Day 1 of My Kruger National Park Adventure 2013

For those of you who’ve missed it, I take an annual solo trip to the Kruger Park. To find out more about me, and why I do what I do, check out this post: https://exploreknp.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/welcome-to-exploreknp/

So here’s how it all happened this year.

Every year I try to stay somewhere different to the previous year. This time around, I was very keen to try out the campsites at Berg en Dal, as I’ve heard that they offer some of the best camping in the Kruger. I’ve also been longing for a stay at Lower Sabie because I haven’t stayed there since I was a boy – long before the camp looked anything like it does today. Getting a reservation at Berg en Dal was no problem, but Lower Sabie was fully booked! According to some of my neighboring campers, in order to get space at Lower Sabie, one has to book many months in advance. But I kept my eyes on the SANparks website (http://www.sanparks.co.za/), and 3 weeks before my Kruger Adventure was due to begin, there was a last-minute cancellation at Lower Sabie, and I snapped it up! So I had 2 nights in Berg en Dal, and 2 at Lower Sabie. I’d be in the Park from the 10th to the 14th of June. 4 nights. Not nearly enough time to spend in the Kruger, but I’m grateful for every opportunity I get.

I left home on the 9th of June and spent the evening with some family who live about 45 minutes from Malelane Gate. I had a great drive down, and apart from 3 Stop/Go’s on the Schoemanskloof Pass, the journey went by quickly. My aim was to get into the Kruger as early as possible, and to leave as late as I could in order to maximise my time there. I woke up early on the morning of the 10th, with much excitement! Today was the day I had been looking forward to for months. Today my Kruger Adventure would begin. I got back onto the N4, and headed for Malelane Gate, accompanied by views like this one:

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After a short drive along a beautiful highway, I crossed the Crocodile River and arrived at Malelane Gate. I knew what was waiting for me on the other side, and I couldn’t wait to get at it!

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DAY 1:

Berg en Dal lies just along the S110 – also known as the Matjulu loop. Just after entering through Malelane gate, you can either turn left onto the tarred section of the S110, or as I opted to do, carry on about 2km further up the H3, and turn left onto the gravel section of the Matjulu loop. This decision paid off for me, and about 10 minutues up the gravel road, I spotted my first White Rhino! What a blessing to see this creature in nature, especially with the recent explosion of Rhino Poaching in the Kruger Park.

I was in a bit of a rush to get into Berg en Dal and set up camp, hoping for a spot along the fence, so I didn’t see too much else on my way in. I must say at this point that I will write a post later on that goes into great detail with regards to camping at Berg en Dal, so as far as the actual camping experience goes, I will just outline it here.

Arriving at Berg en Dal, I headed straight for reception to check in. I had a bit of a delay there which you’ll read about in my post on “Camping at Berg en Dal”, but as soon as that had been sorted out, I headed straight for the campsites, keen to see exactly why people had told me that this was the best spot to camp at in the Kruger Park. The campsite is divided into 3 circles, and I went straight to circle number 3, which offers the most spots along the fence. Unfortunately, there was not a single space open along the fence, so I had to back-track. I found a really nice spot at circle number one, and as most campers seem to do, I parked my car to reserve this “preliminary” spot, and then set out on foot to see if I could do any better. After deciding that I had found the best spot available to me, I began setting up camp. My basic setup is a 3m X 3m Tent, a 3m X 3m Gazebo, a camping table and chair, a little camping fridge, a blow-up mattress, and a couple of sleeping bags for the cold winter evenings. The evening before I arrived in the Kruger Park, a cold front had swept through the Lowveld, and I was eternally grateful for having brought 2 sleeping bags and a hot water bottle with me! 

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After setting up camp, I relaxed for a while and just took in everything I could – the beautiful scenery and surrounding hills, the abundance of wildlife, and the pleasant atmosphere of the campsite. I headed down to the Parks Shop and got some fresh bread rolls for lunch, and after this I decided to take a short drive. I drove down to the Matjulu dam which is 4km from Berg en Dal, and arrived just in time to see a herd of Elephants arriving for their afternoon drink. Elephants usually drink 3 times a day, as they lose a huge amount of fluid in their dung and urine. I watched them for a while, and then drove down the gravel portion of the S110, back to the H3, and onto the S114. After a short drive along the Crocodile River, I turned around and headed back to camp via the tar section of the S110. On my way back, I went into Malelane Camp to see if it would be a good spot for my Kruger Adventures in future. I must say that I liked how small the camp was, but I don’t think I’d like to camp there in future, because the camp looks directly onto the town of Malelane outside of the Kruger Park, and I don’t think that that’s ideal. But if you’ve camped at Malelane before, please let me know about it – I’d love to hear a first-hand account.

Driving up the S110 to Berg en Dal, I spotted a huge cloud of smoke, and arriving at the camp, I found that fire breaks were being burned around the perimeter. Suddenly I was extremely grateful for not having a campsite next to the fence, and although the whole camp seemed to be full of smoke, it must have been pretty bad right next to the fence. When I got back to my tent, I found that I had new neighbours who had set up camp very close to my tent – almost too close! But they were very pleasant people, and apart from their cellphone ringing at 3:30am the next morning and waking me up, it was genuinely nice to have them around. I chatted to one of them – His name was Chris, and although he lived in Mpumalanga and was 44 years old, he’d never been into the Kruger before. When I left Berg en Dal, I asked how he’d enjoyed it so far, and he said he couldn’t wait to be back in the Park soon! But the Kruger does seem to have that effect on people. That evening, I braai’d venison burgers. After I had finished cooking, I put a couple more logs on the fire, and just sat and enjoyed being out in nature. This became my evening routine. Once my logs had burned down, I went for a shower, and got into bed – trying as hard as I could to lie awake for a while and just listen to the sounds of the bush. But in such a peaceful place, it didn’t take long for sleep to get the better of me. And with it came the end of day one.

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