Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19 485 square kilometres (7 523 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in north-eastern South Africa, and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west.
The administrative headquarters are in Skukuza. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926.
Sabi Game Reserve (1898 ̶ 1926)
In 1895, Jakob Louis van Wyk introduced in the Volksraad of the old South African Republic, a motion to create the game reserve which would become the Kruger National Park. That motion, introduced together with another Volksraad member by the name of RK Loveday, and accepted for discussion in September 1895 by a majority of one vote, resulted in the proclamation by Paul Kruger, president of the Transvaal Republic, on 26 March 1898, of a “Government Wildlife Park”. This park would later be known as the Sabi Game Reserve and was expanded into the Kruger National Park in 1926.
The park was initially created to control hunting and protect the diminished number of animals in the park.
James Stevenson Hamilton became the first warden of the reserve in 1902. The reserve was located in the southern one-third of the modern park. Shingwedzi Reserve, named after the Shingwedzi River and now in northern Kruger National Park, was proclaimed in 1903. In 1926, Sabie Game Reserve, the adjacent Shingwedzi Game Reserve, and farms were combined to create Kruger National Park.
During 1923, the first large groups of tourists started visiting the Sabie Game Reserve, but only as part of the South African Railways’ popular “Round in Nine” tours. The tourist trains used the Selati railway line between Komatipoort on the Mozambican border and Tzaneen in Limpopo Province. The tour included an overnight stop at Sabie Bridge (now Skukuza) and a short walk, escorted by armed rangers, into the bush. It soon became a highlight of the tour and it gave valuable support for the campaign to proclaim the Sabie Game Reserve as a national park.
1926 ̶ 1946
After the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, the first three tourist cars entered the park in 1927, jumping to 180 cars in 1928 and 850 cars in 1929. Warden James Stevenson-Hamilton retired on 30 April 1946, after 44 years as warden of the Kruger Park and its predecessor, the Sabi Game Reserve.
1946 ̶ 1994
He was replaced by Colonel JAB Sandenbergh of the South African Air Force. During 1959, work commenced to completely fence the park boundaries. Work started on the southern boundary along the Crocodile River and in 1960 the western and northern boundaries were fenced, followed by the eastern boundary with Mozambique. The purpose of the fence was to curb the spread of diseases, facilitate border patrolling and inhibit the movement of poachers.
The Makuleke area in the northern part of the park was forcibly taken from the Makuleke people by the government in 1969 and about 1 500 of them were relocated to land to the south so that their original tribal areas could be integrated into the greater Kruger National Park.
1994 to the present
In 1996 the Makuleke tribe submitted a land claim for 19 842 hectares (198.42 km2) in the northern part of the Kruger National Park. The land was given back to the Makuleke people, however, they chose not to resettle on the land but to engage with the private sector to invest in tourism, thus resulting in the building of several game lodges.
In 2002, Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique were incorporated into a peace park, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
The park lies in the north-east of South Africa, in the eastern parts of the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. Phalaborwa, Limpopo, is the only town in South Africa that borders the Kruger National Park. It is one of the largest national parks in the world, with an area of 19 485 square kilometres (7 523 sq mi). The park is approximately 360 kilometres (220 mi) long, and has an average width of 65 kilometres (40 mi). At its widest point, the park is 90 kilometres (56 mi) wide from east to west.
To the north and south of the park two rivers, the Limpopo and the Crocodile respectively, act as its natural boundaries. To the east the Lebombo Mountains separate it from Mozambique. Its western boundary runs parallel with this range, roughly 65 kilometres (40 mi) distant. The park varies in altitude between 200 metres (660 ft) in the east and 840 metres (2 760 ft) in the south-west near Berg-en-Dal. The highest point in the park is here, a hill called Khandzalive. Several rivers run through the park from west to east, including the Sabie, Olifants, Crocodile, Letaba, Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers.
– Source: trusted old Wikipedia
So, Dorette has put her foot down and thus I have to write at least one blog post. [Dorette: Don’t worry, this is also the last one. Anneline and I will have to work overtime to edit this thing! But thanks for trying…]
After visiting Doretteʼs and my parents in Pretoria, her brother mentioned it would be great if we could visit them on the farm in White River, Mpumalanga. Quite a bit out of our way and not part of the travel plans at all. But of course we can change the plans as and how we wish. [D: My dad had another setback that landed him in ICU for two days, but heseems to be doing better now.]
After collecting the Cruiser from the service, we headed off to White River for the planned visit and afterwards visited the Kruger Park for a couple of days.
We wonʼt cover too much of the White River trip, except to mention that their farm is beautiful and we had a good weekend with Pieter and Natasha.
We entered the Kruger through the Phabeni Gate at the lower Western side. Within about 30 minutes on our way to Skukuza Camp, we saw four of the big five. Elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard. A great start to our trip! We needed only rhinos to round out the big five.
