Between Pretoria and Kruger National Park
South Africa is the destination that I go to with my customers. We are travelling with the German Tour Operator Gebeco. The first stopp takes us to the administrative capital Pretoria and further into the world famous Kruger National Park. (Zum deutschen Blog.)
We arrive in Johannesburg in the morning. There is no time difference, so nobody can complain about a jet lag. At most about too little sleep on the plane. We are warmly welcomed by our travel guide Gisela and Mavis, our bus driver. And then it goes on the highway to Pretoria.
We get off briefly at Pretoria Central and walk around the square, which is currently a huge construction site. Then it goes on to the government building and the beautifully landscaped park around it. It is terraced and therefore there are many steps to climb. The central trough perches a 9 m high statue of Nelson Mandela. A little further above the Voortrekkerdenkmal, which stands there in honor of the Boers, who have developed the land.
Since we are all pretty tired, we make an early check in at the Indaba Hotel and Spa. It is Saturday and the hotel is well attended. The locals love the restaurant Chief’s Boma, so we do not get a table for dinner and have lunch instead. An advance reservation is highly recommended, because strangely, the à la carte restaurant does not open on the weekend.
After a good night´s sleep we take off to the long drive to our next hotel near Kruger National Park. Before we start, Mavis sings us a typical South African song.
For many, many kilometers we drive past one coal waste dump after the other. Mavis overtakes countless trucks on the well-developed and not very busy highway, which brings the coal in one of the many coal-fired power plants. Partly the air is properly fogged. Too bad that here the steppe landscape is so spoiled, instead of quickly switching to wind or solar energy, which would be the first choice here.
On the way to the Kruger National Park we make a detour to the impressive
Blyde River Canyon
which is one of the largest in the world. However, it is also totally overgrown, so that the depth of about 800m is not so noticeable. Nevertheless, if you look at the pictures, the Blyde River Canyon is gorgeous!
Not far away, of course, we also stop at
Bourkes Luck Potholes
Here, too, the river has eaten its way through the rocks, leaving innumerable swirl holes. Some pedestrian bridges span the river. Above the small waterfalls you can even go into the river. The terrain is also largely wheelchair accessible or with a stroller passable.
The landscape is now getting greener and reminds me a lot of the Black Forest. Many fir forests were planted here, in between grazing for cows. All the time it goes up and down small mountains.
In the evening we reach the hotel Pine Lake Inn, which is situated right next to Longmere Dam. After the delicious buffet, it suddenly starts to rain heavily. Well, hopefully only now, not tomorrow, when we want to drive in the open jeeps through
Kruger National Park
At sunrise the gates are opened, so Mavis starts on her birthday at 5 am with us. We arrive punctually and change into the jeeps. On three benches in the back of the jeep, which are arranged ascending, we drive today through Kruger National Park.
I imagined Kruger National Park differently. Well, the rainy season now comes to a close, the grass has grown quite high, but that there are so many trees here, I would not have thought. The vegetation seems almost impenetrable to me. How am I supposed to discover even one animal?
Well-developed paved roads and many sand tracks run through the Kruger National Park. Also by private car, you can drive in it. Anyway, I am very happy that we are in the fresh air with the jeep. Gisela advised us to dress really thick because the wind is still extremely cool in the morning. I am pleased to have accepted her advice … In the open jeep we can hear the awakening voices of the park and absorb the special smell of the environment.
Suddenly the jeep in front of us stops. What happened? An animal lies on the street and another one. Have they been run over? No, they are two young dozing hyenas who seem to be enjoying the warming asphalt and they are not in the least disturbed by amazed tourists with their clicking cameras. Looking closer, I notice more hyenas looking bored at us with one eye blinking.
I almost feel like I’m in the zoo, just closer. Our Ranger Nelly patiently answers all our curious questions. Then it goes on. Barely a few minutes later, we see jeeps blocking the road again, an unmistakable sign of an animal sighting. What is it this time?
Nelly puts the Jeep so that we all have a good look at an animal of the “Big Five”. A young male leopard who seems to be unimpressed by the enthusiastic but quiet tourists. Not 10 m away from us. Incredible!
And then Nelly discovers a second cub, his sister. Both were recently abandoned by their mother, and until they are sexually mature and then become loners, spend time together and share the hunted food. However, she is very shy and it takes quite some time for her brother to persuade her to cross the road despite the vehicles and disappear in the bush.
Nelly shows us many more animals on this day. The graceful impala, the fast food for big cats. Her butt looks like a well-known “M” on it. According to Nelly, it becomes a “W”, another well-known fast food chain, when the impala is dragged on a tree by a leopard to get eaten.
Without Nelly, we would not have discovered even the imposing elephants in the bush. The long-necked giraffes show up to us.
The beautifully drawn zebras, a very playful group of hyenas with many juveniles, hippopotamus that get in trouble with a crocodile, four white rhinos that are gray and got their name because of the color of their mouths, we can look at with leisure. Several species of eagles perch far above us in the branches of mostly dead trees, vultures waiting for the next meal and many other animals. Buffalo we see in the distance.
Unfortunately, no lions show up, so it remains with four species of the Big Five.
To round off this great day I swim a few laps in the hotel pool and enjoy the sunset.
Goodbye Kruger National Park!