This year I would have liked a relaxing holiday, really. But Jasmin had a round-trip ticket paid for South Africa and we decided that would be economically wise to venture down there. This would be a couple of weeks holiday: we decided we would spend the first 3 nights in Kruger National Park and the rest of the time in Mozambique. I was not too excited about Kruger, my objection was "well, we watch animals, and then?". Asking advice back home did not help. Everybody seemed to expect me to be obviously excited about seeing wild animals in their own habitat. I was not sure I was going to be. So I ended up agreeing on going, not without complaining a couple of times on the way with things like "ah, we should have gone to Sicily".
So did I like it? Yes, admittedly, it was totally worth it. Driving around our (rented) car in the park was both fun (the game is to try to spot the animals before others do) but also truly bewildering. Stopping the car to let giraffes cross the road, being surrounded by elephants or buffalos, was not as boring as I thought at a first time. I would totally recommend to try to experience this once to those, like me, that might thing this is boring.
How to Kruger
The way it works at Kruger, is that you choose a camp where you want to stay overnight and during the day you roam around with your car. You can also do some guided tour, both by car and by foot. We did both. The one by foot was an order of magnitude more interesting than the one by car. You actually get to walk in the bush, with a couple of (armed) guides. We came across a couple of Rhinos that were fortunately more scared than us than what I was of them. The sunset drive was less interesting, we did not see much, it was cold, and anyhow you are by car, it is totally different than walking.
I read a lot of bad things about Skukuza. For us it was not much of a choice, given that we booked late and that we had to come from the airport the same day. Mind that we arrived at 9 in Johannesburg, but by the time we rented the car, bought some food and got used to driving on the wrong side of the street, we arrived at the Skukuza gates after the regular time and we had to deeply thank the guardian for not letting us sleep with lions outside the gates. But at the end Skukuza was not that bad. Maybe it was not party season, but there was no noise at night other than the animals lullabies. We got the luxury bungalow with view on the river and we did not regret the choice. I would not call that luxury, but I would not even expect to pay what we paid for real luxury. The only negative thing about Skukuza, for us, was the food at the restaurants (we tried both). Staff was friendly, but food tasted like microwave crap. We had a much better time cooking by ourselves on the bungalow grill: wild local meat, grilled onions and a bottle of great wine.
|Walking in the bushes.|
No, we did not see all the big five. Damn it! We missed the Lion (Jasmin would saw and pet (!) them later on, when I would already be back home). We saw most of them already the first day. Second and third day we almost got used to see these many. Apparently the area around Skukuza and Lower Sabie is so densely populated with wild animals that does not take great luck to spot them.
One of the biggest trophies was spotting the leopard, quietly crossing the street in front of us. We stopped to see the beast going through the bush, while a car was speeding toward us to try not to miss the show. Once they arrived the leopard was gone. The driver, realized he was too late, decided to go off the car and squatted down to see whether the Leopard was still around. Fortunately for him he was not. This is that silly thing that one is not supposed to do.
- Renting a car in South Africa is very cheap (at least compare to Mozambique), it costed roughly 110$ for three days.
- It took us about 6 hours to get to Skukuza from the Airport. We stopped for food only once.