We set up camp in a very busy Skukuza camping area. I was again amazed by how busy it is. The highlights of the night were warthogs running around inside the camp with their young ones, and, weirdly enough, a naked man sleeping in his caravan right in front of the big window. Eish! Not the kind of sighting you expect in a national park, especially since the kids were with me! I suddenly found a reason to hurry them away. Wasnʼt expecting that kind of bird-watching!
The next day, we headed off to Satara, which normally has plenty of game to see. On our way there, we came across a massive herd of buffalo. It was huge and we waited with the car switched off for more than ten minutes for them to cross the road. An amazing sight!
We spent our first night in Satara in a chalet, as the camping area was fully booked and they would only have a camping spot for us the next day. The chalet was very basic, but at least we had our trailer with kitchen to make up for it. I took the kids to watch a movie about birds at the open-air theatre. This brought back many memories for Dorette of her childhood when they used to visit the Kruger quite often. Halfway through the movie the power went off and the show was over. Thanks Eskom! Power was restored soon after, but when we went back to the theatre to finish the movie, everything was packed away and locked. It seems not everyone shared the believe that Eskom would be able to restore power!
The next morning, we were off in search of a campsite. But with the pensioners out in full force with their caravans [D: someone told us they are like migratory swallows; they follow the warmer weather, especially in off-peak periods], we had no luck with a spot against the fence where you can view game at leisure without leaving your chair.
HOWEVER. There was a campsite for disabled people right next to the ablutions and the laundromat (which we always seem to need for our mountains of laundry), and RIGHT NEXT TO THE FENCE.
Now donʼt get me wrong; we would never use this spot without permission. It had a sign saying that you could call the duty manager if you would like to use the spot. Dorette wasted no time in calling the manager and after explaining we are not disabled but would be there for only two nights (during which it was not booked), he said we could use it.
My word, the looks we got when we set up camp! Although we had permission, I felt like a criminal. A few folks even mentioned that we would get in trouble for using the campsite, upon which we told them we have permission, as we phoned the manager. I could see their brains going, darn, wish we had thought of that! Credit to Dorette for some quick thinking! [Ed: I wonder who phoned the manager first for that spot after you had left!!!]
On our first evening on this prime spot, we managed to see some very skittish rhinos on the other side of the fence right in front of our tent. Big 5 done! Apart from this sighting, the game viewing was not fantastic, and the kids seemed to prefer swimming in a freezing pool to hours of driving. Sophia, obviously missing the luxury of a bath, was willing to wait by herself for the bath to open. That evening the hyenas made such a racket that Gustav wanted to come and sleep with us.
There are two events worth mentioning. Number 1: It was our 15th wedding anniversary and I had arranged with Mugg & Bean to bake a cake as a surprise for Dorette [D: Thanks, my wonderful husband!]. The Peppermint Crisp tart was hopelessly too much for us, so we shared with the staff of M&B. Pretty romantic … until the kids fell asleep and we had to carry their butts back to the tent.
Number 2: For the first time ever, we saw a black couple camping! Not just camp; they had a trailer with a rooftop tent, plus a ground tent, as the wife had hurt her foot and could not get to the rooftop. And finally, the husband had a box TV and DStv with a dish; the whole works! We asked playfully if we could watch Binnelanders! He had no problem, as he was only interested in the Kaizer Chiefs game later that evening. Can’t remember their names now, but they were great fun.
The next day we had to move on to Letaba Camp. We could get a spot against the fence, but only for one night. There were other people with twins Sophiaʼs age, and as she was at this stage desperate for a friend, she wasted no time in going over to have a play date! We met Danie and Sonja Pienaar, who also have a Metalian trailer, and we spent lots of time comparing and getting tips. Danie and Sonja are well travelled and it was great to swap stories. That night, we put some LED lights in the fence and Dorette managed to get some good pics of the hyenas patrolling the fence for scraps. [D: The hyenas were even patrolling during the day.]
The next morning we chatted so much to several people asking what we were up to that we only got away quite late towards Shingwedzi. We also made a quick stop at the elephant museum at Letaba. We were all amazed with the elephant facts on display, as well as the huge tusks of the big elephants of days gone past.
At Shingwedzi, we found a great campsite under the trees right against the fence, but miles from the bathroom. We met John and Jude from Liverpool who came to South Africa many moons ago to work for Eskom. Now retired, they live in the Musina area and visit the park quite often. We didn’t have too many Eskom discussions, but I think John enjoys retirement and prefers to leave the current mess to the new crowd.
We had such a good time here that we extended our stay for a few nights, and in this time met Peter from George, also an ex-Eskom employee. Mmmmm … can see a pattern developing here! We met up with the three of them again in Punda Maria. Peter travels all by himself in his minibus and we had seen him the previous day on one of our game drives.
