Kruger National Park: A MUST DO!

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DAY 1 : “Every good trip starts early.”

That’s what I keep telling myself, while waking up at 5 am in the morning, getting ready for the shuttle that is going to take us to Kruger National Park. Day one of our 4 Day Wildlife Safari has begun – and it starts quite impressive – even before we reached the gate of Kruger. It takes approximately six hours to get from Johannesburg to the National Park, driving along the Abel Erasmus Pass – a scenic mountain road that leads from Mpumalanga to Limpopo. Stopping at the entry of the 133m long Strijdom Tunnel to enjoy the amazing landscape, enjoy photo opportunities or browse through the tiny shops at the parking lot , is an absolute must while driving that route!

After this stop, we continue straight to our camping site close to the borders of Kruger National Park. A cosy and peaceful place that offers a pool, a campfire, a nice little dam right on the property!

After a small break at the camp for unpacking and checking out the area, we go on to Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre, home for many of South Africa’s abandoned, injured or poisoned wildlife. Moholoholo is known for their high contribution to wildlife education in South Africa and as we join a guided tour around the park, it is easy to see that they are absolutely passionate about what they do. There is plenty of things you can explore in Moholoholo – educate yourself on the history of the lions, leopards, servals, wild dogs, eagles and many more animals currently living there. They also offer the chance to interact with some animals inhabiting the centre. Petting a cheetah and feeding a vulture was an absolute highlight during our visit.

Another thing not to be missed while visiting Moholoholo is getting to know Stoffel, the probably sneakiest honey badger in the world! Due to his countless clever attempts to escape the fences of the Rehabilitation Centre, it was featured on BBC and he is now famous on YouTube – what an honour to meet such a superstar! And after watching him for a while, his outstanding comedian talent seems undoubtable. Listening to the owner revealing Stoffels funniest getaway missions is unbelievably hilarious. Check out this video to get a first glimpse on his golden moments and prepare for some tears of laughter !

Visiting the Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre was informative, super interesting and peppered with a lot of nice surprises – all in all, an amazing start to this 4 Day Wildlife Safari!

Ending the first day by sitting around the campfire with a glass of free wine and getting to know the rest of the group is super relaxed. And as Goodman, our lovely tour guide, asks us about our expectations on this safari, we all start to share our biggest wishes for the following three days. For me, it’s definitely seeing at least one lion. At this moment, none of us knew how spoiled on amazing sightings we all soon would be!

DAY 2 : 4 of the BIG 5 in a day !

The drive begins at 5:30 am – another early start in the day! But for those who worry that they might not be fully awake after the one hour ride to the gates of Kruger National Park – trust me, you will be! It is freezing in the morning and the wind is blowing like hell, which is absolute fun as long as you make sure not to forget your blanket before jumping into the safari car. Even though it might be a bit cold, watching this beautiful red sunrise inside of the Kruger does absolutely make up for it!

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As if this sunrise isn’t already stunning enough, the first 20 minutes inside Kruger just turned out to be magic! As we slowly cruise along the road, our tour guide suddenly stops the truck, sniffing the air, saying: “I smell elephant!” And his elephant detecting skills show up to be quite reliable, as a bull elephant sneaks out of the bush and cosily crosses the road right in front of us just a few seconds later. So amazing!

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This hilarious and unique moment is soon followed by a huge number of unbelievably precious sightings – so precious that you even quickly get used to the herds of impalas, zebras, giraffes and wild beast surrounding you almost all the time. One of the most memorable animals we got to see was definitely the two rhinos passing by. Due to the high number of rhinos getting killed because of their valuable horns in the past, the amount of rhinos still living inside of Kruger National Park is kept as a secret and not even revealed to the tour guides crossing the reserve every day. Apparently, this sighting has become one of the rarest during the last couple of years, which might have been a reason for the whole group – including Goodman – to absolutely freak out when spotting them. It even almost over trumps the group of three lions peacefully taking a morning nap in the bushes shortly after… but just almost!

Lunchtime has come and we decided to stop at one of the picnic sites in the National Park to prepare our own tasty meal and take a break. But stopping the drive does not prevent you from experiencing amazing things around Kruger! As we finish our meal and head up to a viewing point at the braai place to have a coffee, we get to see the funniest thing ever: A hippo couple making love in the river right underneath us! Now I definitely know what it feels like to be at the right place at the right time!

