Kruger National Park
It took us about six hours to get from the park gate to our tent even though I think it is less than 10 kilometers. We noticed some of the birders had a bumper sticker that said, “Please pass, I am looking at birds.” That would have been helpful. It was just insane. Insane. We saw so many birds as soon as we entered the park. There were Red-billed Hornbills for goodness sake!
Punda Maria is a magical place. It is perched on a ridge in the sandveld region and is nice and quiet. “I’ve never been fenced into a more diverse landscape” reads my journal. Starting at the northern end of the park meant that we slowly got to know the animals. They are less dense up there, so that when we saw our first zebra or elephant, we got some nice one on one time with them before seeing herds as we drove south. I might have cried a little the first time we saw an elephant. The plants were spectacular too!
Once you leave your fenced rest camp, you cannot get out of your car, but luckily Punda Maria has a nice little hike and all of the camps have great birds and smaller animals safely within the fence. Our first day was about 91F and the sun seemed to really fuel the fancy flights of the Lilac Rollers. I once got a card from my sister who was away at college with a Lilac Roller on it. I never thought I'd actually see a real one. We watched a family of baboons grooming and running about, our first Hamerkop at a water hole, and Warthogs eating while kneeling down on their elbows…or are they called front-knees (??), Burchell’s Zebras, Impalas, Nylas, and many others. We did a night drive and got glimpses of a Spotted Eagle, Fiery-necked nightjar, African elephants, Springhares, Small-spotted Genets, Spotted eagle owls, Water buffalo, Common Duiker, and a Leopard. I got a really blurry photo of the Leopard's bum...if anyone wants to see it.
The road to warthog land on the left and the road to Mozambique on the right and the feather of a Crested Guinea Fowl
We stayed in what was called a “safari tent,” but it had a nice bathroom and a kitchen on our braii (deck/porch). We cooked our meals and ate while watching the valley down below.
Coffee and yogurt with rasperries and Cape gooseberries ( Physalis peruviana)
Tiny Chacma baboon female and a momma with a little one holding on for a run
Pride of De Kaap (Bauhinia galpanii)
Chacma baboons in the shade
Tasty biltong (toothpick included) and the best way to watch animals without being eaten by a lion
The first African elephant we saw at dusk before we had to get back to camp. It looked like a shadow and then it moved and had wrinkles. It was giant and seemed a little shy, so we gave it some space. Turns out, it was much cooler than seeing one at a zoo or experiencing the terror of riding one with my siblings (and dad) at age 3.
Mid-day listing and zebras eating grass
Some Vervet monkeys raided our lunch bag and scored some fruit. I was impressed with their satsuma eating style!
Southern yellow-billed hornbill
On our drive south toward Shingwedzi, we saw our first giraffes eating leaves from Acacia trees (formerly known as Acacia trees) with their wildly precise lips...just like we had learned it. It was a nicely cloudy day and we were just in total awe.
Babalala picnic area was a nice little spot to walk around and watch elephants and have some tea (they provide the hot water).
Female impala in some sort of male-guided formation
Pin-tailed wydah in the middle of an elaborate display
Sad to see this as roadkill - Double-barred sand grouse