South Africa
Cape Town to Port Elisabeth
Johannesburg and Kruger
March -April 2014
Part IV - Kruger National Park

If you want to skip directly to the other parts, then just hit
Part I -   Cape Town or
Part II -  Garden Route or
Part III - Johannesburg .


There are so many tours to the Kruger National Park offered by too many different companies. It's not easy to choose the right one. But if you want a good one worth the money, then book it via a backpackers hostel or directly at BazBus. Look up their internet site for more information. They offered the "4 Days Kruger National Park Wildlife Safari Tour" for 5400 Rand or 360.00 Euro. However, that price is just for a tent accommodation. For a bedded accommodation: "Chalets with beds and en-suite bathrooms" you have to pay 1000 Rand or 67.00 Euro more which is still ok.

When I called up Juan at the Musafa Backpackers Lodge to book a "4 Days Safari" I was under the impression that she booked it at BazBus for me. But she did it at another tour operator which was the And that was even better for me, because they also offered single room (bedded) accommodation even for a cheaper price. One difference was that the BazBus tour included lunch, but supposedly a cheap picnic lunch, the same as breakfast prepared by the guide. I found out later that the breakfast of Viva Safari was fantastic.

I paid for the "Four Day Lodge/Tent Safari", i.e. one night in a lodge and two nights in a tent, 5795 Rand or 387.00 Euro. If I would have booked all three nights in a lodge I would have paid 8695 Rand or 580.00 Euro. I think my choice was better in a way that also sleeping in a tent is another nice experience and even more adventurous without much less comfort, actually, with real beds inside. More about that later on. Look up Viva Safaris internet homepage for more information. You also can already click on viva safari description for a quick look at my booked safari.

I mentioned before that booking at least a three days tour with Juan of the Musafa Backpackers Lodge included two nights stay at her place for free. Make sure you have enough cash to pay for the tour in advance, because she does not accept any credit cards.

Ok, now let's start.

First day

It was a Monday. The Viva Safari bus picked me up at around 10:30 a.m., enough time to sleep and eat breakfast till then. I was the only one and the last one getting the last seat on the bus. The Musafa Backpackers Lodge was the last pick-up stop for all the tours going to the Kruger National Park, because it was located in the eastern outskirts of Johannesburg en route to the park.

At a gas station and rest house, where we had a stop-over, we had the first encounter with some animals of the Big Five as you can see on the next photo. The driver joked that this was already the end of the safari. Then we had lunch in the small town of Dullstrom. The restaurant, called Mayfly, had an extensive menu, but I only ordered a cheese burger for 4.00 Euro. It was so big I hardly couldn't finish it.

When we finally arrived at the Tremisana Lodge in the late afternoon we went right away on a sunset drive with an open Landcruiser in the surrounding private game reserve with the name of Balule. It's fenced in to the outside but not to the Kruger National Park. So all the animals from there can also freely roam around here too.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Not Kruger yet, just a look-out from a rest house on the way Not Kruger yet, just first night drive in the Balule Game Reserve
But there was not much to see. Our ranger tried his best to watch out for animals, but he only could point to some impalas in the twilight and some hippos far away. Unfortunately, there was not enough light for my cheap camera and my flash light didn't reach that far. After dark our ranger was able to spot some small creatures with the help of his bright spotlight.
Usually a small creature, but this is a giant snail A small gecko trying to hide in the tree
Right after the night drive we came to the Marula Tree Boma where we had a Bush Braai (a South African barbecue). During the meal I did get more acquainted with my fellow travelers. I envied one guy with his Nikon camera. It could even make fantastic photos with the telephoto lense in the dark when my one failed at all. No wonder. His equipment did cost around 20,000.00 USD as far as I remember. Ok, after that fantastic dinner we were brought to the Tremisana Lodge to stay there the first night.
No snails, no gecko to be grilled but sausages, steaks and potatoes

Second day

Next morning at around 5 a.m. I was woken up by a knock-knock at my door. It was a ranger to pick me up for the morning Bush Walk, which I didn't know. I could not have been ready in 10 minutes, so I told him that I will not go. I assumed that the Bush Walk was the third day and not the second day. The description I had was misleading and the information I did get from the ranger the previous evening was then also not correct. It was correct for another guy who has only booked the three days safari (look up the viva safari description again to understand what I mean).

It was a pity, because the Bush Walk was a real walk by foot accompanied by an armed ranger, just in case. My fellow travelers knew better and enjoyed the walk without being eaten by a lion. They told me later that they thought I am lying dead in my bed, because I didn't woke up at the first knock.