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Yummy food, a nice view and good entertainment – what else could we still wish for? The only thing missing now was some thrill… which already awaited us around the corner. As we continue our game drive around the National Park, everybody starts smelling something, but this time, it wasn’t an elephant! It was worse! As the smell starts getting unbearable, we noticed the corpse of a hippo lying next to the road, surrounded by a bunch of vultures. Seems like this poor creature wasn’t as happy as the two previous that we just saw! Watching some vultures fighting for the best parts of the corpse, while others were picking the hippos eyes out to eat them appreciatively, was absolutely gross yet absolutely amazing at the same time! If you haven’t been stunned by the sometimes cruel but nevertheless breathe taking diversity of wildlife in nature, this is the moment for it to happen.

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After a certain amount of amazingness in just one day, we weren’t expecting to be astounded yet again. But on our drive home, as it starts to get darker and we were slowly getting closer to the exit of Kruger, the magic continued. One of the biggest wish people do when entering the Kruger National Park is spotting the Big 5: Lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo and leopard. On the final meters before leaving the park, we actually almost bump into a huge group of buffalo’s enjoying their dinner right in front of the fences. Four out of five of the Big 5 on the first day was absolutely amazing! The question we asked ourselves then was: Are we going to find the leopard tomorrow?

DAY 3 : Following the leopard tracks 

Hitting the road of Kruger National Park again this morning, we all have the same thought: Leopard, we are coming for you! This turns into an interesting lesson on how to track animals, as our tour guide took his time to explain the different footprints and traces of the animals living inside the park. Constantly staying on the leopards track, we blunder into another amazing precious sighting: African wild dogs! There are only an estimated number of 450 to 500 wild dogs left in Kruger, so they are one of the rarest sightings in the National Park. And after watching them cuddle and play with each other just in front of the car, I can without doubt say: They are most definitely one of the loveliest too! No wonder why they are Goodman’s favorites!

Regarding the weather, this day turns out to be even nicer than the previous – nothing but blue sky and sunshine, with tiny, tiny cotton candy clouds. That absolutely underlines the grandness of Kruger National Parks outstanding scenic beauty. As someone living in Europe, this place is so completely different from home. And that’s what makes it so special just being here.

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The animal’s performance today doesn’t fail to impress, too. Have you ever seen a giraffe drink? It is absolutely hilarious! Apart from that, this day seems to be family day in Kruger National Park. Just after finishing lunch, an elephant catch our eyes, slowly making is way out of the bushes nearby the parking lot. Seeing him already gets us excited, but that was before we realize he was the leader of a whole caravan of elephants heading to a water hole. As they start sneaking out of the bush, one by one, some even holding on to each other trunk to tail, this turns out to be so extraordinary that it left us all speechless! In complete, we counted 32 elephants in a row! This moment, followed by the unbelievably cute giraffe family watching us as we pass by shortly after, perfectly reflects the innocent artlessness of animals and untouched nature.

This peacefulness quickly gets interrupted by an information another visitor gives us as our ways cross: There’s a leopard only 7 kilometers up the road! Oh yes, we were back on our mission! Reaching the place where the leopard was supposed to be, we didn’t spot the cat itself, but parts of the poor impala that became its last victim. Apparently, the leopard felt like saving a little snack for later and left a haunch hanging in the tree – not nice to look at, but that’s what nature is about: Killing and getting killed.

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And the feeling of experiencing this so close was super adventurous! As we scan the area, searching for the leopard in person, we cannot help but think that this sneaky cat was hiding somewhere around, perfectly camouflaged in the dry brown bushes, probably watching us. Time passed, but he was nowhere to be seen or heard. We then had to admit that the leopard won this round and make our way back to the gates, but the chase wasn’t over yet: We still had the nocturnal drive waiting for us!

