13 July 2017

Travel Post: A Week in the Kruger National Park (Part II)

Two weeks ago I posted the first instalment of my Kruger National Park trip featuring the first three days of our trip - you can read it here. We started at Tamboti and worked our way down to Skukuza and Pretoriuskop. Today I'm going to tell you about the second half of the trip.

Day 4: Thursday

On Thursday we checked out of Satara, but not before doing the self-driving rounds at dawn.

Early afternoon we arrived at Skukuza and checked into our safari tent. The previous times I've stayed at Skukuza was for work and then I stayed in bungalows or the researcher camp. This was the first safari tent experience for me at Skukuza. Past the bungalows are a tent and caravan park: on one side are the caravans and tents, and on the other side the safari tents. Our tent had a little concrete foundation with a nice veranda and a wooden door.

The tent was a bit smaller than the one we stayed in at Tamboti, but there was still more than enough space. The two twin beds had proper bases and mattresses and we both slept like logs. The ablution blocks weren't too far away, which was nice. About an hour or two after we got there I fell ill and spent most of the evening curled up in a pain killer-induced ball. Luckily I felt completely better the next day.

Day 5: Friday

We only stayed in Skukuza the one night (it's almost impossible to get accommodation in Skukuza). We checked out and went on our usual game drives. We received a tip-off from a friendly passer by that there were two lions in and close to the road we were on. Unfortunately it was quite a drive and by the time we got there we didn't see them. But, then something amazing happened: as we took a turn towards a very long and straight road, we saw a leopard lying in the road. It's like she was waiting for us! It was only us and one other car and that made it even more special. Leopards are known for being very very shy and one guy at my office said, "You don't see a leopard, a leopard chooses you to see him.". The leopard rolled around on the tar like a kitten, licked her paw, and then slowly strode off into the bushes. It was hands-down the best moment of the entire trip. Few people get to see leopards but we got to see three in one week. Mission accomplished!

Late afternoon we arrived at our last stop: Pretoriuskop. I think it might be a very old camp, because the accommodation is very rustic and "worn out", if I can call it that.

All the huts are built in a circle with grass and recycling bins in the middle. Our hut was extremely basic and extremely small: there was barely enough space to fit two twin beds in that hut with about 30 cm walking space between the beds. There was no fridge and no wardrobe, but there were shelves on the wall and a small sink which came in handy for drinking water and brushing teeth. The beds weren't the most comfortable, but when you're tired, anything will do.

Day 6: Saturday

We drove to another picnic spot and made another delicious "skottelbraai" (gas cooker) breakfast. Pretoriuskop itself doesn't have many animals (it's actually a bit of a letdown) but the areas around it have lots. We saw about 12 rhinos which is quite astonishing. When we told one guy in a bus about our rhino sighting he was very nonchalant about it and said "here you fall over the rhinos, I don't care anymore". I felt like I could reach out and slap the guy! Anyway, I felt very privileged to be able to see so many rhinos, especially given my work.

We spent another night in Pretoriuskop and I was frankly quite glad it was the last night. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip but that hut was just a little bit too small!

Day 7: Sunday

We checked out of Pretoriuskop and drove around for a few hours until it was time to head home. We saw a cheetah in the road, zebras, a herd of buffalos, and a mommy and a baby giraffe, so cute! It was quite overcast when we left and by the time we reached White River it drizzled a bit.

It was an amazing trip and it was great to be in the outdoors and experience the tranquility of the KNP. I can highly recommend it! Below are some tips if you are thinking of planning such a trip.

Planning tips

  • If you're planning a trip to any large game reserve (especially a SANParks reserve), get a Wild Card. There is a card for single users, couples, and families. You can also choose different clusters meaning that you will only have access to certain parks. We bought the "all clusters" card meaning that we can go into SANParks parks, Cape Nature parks, Swaziland parks, and more. It cost about R870 for my husband and I (we bought a couples card) and is only valid for one year from the date of activation, but you save so much in the long run. The Wild Card gives you free entry into the parks listed on your card, which means that you don't pay the daily conservation fee. The conservation fee for South Africans going to the KNP is now a whopping R76 per person per day, which means the Wild Card paid for itself in less than a week. So from now until the end of May 2018 we can go into any game reserve (listed on the card) for free.

  • Plan and book your accommodation online - you get a discount of up to 5% and if you go for a week, that's quite a saving.

  • Keep the KNP's speed limit in mind when you plan your trip: the camps are situated so that it is possible to drive between two adjacent camps in 2 hours. The tar roads have a speed limit of 50 km/h while the dirt roads are 40 km/h. A safe estimate is to use an average of 25 km/h when factoring in stopping for game viewing.

  • Have a basic travel kit and restock it each time you get home.

  • Try to buy the bulk of your food outside the park because the park shops are expensive AF.

  • There are only ATMs and car rental facilities at Skukuza, but all the large rest camps have shops, restaurants, and laundromats.

  • When we packed we faced a dilemma: do we pack for 7 days and just wash everything when we get home, or do we pack for 3-4 days and wash our clothes somewhere in the park? Because we travelled around quite a bit (we were never at one place for more than two days) we decided that it would be better to just pack clean clothes for every day and wash the whole batch when we got home. This actually worked out perfectly and I would definitely do it again. We went at the end of May which was nice and warm during the day but cool to cold at night. I packed two pairs of denim shorts (only wore one but I did wear it a lot!), two pairs of jeans, two long sleeved tops (those "vest" style ones from Woolies), a couple of short sleeved T-shirts, a thin jersey, a warm K-way top, a pair of Nikes, a pair of sandals, and a pair of winter pyjamas. I also packed three bras (I could wear each one twice) and enough underwear for a week plus an extra pair.  The only clean, unworn clothes I came back with was a pair of underwear and a pair of denim shorts.

  • Skincare-wise I just restocked my previous travel bag with new Dermalogica goodies (I bought another travel set when Sorbet had their 20% off promotion earlier in the year) and actually packed a full-size shampoo and conditioner. Most of the time I didn't even dry my hair with my travel hair dryer, so I didn't pack any heat protection or my curling wand. I did pack a few makeup bits but mostly I just applied The Body Shop's facial sunscreen and quickly did my eyebrows (quick comb with a spoolie, eyebrow pencil, essence Make Me Brow, quick comb with a spoolie) and I was good to go. My lips did however take a beating so I religiously applied Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream and, when I lost that travel tube (dammit!), I used Blistex Relief Cream. My hands also got extremely dry, and for that I applied The Body Shop's Almond Milk & Honey hand cream.

  • My husband and I have, through trial and error, found a great way of staying hydrated without ending up with lukewarm bottled water or continuously buying fresh bottles. We keep a medium-sized cooler box in the boot and then we either buy two bottles of water or we fill our own bottles with water. We then buy a big bag of ice (super cheap), fill up the cooler box, and pop the bottles of water in the ice. It stays ice cold for most of the day, depending on the quality of your cooler box.

I hope you enjoyed this post and this little travel series. Please leave any questions, comments, or suggestions down below, I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time!


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