Kruger National Park, Afrique du Sud
5 days - May 2019
A trip to southern Africa would be incomplete without a safari, and South Africa and its famous Kruger Park are ideally suited for this purpose. We would never have thought of getting so excited about the game of safari and being so amazed but these 3 days of intense animal research filled us up!
It's hard to write and explain the excitement and mystery when you drive hours and hours to provoke an incredible encounter with lions, leopards and so on.
6am the first day, we are at the south entrance of the park (Crocodile Bridge) ready to buy our famous entrance fee. I go out of the car, buy the pass and I hear "you are already in the park and out of your card, there are wildcats not far". OK I run fast then? ;)
Aboard our little Kia Picanto we start with fanfare this first safari with the sun rising gently on the impalas, these graceful antelopes who frolic everywhere and are always in groups. This is the animal that we will see the most!
A few kilometers further, some cars are stopped. One of them tells us they saw "cheetah" so Cédric looks in the trees looking for monkeys (Cheetah in Tarzan) but we realize quickly seeing a speckled fur in the distance that Cheetah is not a monkey in English! (to tell you our ignorance of animals in general ...) our first cheetah! The next day we will follow one for thirty minutes, no sprint (the cheetah is the fastest animal) but better for us we would have lost it! At noon sharp, he lies under a tree to start a nap, the sun beats hard and animals are scarce between noon and 3.45pm.
We did not think to see the animals so close and to see as many evolving in their natural environment. We do not feel we are bothering them as the park is big and cars are few. It is not uncommon to drive two hours without meeting anyone and we feel that the park really respects the playground of animals and protects them from poaching that still rages in these areas. We will see several military cars, anti-poachers heavily armed.
Next encounters, a white rhinoceros but a bit far (it is absolutely not white btw)! The black rhinoceros is one of the most dangerous animals in the park because it charges as soon as it meets someone. We can see very clearly its long tusk, so much sought after by poachers. Even at this distance he impresses us with his strength. The last night, we will have the chance to see two very very very close to the delight of Cédric. A monster that we will observe for more than 20 minutes, alone again. What a pleasure !
And what about the giraffes and elephants with whom we share the road and the tracks? If the first are graceful and walk with a light and nonchalant pace, elephants impress with their strength, size and long tusks. We feel tiny and we leave quickly when a flock (females and their elephants) load us, a bit frightened and it was not the only time we would be scared...
Indeed we had the chance to see lions three times! The first time a female taking a nap 1 metre from us, her husband or son watching her and passing near the car watching us. It is past 5:30 pm and we realize that we missed the time of exit of the park ... We got almost locked up for the night and after some remonstrances from the rangers, we leave so amazed by what we saw!
The second time, 8:19 am sharp (I think we will remember all our lives this encounter!). We drive at 30 km / h on a red track, at the intersection I see two huge lions walking slowly towards us. The adrenaline rises, we stop! They will go around the car, watch us, the window goes up too slowly for our taste, they are really close. Then one of them sees and hears a noise in the distance, we turn around and what do we see? An even bigger lion running at a crazy speed to chase them away. They will clear off quickly and we will see the largest in front of us roaring. Unbelievable ! Short encounter but so crazy and once again we were alone. Three minutes later, a car joins us and tells us that they saw the lions at 200m. Yes yes we know, they were at the foot of our car!
Finally, on the last morning, 4 female lions run in the middle of the cars, they seem to hunt, their mouths open and the teeth coming out. They escort us for a little while. I'll let go of my camera when one of them look at me right in the eyes. Scary.
As you can see, lions have become our favorite animals!
Surely as much as the leopard which was the last animal of the big 5 that we saw. He was walking quietly in the bush, making his life, relaxing in a tree, with his tail hanging, his sharp blue-gray eyes, his fur so beautiful. We are surprised to see that he is quite short-legged.
Finally wildebeests, hyenas, buffaloes, hippopotamuses, baboons, many birds and vultures in search of something to ear, kudu and zebras are numerous. We see them many times a day and are always amazed to see them evolve so close to us.
This safari is a big success! 13 hours a day of excitement and adrenaline, looking for any paw, tail, ears that we can see through the bush. You have to be patient and calm and provoke luck!
# entrance to Kruger Park: 372 rand per person per day. The ticket will be checked at the exit.
# The park opens from sunrise to sunset in May: 6am to 5.30pm. Be careful not to be locked up as it almost happened to us.
# It is possible and strongly recommended to drive the park with your own car. There is nothing more magical than being alone with three lions, elephants, and so on. We had a small city car and no worries for the tracks that are in good condition in the south of the park. The grasses were not too high this season so no worries on that side either. There is "Game drive" offered and hiking between 350 and 700 rands per person for 3-4 hours of activities.
# the most interesting hours to observe animals: 6am to 11am then 3.45pm to 5.30pm. In the middle, nap for everyone!
# We slept outside the park at the African Bush Backpacker in Marloth Park, in the middle of the bush, 30 minutes from the park. Excellent address for 18 euros per night (about 250 rand). The owner gives very good advice.
# It is not necessary to go too far in the park, we had our most beautiful encounters 20kms maximum from the entrance. Our favorite tracks are all between Crocodile Bridge and Lower Sabie (not the main road, the tracks around). We saw the largest concentration of animals and very few cars. Take your time.
# lunch prices in Lower Sabie are not excessive.