The Kruger National Park certainly has its own unique charm. Visiting once or visiting multiple times will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.
I recently took a two day breakaway into the world renowned game reserve. I entered the park through Malelane gate. I took a casual drive up to Pretoriuskop Rest Camp to settle in for my stay. One of my goals was to focus on early morning and late afternoon drives as well as to spend enough time exploring the rest camps during the midday. There are often a lot of smaller creatures to be enjoyed from within the camp grounds.
It was great seeing how the bush in Kruger responded to the summer rains. It was the first season after the 2015/2016 droughts where the rainfall reached normal levels. I saw waterholes filled with water where I have not noticed waterholes before. Most of my drives were met with elephant herds feeding close to the road, switching between long, soft grass and leaves from the trees.
I decided to try a few new routes around the general Pretoriuskop area. I was amazed to see how many large zebra herds were moving around. I spent a considerable amount of time sitting and waiting at Shitlhave Dam as well as Transport Dam. I saw a considerable amount of general game moving around the water’s edge.
I managed to get a fair amount of good birding done between searching for larger game. One of the early mornings, while enjoying some tea and rusks before sunrise, I was treated with a Malachite Kingfisher hunting for tiny fish in between the reed beds along the dam’s shoreline. Later in the afternoons I also managed to catch some good glimpses of some larger birds. A Verraux’s Eagle Owl and a juvenile Brown Snake Eagle sat motionless in the leafy canopies of some larger trees.
During this trip I spent some good time walking through the little trails and open spaces that the camp had to offer. I managed to find a great deal of relaxed creatures along the walkways. Watching their behaviour and seeing how they interact with you is quite fascinating. I found a squirrel that used a hollowed out, fallen tree trunk as its playground. At first it was relatively shy, but after a short while it started to relax and come to see what I was coming to look at.
There were a multitude of flowers and blooming plants scattered around the rest camp. One cannot imagine how many different butterfly species one might discover fluttering about a single plant.
One bird that truly brings back some childhood memories is the African Hoopoe. We used to have one that frequented our garden at home. Then one day it just disappeared. Most of the bungalows at Pretoriuskop Rest Camp are built in a large circular shape. There is a communal lawn in between all the bungalows. I found four or five African Hoopoes casually moving along this open lawn, looking for insects hiding in the grass. One of them was extremely relaxed and allowed me to move in really close by. It was so much fun laying on the grass and viewing these birds at such a close distance.
On my way back out of the park I managed to catch a phenomenal sighting only a short distance away from the gate. Hoisted up one of the larger Marula trees lay an impala. On the impala fed a gorgeous leopard. It was a little distance out into the bush, but using a set of binoculars or a camera with a longer lens would do the trick.
The sighting did not last long, but I managed to watch the leopard feed a little. Once it had fed enough, the leopard moved off the carcass and proceeded to groom itself. Satisfied with its hygiene standards and two good stretches later the leopard made its way down the mighty Marula tree. Watching how swiftly a leopard moves up or down a tree is always a treat.
The leopard most likely went to go search for some water close by. There was enough meat left on the carcass to come back to. Once the leopard descended from the tree it disappeared into the thick grass. What a way to end a very relaxing trip to the Kruger National Park.