There’s a lot more to experience in the Kruger National Park, than just the big five game animals.
I learnt this on my first ever visit to the park in April. My parents-in-law generously invited us to join them on a wilderness trail experience.
We stayed at the Napi Wilderness trail camp, which is between the Pretoriuskop and Skukuza rest camps. It was an incredible two days of rising early to walk for a few hours in this southern part of the park.
Our guides Julius Mkansi and Philemon Lekhuleni had two rules for the walks, walk in single file and keep quiet.
Their knowledge of the bush was phenomenal as they could identify birds from a distance and were cautious when we did come across elephants, rhino and buffalo.
After a few hours of walking in the morning we returned to camp for an amazing brunch by camp cook Sizakele Khoza who made the most delicious homemade bread. Then it was time to rest again until 3pm when we would meet again in the afternoon for a shorter walk, followed by a bit of a game drive to a magical spot to watch the sun go down with a gin and tonic in hand of course.
The Kruger National Park has 21 different ecological zones, which are classified based on differences in the underlying rocks and rainfall patterns. We were walking in zone A, referred to as mixed bushwillow woodlands by a park magazine. This zone is known for rolling granite plains and woodlands on crests with sandy soils.
Our rangers’ knowledge of flora and fauna wasn’t only limited to identifying trees and birds, they also stopped to show us the indigenous uses for certain plants. Like the devils thorn that get’s a soapy texture when rubbed together and has been used for shampoo in the past.
We also ate a fair amount of magic guarri berries, dark purple with a large pip, these berries are not that sweet but were a welcome snack as it got hotter in the day.
In terms of game viewing on the walks, we were fortunate to see giraffe, zebra, eland, buffalo, waterbuck, impala, white rhino, wildebeest and lots of elephants.
I will never walking down a hill to view a herd of elephants, with calves chilling on their knees in the sand.
We didn’t see any lion but we did come across lion spoor. Our rangers could tell that the lions heard us from far away and had already left the area by the time we got to the paw print. We also heard lions calling out for each other at night from our camp. What an amazing sound of the wild to fall asleep to. The rangers informed us that lions roaring and calling can be heard up to five kilometres away.
After dinner we sat around the camp fire, looked up at the milky way and sipped on some Amarula. On the last day we stayed up as late as possible, not wanting the experience to come to an end. The few days spent experiencing the unspoilt wilderness of the Kruger National Park will stay in my heart forever.
I can’t wait to visit again. Below is a short video of some moments from the trail:
Track: Night Owl – Broke for free | CC BY 3.0