Kruger Park South & Blyde River Canyon

Kruger Park is 20,000 square kilometers in size and stretches from south to north for a good 320 kilometers with an average width of 60 kilometers.  Here are the most animals, but also the most tourists. For almost everyone who spends a few weeks in South Africa, a few days in Kruger Park are on the program, because the chance to see the Big Five in one day is the highest here. For the first seven days we will visit the southern part of the park. Without reservation there is hardly a chance to get a place on one of the campgrounds, but the WEB site of SanParks is very professionally designed and makes it relatively easy to find a free place, if what is free at all. Especially the south is always well visited due to its proximity to Johannesburg, especially since many South Africans also like to spend a long weekend, or the vacations there. From mid-June to July, for example, there was not a single place free because of the winter vacations. In front of Malelane Gate is a golf course with a small campground where we spend the night before it then starts in the morning at 6 am before sunrise. At the gate there is a traffic jam because more people had the idea to leave early. But the friendly staff quickly works through the manageable queue and then we are already inside. For the first two nights we have reserved the Lower Sabie Campground and on the way there we see elephants, rhinos, giraffes, impalas and many other small animals to the right and left of the road. The main roads through the park are paved and the side roads are well maintained dirt roads. Where you see which animals is left to chance and also requires a little luck. It is safe to say that where there is a traffic jam, there is definitely something to see. If there is a bigger traffic jam, you can usually assume that there are predatory cats to be seen. After all there are 1600 lions, 2000 leopards and 150 cheetahs. Around noon we reach our campground, check in and secure a place. 

Around 3pm we start again for the sunset game drive. And then comes the TOP highlight of the day. A leopard has created its prey on a tree, sits on the neighboring tree in the branch fork and guards his dinner. And all this just 100m next to the road in the best light, it hardly gets any better. 

The next morning we are on the road again at 6am, this time heading south to Crocodile Bridge. There are lots of hippos, crocodiles, elephants and beautiful water birds to see. The highlight of the day are three cheetahs sunbathing on a rock. Unfortunately, too far away for really good photos, but a few have succeeded quite well. Very often it happens that a herd of elephants crosses the road. While we are watching the spectacle, one of the elephant cows feels distressed because we came too close to the little one. The good one puts up her ears, raises her trunk, trumpets and starts to run towards the car. I put the car in reverse and ran away. Fortunately, the person behind me noticed what was happening and made room. After a few meters, however, the mother has calmed down again and disappeared with her little one in the bush. 

At noon we take a two hour break at the campground before we head back to do the Sunset Drive. We want to check again whether the leopard has already eaten its prey, since it is not far away. And indeed, there he sits again in the tree and delights the heart of many tourists while nearby the vulture waits for the remains. 

Today we change location and drive to Skukuza. Already after a few kilometers a pack of wild dogs comes towards us on the road. Otherwise, not much happens on the long drive. Around noon we check in and drive off again. We finally want to see lions, after all we are already the third day in the park. They must be around somewhere. And then there it is, the traffic jam. On a bridge there is no way through, because down in the riverbed there is a mother lion with three cubs. On the way back we see water buffalo and elephants. 

We change location again and drive to Berg en Dal. Getting up early is rewarded by a bombastic sunrise. Except for the usual suspects, there is nothing spectacular to see on the drive there. After an extended lunch break, we stand not far from the Campground at a waterhole and wait there for 2 hours in the hope that something will happen. But except for a herd of zebras and three water buffalos that lie lazily in the water, and now and then wiggle their ears, nothing happens. We use the time and photograph a few beautiful birds, which are given far too little attention with so much big game. But then a lonely elephant comes by and shows us how to elegantly get over the wall of the pool with his trunk to get water. 

Today we go for two nights to Pretorioskop. Already after a few kilometers we meet a pack of hyenas which probably also have their den next to the road. For a few photos at close range I briefly open the window. The stench that blows in accompanied us for the next 10 kilometers. The next hyenas are now only photographed through the closed window. Somewhat later we see again a leopard completely photogenically on a rock in pose sat down and somewhat further on the road a 10 animals strong lion pack lying in the grass. So it lasts then until the afternoon until we finally arrive at the campground. For today it is enough for us and we leave out the Sunset Drive. 

Well rested, we are on the road again shortly after six. We encounter giraffes, a saddleback stork, a large herd of wildebeest and a few elephants wandering around in the rocks. On a dirt road and only a few hundred meters apart we meet a pride of lions and a leopard guarding its prey on the tree. As far as we can tell from the remains it was probably once a baboon. In the early afternoon we are back at the campground and let the day end. 

In the morning we take it easy and start only around eight o'clock. We make a few more rounds on the way towards the exit and see again two lions high up on a rock and a few elephants. Around noon we leave the park at Phabeni Gate. In the seven days in the Kruger we have driven an incredible 850 kilometers. That is now in our bones and we need a vacation. Therefore we go to a nice campground in Hazyview. There we recover a few days, wash the laundry and plan the next route. 

After a few days we continue to Sabie. There you can eat delicious steak and trout with fig sauce. At the Unimog service the car is smeared and I borrow the steam jet and give MOMO a thorough wash. 

After a short detour to MacMac Falls we continue to Graskop. From the infinity pool at the campground you have a beautiful view into the canyon. Just around the corner you can take the elevator down into the canyon, or you can try a death-defying Big Swing off the cliff. 

Graskop is the start of the Panorama Route along the Blyde River Canyon, which is said to be the third deepest in the world. Accordingly, it is touristy here and at each viewpoint a small entrance fee is due. We drive the route north and make stops at Gods Window, Lisboa Falls and Bourke's Luck Potholes. 

Then a cold front surprises us with rain and a drop in temperature by a good 10 degrees and we move to the Forever Resort for two days and sit it out until it warms up again. The resort is a huge complex with a good 100 vacation bungalows and two beautiful vantage points on the "Three Rondavels" three rock domes on the banks of the canyon that look like African round huts. When the clouds then tear up again after two days we have from there a super beautiful view in the best photo light. 

On the other side of the Blyde River Canyon is the Forever Resort Swadini, also a huge complex with many permanent campers. Here we stay a few more days and do some small hikes along the river and warm up in the evening at the campfire. 

On the occasion of Manfred's birthday we make the next 2 days a break from the MOMO everyday life and let us spoil in a lodge. What we experience there you will learn as always in the next blog. Until then, enjoy reading and looking at the pictures. 

Our route for this part of the journey - 1350 km

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