Tag Archives: Kruger National Park

Birds

Because Kruger is in the southern hemisphere it was just beginning to be summer time when we were there.  The temperatures were in the 70s and 80s, the sun was high in the sky and it was beginning to rain so the vegetation was starting to green up and fill in.

Many of the birds who live in Europe migrate to southern Africa for the winter and Kruger park’s topography and vegetation attract many species to the area.  While we are not knowledgable bird watchers we tried very hard to pay attention to the birds we saw and to photograph them as we drove through the park and visited camps and picnic grounds.  There certainly were lots of large animals and mammals to take pictures of but we also wanted to be sure we did not leave out the smaller animals and especially the birds.

We ended up with hundreds of photos of birds and were able to identify (thanks to some guide books) over 30 different birds from small bee eaters to raptures like the African Fish Eagle.  We saw amazing large birds like ostrich, herron, and storks also.   Over the next few posting I will share some of the best of our bird sightings.  Here are two photos of a Comb Duck also called a Knobbilled Duck.

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Baobab Trees

When many people think of Africa they think of photos of sunsets with a solitary tree in the picture.   This tree is could be the baobab tree as they can be very large and are usually found as solitary trees instead of in a forest.  They can be very old; in fact one is thought to be over 4000 years old.  They do not have growth rings like most trees but can be carbon dated for age.  They also have hollow spots in the trunk where fresh water collects.  This fresh water can be a life saver during a drought for both people and animals.  Recent research on their fruit and leaves show that there may be many uses for products made from this remarkable tree.  We saw quite a few baobab trees in the northern part of Kruger National Park.  I thought they were very pretty, here are some photos of some of them.

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Masorini Historic Site

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We had arrived at Letaba the night before after our all day drive from Punda Maria.  After our early morning safari drive, breakfast and a walk along the perimeter fence inside the camp we decided to drive west toward the Phalaborwa gate in our rental car.  When we left the sky was giving us a drizzly rain, as this was the beginning of spring it was a welcome rain for the animals.  We decided to not allow a light rain to stop us from going out and seeing the park and decided to head to the Masorini Historic Site.

The Masorini Historic Site is where the remnants of an ancient village stands.  The village is on the side of one of the cone shaped hills that pop up around this area of South Africa.  These hills fascinated me as they just seem to come out of nowhere.  The also typically have large boulders hanging on the sides of their conical shape.  Every time I would see one I could envision the Disney movie “The Lion King” and see Mufasa holding Simba up so all the animals in the kingdom could see the new born prince.

Iron smelting is how the inhabitants of this village made a living along with hunting and foraging.  The site had a nice guide who explained the process to us along with showing us the various parts of the recreated village and what they were used for.  The guide was surprised when we took him up on his offer to walk up the mountain to the huts at the top and to see the view.  He said most tourists were too lazy to take this walk.  Since we were the only ones there and it was only a light sprinkle we thought, “why not”?  I am so glad we did as the view was very engaging.

An early morning drive…

When we registered at Letaba on Monday night we booked an early morning tour for the next day.  We had to be at the registration site at 4:15 AM!  When we arrived it was the two of us and a 3 generation family of 5.  It was raining and the tour guide told us that often animals, like people, stay hidden where they feel warm and dry when it is raining and so we may not see much.  We all decided that we would take a chance and go out anyway.  He went to get some blankets to wipe off the water from the seats.  That turned out to be a very good decision.

It turned out to be a cold and windy drive in the open sided camp vehicle.  Bob and I sat up right behind the driver which we hoped would block some of the wind.  I was glad I had brought the light fleece jacket I packed to have on the airplane as well as a rain poncho.  By the end of the drive we were tightly wrapped in the blanket with it up around our ears because the wind felt so cold and the dampness added to the unpleasant feeling.  Bob manned the spotlight spotting it on the bush looking for animals (reflecting eyes) until the sun came up enough not to need it.  This was our best sighting of hyena on the trip.

Here are a few photos of the morning drive.

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Campgounds in Kruger Park

When in Kruger National Park you have several choices for accommodations.  11 different “campgrounds” are operated by the park.  In addition they have several other primitive campsites and you can camp in the bush or in birdhides with special permission.  None of the latter are within any protective fencing.

