My goal with travel is to hit every continent at least once. My trip to South Africa put another notch on that list. South Africa is a big piece of land. Traveling from Cape Town to Johannesburg is the equivalent of going from NYC to Miami.
We spent 4 days in the northeast of South Africa near Mozambique and Swaziland. Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest game reserves which includes the Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos. The park covers so many types of environments. From mountains, tropical forests, and plains, Kruger National Park has something for every species. In fact hundreds of mammals and bird species make it their home.While you can spend your nights inside the game reserve, there are many lodges in the surrounding the park that provide exquisite accommodation. One of those places, Marloth Park, a holiday town and wildlife sanctuary sits on the bank of the Crocodile River. Founded in 1977, Marloth Park is on the southern boundary of Kruger National Park and roughly 14 km (9 miles) from Crocodile Bridge Gate.
Inside Marloth park live giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, impala, bushbuck, warthog, baboons and other small game and rich bird life. The park is very well developed as well. Visitors can drive, bike, and even walk on their own through the African bush. Of course traveling at night is not recommended as there can be predators out who during their hunting. It’s best to stay at your base camp and enjoy the evening next to the fire.
We stayed at a boutique three suite campsite called Tusker Bush Lodge. The rooms were spacious, comfortable, and provided luxuries that would far exceed the definition of “glamping”. The lodge was beautiful with many of the comforts of home but in the middle of the bush where wildlife would come and go. Our first day there around dusk we were taking in the atmosphere, lounging in the common area. Soon we heard rustling in the bush directly in front of us. A small herd of kudu, known as the ghost of the bush” began to appear as if they had been there the whole time and suddenly decided to move. It was at this point that I knew we were in for a fantastic adventure.
There are many ways to explore Kruger. There are plenty of excursions available to enjoy. You can even drive yourself through the park if you are feeling up for the challenge. Most excursions that start from outside of Kruger start around 530 am in the morning as the park opens at 6 am for visitors. One of the benefits of an excursion is bypassing the line of visitors waiting to get in to the park. The tours last the day, with roughly 8 hours of traveling throughout seeing all types of game.
Excursion #1 – Early start! You think it would be rough and it is but with the temperature in the morning being in the 30s and riding in an open air vehicle you are awaken rather quickly (Note: Layers is a great idea as it can start out cold but then get warmer as the day goes on). One thing to remember with the open vehicle excursion is that you get great views sitting higher up. It allows you to catch animals better than the driver at times. They definitely encourage you to speak up if you see something cool.
First Animal Seen: Elephants! We happened to run into group of them having their morning meal. there were even a few babies in the group. One thing we learned is elephants will flap their side to side as a warning if you are too close.
Cool Moment: An Impala in a tree. Well he didn’t get there on his own. He happened to be a fresh kill from a leopard. The leopard took it to the tree to eat later when the area calmed down. We stayed for a bit in hopes for a sighting but it was clear that the leopard was not going to make a show.
Funny Moment: Rhino Spray. Yep rhino was marking his territory so I told myself it would be a shame if I didn’t catch the act. My camera skills did not disappoint.
Excursion #2: We started a little later in the day and took on the spirit of adventure on our own and drove through Kruger. While there are many benefits of taking the paid excursions, there is nothing like driving on your own and running in to animals on your own.
Scariest Moment: Gabi is a fan of the water buffalo. If you are a fan of Zootopia, the buffalo is Chief Bogo. Now while they look cute (Gabi seems to think) with horns that look like well shellacked hair running in to a herd is intense. We had seen buffalo the day before but not like this. We ran in to a grazing herd that was making its way to the river. While we could not accurately count it was well over a hundred of them crossing the road. They started crossing in front at first, then we noticed them behind us as well. Next thing we notice is that the buffalo on the road have decided to stop moving. It was a 360 degree view of buffalo. However, one good horn honk and they made a small enough path for our eco-friendly vehicle to pass.
Excursion #3: We couldn’t resist another shot at the open vehicle guided excursion. Even though it is a lot of the same roads and paths traveled, you do see new things each time.
Best Sighting: Lions! We had seen a female lion with a cub laying out on the rocks warming up after a big meal but so did many other vehicles. This meant there was high traffic and not really a good view. Day 3 turned out to be a lion frenzy day. We caught a few females playing in the thicker bush right off the bat. After watching them for a few we decided to continue on. All alone on a new path, the driver slows and pulls his binoculars to see ahead on the road. Suddenly, we go from stopped to full speed. Just as quickly as we hurried up we stopped again. Then we saw what the driver did: two male lions coming up to the road to get a bit of the morning sun. Seeing that giant of a cat 7 feet away looking as if he could see my soul will be imprinted in my mind for eternity.
There were so many animals to be seen in the park. Impalas, wildebeest, hippos, warthogs, crocodiles, turtles, hyenas, zebra, giraffes, and more birds and game that you can lose count. I probably took over a thousand photos over those 3 days. The beauty this places holds is beyond anything I have seen in my life to date. I know I will be making my way back there again. Maybe next time we will go to the other side of the park and see what new adventure awaits.