After two weeks trekking in Nepal which allowed us to end pretty well the Asian side of our trip, we are now on our way to a second continent : Africa. A quite large continent although we will only spend two weeks out of our 11 months of travel.
A few reasons behind this :
Firstly, the cost of travelling in Southern Africa. While in Aisa you can travel for 20 to 25$ per day per person, it jumps easily to 100$ in Africa by just camping in Kruger, getting some local help to « hire » for free camping gears, etc..
Secondly, we couldn’t skip it because it is an ideal place to celebrate Caroline 28th birthday as she really loves being around animals..
By Africa, I don’t even mean North Africa, or West and East. I am just talking about Southern Africa which is composed of Sout Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Nambia. This is already a large part of Africa, and I guess a minimum of 6 months would be required to get something out of it.
We organized our 2 weeks the following way :
– A first part where we rent a « normal » car to tour the Kruger Park (5 days, 4 nights) going through Blyde Canyon,
– And a second part where we have booked an organized trip (not really what we like the most) from Johannesburg to Zimbabwe and going through Botswana. This was the cheapest way to visit at the same time (10 days) the Okavango Delta & Chobe National Park in Botswana and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
This is plan for the two next weeks and I am going to try to give you as much feedback and informations of what we have seen. Quite overloaded, but at more than 100$ per day, we needed to make sure that gives us more bang for the buck.
On Friday 15th of March, we land at Joburg airport, pick up our rental car and end up two hours later at the front of Essilor South Africa gate. Why ??
We met there with Carlos (current director of Essilor in SA) who will lend us some professionals camping gear we will be using in Kruger Park.
We load the tiny Nissan Micra and we can’t believe everthing fits in. From the tent, cooker, pillows, inflatable mattress, sleeping bag, a box full of cutlery, plates and other stuff for cooking, three different guides about Kruger, torches, head lamps, camping lights, table and chairs…
We had so much stuff that firstly, we didn’t miss anything, secondly, people around us couldn’t believe that we could put out so much things out of this car and thirdly, we could compare oursleves with any other local guy going on a camping trip (except we didn’t have the big four wheels drive)
Once everything loaded in the car, we have thanked Carlos and his assitante Thea. We went then for a local dishes we haven’t been able to eat since we left Australia: a good meat steak.
Then we drove up to Graskop , making our way toward Kruger National Park. Overthere, we stopped at Panorama Rest & Camp where we try for the first time our 5 stars camping gear.
The next morning, Saturday 16th march, after watching an amazing sunset,
we star tour way toward Kruger Park (Orphan Gate) but not without going through Blyde Canyon National Park first, which offers some really great views. The landscape we see through the car windows are really amazing.
The kruger parc is sitting at the bottom of the plateau we were up a few hours ago.
Below a few pictures of Blyde River Canyon National Park:
Our entrance to Kruger NP through Orphan Gate was quite spectacular… How to say… ? In South africa, the maximum speed limit is 120km/hr. And Inside the park, it is 50km/hr (and 40 on dirt road).
To enter the park, we passed a first gate where they just asked us our booking number, and where they tell you you need to go at the next gate at reception to fill up all the paper work.
In between these two gates while driving we were busy pulling out of my computer the booking paper and keep driving at the same speed I have been driving since one day and half..
This is why, a few minutes later, I can see someone on the middle of the road making some signs with his arms.
A park ranger who kindly tell us we were over the speed limit… Oups… And tell us as well that the fine is 1000 Rand, equivalent to 100 euros… Wouah, we didn’t see that one coming, especially because we thought we were still out of the park.
But then he adds that we can give him something if we want the fine to be reduced… How much will reduce it by how much.. not sure, and on top of that, we have only 130 rands on cash with us.. We decide to give him 100 rands expecting to the fine reduced by half.. No, he cancelled it…
I can tell you that after this event, the car didn’t exceed the 50km/hr…
The first night in the park we sleep at Satara camp. We have been able to spot as soon as we enter the park, zebras, Impalas, girafes, éléphants, birds and so on. I won’t get into detail of what we have seen on a daily basis, otherwise the post would never ended.
