My first safari to the African continent for the year 2015 was for five nights at Kruger National Park (KNP) followed by four nights at Kirkman’s Camp bordering Kruger in South Africa. This was from 29th August to 7th September.
My wife Lilani and our eldest son Harshana, along with his wife and their two little sons joined me on my safari to KNP. I have been visiting KNP regularly for the last few years. As planned on the 28th August we landed at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. By 3:30pm, we had started the drive down to KNP in a rented Hyundai 9 seater vehicle. KNP is located 450km from Jo’berg. We broke journey at White River which is about an hour away from KNP and spent the night at a boutique hotel there.
The following morning, we entered the park from the Paul Kruger Gate at around
9:30am. It was the first African safari experience for my grandsons Akhil and Anek, and they were really excited and waiting in anticipation to see the Big Five at the KNP. They didn’t have to wait long as we were fortunate to come across a white rhinoceros (one of the Big Five) within thirty minutes of entering the park. We came across many African elephants too on that first day morning drive. Both male and female elephants in the African Continent have tusks unlike Asian elephants where tuskers are very rare and are only male.
We also sighted Lions and Buffalos on our way to the Satara rest camp, where we stayed for three nights. Unlike at Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, at KNP road rules and speed limits are strictly observed. And it took three hours to reach the camp. KNP is a huge park and is about 1/3rd the size of Sri Lanka. The distance North to South is 444 km while East to West the average distance is 60km. Satara rest camp is just below the center point of Kruger. This is an area where many predators can be sighted when compared to other regions of the park. Hence, the cottages and lodge facilities at this camp are in big demand and have to be reserved almost a year in advance.
During our afternoon safari on a gravel road on the first day, our Daughter-in-law Aruni spotted a leopard and we all had a glimpse of the elusive cat. So on the first day itself, we had sightings of all the Big Five (Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Buffalo and Leopard) at KNP. We shared the luck of our grandchildren.
On the following morning safari, Harshana spotted a leopard. It was a great sighting. Later, on the same road we came upon a dead female elephant close to the edge of the road with a body of a baby elephant by its’ side. It seemed that the animal had died while giving birth in the early hours of the day. I immediately thought of the Lions. When they locate the elephant carcass, it would be a great feast for a pride and it would be a great opportunity for wildlife photographers to capture the action. This was true when we rushed to the location the following morning. A pride of Lions with cubs were at the carcass enjoying a meal while Vultures were hovering around waiting for their turn.
I noticed that the tusks of the dead elephant which were on it the previous day were now missing. Later, when I checked with the Resident Manager at the camp, he confirmed that the Park Authorities removed the ivory before poachers rob it. That same evening, we observed a herd of elephants approaching the body of their
dead relative, but on seeing the lions, they moved away.
After spending three nights at Satara, we moved to Skukuza rest camp for the next two nights. Skukuza is located close to the Paul Kruger Gate. My main objective at this location was to look out for Wild Dogs. According to the sightings board on game viewing at the reservation entrance, there had been daily sightings close to
the camp in the bush. Harshana and his family had not seen Wild Dogs in their natural habitat before. Wild Dogs are classified as an endangered species. They are active early morning and late evening, mainly for hunting. They chase their prey for several kilometers to the point of exhaustion before moving in for the kill. Although, we had the opportunity of sighting all of the Big Five once again in Skukuza, we couldn’t find the Dogs.
On the afternoon of 3rd September, after handing over the rented van to the agent at Skukuza airport, we were picked up by a crew from Kirkman’s Camp where we were to spend the next 4 nights. Kirkman’s is a private game park bordering KNP. During our stay at Kirkman’s we were able to sight a pack of wild dogs with 5 month old puppies on two occasions on the same day; morning and evening. We also saw a Cheetah, a cat we had not seen at KNP apart from two Leopards, some Lions and White Rhinos too. On 7th September we departed from Kruger to Cape Town boarding a flight from Skukuza for another three nights before returning home on the 11th September.