After breakfast we fly from Johannesburg to Nelspruit (Mbombela) and transfer to our camp in Kruger National Park.
Kruger is the largest of South Africa’s parks with a total area of 7,500 square miles and is also one of the largest parks in the world. Bordered by the Limpopo and Crocodile rivers, the land spreads a stunning 200 miles at its widest point. Late this afternoon, we will get our first taste of this vast natural canvas in a game-viewing drive. The park is home to 147 species of land mammals, the highest number in Africa including the “big five” lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros, most of which we saw in the Delta with the exception of the rhinoceros.
As we drive into the private reserve where our lodge was located a tire flew off the trailer carrying our luggage so there was a short delay as all the luggage was loaded into the van and the trailer pushed to the side of the road to be dealt with later. The Mjejane Lodge sits on the Crocodile River with a large open terrace that looks across a grassy area to the pool and the river, lovely. Each afternoon wart hogs a.k.a. “African lawn mowers” would appear, kneel down and get busy trimming the grass, they are eating machines and hysterical to watch. Vervet monkeys also made appearances and we were warned that they have learned to open the doors so if we didn’t lock them we might see them parading around the grounds trailing our belongings behind them. We heeded the warning.
At breakfast on our first morning we saw a mother and very young baby hippo right in front of the lodge.
It was a long drive to the park from Mjejane River Lodge so we spent one long day in the park picnicking at the visitor center. We finally saw the White Rhinoceros the last of the “big five” to add to our list. This park is very popular and very crowded, unlike the Delta where didn’t see another soul until the last day at the airstrip. Kruger is more like our National Parks in terms of numbers of visitors and my least favorite because of that fact. I will say, however, it is the only place that we saw rhinos and was the favorite of some folks; everyone is different.
We learned that the white rhino is actually no different in color from the black rhino but they are grazers along the ground and have a white mouth but I couldn’t get a good photo of that nor did I actually see it clearly. The black rhinos can raise their heads to eat from the bushes, we only saw white rhino here.
We spent most days roaming through the private reserve on the edges of Kruger and were rewarded with more amazing animals. I’ll let the photos tell that story.
You never know what is around the next corner . . . drivers beware!
To add a little variety our guide, William, took us on a bush walk one morning and talked about the flora and how the plants are used in everyday life in the bush. The toothbrush bush branches can be chewed and used as a toothbrush, the root is used as lipstick and the leaves hold moisture and can be used to beat down flames. The tassel berry tree is used to make beer, there is a soap plant that is used by the women for doing laundry. Many of the trees are desirable for nesting birds including the knobby thorn tree. Survival in the bush sometimes depends on knowledge of what grows nearby.
Let’s not forget Sundowners, each evening just before sunset the guides would find a place to stop and open the bar while we waited for sunset, a time to stretch our legs and take in the beautiful landscapes while enjoying a glass of wine or other beverage of your choice.
Mjejane River Lodge