KNP Self Drive Safari

by David Milne
(South Africa)

Smoking (littering) is bad for their health

Smoking (littering) is bad for their health

At 7:45pm we heard a rustling and thinking it was Davey fiddling around in his tog bag we ignored it – but it soon got louder so we jumped up to see an elephant and her baby having a good feed on the long grass around the hide. What excitement! After 45 minutes they both silently disappeared into the surrounding bush.

Sable Overnight Hide

My wife Molly, our son Davey and I recently, undertook our first visit to the Kruger National Park from the 4th September to 18th September.

In planning our trip we decided to spend our first night in the Sable Dam hide. We arrived at the hide overlooking the Sable dam at 4:30pm.

It seems a popular place especially on Friday afternoon for the folk from Phalaborwa, who come here with their drinks or tea and watch the action around the dam.

The last of the visitors left at 5:30pm and we were only then able to organise ourselves.

Firstly we had to unlock the beds from the wall and make them up, ready for the night.

We then settled down to enjoy a sundowner. What an amazing sunset but still very hot. Saw the full moon rise.

It was so good to stretch out and relax on our comfy beds. Darkness was soon upon us; lit citronella candles and had our headlamps at the ready.

It was wonderful being so close to nature. The absolute stillness of the African night descended on us and later the sounds of the African bush came to life.

Heard the first roar of a lion at about 7pm in the distance and from thereon it came closer and closer. At 3am we awakened by a loud roar which sounded as if it was virtually in the hide. Jumped out of bed hearts beating fast but saw no lion.

Had a bit more sleep until 5:30am, had coffee packed up and remained in the hide observing until 7:30am. Except for a few impala, vultures, fish eagles, crocodile and black backed jackal there was not much happening.

I would recommend a stay at one of the overnight hides to all visitors.

Lion Kill

Our second highlight was our first encounter with lions. This event occurred on Tuesday 8th September 2009.

We rose at 5:30am, had usual coffee and rusks and hit the road. Saw impala, giraffe, lot of spur fowl and a couple of Steenbokkies; at about 6:20am we saw an elephant with her tiny baby, who was suckling!

We then turned onto S89 and shortly after crossing a causeway we came across 5 lions (about 6:45am), this was our first sighting of lions, who were getting ready for a kill.

They fanned out around a herd of impala and one lone zebra and after watching their cunningness, one of the lions gave the alert and all hell broke loose.

The impala herd scattered in all directions, the zebra was almost flying as he galloped for safety.

One impala was the victim. It didn't take long for the lions to tear it apart and within ten minutes the whole animal was devoured.

Davey was in his element. He had been driving us insane wanting to see lions and take a photo of one and today was his lucky day not only seeing the lions but also witnessing a kill! He just couldn't stop talking about it.

Leopard in a Tree

Our third highlight happened on the 10th September 2009 when we moved from Satara to Lower Sabie. We booked in at 11am and as we could only collect our key for our bungalow at 12 noon, we decided to go for a short drive.

On this drive the S82 we saw warthogs, elephant and an old recently mauled hippo quite far from the river – making his way back down to river. He crossed the tarred road so we had an excellent view of him. It appeared as if lions had attacked him judging by the look of the scratches and gashes.

Later the same day we went for an afternoon drive along the S29 and saw zebra, wildebeest, grysbokkies, an ostrich, a giraffe with a baby.

Further on we saw a few cars stopped on the side of the road so we edged our way closer and there in a tree next to the road, we had our first sighting of a beautiful leopard, chilling in the tree. What a beautiful sight. We watched him for 45 minutes or so but then we had to get back to camp before 6pm gate closing time.

Smoke Anyone?

On the 12 September 2009 we had our next surprise. We went for a drive along H4-1 until we reached S79, on the retracing our steps we came across a group of baboons, all shapes and sizes. We stopped and enjoyed all their antics.

A mother was grooming her baby and he just leant over her arm and picked up a cigarette butt and promptly put it in his mouth and almost instantly spat it out. I was extremely lucky to capture this event in a split second which has been a talking point ever since.

The first reaction was a sense of amusement, however I was also angered by the fact that humans did not need to pollute the Park, endanger the animals' lives with fire hazard or health risks.

The Park officials certainly do their bit to encourage visitors not to pollute. Maybe this photo could be used to highlight the problem in a humorous way.

Mud Bath

From Lower Sabie we moved onto Crocodile Bridge and from there we continued to Berg-En-Dal.

After settling in our bungalow and having a light lunch, we suddenly heard animals moving down the sandy river bed towards the dam close to the restaurant.

On investigating we found a huge herd of buffalo approx 300 to 400 first walking and then rushing to drink water in the dam. After satisfying their thirst they started having mud baths. It was an absolutely awesome sight to see.

Too Short

We were also very excited to experience the large number of bird species in the Park. Molly's favourite was the lilac breasted roller and mine was the saddle back stork.

In summary we saw 40 lions, 4 leopards, herds of buffalo and elephants and numerous rhino mainly white but we did see one black rhino.

Unfortunately after 14 days in the Park we had to bid it farewell and return home. We all hope that the Lord will spare us and afford us another opportunity in the future to experience the beauty of nature in the heritage which is "The Kruger National Park".

David's Safari Details:

Safari company used: Self-guided (find out more)

Parks visited: Kruger National Park in South Africa

Date of safari: 4-18 September

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