What the heck. I was still lucky at that. When I told the lady of the lodge management about my mishap, she offered me to join a Kruger National Park Safari today together with the guys of the three days tour and tomorrow to re-join with the guys of the four days tour for another Kruger National Park Safari.

Next morning I saw that this is really a beautiful place Only the monkeys jumping around were a real menace
This was the pool in front of my cottage This is our open-sided Gameviewer
After a fantastic breakfast, we (a German couple, a guy from California and I) started the safari with an open-sided Gameviewer, as the safari vehicle was called. It provides nine seats and since we were only four so I had a row alone with views to both sides. We had to drive quite a distance to finally reach the entry to the park at the Orpen Gate.
The entrance of the Kruger Greeted first by a giraffe
Now let's have a look at all the animals I saw in the Kruger National Park, not all the ones and not all kinds, though. For all animals in the park look up and for more information Every day you encounter different ones. Some days you are lucky, other days you have bad luck. At least I was lucky in so far that I did get the chance for another safari next day.
A peaceful grazing male kudu and a male impala
Not that peaceful but that is nature: A vulture eats a carcass of some kind This little impala has to watch out for predators of any kind
Impalas always stick together It is more safe in a group
A lion hiding in a bush with his prey. You can't see it? I didn't either but was told so This little zebra has to watch out for lions, too
Also zebras always stick together It's more safe in a group
Getting close to the road is not dangerous at all for zebras because by seeing zebra stripes drivers must push the brakes
Elephants do not have to fear a lion also not a car if crossing the road
Though, little elephants should stick to their mothers
Even a couple rather stays together with others
Also hippos don't have to be afraid
Even a family stays close to others within sight
And they are all happy in their river paradise
A bird just started to fly away, which one I can't say This bird lives from the crumbs left in the restaurant
Yes, we had lunch in an outdoor restaurant at a rest camp inside the park. Many visitors from various tours take a break here. Today there were still enough tables available. The menu was limited (the highlight was a kudu steak, though) and the prices were moderate (lunch was on your own). There was also a super market combined with a souvenir shop. But we had not much time left because we had to leave for the afternoon safari.
Then again a whole bunch of impalas There are more than hundred thousand in the park
A male impala watching out for a predator or a female
A giraffe crossing the road and disappearing in the bush
What kind of animal is far away? A close-up reveals: It's a rhino, what a luck
Elephants again in the evening sun
Monkeys like to sit on the warm asphalt in the evening What is the female looking for: Balls or lice?
Ok, that was the end of my second day. Not quite, because I had to settle down in a tent and get used to a new environment in the middle of the wilderness. Read the warning on the sign board at the entrance of this lodge or better camp and you know why.

And then I read another sign in my tent that the management is not responsible for any snake attack if you do not close all the zippers at the entrance of the tent. It must really be some kind of a danger, because the whole tent was almost sealed from the floor to the ceiling with double canvas layers and additional zippers at the entrance and at the windows to even close the mosquito screens.

Oh, my God. What did I book? Sleeping in that tent with leopards around
And I had to walk half a mile through the bush to get from the reception with the pool to my tent
Later I asked the lady from the management if there have been any attacks lately. She told me that only once she encountered a leopard on the path from the reception to the tent camp but he, the leopard, was just after some impalas and not human beings. I actually saw several impalas close to my tent and I trusted now that a leopard would rather eat an impala instead of me.

Ok, I had to eat dinner myself. It was a very good buffet dinner I didn't expect for the price, but that is the cheapest thing in South Africa anyway. And I was together again with the gang I missed to join the bush walk in the morning. They very well survived and the guide didn't have to use the shot gun to defend a lion's attack.

Third day

I had a good night's sleep. Just for information: The other guys of my group did sleep in the tree houses, which is more expensive than the tent. I would have had to pay 107.00 Euro more as a single and this was not worth it. It was not more comfortable. Similar interior and the bathrooms were outside the same. One couple had to change to another one because it was infested with ants. Look up the internet or viva safari for the description again.

We had a fantastic breakfast on the terrace at a small lake. Also take a look at our pretty host. She managed the whole place. Now we had to hurry to get on the vehicle to be brought into the Kruger National Park. It's the first time for the other members of my group. I am wondering what I will see today.
Breakfast in the morning And then on safari again
First sight: A bunch of impalas Always cute little deers
But where are the Big Five? Oh, the first one: An elephant.
Then only an impala on the road And a monkey in the grass
Hey, little bird, what can you see? Hey, big vulture, what can you see?
More and more vultures sitting in a tree They are waiting for that we disappear
To get back on the carcass of a dead wildebeest
There are more undisturbed grazing wildebeests around
The lion is probably already saturated from a wildebeest and now he just looks up from his sleep
There are herds of wildebeests around So, the lions can always have meals abound
For lunch we went to the same place I was yesterday. But it was pretty much crowded today. We had to wait some time to get a table with enough chairs.