Douglas and Menoli was our neighbours on our second-last night. They had been travelling, like us, for quite some time. Originally from Durban, they had already done Mozambique and were on their way to Swaziland, after which they were planning to explore Botswana and then Namibia. We had a great dinner with them that night, getting stuck into Dorette’s freshly baked bread, and wished them well the next morning. We were going to Botswana as well, so we said weʼd keep in touch in case we meet up again somewhere. Little did we know!
Late one afternoon, we met an old school friend of mine, Madel, at the restaurant when Dorette wanted to take pictures of the sunset. Nice to see she was doing well.
Earlier that day a big male baboon stole our whole container with Ouma rusks and sat eating them right in front of our camp ̶ on the other side of the fence. The biggest loss was the “soetkoekies” from Ouma Mini. I donʼt think he has ever been so stuffed ̶ even had the nerve to walk off with about four rusks sticking out of his mouth. I did try to kill him with rocks, but my aim leaves much to be desired. (More on the aim later.) Finally, a ranger came by and was able to retrieve at least the container. Minus the rusks, of course. Next morning the bastard was back, but I let him have it with the catapult, so he left without incident this time.
[D: Hugo forgot to mention that the children are slowly starting to pull their weight. They did the dishes quite a few times and made us a salad or two. Sophia can also now make scrambled eggs on her own, as well as two-minute noodles!]
On Wednesday, 13 May, we packed up to go to Punda Maria. We got to know so many people in Shingwedzi that it took us forever to get going. In Punda Maria, we started looking for a campsite, but started chatting to Andre and Susan Pool, who have done most countries we want to visit and, of course, we needed to compare notes first.
When we finally found a spot and set up everything, we realised that we had no water in the trailer. The next half-hour was spent walking from caravan to caravan asking for a hosepipe to connect to mine and Andreʼs to see if we could reach the trailer from the single drinking water tap, but no chance. I ended up driving to the tap and filling the tank on the roof of the cruiser and then syphoning the water to the trailer. Note for next time: make sure the water tanks are full before pitching camp!
Monkeys and baboons are a pest in this camp. We managed to keep them away with catapults, but the people who were on our spot before us got raided by baboons. We could still see their flour and washing powder on the ground when we set up our tent. We heard some gun shots later in the day, which was probably the rangers shooting at the baboons, as they did not return. But the monkeys were regular customers, and during one of my hunting expeditions I got it horribly wrong and managed to destroy the screen of Doretteʼs laptop!
Disaster!!!! Of course it is her fault for sitting outside with the laptop, but I did get my shot wrong with about 180 degrees. She didn’t want to speak to me for hours. [Ed: If it was my husband, he would have had to sleep with the monkeys!] I was in the pooh for a loooonnnnnggg time. [D: Not true! Just about two hours of silence; didn’t even swear at him!] The full instalment on trying to get this fixed will follow at a later stage.
[D: Punda Maria has a bird hide right next to the permanent waterhole, which is lit at night. On our first night here, I went to the hide and sat next to a gentleman who looked very familiar. I saw they were camping next to us at the fence and told Hugo about it. He had already had a chat with them and it turned out that it WAS who I thought it was. Oom Franz and tannie Marietjie de Waal. I was friends with their son and oom Franz had also been my Sunday school teacher. My parents still have contact with them. One evening we invited them over for a braai and had a lovely time.]
We also met Daan, Herta and their kids, Keira and Johan, in Punda. We enjoyed chatting to them, and the kids had a great time playing with their new friends. Daan and Herta have a farm in the Alldays region near Mapungubwe, which was our next stop, so we got great advice from them. They also offered to help with the laptop situation in case we could not resolve the issue in Makhado.
We went for brunch at Pafuri, the northernmost part of the park, and drove to Crook’s Corner through the fever tree forest. [D: Crooks Corner is where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meet. The story goes that “crooks” would go to the place where the three countries meet in the river and no one had authority to arrest them.] Dorette remembers the forest being quite a lot bigger, but it was my first time there and I found it impressive. There was not much game on the drive, but the bushveld was amazingly beautiful and we had a great picnic. We ran onto Daan and Herta again at the picnic spot and said goodbye here, as they were on their way home.
[D: This is what I love about the Kruger ̶ all the people you meet. Especially this time of the year, as nobody is in a hurry. People camp for a month or longer, because they are retired. In the bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, shops, at picnic sites ̶ everywhere ̶ you’ll find someone who is willing to stop for a chat.]
The Kruger Park surprised me and we really enjoyed our time there. It is a huge commercial business, with restaurants like Mugg and Bean and the Cattle Baron, but you can still have privacy if you want. Dorette is not too excited about all these changes and misses the drums that announced dinner at night. On the other hand, service is now great and you have an extensive menu to choose from. Progress or not? To me, yes.
Off to Makhado to try and get that laptop fixed!