Picnic Spots in the Kruger

While driving around and looking for fauna and flora in one of the premier game viewing parks on the planet is exciting enough, sometimes stopping and stretching your legs can be fun too! Luckily the Kruger National Park has many wonderful picnic spots where one can get out, relax and even have something to eat or drink.

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There are 15 dedicated picnic spots in the park, ranging from the busy spots near the main camps to some wonderfully remote spots in the middle of the bush. Gas “skottels” (mobile frying pans on stands) can be hired at most picnic sites for a nominal fee. The picnic site attendant then washes these on departure, thus freeing visitors from transporting greasy pans. Some of the spots have small shops and all have ablution facilities.

Our guides and clients have over the years seen some incredible, jaw-dropping sightings in and around picnic spots. As our one guide always reminds us, “The animals don’t know it’s a picnic spot!” Every seasoned traveller to Kruger will have his or her amazing story to tell about a picnic spot and will have his or her favourite one. Here at Nature Travel Kruger we have these 3 favourites…

Tshokwane picnic site is ideally situated between the two most popular camps in the KNP, Skukuza and Satara, and offers a wide array of food, from delicious burgers and toasted sandwiches to healthy and interesting salads. It is a great place to relax under the trees before heading out into the park again – this is, after all, excellent Big 5 country! We love it because despite being destroyed after almost every flood that Kruger periodically experiences, Tshokwane just comes back bigger and better than before.

Nkuhlu picnic spot could very well be Kruger’s best-kept secret. Despite being on the main tourist road between Skukuza and Lower Sabie camps you come across this oasis almost by surprise, so keep your eyes wide open for the small sign that announces that you have arrived. The tranquil setting on the banks of the Sabie River is the perfect place to unwind and relax under the giant shade-giving Natal Mahogany trees. Our love for Nkuhlu started the day we saw a Cheetah chase an Impala straight through the picnic site grounds!

Pafuri picnic site is set in a birder’s paradise on the banks of the Luvuvhu River in the far north of the park a few kilometres from Crook’s Corner. The huge trees towering over the picnic spot provide ample shade in what is the hottest part of the park, especially in summer. We fondly remember our birding walks with the late Frank Mabasa, who was the picnic spot attendant and a fanatical and fantastic birder, and always keen to show interested guests a new species or two.

When you are on your next safari in Kruger, remember to stop at a picnic spot and get out. Stretch your legs, buy a soda, or braai (barbeque) something on a “skottel”. And most importantly, remember to keep your eyes peeled. You never know what interesting animals and birds may be around you…

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Go to www.naturetravelkruger.com for more information on all the fantastic Kruger National Park trips we offer.

 

 

 

Kruger Grand Safari

The Kruger National Park lies in the heart of the Lowveld in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province and is the country’s largest game reserve. It is undoubtedly one of the top 5 game reserves anywhere in the world.

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The park has nearly two million hectares of unfenced African wilderness, in which more mammal species roam free than in any other game reserve anywhere on earth. The Kruger has excellent infrastructure and offers visitors fantastic Big Five sightings and birdwatching of over 500 bird species. This world-renowned park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa.

With this 12 night guided safari we want to show you the best of the Kruger Park. Prime Big 5 sightings, general wildlife viewing, birding, fauna and flora and of course the fantastic African landscapes and vistas will be included, along with unforgettable memories, superb local cuisine and great South African hospitality.

We have chosen this Kruger Grand Safari itinerary with care, minimising travel time between camps and ensuring maximum time out in the African bush on your safari vehicle. All accommodation will be in comfortable chalets in main camps, and you will experience diverse habitat and exciting biodiversity during this superb safari.

In the south, you will see the classic African bushveld, with thorn trees and dense bush along the rivers. The central portion of the park will feature the expansive grassland savannah where the predators roam. In turn, the northern part of your trip will feature two camps with spectacular vantage points on two impressive rivers.