Below, a galery of what we have seen on our first day at Kruger on Saturday 16th march around Satara camp and Orphan Gate:
Next morning, woke up at 5am, we leave the camp at 5.35am to drive through the famous S100 dirt road. A road where we should see leopards, lions and cheetahs.Just to notice that out of the big 5, we have only seen elephants.
But during 2 hours and half, driving very slowly, looking everywhere, we didn’t see them. A bit disappointing.
We get back to the camp, undo the tent and make our way to the north to reach Olifant camp. On the way, we see quite a lot of animals but none of the big 5 still.
Tonight, we will camp at Balule camp, a remote camp 10km away from Olifant on the shore of the river.
After cheking at Olifant, we start to go down to Balule but can’t find the camp… We drive the road three times to find out at the end that the lower bridge is closed. We need though to make a détour of 22km, although it is already 5.50pm and camps gate close at 6pm. Usually you can be fined for being late.
Forgot about the speed limitations as we try to reach Balule as soon as possible. Although the night starts to fall down and there is still a lot of animal on the road and on the side. We are not so keen to give the car back after smashing a girafe or an elephant.
We finally get almost there when we see a leopard… So lucky. By the time we reverse the car to get a picture, it is gone.
I still take the time to shoot the sunset from the bridge.
We arrive at the camp at 6.15pm. No fines for us as I was so upset that no one didn’t tell us anything at Olifant that the guy at the gate didn’t even try.
Today, Sunday 17th of march, is Caroline birthday. This is therefore in this small camp surrounded by high electrified fence and hyena walking around that we celebrate Caroline 28th…
And there our night visitor:
A few photos of our day and evening at Balule Camp.
The next morning, this is again an early wake up, although we start to be used to it. We make our way to the South of the Park to Skukuza camp. During that day, we didn’t see many news animals but saw our first rhinoceros.
Photos of the Monday 18th of march :
Tuesday 19th march, we go down to Lower Sabie camp (south east of Skukusa) where we arrive pretty early to enjoy the pool and have a rest after 3 days of driving from 5.30am to 6pm non stop. We are not far from Mozambique.
I will use the time off to write Nepal post and sort out the thousand of pictures we have since the last weeks.
After lunch, we go for a drive around the camp and manage to see some parts of a Lion which was hidding behind a bush… We spent there 1 hour hoping to see more, but it won’t move much.
The next day being our last day in the park, we decided to book a morning safari to, hopefullym, see some lions, cheetah and leopard.
The summary of the day:
The next morning, Wednesday 20th March is our last day in the park. Because we didn’t see yet lions (quite properly), cheetahs and to get more of it, we booked a morning drive with the park rangers.
A 4.30am (still night time) we are starting the drive and looking for the Bright eyes in the night. We really hope to see some big stuffs as the morning before they saw Lions, cheetah, leopard and other…
But we won’t be lucky at same. Still no Lions. By chance at the end of the drive we stop at the dam 5 minutes away from the camp and spot two Leopards. I haven’t publish the leopard photos as the quality was not good enough.. We need to keep a good standard on this blog.
After leaving the camp, we had three different itineraries we could do before leaving the park. We choose the middle one.
How lucky we were on that one. On the dirt road, 15 min away from Lower Sabie camp, two large Young lions on the side of the road, just for us. No other car is around.
Both of them cross the road in front of the car, only a few meters away. Amazing and impressive. They finally leave going deeper in the bush.
Finally, on our last day, we have seen the big 5 :
– and Buffalos
We leave the park through Malelane gate just after seeing Lioness and South African Wild dogs, quite rare.
Our visit is more than complete over the 5 days in Kruger.
The final gallery of our day in Kruger:
Once out of Kruger, we spend the night in Nelspruit before heading back to Johannesburg the next morning. Overthere, we stop again at Essilor to drop all camping gear (Thank you Thea for coming on a public holiday) and finally drop the car at the airport.
Thank you Carlos and Thea for the camping gear and the help!!
End of part I
We take the Gautrain from the airport to reach Pretoria, our second part.
See you soon for the