From my first day in Africa, I had been hearing about Kruger National Park, one of the most famous African parks, renowned for its size – nearly two million hectares (7,700 square miles) of wild area, made larger by an additional two or three dozen privately owned wildlife reserves that border the national park – and the relative ease of wildlife viewing.
Kruger NP began as the Sabi Game Reserve established March 26, 1898, by South African Republic President Paul Kruger, to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld. Over time, it morphed into Kruger NP, named for President Kruger who helped create it. The size of the park was made more by the private reserves that grew up around it, and there were no fences between to restrict animal movements.
South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique made big plans in 2000 to join their parks together into the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Even though progress has been made, the parks have not yet become one officially, although there is much cooperation and coordination. Hopefully, the project will come to fruition because it would provide one of the largest wildlife preserves.
I joined a group driving up from Johannesburg for a visit to Kruger NP. Tourism has been established for a long, long time at Kruger NP, and it shows in their organization. We spent the first night in a lovely little lodge called “Tremisana,” located on one of the reserves at the edge of Kruger NP.
We had an early evening game drive, and then dinner outside. A hyena came by to see what was going on, and probably to see if she could get anything, but didn’t bother us. The wildlife in Africa, at least where tourists frequent, seems to have adapted to humans, or maybe they behave as they always have, being dangerous only when hungry, scared, or defending their young. Just like humans. The trouble for humans is being able to predict when predators will be hungry, to avoid surprising animals, and resisting baby animals. Even baby crocodiles are “so cute.” It’s why visitors are generally confined to their vehicles.
MoAfrika Tours was the company that I traveled to Kruger NP with, but they subcontracted to other operators. Viva Safaris was the company that coordinated our game drives and other transportation. This morning, we boarded our vehicle to ride to a place where we would go on a game walk. After the game walk, we would transfer to Marc’s Treehouse Lodge for the duration of our trip.
The game drives and the game walks begin very early, just as dawn breaks, a schedule dictated by the wildlife. They feed early in the morning, and late in the afternoon. Our group consisted of eight guests, a guard who carried a rifle and drove, and our guide, who was also armed. On our way to the starting point, animals began to appear.
As I said, visitors have to stay in the vehicles, but even so, everyone was excited when we got this close to a male lion! I noticed that the driver kept the engine slightly revved, just in case.
Elephants travel in groups, the females and their young ones. We never ceased to be fascinated by them, and I often wished I could stay longer, just to watch the interaction among the elephants, and between the elephants and other animals.
We were a lot more excited about being close than she was – she was entirely engrossed in eating the bush – but we managed to stay still. Elephants are pretty smart, and she probably identified us quickly as a group of harmless tourists in our vehicle as opposed to poachers. Full grown elephants aren’t threatened by much else. Luckily, she was browsing slightly away from the others, but after sitting for a few minutes, we drove quietly on, putting some space between us and her anyway.
Eventually, we got out of the vehicle and walked around the reserve. Our guide pointed out some plants that are used in traditional medical care, even today, although modern medicine is making inroads. Modern medicine costs money, however, and that has kept traditional medicine in the mainstream.
I wonder if many people come to Africa, and see only the eyes and ears of hippos, never the whole thing. Hippos rarely come out of the water during daylight. At night, they come up on land and graze. On land, they are remarkably fast over short distances, and it’s best to be attentive if you wander around at night.
Our guide showed us a traditional method of clearing your sinuses if you had a head cold. He chose a piece of dry elephant dung, and set it on fire with a match. It didn’t burn brightly, rather, it put out a good amount of smoke. The trick was to inhale the smoke to clear your sinuses. It works….
I tried it. The smoke is sharp, and traveled right through my sinuses. I can’t say that I would recommend it, but it does perform as advertised.
As we returned, we found this guy warming up in the sun on the road. Lions, and especially male lions because they don’t watch over the cubs, aren’t afraid of much.
There was a male lion, sleeping in the road. He didn’t pay any attention to us at first, but when we didn’t go away, he did finally raise his head.
Back at Tremisana, we gathered up our things and headed to Marc’s Tree House Lodge, a short distance away.