Get ready for the Kruger trip of a lifetime! Get in touch with us at info@naturetravelkruger.com to get more info or make a booking.

 

 

Northern Kruger Safari

The huge Kruger National Park is undoubtedly one of the best wildlife reserves in the world. The park welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors every year. All the famous Big Five game animals (Buffalo, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Lion and Leopard) are found in “Kruger”, as it is affectionately known, along with more species of other large mammals than any other African game reserve (almost 150 species). Over 520 species of birds have also been seen in the park, along with vast numbers of reptiles, insects and other interesting fauna and flora.

Probably the best-kept secret of the world-famous Kruger National Park is the vast northern section, from the Letaba river towards the far north at Pafuri and the Makuleke concession.
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Of all the regions of Kruger, the vegetation in the north is the least diversified and much of the region is blanketed in Mopane shrub. It is also, however, home to the strange and mythical Baobab tree. There are also several river corridors, the favourite habitat of many species of special mammals, like the exquisite Nyala. This is also the area of the park for rare antelopes, and Roan Antelope, Tsessebe and Sable Antelope are most easily spotted here. Herds of African Elephant and African Buffalo depend on the rivers for water, and predators such as Lion, Leopard and Spotted Hyaena concentrate where prey is abundant.

Further north there are some fascinating ecozones containing many very localised species of fauna and flora, and the Pafuri region is unlike any other in the park.

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The Pafuri area is regarded by some visitors as the most enchanting corner of the Kruger, and is undoubtedly the most important locality for birds in the park, especially for rare vagrants and birds from tropical Africa.

On this 6 night safari, we will spend two nights each in Mopani Camp (with its stunning setting on the Pioneer dam), Shingwedzi Camp ( a hotspot for rare birds) and Punda Maria Camp (with its charming old school feel). Each camp has been carefully chosen to provide you with the best chance of seeing all that Kruger has to offer, both in terms of fantastic animal sightings and beautiful classic African landscapes.

For more information on this fantastic safari to the North of Kruger, get in touch with us at info@naturetravelkruger.com or visit Nature Travel Kruger.

 

The Ugly 5

At a quiz night at the pub, most people will probably know the answer to “What are the Big 5 animals of Africa?” However, the question “What are the Ugly 5 animals of Africa?” might not be so easy to get right!

The Ugly 5 club contains the underdogs, the ones only a mother could love, the ones that stood last in the line when good looks were handed out. However, they all have very important roles to play in the greater ecosystems they find themselves in.

The Common Warthog even has a name that sounds ugly, and a predilection for mud baths certainly doesn’t help this coarse-haired African pig. A long visit to the local spa is certainly called for!

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The different species of vultures make the list under one ugly, squabbling umbrella. For their hairless faces and dirty, scavenging habits they easily get entrance to the Ugly 5 club. However, it is precisely their love for cleaning carcasses that play a vital role in the balance of the ecosystem.

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Next up, the Common Wildebeest looks as if it’s made from spare parts of other animals that don’t really fit proportionally, and furthermore, it also appears to be intellectually challenged… On top of that, almost every wildlife documentary portrays them as nothing more than lunch for predators!

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With an unfortunate reputation as a backstabbing opportunist, compounded by a body type that makes it look as if it’s permanently skulking, the Spotted Hyaena certainly deserves a spot on the list. To be fair, there are few cuter animals than a baby hyaena!

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Last, but certainly not least, is the Marabou Stork. Also known as the “undertaker” of the animal world, he should probably be mentioned first on this list! They too play a critical role in the wild, even if they just seem to be standing around waiting for something to die.

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Although the members of this club might be ugly, they all have a certain, um, charm… For a chance to see them and many other far more beautiful creatures, join us on a classic African safari in the Kruger National Park.

For more information, get in touch with us at info@naturetravelkruger.com.

