Well the special thing we got for New Years were last-minute reservations at Kruger National Park! We’d been trying to get reservations since September, but it wasn’t until the week before when we were in Mozambique that anything was available. Thank you cancellations!
As the gate swung open and the park guard gave us the #1 rule- do not for any reason exit your vehicle– I felt like we were in a famous movie about a fantasy dinosaur park. In fact, I expected to see big game animals almost immediately given that several South Africans had told us the park was like an open air zoo. Immediate they were not, but it didn’t take long for us to see a large traffic jam ahead of us. Rhino! A huge black rhinoceros stood in the grass not more than 10 meters from the road. With 10 cars, safari trucks and SUV’s crowding in to get a view, we waited our turn took our pictures and sped on towards the interior of the park.
It was our first “big five” sighting. Africa’s “big five” are so grouped because they are the most dangerous for hunters: lion, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard and water buffalo. They are the animals we came to see, but besides them Kruger is also home to cheetah, impala, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe amongst many others. In anxious anticipation we drove on from the rhinoceros towards our first camp.
One of the most popular national parks in the world, Kruger Park is about the size of Israel. Almost all of the one million visitors each year visit the southern sector of the park, creating at times traffic jams of sorts. In fact, the first few sightings we had were only because we saw several other cars pulled over looking into the bush.
Moving through the park at 20 km per hour, we spotted herds of impala and wildebeest and even a few zebra. Given that it was the hottest part of the day, we didn’t expect to see much game up and about, but in fact we were surprised. Through the trees we saw our first elephant! A small breeding herd of about 5 in total, the elephants didn’t even seem to notice our car along side them. Keeping our distance we watched them until they disappeared into the bush.
Thrilled we continued on our way, now in a rush to get to camp before the gates closed. A few minutes before sunset, we spotted several hippopotamus in a pond just outside the gates of our camp. Lumbering out of the water towards the grass, the hippopotamus called to each other and grouped themselves along the riverbank. It was a thrilling end to our first day in Kruger.
**We’re uploading our Kruger pictures slowly due to low-speed internet. Bare with us for a few days until we can get them all up. As always our latest pics can be seen on our picture page or on our flickr page. Thanks!