I became more and more acquainted with the other members of my group. The sharing of the wildlife experience and the common excitement of some sightings like detecting and watching the only lion made us a congenial group. Thanks to Joy and Danny from California, Shelby and Dave from New Hampshire, Andrea and Brad from Massachusetts, Becky and Ben from Wales. It was a real pleasure sharing this adventure with all of you.

Though, our adventure was not finished yet. We were looking forward to seeing more animals. We have to hurry. Not much time left in the afternoon.
This is our Viva Safari vehicle And this is my gang with me
After lunch we met this marabou And then ostriches looking at you
Also the zebras are nosy And looking at you too
Getting closer at the zebras and a giraffe The giraffe now also looks at us
The giraffe is not alone The whole clan is just around
This is a hornbill, I suppose This is a vulture looking for the dead
Vultures are never alone But fighting each other for the best piece of meat
Impalas are everywhere The most plenty in the park
Some warthogs are also around But this rhino is hard to spot
The same with the buffalos Our fourth animal of the Big Five
Sorry, no leopard the fifth, but only a jackal and this is sun set and the end of the day
That was the end of my second Kruger National Park safari. I was lucky to have seen at least four of the Big Five. I didn't see a leopard yet, but I thought that maybe I will run into one when I get back to my tent. That I only dared after having dinner and a couple of beers. Fortunately, there was no encounter of the fifth kind. Also no snake sneaked into the tent with me either.

Day four

Next day after breakfast we left not to Johannesburg yet but to the Blyde River Canyon. I was sitting in the front of the van and thus had the best view to the road and the country side.
A typical pick-up passenger transport A typical petrol station with rest house
This is a typical countryside with one of the largest farms worldwide
Many citrus plantations along the road Already selling them along the road
Shall we stop and buy a farm or a lodge or own a wildlife estate? We better continue to the R36 and then to the Blyde Canyon instead
While passing more citrus plantations We are getting closer to the nature reservation
Still going straight on the road Which soon brings us to this rock
Getting closer and through the tunnel
We are coming through flat lands with a village and are stopped by cows blocking the road
The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world. It also has a vast nature reserve around with many view points. We visited one of them: The Three Rondavels. There is a lot more to see and also to do by walking, walking, walking. Next time I would stay in one of the lodges and walk around from one sight to the next, while also visiting the Berlin Falls (not Walls). But we didn't have the time now, because we had to head back to Johannesburg. Look up the internet for more information.
Finally we were dropped off at the drop-off view point Where we had a fantastic view down into the Blyde River Canyon
Looking down a little closer, but not too close And looking up to the Three Rondavels in the back
A wider picture but against a brighter sun Now looking down to the small river in the sun
Standing at another lookout in German colors and looking down again to natural colors
All around: Souvenirs, souvenirs, souvenirs but nobody sells any soft drinks or beers
Beautiful carvings Beautiful paintings
Carved animals Painted masks
After the Blyde River Canyon there was no more stopover except for the lunch break at the Mayfly in Dullstrom again. Since the driver was very fond of my T-shirt in German colors I took it off and gave to him as a present at the end.
Our van ready to leave back onto the highway
We were already tailgating many coal trucks on the single lane country roads before until we were able to take them over. Now on the two lane highway we could pass them easily. But the government cannot handle the environmental problems resulting from coals easily anymore.

South Africa highly depends on coal for its power plants to produce electricity. All the coal mine wastes already pollutes soil and water and has already killed many wildlife animals in some areas. Also, the greenhouse emission is the highest in Africa. The government tries to shift to more renewable energy, but up to now is even lagging behind all the other BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China).
Overtaking coal trucks bringing coal to the power plants
At around 5 p.m. I was dropped off at my Musafa Backpackers Lodge. But now I was the first one to get off because this was the other way around, i.e. first stop and not the last.

Ok, that was the Kruger National Park. If you want to link to the other parts from here then just click on
Part I -   Cape Town or
Part II -  Garden Route or
Part III - Johannesburg .

As it was said before and will be said again: There could have been seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places I have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the internet.

Created July 2014

© WEW Tours