One of the things I tend to do while traveling is plan (if you can call it that) my adventures as they come. I knew, going to Africa, that I wanted to go to Kruger National Park (KNP), and that some how some way I would make it there. I want to thank Mike at Siyafunda for helping me book a room the day before I left to make this dream come true.
From as far back as I can remember my grandmother would tell me stories of Africa. How amazing it was, how great the people are, and how enchanting the life is. This is one of the last places where you can witness things as they should be. When I left Siyafunda I was anxious. I was worried that anything could be as worthwhile (as Siyafunda), if I would find this place easily, and what I would be doing without my amazing guides teaching me so much. This would be a different kind of experience and a different kind of feeling. I think of Siyafunda as being educational and doing some really great conservation work. KNP, for me, was an enlightenment. You know the kind that some find at church or with (their) god? Exactly like that!
I spent four days at Olifants Restcamp in a bungalow with private parking for my little rental car. I had a private refrigerator in my room, air conditioning, and a hot shower. Much different than I was used to living in Africa. I was not expecting much. All I knew was I was going to the place I heard about my whole life. From my grandmother, from NATGEO, from online, etc. This is the place I had always wondered about and I was finally here.
I opted for the more expensive (and not by much) bungalow because Mike told me that it had a view. And boy am I glad I did! I think the cost was about $100USD per night. Nowhere else in the world can you pay this little for as much as I experienced, even when returning 'home' for the night. The camp sits on top of a hill and overlooks the Olifants River and vast plains of the Olifants Rugged Veld. Below is a short video I took with my phone, that was destroyed by YouTube, but gives a good look at what the camp looks like with the amazing views:
Each bungalow came with an outside seating area (with kitchenette and braii AKA BBQ for grilling outside). The camp itself has other areas to BBQ, an inground pool, a shop with everything from cookware to groceries to souvenirs, etc. There is also a Mugg & Bean restaurant that overlooks the river with epic views. A great place to watch the wildlife enter the river and watch the bats eat up all the insects flying near the lights at night.
More shots from my room:
Enough about the accommodations ...
I entered the park via the Orpen Gate. This was about 45 km from the Satara camp, which was about 45 km from Olifants. 45 km = about 28 miles (a little less). Allow about one and a half to two hours for each 45 km strip. This because the speed limit is low (which you can understand the importance of) and because of all the amazing photo opportunities you will encounter.
Now to elaborate on the enlightening part ...
As mentioned previously, I spent my time here alone. That means the only time I spoke with a person was while on the phone with my family back at home or while ordering my tea in the morning. Lets just say ... I had plenty of time to reflect. To think. To enjoy. And Africa is the best place (at least for me) to do this. I got to engulf myself in some amazing sites and witness all the animals I have obsessed over my whole life in their natural environment. Since the gates at the camps open (let you out) at 5:30am and close at 1800 (6:00pm) I spent about 12 hours per day in the car. I didn't want to miss a thing!
Note: There are a lot of times where you will have to pass other drives to get where you gotta be. If you see several cars in one spot it's most likely one of the big 5.
One of the greatest parts of this particular adventure was being able to pull off on some random road, next to some body of water, and just sit and watch. Sit and think. For me, this was enlightening. I felt so small. So insignificant to the big picture. Looking over these vast lands and great bodies of water while other species went about their day was inspiring. I constantly think back to those longs stops where I would just await what will come naturally. No keepers, no schedules, no routine. Just nature happening naturally.
Two moments that really stand out were on my last two days in the park. First, around mid-day on a Monday afternoon, I got to experience a lion hunt, which was everything you could imagine: The king sat under a tree in the shade while the two females chased zebra around (unsuccessfully).
Second I found a leopard in a tree, a lone hyena sitting in some water, and a large pack of wild dogs chillin under some trees near a rest area off 126. All on my "way out"...
I think this is also where the 'enlightenment' feeling came about. During these three instance I was the only other human around.
I don't know if I expressed my appreciation for the people I met in Africa (mostly at Siyafunda), because they were amazing. But there is something truly remarkable you feel while being with these animals in the wild without anyone else around. When they look into your eyes, acknowledge your existence, and seemingly accept your presence ... its unexplainable. So I won't attempt to any further. My suggestions, go see it for yourself!