We decided to rent a two person room at each of three campgrounds where we stayed.  First we stayed in the northern portion of the park at Punda Maria.  Punda Maria had two bedroom accommodations in groups of three rooms to a building.  The room was tiny and we hardly had space to walk around but it did have two twin beds, a small bathroom with a shower and a little nook space in the room with a small refrigerator.  Outside on the patio was a two person table and chairs.  You could park your car directly in front of your door.  The roof was made of thatch and you could see the thatch from the inside also.  The beams were coated with creosote which gave the room an off-putting smell and was annoying to my asthma.  It did have an air conditioning unit and you could set the temperature to what was comfortable to you.  Across the driveway from the rooms was a covered stand with four sinks, a stove and a kettle for heating hot water.  They also had a patio with grills and picnic tables along with a public bathroom which included small rooms with bathtubs.  Punda Maria also had a small laundry room with a washing machine (outside the laundry room was a clothesline), a small restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and a small camp store where they sold a few souvenirs, some food like eggs, milk and frozen meats for grilling and other items you might need when camping like mosquito repellent and first aid supplies.  The camp also had a gas station and a swimming pool as well as the Flycatcher nature trail I told you about in an earlier posting.

At Letaba we actually had our own building.  It was a round bungalow that also had a thatched roof.  It was more spacious than the room at Punda Maria and you could have put a cot in the room to accommodate another person.  About 2/3rds of the circle was taken with the inside room and the last bit was a screened in porch that held a counter with a cabinet underneath where they had kitchen supplies.  The porch also had a refrigerator, and a table and chairs for two.  The porch looked out over the lawn of the camp which was on the edge of the fence and the Letaba River.  In addition to all the facilities that Punda Maria had, Letaba had a larger restaurant with a lovely patio overlooking the river, a small museum devoted to elephants, and an outdoor movie theater.  A small animal called a Bushbuck roamed the grassy areas of the camp.

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Skukuza is the largest camp in the park and we spent the last three nights there.  At Skukuza we also had our own two person bungalow but the porch was not screened in.  We had to push the table up against the refrigerator door to keep the resident monkeys from stealing the food out of the refrigerator!  This camp had two restaurants; one was the standards SANS park restaurant with the same menu that each park had and another restaurant in a remodeled train station which was open at dinner time and had a different and quite lovely menu.  This is where we ate the last two nights of our stay, including Thanksgiving night.  It was a huge improvement over the cheese and pbj sandwiches at lunch which we thought may be our Thanksgiving meal.  This camp also had a bank, a library, a police station, a doctor and an Internet cafe.  Nearby is a golf course and a jail where they put poachers when they are first caught in the park!

We visited several other camps for meals as we traveled between camps or as we drove out looking for animals.  All were similar in accommodations but had their own flair and personality.

When a flat tire can be a big deal

We felt very lucky that we noticed our flat tire before we left the camp gates.

If you have car trouble or a flat tire out in the park it is a big deal because you can not exit your car to see what is wrong.  Too many wild animals that are not accustomed to people and who would just as soon eat you for lunch.

So, when we came back to the parking lot after lunch at Olifants and saw that our front right tire was very low on air we were very glad we were still in a camp and only a few hundred meters (they use the metric system in South Africa) from the petrol station (petrol is what they call gas).  We drove immediately to the station where two very helpful, kind and nice attendants unloaded all the luggage in the car to find the jack.  Jacked up the car to spin the tire and using sudsy water found a screw which had punctured the tire.  For the equivilent of just a few dollars they plugged the tire, filled us up with air, helped replace the luggage and we were all set to go.  The entire trouble took only about 30 minutes to fix.  If it had happened outside the camp it might have been an all day trouble involving sending for help by passing notes to other cars headed toward a camp, waiting for a repair vehicle, a tow back to camp and then the fix.

Buzzy Bee visits Africa

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Well, not the real Buzzy Bee which is the mascot of our elementary school, but his close cousin “Flat Buzzy” the neighbor of “Flat Stanley” who is much more famous worldwide.  The real Buzzy wouldn’t fit in my suitcase but Flat Buzzy fit very nicely in the camera bag.  In fact, he was so cozy in there that sometimes he forgot to come out and see the sights.  Here are the sights and animals he did see.