Guest post: Kruger National Park
South Africa has been on my mind for years as it is a country that inspires endless adventures. This amazing natural setting is a living tribute to our roots, since it is said that South Africa is the cradle of humanity. It is a place where nature has preserved its original charm, combining wild beauty with the best comforts we can possibly enjoy today.
Heading east in this amazing environment, we found one of the greatest natural parks I have ever been to: the Kruger National Park. This park is the same size of Israel or Wales! For sure it should be one of the key points on your list of 'places to visit' if you are a nature lover.
Thousands of animals live freely inside the Kruger: leopards, elephants, lions, rhinos, hippos, zebras, jackals, impalas, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, buffalos, giraffes, warthogs, crocodiles, kudus, and over 500 species of birds ... how would you feel among all of them?
The park has nine entry gates, and we entered from Nelspruit, in Mpumalanga, to begin our unforgettable experience.
From the moment you walk through the entrance, you are sharing the space, at the same level, with all the animals and their powerful instincts. It’s an exciting environment full of noises, smells, shadows and movements that warn of the presence of other inhabitants of the park.
From the moment you walk through the entrance, you are sharing the space, at the same level, with all the animals and their powerful instincts.
It is very important to move around with official guides who are familiar with the animals' habitat. When you come across them, you are in a visibly physically inferior position, so enjoy the experience with caution.
During our game drive, very early in the morning of a beautiful May day, we were charged at by a rhino! Despite their huge size they can run fast! Our guide and driver reacted just in time, giving a loud knock on the hood, 'Bang!' and a loudly screamed, 'Uooooh!!', which held the Big One back just before it slammed into our car. The loud noise dissuaded him ... we were pale; the power of the rhino was intimidating. Intense moments like these are certainly best remembered after the experience. Unfortunately, we were 'frozen' – shocked – so we could not take a picture of our friend there. I am sorry!
Each year, one-and-a-half-million visitors travel to the Kruger Park, but its extensive size – 352km from north to south and more than 1.9-million hectares in size – allows you to explore the park without meeting other vehicles. The whole landscape, the view and the wild fauna stand before your eyes in their entire splendour, just for you.
There are many places to stay in the Kruger. We had the chance to enjoy the luxurious Lukimbi, a safari lodge with world-class amenities – although limited internet access – located in the south area of the park. It is not fenced, but fully accessible to all animals, just like in the rest of the park. Once you leave your room there is no barrier or any kind of separation between you and the animals.
To move around the lodge environment, get to the rooms, or the lounges and restaurant, it is necessary, particularly after sunset, to use the company of a local guide who can detect the presence of animals around you. They can perhaps 'scare you a bit' if you drop your guard.
Driving or walking in groups – with a local expert – around the Kruger National Park is always an amazing experience for the senses. The sunrise and sunset have a special light: the day is full of surprises, while at night you are treated to a unique sky where the stars magically shine like diamonds.
Ana will be posting more blogs about her experience in South Africa. Follow her on Twitter @anapiccola to make sure you get the latest posts!