This safari will cover most areas of the Southern section of Kruger. It is the most visited part of the game reserve, and with good reason. Most people enter the park in this region, simply because, for many, it’s the closest part of the park from wherever they’re traveling from. It’s also the area where it is the easiest to see all of the Big Five animals, along with plenty of others when you’re in this area, such as the very rare and endangered African Wild Dog.
The southern section is bordered by the Crocodile River in the south, the Sabie River in the north, and the Lebombo Mountains in the east, along the border with Mozambique.
Your Nature Travel guide will meet you at Kruger / Mpumalanga International Airport near White River, a small town on the southwestern corner of the park, and then head straight into the Kruger National Park and make our way to the beautiful Berg en Dal Camp.
Berg en Dal, meaning ‘mountain and dale’, is aptly named for its superb location on the bank of the Matjulu Spruit and is surrounded by rocky hillsides. It is one of the new generations of camps and was opened in 1984. Great care has been taken to preserve the natural vegetation in the camp area, which comprises Malelane Mountain Bushveld (woodland), attracting a variety of grazers. The area hosts high numbers of White Rhinoceros, Greater Kudu, Impala, Giraffe, some African Elephant, Southern Reedbuck, Klipspringer, Grey Rhebok, and Common Warthog. Leopard and African Wild Dog are also regularly seen in the region.
We will spend two nights in the area, going on morning and afternoon game drives. We will look for all sorts of interesting animals, birds, plants, and anything else that catches our eyes! We might venture north towards the famous Afsaal picnic spot, or eastwards along the Crocodile river on one of Kruger’s most productive dirt roads.
As always in Kruger, it is important to explore the rest camp itself for some fascinating fauna and flora. Berg en Dal is especially suited to extra exploration. On one of the days, we might try the Rhino Perimeter Trail walk that goes around the rest camp. Not only is it a beautiful, relaxing, and informative exercise, but we might also get to see something interesting! Recently on this walk, there have been sightings of the rare White-backed Night Heron, the ferocious Honey Badger, and the sought-after Thick-billed Cuckoo, to name just a few.
The camp has a beautiful swimming pool to cool off in, as well as good restaurant facilities and a nightly video show with some interesting local nature programs if you are interested.
Next, we will move to Kruger’s most well-known camp. Skukuza is the park’s administrative headquarters, its largest camp, and sometimes feels like a small town compared to the other camps in Kruger. It is situated on the southern bank of the Sabie River. This is a perennial river and one of the largest and most biologically diverse in the park. The habitat here comprises riparian zones, with large trees lining the river banks, and Sabie River thickets away from the river courses. The permanent water source here attracts large numbers of Impala, one of the main prey items of Leopard, and we will be on the lookout for these and other predators such as Lion, African Wild Dog and Spotted Hyaena.
African Elephant and African Buffalo are also common in the area, usually heading down to the river as the day heats up. The area is, however, not really suited to large numbers of grazing animals and small herds of browsers such as Greater Kudu and Bushbuck are more common here.
We have two nights at Skukuza, spending time in the mornings and afternoons out in the field looking for mammals, birds, and anything else that attracts our interest. We will traverse the southeastern section of the park, going down to Lower Sabie Camp (with its tranquil Sunset dam nearby) or even venturing further south to Crocodile Bridge Camp.
Our daily routes will depend on what we have seen so far and what the general weather and other wildlife conditions are like. We might also visit the famous Lake Panic hide near Skukuza’s nursery; a great spot from which to see aquatic bird species and animals drinking from close up. Your expert guide will make the decision as to where to point the nose of the safari vehicle to ensure your maximum enjoyment!
When we are not out on safari in the park it is important to look around for interesting creatures even inside the camp fence. The camp grounds are well foliaged and there are some lofty trees along the river’s edge. Activities and facilities are diverse, as are the animals and plants found both within the camp and in the surrounding areas. The camp is a great place to spot the dove-sized Wahlberg’s Epauletted Fruit Bat and the very cute South African Thick-tailed Galago.
The camp also houses the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library And Museum (James Stevenson-Hamilton was the first warden of Kruger National Park) which has some fascinating artifacts on display. You’ll get to know some things about Kruger Park that you’d never imagined! There are also very engaging stories to read, like the miraculous tale of Harry Wolhuter, one of Kruger’s very first game rangers, complete with real-life props showing his escape from a lion attack while patrolling on horseback.
Our next destination will be Pretoriuskop Camp, near the western border of the southern section of the park.
Pretoriuskop takes its name from the nearby kopje (hill) where Voortrekker Willem Pretorius, a member of Carl Trichardt’s 1848 expedition to Delagoa Bay, is buried. It is the park’s oldest rest camp, situated in the region of the park that receives the highest rainfall and the area is dominated by a veld type known as Pretoriuskop Sourveld. The tall, coarse grasses growing here are not too palatable, so the area does not hold large numbers of grazers, though it is particularly good for White Rhinoceros and the rare and beautiful Sable Antelope.
When the world was still young, some 3 500 million years ago, molten rock forced its way through the earth’s crust and solidified to form the spectacular granite outcrops where Pretoriuskop Camp is now nestled. The most impressive of these, the granite dome known as “Shabeni Hill” is not far from the camp.
It is immediately apparent to any visitor that Pretoriuskop is unique as brilliant red Common Coral trees adorn the camp, pre-dating the decision to make exclusive use of indigenous plants in laying out rest camp gardens. Nostalgia prompted an exception to the rule for Pretoriuskop, and exotic flowering plants were allowed to stay, enhancing the strong sense of the past that is so pervasive.
We will enjoy our last two nights in Pretoriuskop Camp, going on morning and afternoon game drives, and looking for interesting fauna and flora. We will venture down to the famous Afsaal picnic spot via the Voortrekker road, and explore the area around the camp for Leopard and rare antelope species. We might also explore the beautiful Phabeni area north of the camp, a spot renowned for fantastic game viewing encounters. The area around Pretoriuskop is also very good for many interesting bird species and a number of species are found here that are not seen anywhere else in Kruger.
Once again, be sure to keep an eye out inside the camp for all sorts of interesting fauna and flora species on the Sable trail, like Brown-headed Parrot, Cape Golden Mole and Smith’s Bush Squirrel. The camp has what many visitors consider to be the best swimming pool in the entire park. We might take a dip in the heat of the day to cool down a bit!
After your 6 night southern Kruger extravaganza, your Nature Travel guide will transfer you back to the airport (or your chosen point of departure) for your onward journey.
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