I recently spent a week in the Greater Kruger National Park. At 50 million unfenced acres (larger than New England, or about the size of Nebraska) this network of public and private reserves is one of the largest conservation areas in all of Africa. This park is the crown jewel of South Africa and is featured in almost every one of our South Africa safaris. Here are the 5 things that really blew me away during this trip.
Anti-poaching programs and stronger protections for elephants in this area have led to a burgeoning population. Guests can enjoy up close and personal interactions (like the one I had below) in this area. Because parts of the park have been around since 1898, many of the animals here have grown up in the presence of safari-goers and do not see people or vehicles as a threat. This means close encounters are quite normal. It was unforgettable to be surrounded by a browsing herd of ellies with the only sounds being the snapping of small branches and the munching of leaves by these giants!
Wildland works hard to curate a collection of lodges and camps that provide an unparalleled level of quality, service and comfort to our travelers. The standouts on this trip were:
Tanda Tula – Safari tents overlooking a riverbed and a watering hole meant falling asleep to the sounds of the bush. The resident chef delivered the most vivid and dynamic presentation of the evening menu eclipsed only by the arrival of the amazing meal itself!
Savanna – Top notch guiding with incredible wildlife encounters, a supremely luxurious yet comfortable camp, meaningful community development programs working with local village nursing home and orphanage. 90% of their staff hails from nearby villages making this a true community camp!
Lonodolozi- This family owned group of camps provides a high level of African elegance and escape. Impressive amenities like a new interactive touch screen display where guests can learn the stories behind 52 resident leopards with videos, HD images and territorial map overlays. There’s also a photo studio on the premises where you can rent professional grade photo equipment, edit your safari photos from the day and then print your photos on a high quality canvas printer, then packaged in a tube for your trip back home. Now THAT’s a souvenir!
Simbavati Hilltop – Eight luxury tents built into the side of a hill means incredible views from your private deck and outdoor daybed. All around warm, hospitable service, excellent guides and delicious food made this retreat so very tough to leave.
The weather in South Africa is splendid year-round! I was there for their “Autumn” meaning leaves were coming off some of the deciduous trees and grasses were tamped down making for excellent wildlife photography. Each season has something to offer and there’s really no bad time to go.
My guides in Kruger were fantastic! Their encyclopedic knowledge transformed our game drives into outdoor classrooms. Attention to details like positioning the vehicle for the best photo shots and keeping a keen eye out for educational moments are what separate the great from the merely good guides.
I have been on a lot of safaris. I have been very privileged to see lions, rhinos, cheetah and all manner of carnivore, herbivore and omnivore all over Africa. Of all the critters, leopards are still a notoriously elusive cat. My best encounters until this trip included: a sleeping leopard’s barely visible paw dangling off of a branch and a distant leopard, barely visible through binoculars, stalking something we couldn’t see. The leopard sightings in Kruger were something totally different and infinitely rewarding. So many leopards! Baby leopards playing and running under our parked safari vehicle! Leopards waking up from a nap and yawning! Leopards on the move! Leopards drinking! Leopards eating a kill! WOW!
For the first time African traveler or the seasoned safari veteran, the Greater Kruger National Park rewards all visitors. Interested in checking it out? Let me know!
Your friendly safari expert,