Kruger Park Safari: The Greatest 72 Hours of My Life

Sunset In Krugar Park
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Written by Frankie Cameron

Have you ever been to Kruger National Park in South Africa? Have you ever gone on safari? I have never enjoyed myself more than the three nights and four days I spent with exotic animals in their natural habitat in Kruger Park.

Kruger National Park in South Africa is one of the largest protected game reserves. It encompasses 20,000 square km (7,500 miles) in northeastern South Africa. The park has strict anti-poaching laws which allow animals such as the big five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and water buffalo) to roam freely.

We traveled to Kruger Park in August with Lion World Travel. The dry time or off-season is the best time to view animals before the foliage gets too thick and the weather becomes too hot.

Skukuza Airport

After four days in Cape Town, my daughter and I flew to Skukuza Airport in Kruger Park. I thought we were landing in the middle of the bush right before the plane taxied up to the door.

Inside of Skukuza airport decorated with African Animals
Wart Hog scrounging for food in Kruger Park

With only three flights in and out of Skukuza each day (one to Cape Town and two to Johannesburg) we quickly found our guides Raymond and Reckson who gathered our luggage. We felt the heat of Africa as soon as we exited the airport and observed our first animal, a warthog.

Lion Sands Tinga Lodge

Tinga Lodge

The Lion Sands Game Reserve is the only private reserve in both the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and Kruger National Park. We stayed at Tinga Lodge on the Kruger side, on the edge of the Sabi River where you can view the animals in their natural habitat in scrumptious comfort.

Deck surrounding a Serengeti tree
Entrance to Tinga Lodge

The main lodge blends beautifully into the scenery. There are nine suites, a villa, a bar, a lounge, a pool, a spa, and a gift shop. Greeted with a hello drink, we dined outdoors under an enormous Serengeti tree. We weren’t there ten minutes before a herd of elephants casually walked by. Ecstatic is not the right word to describe our emotions. I took the photos below from the deck of the lodge.

Elephants in Kruger Park, South Africa
Elephants crossing the Sabi river

Tinga Suite #5

We stayed in suite number five. A beautiful air-conditioned room with two beds and a living room area with a bar and snacks. The bathroom was enormous, with a huge shower that had discretely placed windows so you could see nature. The bathtub was large enough to lie down completely flat. There was also a deck with its own plunge pool. 

Every day the maids left notes and stories on our bed. At night they would arrange the mosquito nets over the beds and make animals out of the towels. Nyala and Steenbok grazed right beside our room. After dark we had to have an escort from the main lodge back to our rooms so we didn’t have to encounter any animals.

Kudu

Kruger National Park Game Drives

Evening Game Drive

We left with Raymond (the guide) and Reckson (the tracker) after high tea on our game drive at 3:30 pm. Reckson rode at the front of the jeep looking for animal tracks. There were six people to a jeep. Our goal was to see the big five.

We hadn’t driven very far before a giraffe blocked the road. The jeeps don’t phase the animals because they are used to them (inured) and know they don’t pose a threat. They caution us not to stand up or scream because it would draw their attention. There is no hunting in Kruger Park, but Raymond had a gun for emergencies. In all his years of guiding, he said he had never used it. 

Krugar Park Water Buffalo

Shortly after the giraffes we ran into a herd of water buffaloes, then more elephants. Halfway through the drive, we stopped and got out of the jeep to stretch our legs for drinks and snacks. We saw a leopard from a distance but didn’t get too close.

At dark, Raymond pointed out the southern star, which isn’t visible in the northern hemisphere. When we arrived back at the lodge, we immediately went to dinner, a scrumptious chef-prepared meal (they constantly fed us at the lodge). We exchanged stories with the other guests, discovering who saw what animal. We met a lovely couple and a family of six from England.

Morning Game Drive

The morning started with a 5:30 am wake-up call; a small breakfast and we were back in the jeep. The first hour we only saw a vulture, but then Reckson spotted rhino tracks and discovered our first white rhino. When one jeep finds an animal, they radio the other jeeps its location in code so poachers do not overhear. It seemed to be a game among the guides who could find the animals quickest.

Vulture in Kruger Park

There are strict rules for Kruger Park. If a tree falls, an elephant poops or an animal dies, it has to be left in place because other animals feed or use the materials. The only exception happens when they find a dead elephant or rhino, then they notify the park authorities who come pick up the tusks and horns.

Kruger Park
Hippo in Kruger

We stopped for a snack of hot chocolate and pastries, then we went on a bushwalk. Raymond led with the rifle and Reckson trailed with a machete. Raymond pointed out some flora and fauna, animal track and elephant dung (it is as big as you would expect). We also saw a large termite mound.

Termite Mound in Kruger Park
Safari jeep at Tinga Lodge

Then one jeep discovered leopards. They were so beautiful and terrifying as Raymond positioned us about six feet away, too close for the lady in front of me who almost had a heart attack. Leopards only spend time together when they mate. The roar from this pair was chilling. The morning ended with a hippo and we headed back for brunch.

Leopards in Kruger Park
Kruger Park Narrow Bridge

Kruger National Park Highlights

There were multiple highlights in our three morning and evening drives at Kruger Park. Too many to write about, but these stick out in my mind:

Chasing Lions

One morning the guides found two male lions. We chased them so hard and fast through the bush I thought we were going to bounce out of the jeep. Their manes were not as full as in other places in Africa because the thick bush pulls out pieces of it. The photo on the right is one of my favorite photos because besides the Steenbok feeding in the distance there were crocodiles in the river and hippos on the other bank.

Two male lions in Kruger Park
One male lion in Kruger Park

Hippo Walk

One afternoon, Reckson and Raymond left us in the jeep as they checked animal tracks. They had discovered hippos and a vantage point where we could watch them without danger. After a whistle and some hand signals from another guide on the other bank, Raymond told us we had to leave in a hurry. Once we were safely back in the jeep, he let us know a leopard had been stalking us. Later we got to see the leopard as he/she walked past.

Hippos in Kruger Park
Kruger Park leopard

Monkey Attack

Once, while we were lounging on our deck, a monkey chased us into our room. He was probably just after our snacks. The monkeys also loved the Serengeti tree on the deck where we took our lunch. The morning we left Kruger Park a monkey went crazy in a tree shouting out to all that a leopard was near.

Kruger Park monkey
Kruger Park monkey

Friendly Zebras

On our last morning in Kruger Park, our guides took us to an authentic African village and school. We got to meet the children and their teachers to see how the locals lived. The school was very colourful, everything was red, blue and yellow. We also finally caught sight of our first zebra grazing with a mother and son rhinoceros.

Kruger Park zebra
African Village school

Final Thoughts

While we saw the big five, we didn’t see the magnificent seven, which includes hyena and cheetah. We took over two thousand photos while we were in Kruger Park. I would love to go back again. Is a safari in Africa on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time

Frankie

All photographs copyright Frankie Cameron Writes.

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