We spent a total of 8 nights / 9 days camping in Kruger National Park and enjoyed four different camps along the way: Lower Sabie, Satara, Letaba and Crocodile Bridge. As we worked our way north the visitor density dropped considerably, with Letaba the least occupied and coincidently our favourite camp. When not cocooned into our nest for the night safe from all of the wild critters, evenings were spent braaing and watching for hyenas patrolling the camp boundaries.
Driving into Satara to meet Susan, Eckhardt and their Buffalo (1997 Nissan double cab bakkie) we came across a zebra kill with a lioness nearby and dozens of vultures perched above. Our first cat sighting and more to come! The next morning we had the pleasure of watching four cheetahs lounging in the grass. Had these been leopards they would have rounded out the Big 5. No AC in the Yster Ratel
(Afrikaans name given to the Land Rover) and the sizzling heat is starting to get to us. Further along the same gravel road were three lions basking in the midday sun – what a sight! We arrived to Letaba 60 kms south of the Tropic of Capricorn, with no more than 15 minutes to spare before the gate closed for the night. A week earlier, after committing to too aggressive a route length for the time remaining before gate closing, we were introduced to the strictness of gate closing times and fines that can be levied when breached….
15mm of rain during our first night at Letaba made the Super All Grips work for their name on the slimy clay roads. After quickly pulling off to the side of the road for a baboon watching session, we found ourselves sliding uncontrollably on the slick clay down into the banks of the Letaba River. Not having had the chance to really test the 4×4, we desperately hoped the transfer case was in good nick on this old girl. After a bit of sweat, some mud flying and the baboons now watching our escapades, we were back on the road without having become a newspaper headline.
The summer South African sun was no doubt intense in Kruger and the first solid shot to our Canadian cold weather acclimatized bodies. It’s a well-known fact that Michel overheats at any temperature above 20 oC but even Tamaira (always cold Tamaira) was knocked down by the humid 30-40 oC weather. Our 12V cooler box couldn’t keep up, ice was melting faster than we could buy it and we truly needed Michel Houle here to hook us up to a H2O IV rather than crushing cases of bottled water just to maintain supply to the sprinklers our pores had become.
After a frustrating and unsuccessful attempt to cross into Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park at the Giriyondo border crossing we were forced to drive 6 hours south back down to the bottom of Kruger to access the Ressano Garcia / Lebombo border post we were advised against using. On our drive back down, the Yster Ratel blended right into a herd of 140+ elephants. With enough distance the herd was at ease with the strangers present. As the adults grazed the calves were wrestling with one another. What a humbling experience to be amidst such massive beasts.
At every camp and rest stop the Yster Ratel has become quite the conversation piece. Everyone questions the series, year, place of manufacture, fuel consumption, place of purchase, where we’re heading, for how long, via which route, what the rims on the roof rack are for, what engine is under the bonnet, where we’re from etc. Most parking lot visits end with an exchange of contact information, offer for any assistance that may be needed along the way and request to be kept in the loop on the African adventure ahead. It’s been rare to meet a fellow Land Rover (excluding new model Range Rovers and Freelanders) on the road without a light flash, hooter honk, friendly salute or combination thereof. We’ve been fully welcomed into the African overlanding and Land Rover communities.
Our time in Kruger expired all too quickly. Like most tourist attractions, Kruger had a controlled and structured feel but we nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed the amazing wildlife.
Next up: Mozambique.
Cheers, Tamaira & Michel