In my opinion, Pretoriuskop is probably the most underrated camp in the entire Kruger National Park. This rest camp is the oldest camp in the park, and you can tell this as soon as you drive through its gates. It is absolutely brimming with history – there are so many stories to be told. I think if Harry Wolhuter’s “Indaba Tree” could speak, it would have the most fascinating tales to tell. Harry Wolhuter was a ranger in the Park for 44 years, and he is the star of one of the most legendary tales in the Kruger Park’s history – the story of how he survived a lion attack in 1904. The “Indaba Tree” is where he held meetings with staff, and this tree still stands proudly in Pretoriuskop Rest Camp.
One of my fondest memories of the Kruger Park is from a family holiday we had at Pretoriuskop about 7 years ago. I don’t remember exactly what time of year this was, but I’m assuming that it was during school holidays, because there was very little accommodation available. The only space we managed to reserve was at Pretoriuskop, in the little, original 2-bed rondawels (round huts). Although I think some of my family members were apprehensive to begin with, it turned out to be absolutely brilliant. As I’ve said before in another post, it was possibly the most “authentic” Kruger Park trip I’ve ever had. All the time, I just had the sense that this was what it must have been like staying in the Kruger Park in the early days. Those are days I wish I could have experienced.
But in June 2012, I embarked upon one of my solo trips to the Kruger, and this time I spent 2 nights camping at Skukuza, and 2 nights at Pretoriuskop.
Arriving at Pretoriuskop, my check-in was processed quite quickly, and I rushed off to find the ideal spot to camp. One of the great things about Pretoriuskop is that so much of the camping area is right along the fence, and it took me very little time to settle into a spot at the fence, in the north-western corner of the camp. I feel like there’s something for everyone at Pretoriuskop, though. There are some smaller spots right along the fence, and some much bigger spots away from the fence. There is plenty of shade and privacy, and I can promise that you’ll find just the kind of spot that you had in mind before arriving.
There are 2 camping areas at Pretoriuskop – one in the north-western corner of the camp, and another in the south-western corner. After finding such a perfect spot right in the north-western corner of the camp, I didn’t even bother to drive down to the other camping area to see if there was something better.
The soil was much softer in Pretoriuskop than it had been at Skukuza, and camp was set up quickly. Rumour had it that game viewing wasn’t too good around Pretoriuskop, but with such a great campsite, I wasn’t really concerned.
Power outlets are nicely set out, and never too far from where your campsite will be set up. This may have changed since June 2012, but back then there were none of the recycling/rubbish bins that you find in most camps nowadays – there were just normal “baboon-proof” black bins, but there were plenty of them around. Also, the nearest tap to me was a short walk away, but it seems that I was about as far away from a tap as anyone else.
If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I’m all-for campsites that are demarcated, as this prevents you from having neighbours that get too close. While the sites at Pretoriuskop are not marked out, as such, the braais (BBQ’s) are fixed in place, making it obvious how many campers should be in any given area.
To the game viewing: While it is true that game is possibly harder to spot around Pretoriuskop, due in part to the long grass associated with the area, there are a number of reasons that this shouldn’t put you off. First of all, there is plenty of wildlife around. While I didn’t see any lions, I could certainly hear them at night while I was in camp, and I’m sure that if I’d had a bit more time, I would have been able to track them down. Having said this, I still had some pretty good game viewing in the area, and had one of the best Rhino sightings of my life, near to the Shitlhave Dam.
Then, you cannot overlook the fact that Pretoriuskop is one of the most beautiful areas, and even if there was no wildlife around, the beauty of the surrounding scenery should be enough to attract you to the area. On my second day in camp, I took a long drive on the H2-2, S14 and S8, then crossing back over the H1-1 and doing the S10/S7/S3 loop, and I’ll tell you, the area is absolutely breathtaking.
