Game Drives in the Kruger: Where to eat and How to spot anything

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Endangered Southern Ground Hornbill
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Traveling with baby Steven – at around the date he would have been born hadn’t he come 7 weeks prematurely. He did enjoy the journey.
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Hornbill
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If I would caption this “Lion Porn” I might increase traffic drastically. But these are just lions mating.
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On our way to Bern en Daal restcamp. Lions in the night. Ready to pounce. Do not climb out of the car. Ever. Do not open the window. Do not open the roof.
Baby on Safari

wmbabyonboard wmletaba2 Make sure you book a Game Drive in your rest camp at the Kruger. I did about 9 drives altogether and it’s still great fun. If you bring children, remember it is very chilly at 3:30 am. I have taken Steven between 2 months and 3 years old on several game drives in different parks without problems, but do be considerate of other guests.

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Enjoying the view, Letaba rest camp.

If your toddler tends to fuss and is not easily distracted with a toy it might be better to leave him with one of you. You can not spot wild animals with a screaming baby on top of a truck.

Room in a Chalet at Mopani Rest CampThe further north you go in the Kruger National Park, the more you will enter grasslands ideal for big herds of antelope, gnu, koedoe, elephants and giraffe. You can find the occasional rhino. But to me, the drive up north is very boring every time. We live way up north in Limpopo and when we “do” Kruger, we drive all the way to the Punda Maria gate and go home from there. If you are into bucks and birds, be my guest … To spot lions, however, I suggest the very south of the Park. You could also stay a night at Shingwedzi Camp in the northern part of the park and then travel south from there. Shingwedzi is a great camp if you travel with kids. It has the best pool of all the official Kruger rest camps which is a plus for kids. You could also leave mom and kids there and scout out by yourself for a while – everybody happy. For a lovely, safari style restaurant (to properly get into the “spirit” with an Amarula on ice) make sure you stop at Mopani. Letaba camp also has a very nice restaurant overlooking the Letaba river. You can enjoy a reasonable local meal watching elephants and other wild animals close by.

Make sure you do not go to bed too late, as game drives start early and even on your own, the earlier the better. You can leave camp at 6am to look out for lions returning from a night of hunting. We once spotted lions and hyenas fighting over a dead giraffe. Minutes later the area was cleared for movie crews came in to get the amazing footage.

Arriving at Berg en Daal Camp far South at about 5pm, you have an almost guarantee to see lions walking down the road in front of you. At the end of the day, the big cats feel drawn to the still warm roads.

During the heat of the day, stop at all the water holes, visit all the hides, and use the gravel road loops. Do not expect a zoo. All telling you there is a big animal around might be some ears flicking in the high african grass. You need to train your eyes to spot the difference of beige coloured fur among beige coloured foliage. Leopards: Look on trees, rocks, stalking prey in river beds. The leopard featured here (with a small Canon Powershot, mind you, excuse the grainyness he was really really far) was missed by all cars in front of us because from afar he looked like just another stone on a rock pile. Really. At first. Not when you stop and wait. And wait, and wait some more until he moves and stares right at you.  Bingo.

I include an image of the endangered Southern Ground Hornbill. The Southern Ground Hornbill is a vulnerable species, mainly confined to national reserves and national parks and in South Africa,  it is listed as Critically Endangered. So make sure you take some photos.

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The leopard featured here (with a small Canon Powershot, mind you, excuse the grainyness he was really really far) was missed by all cars in front of us because from afar he looked like just another stone on a rock pile. Really. At first. Not when you stop and wait. And wait, and wait some more until he moves and stares right at you. Bingo.

The injured rhino luckily didn’t get his wounds by poachers but through a nocturnal lion attack. Life is tough out there in the wild. Must I tell you the story of the Chinese guy who stepped out of his car to take a closer shot of the lions? Nah, leave that to my husband. Bottom line: Do not, ever, step out of your car. Do not throw away you empty bottles, for the kiddies … wmleopard2 wmleopard3 wmleopard4 wmrhino

Enjoy the far away leopard:

You HAVE TO check the camp maps for the daily sightings.

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