The night drive started an hour before sunset and took place in a private reserve very close to the campsite. The landscape differs a lot from Kruger National Park, since it does not domicile any elephants, which tend to topple trees to make the leaves – their favorite food – easier to reach. It is a beautiful place with a lot of green and tiny little lakes and rivers, which are super fun to cross with the safari truck. An adventurous and super funny bumpy ride! The reserve is home for a huge number of zebras, buffalos and – as an absolute highlight so close to the end – a couple of rhinos and their babies. Watching a mommy rhino and her little bundle of joy munch on their dinner is absolutely adorable!

As the sun sets and it’s slowly started to get dark, it was time to take a break and have a drink together with the group. The truck was packed with free wine and snacks and the sunset turns our surrounding into a stunningly beautiful red and orange wonderland. In combination with an amazing group vibe, this moment was just perfect! How could you not be happy now?

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Knowing that this was our last evening together, we all still got kind of emotional. Goodman knew how to describe this feeling in a lovely humorous way: “I’m going to start cutting the onions now.” Yes Goodman, we know exactly how you feel: I think all of us could have stayed in Kruger for much, much, much longer. Well, all good things have to come to an end sooner or later… but not yet! Getting back to the camp, we still had our last dinner together – an amazing typical South African braai! Damn, our chef Martin definitely knew how to do his job !

Later, while sitting around the campfire after dinner, Goodman asks us our feelings about the safari. What was the most precious moment for us? Have our expectations been fulfilled? To be honest, mine haven’t been fulfilled… they have been exceeded! Am I sad that I haven’t seen a leopard? Not at all! I see it as another reason to come back someday, apart from the overwhelming beauty of this lovely spot. I cannot really decide on my favorite moment, because somehow I see the whole safari as a huge golden moment of my time in South Africa – and that was before I even knew, what kind of highlight would be awaiting us on the last day.

DAY 4 : A view you’ll never forgot !

Early in the morning it is time to leave the camp and start our way back to Johannesburg. Even though we have already seen the Abel Erasmus Pass on our way here, the amazing weather makes the landscape blaze totally different and full of colour. I did not expect to be surprised again by a road we have already seen the first day, but South Africa made it possible! As we drove past a stunning mountain formation that looks quite impressive from down below, we all knew: Blyde River Canyon was close! Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon on Earth and the largest GREEN canyon in the world – which absolutely explains the mind blowing uniqueness of this outstanding inherent natural beauty. Overwhelming!

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After this last wonderful stop, it was time for farewell. I have to admit, I would have never thought it would be that hard. But after spending the last couple of days together and sharing so many unforgettable moments with this group, it felt like saying goodbye to my family. A lot of people say that travel is not only about the places you go to, but also about the people you meet. And after rocking these four days with this bunch of people, I can absolutely agree on that.

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To conclude, this 4 Day Wildlife Safari has made me richer in a lot of ways: richer in experience, richer in memories and richer in friends. It was an unforgettable journey and I would like to thank Baz Bus and every single person that was part of it. If you are traveling South Africa and there’s somehow a bit of time left to do a Wildlife Safari in Kruger – don’t hesitate, just do it, no matter how! After experiencing it myself, I can definitely say that it is an absolute must do point on your bucket list. You will quickly understand why as soon as you pass the gates – it’s going to be an incomparable experience!

If my journey didn’t convince you enough, you can also have a look at the video an other group did here (spoiler : they were lucky enough to see a leopard!).

More info about the 4 Day Kruger Safari and Wildlife Tour here. Baz Bus is even selling a package including the 4 Day Kruger National Park Tour and a Hop-on Hop-off ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town or Cape Town to Johannesburg, check it out here!

Written By Angela Kolbe.

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4 day Kruger National Park tour – part of my Baz Bus Wildlife Safari & Adventure package!!!

Our adventure began on the 18 January 2014, we left Johannesburg on the exciting journey to Kruger National Park.

Our first stop was Moholoholo Wildlife Animal Rehabilitation Centre, where we learnt about abandoned, injured and poisoned animals.  We then had an opportunity to interact with a variety of animal species and I got to touch a vulture and a leopard, all of this was assisted by guides.  Wow!!!!!! It was phenomenal getting up close with such a big cat.

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We then arrived at the camp site and had the option to upgrade to bedded accommodation, which was an additional R1000 on tour and we took it. After settling in, we immediately explored the grounds in search of a swimming pool. We were spoilt for choice and found both, a swimming pool and beautiful lake.