If you’re not sold on the area yet, then consider this: Pretoriuskop rest camp is only 24km from Phabeni Gate. It’ll take you less than 1 hour to get there, and the S1 (Doispane Road) that goes from there, almost all the way up to Skukuza, has been one of the most prolific game viewing routes in the entire Park for many years. Lion, Leopard and Wild Dog sightings have become an almost-daily occurrence, and aside from Skukuza, Pretoriuskop Camp is in the best location for reaching this game-rich area.
Apart from the area, it’s no surprise to me that Pretoriuskop has become known as the “friendly camp”. From shop assistants to petrol attendants and reception employees, everybody greets you with a cheerful smile, and you’ll always feel welcome and at home.
Pretoriuskop has all of the facilities you could possibly need while camping in the Kruger Park, including a laundromat, communal cooking and washing-up facilities, a petrol station, a restaurant and well-stocked shop, game drives, and probably the best swimming pool in the whole Park.
Also worth mentioning was that my campsite was about as far as one could be from the ablution facilities, and yet this was still only a 2 minute walk away, down a paved road. The ablutions were some of the best I’ve ever experienced in the Kruger. They were neat and clean, there was always hot water and there was plenty of space in the shower cubicles. You can’t really ask for more than that.
The only negative experience I had was that on my last evening in camp, I’d been out on a game drive and I arrived back in camp quite late to find that someone had pitched their tent in the spot I’d been parking my car – not more than a meter away from my tent. He had his own portable braai with him, and when another neighbour of mine came over and told this guy that he shouldn’t have set up there, as it wasn’t a campsite, he just said “Well, what can I do?”. It probably wouldn’t have been too bad, except that he was a very invasive neighbour, and didn’t ever leave me alone for more than 5 minutes. He also tried everything he could to attract Hyenas to the fence, using raw meat – which is not allowed under any circumstances, and there are plenty of signs around the camp telling you this.
I’m a pretty easy-going kind of guy, but had it not been my last evening in camp, I would have gone to reception to complain, and I have no doubt that they would have moved my new neighbour to a different spot. It wasn’t great having to park my car further down the road because my parking spot now had a tent in it, and lying in bed at night knowing that my new neighbour’s head wasn’t more than a meter away from mine was a pretty uncomfortable experience.
Apart from that, Pretoriuskop was nothing short of brilliant, and I give it a 9 out of ten. It’s nearly impossible to fault the old camp, and I highly recommend you try it out. I had a fantastic time there, and will certainly be back in future.
The morning I left was difficult, because I’d quickly formed a bond with this character-filled camp. I decided the best way to prolong my experience was to leave through Paul Kruger gate – some 60km away from Pretoriuskop. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I’d ever made. I headed up to Phabeni Gate, and then got onto the S3 which is a sand road that basically follows the Sabie River all the way up to Paul Kruger Gate.
I saw plenty of wildlife along the way, including some Buffalo and many Elephants. Not even 2km from Paul Kruger Gate, I dove through a dry river bed, and lying in the middle of the riverbed in the shade of an old tree was a Leopard. She wasn’t even 15 metres away from me. My heart just about stopped as I spotted her. I switched my car off and sat there for half an hour watching her – without another car coming by. Of all the wonderful Kruger Park experiences I’ve had, this was one of the best. I could almost not believe my luck – especially as I knew I was only a few minutes away from leaving the Park.
All-in-all, I had the time of my life. If you haven’t been to Pretoriuskop yet, head over to www.sanparks.co.za and make your booking now. Whether you’re a camping kind of person, or you’d prefer a little rondavel, a family cottage or one of the amazing guest houses (which I’ve stayed in too), I give you my word that you’ll love this camp.
If you’ve stayed at Pretoriuskop before, then I know I’m preaching to the converted, because I’m sure you love this camp too. If you have been there before, or if you have any questions/comments, please drop them below, or feel free to e-mail me.
Unfortunately, when I stayed at Pretoriuskop more than a year ago, I had no plans of starting a blog – so I didn’t take any photos of the campsite. But follow this link, and the images should give you a pretty good feel of what Pretoriuskop Rest Camp is like: http://www.krugerpark.co.za/Kruger_National_Park_Lodging_&_Camping_Guide-travel/pretoriuskop-camp_images.html