Three days in Kruger

Every March for at least the last five years I have spent a long weekend in the Kruger National Park.  I’ve come to expect the same thing each year – high temperatures, high humidity, and thick, green bush.
Not so this year.  With much of Southern Africa caught in the grip of a severe drought, Kruger has been badly hit.  With scorched earth, intermittent clumps of brown grass, and record-breaking high temperatures, the Park is terribly changed.
The most obvious victims are the hippos.  Bone dry riverbeds and dams has meant hippos  gathering in tiny pools, and also grazing during the day in an effort to find food.  We saw a few carcasses in the Lower Sabie area, and if there isn’t a lot of rain in the next few months before winter, I cannot imagine many hippos will survive.
It was a tough few days.  We saw a lot of game, due to the scarcity of vegetation and the concentration of game around water sources, but it was heartbreaking to think how things may get worse over the next five months.
Highlights were seeing tons of ellies, two sable (which I’ve never seen before), at least eight white rhino, and a spotty heap of panting hyena.
Elephant in Kruger
Giant kingfisher, Crocodile Bridge, Kruger National Park
Young wildebeest,  Kruger National Park
Vervet monkey,  Kruger National Park
 Kruger National Park
Zebra,  Kruger National Park
Sable,  Kruger National Park
Young impala,  Kruger National Park
Hyena,  Kruger National Park
Elephants,  Kruger National Park
Tawny eagle,  Kruger National Park
Open billed stork,  Kruger National Park
Crocodile,  Kruger National Park
Black stork,  Kruger National Park
Elephants,  Kruger National Park
Giraffe,  Kruger National Park
You can read more about the impact of the drought in Kruger over here.

Four days in the Kruger

Is there anything better than time spent in the bush?  I love big cities and I love travelling to foreign destinations, but the quiet serenity, expansive space and clear ebb and flow of life found in a reserve like the Kruger is impossible to beat. I love the excitement of driving around the park, never knowing what you might come across around the next bend (spindly legged impala? lumbering rhino? clucking franklin?).  I feel like an utterly privileged guest in a place teeming with life.
I’m a sucker for the SAN Parks camps inside the park.  The smell of the thatch bungalows, the green tiled bathrooms and the SAN Parks emblem on the sheets and tiny teacups all invoke such strong memories from my childhood, and I still prefer to stay in camps like Letaba, Shingwedzi and Shimuwini than in the camps on the edges of the park.  This time though I stayed at Ngwenya Lodge, which looks out over the Kruger (and the Crocodile River, which attracts a huge amount of game), and is a 10 minute drive to the Crocodile Bridge gate.
My goal for this trip was to take as many photographs as possible.  I have a bit of a thing for elephants – the more time I spend with them and observe them, the more I want to integrate and interact with them – and this trip was all about elephants! I saw more ellies than I think I’ve ever seen in my life!  Over the course of the four days we must’ve seen about 300 elephant in total, and some really huge herds with lots of babies (you’ll notice plenty of different sized ellie bums in my pictures!). It was quite amazing, and has further entrenched my wish to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya … as soon as possible!
Amongst all the large eared and liquid eyed antelope, some highlights were seeing rhino – less than normal though, which makes me so incredibly sad and indicates the extent of the rhino poaching crisis in the park – and three lionesses with very distended bellies on a wildebeest kill.  The Kruger remains one of my favourite, and one of the most soul soothing, places on earth and certainly one of the best wildlife destinations in Southern Africa.
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Kruger bliss

We spent five days in the Kruger National Park, a place I love a little more every time I visit.  We stayed at Olifants camp and then Tamboti, both which were lovely and classically SANParks (including those quintessential green tiles).
We saw loads of game including plenty of my favourite, ellies, the smallest baby elephant I’ve ever seen, four different prides of lions, leopard, seven white rhino, marauding honey badgers at Tamboti, and a mum monkey that raided our car for sweets.
View from Olifants camp
baby giraffe
Picnic spot
Snoozy impala
Bushbuck at Letaba camp
mum monkey
Bats at Olifants camp
Olifants River
Vintage Kruger
Mohawked warthogs
Zebra stripes
Big old baobab
Near Skukuza
Bath time ellie
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lady leopard
Red duiker
King of the beasts
And I even managed a few gentle practices while I was away 😉
primary practice at Tamboti