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We woke up at the crack of dawn to the sound of singing birds. We had breakfast and journeyed off to start the adventure of spotting the infamous Big 5.

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We spent the whole morning amazed and in awe of the beautiful life, in the park, such as birds, Lions, Elephants, Giraffes, Wildebeest, flying vultures and plenty of other animals. Our Ranger Brett was excellent. He made sure he chatted to other rangers for information about the big cats as well as other animals.

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We then got back to camp in the afternoon just in time for a refreshing swim, afterwhich we then headed off to a nearby reserve for a night safari drive. Wow!!!!!!! I’ve always heard about the beautiful African sunset but witnessing it, is in no comparison with a picture… Breathtaking comes to mind. The night drive was so different compared to during the day, because the heat ensures the animals hide whereas at night they come alive and roam all over. Dinner was really delicious, look out for the chef Martin, he really knows his way around the kitchen!

 

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Day 3 we spent a full day in Kruger, going as far as the Mozambique border. What an extraordinary day as we were lucky enough to see 4 out of the Big 5 and stopped off for a picnic lunch, in the heart of Kruger, overlooking hectares of the national park.

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On the last evening we were all very sad that this overwhelming experience was coming to an end and decided to party, in celebration, which only ended at 3 in the morning.

On the last day we departed at about 06h30 and head to a view point of the 3 Rondavels as well, as the amazing Blyde River Canyan. This was the highlight of my tour!!! Our last stop was the Caves where the guide explained the fascinating history of the Caves.

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I would highly recommend this tour to everybody!!!!

I’m looking forward to traveling with Baz Bus en route to Cape Town…. Watch out for my next blog!!!

“The Little Five” in the Kruger National Park

We are all familiar with the Kruger National Park Big 5: elephant, lion, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard and it is a thrill to be able to spot and take photos of these amazing animals in their natural surroundings.

The Kruger Park also has the Little 5. These are five small animals which share part of their names with the Big 5. The ones that you will most likely spot are the Leopard Tortoise and Red- billed Beetle buffalo weaver. Here’s the lowdown on some of Africa’s finest little creatures!

Antlion
This insect makes a cone-shaped hole in the sand to trap ants and they are visible if you look carefully on the ground in rest camps or picnic sites.
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Eastern Rock Elephant shrew
The elephant shrew is a small mammal which is similar to a mouse but it likes to eat insects. It has a long nose that looks like a mini elephant’s trunk. They live in rock crevices and are active at dusk. They only grow to a length of 250mm, with an average weight of 60 grams.

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Leopard Tortoise
This tortoise gets in name because of the spots on its shell. It is the 4th largest tortoise species in the world and can often live up to be a 100 years old! A mature leopard tortoise can weigh over 23 kilograms, with a shell circumference of up to one metre.
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Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver
The red- billed buffalo weaver is a member of the weaver family of birds and is famous for weaving nests using grass and strips of reed! They nest in open colonies and are a rather noisy and busy lot.
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Rhino Beatle
The Rhino Beatle is one of the largest beetles in the world and the males have horns on their noses used to fight other males and dig holes in the ground!
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Read about our Wildlife Safari and Adventure Packages which includes the Kruger National Park tour!

Pictures courtesy of South African Tourism.

The Famous Five!!! – Wildlife in South Africa

South Africa is famous for its wildlife and it’s a thrilling experience to spot the Big 5 on a wildlife safari! South Africa’s bushveld is still home to large numbers of mammals.

The Kruger National Park is home to all of the Big Five, as are other major reserves in South Africa. Kruger is home to 147 mammal (including the Big 5), 114 reptile & 502 bird species. Kruger National Park is the same size as Israel, Wales or Netherlands and contains different vegetation types that attract different animals to different areas of the park.

The Chobe National Park in Botswana is also a great way to see a variety of wildlife such as elephants, antelopes and sometimes lion, hyena and wild dog. Therefore as much time is spent on game drives as possible, so that there is a better chance of seeing different animal and bird species

We have a number of Wildlife Safari and Adventure Packages to suit your adventurous spirit.

Enjoy BIG savings by buying a package!

Here are the famous five! Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Leopard and Buffalo

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