a birding walk or game walk. I chose the birding walk. We drove towards Thulamila and parked under a tree.We walked through thick bush and up and down ravines. We spotted a Böhm’s Spinetail. What a rare bird! It was flying just above us! Amongst the many bird species that we heard, which included Narina Trogon, and, surprisingly, a Pel’s Fishing Owl. The birding was fantastic, with about 50 species seen, including a European Nightjar laying on the trail right in front of us.It got very interesting at one point. We walked to a lookout spot, really beautiful view! We had some biltong and fruit juice for breakfast. One of the rangers walked away for a bit. He started clicking violently (When you do bush walks you capture attention by patting on your leg or clicking, so you do not scare anything away). So we went to where he was. To our surprise, there were Lion prints over our footprints. This literally must have happened between us having breakfast and the one ranger walking away. The adrenaline was pumping.

    We were in very thick bush, so sensibly we walked back the direction we came so we did not surprise the Lion in the thicket. On the walk back we saw a Steenbok. We headed to the road at the top of Thulamila. We then encountered a bull Elephant. We were downwind of him, so we slowly retreated once again and made our way back to the vehicle through some open areas. What an amazing experience!

 

  • I have seen many mammals around Punda Maria, and many birds, but there have always been two interesting animals that have eluded me.We visited Punda Maria as part of a study project during winter. We were able to visit the Outpost Lodge. What a place! The views from the rooms are unbelievable as the lodge is situated on a mountain. You can see, what seems like, the whole of the northern section of the Kruger National Park.On the way to The Outpost Lodge (We were driving on a private gravel road), I finally saw it… A Sharpe’s Grysbok! I have always wanted to see one of these. I have seen quite a few Cape Grysbok in the Eastern Cape, but this guy was something special for me.Now… In the lodge, once again to my amazement, just “chilling” on the boardwalk, were 2 Yellow-Spotted Rock Hyrax (Dassie). They were quite friendly, and were all over the place. I managed to get some amazing photographs of them. Superb sightings!

    Just on another note… On the way back, before the Pafuri picnic spot, there was a Black-backed Jackal lying down, almost in the middle of a herd of Nyala. Neither the antelope nor the Jackal were phased at all.

 

 

And that’s it! My early years of my Kruger National Park adventures… There will be many, many more, and I cannot wait to see what this beautiful place has to offer.

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