Camp Berg en Dal

Berg en Dal, meaning ‘mountain and dale’, is aptly named for its superb location on the bank of the Matjulu spruit in the far south of the Kruger National Park.
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The scenery in the area is characterised by beautiful rocky outcrops and small hills, so it’s a hotspot for Leopard! It also makes for some fantastic photographic opportunities.
It is one of the new generation of camps and was opened in 1984. Great care has been taken to preserve the natural vegetation in the camp area, which comprises Malelane mountain bushveld (woodland), attracting a variety of grazers.

The area hosts high numbers of White Rhinoceros, Greater Kudu, Impala, Giraffe, some African Elephant, Southern Reedbuck, Klipspringer, Grey Rhebok and Common Warthog. Large packs of African Wild Dog are also regularly seen in the region.

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Berg en Dal camp itself is especially suited to extra exploration. There is a very popular Rhino Perimeter Trail walk that skirts the camp fence all the way around. Not only is it a beautiful, relaxing and informative exercise, but you might also get to see something interesting! Recently on this walk there have been sightings of the rare White-backed Night Heron, the ferocious Honey Badger and the sought-after Thick-billed Cuckoo, to name just a few.

The camp has a beautiful swimming pool to cool off in, as well as good restaurant facilities and a nightly video show with some interesting local nature programmes. The main restaurant area overlooks a beautiful water feature that is the perfect setting for just sitting down and relaxing with an ice cream and a pair of binoculars. Berg en Dal is a great spot if you own a caravan or prefer to camp, and has all the usual facilities. It has two guesthouses, a selection of bungalows and a number of six-bed family cottages.

The Marula Tree

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If you have ever been on safari in Southern Africa, the chances are good that you have had a sundowner drink called Amarula. What you may not know, is that this drink is made from the fruit of the Marula Sclerocarya birrea.

This beautiful medium-sized tree is common in the Kruger National Park and other miombo woodlands of southern Africa, some parts of western Africa and the island of Madagascar. It is a deciduous tree growing up to 18 metres tall. It produces flowers from September to November and bear fruit from January to March.

The generic name “Sclerocarya” is derived from the Ancient Greek words ‘skleros’ meaning ‘hard’ and ‘karyon’ meaning ‘nut’. This refers to the hard pit of the fruit. The “birrea” comes from the common name ‘birr’, for this type of tree in Senegal. The Marula belongs to the same family as the mango, cashew, pistachio and sumac.
Other common names for the Marula include jelly plum, cat thorn and cider tree. The Marula tree is protected in South Africa.

It has many uses for humans and is of great socioeconomic importance. The fruit has been eaten as food since ancient times, the fruit juice and pulp are made into a traditional alcoholic beverage, the fruit can be burnt and made into a type of “coffee” and Marula oil is used as a skin moisturiser and cosmetic ingredient. The fruit is, of course, also used to make the famous cream liqueur Amarula, a South African icon product the world over. The Marula also has various medicinal uses, including heartburn relief (leaves), antihistaminic properties (bark) and diarrhea relief (bark and branches).

The Marula, apart from providing shade for animals, also provides food for them. Various animals eat the fruit, including African Elephants, Giraffes, Greater Kudus, Common Warthogs and Chacma Baboons. African Elephants also eat the bark and branches of the tree and distribute the Marula seeds in their dung. The tree is also a favourite siesta spot for the Leopard.

The Marula has also featured in the writings and movies of Herman Charles Bosman, Jamie Uys and many others. There is also a firm belief among the Venda people of South African that the Marula has the power to determine the gender of an unborn child!
An interesting tree indeed!

To find out more about our Kruger Park safaris or to book a day trip in the Kruger, get in touch with us at info@naturetravelkruger.com

Pennant-winged Nightjars in Southern Kruger

Yes, you read that correctly.  We have Pennant-winged Nightjars in Southern Kruger, to be more precise, very close to Numbi gate on the Nkambeni Concession.
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Most birders will be familiar with this iconic, awe-inspiring bird, the Pennant-winged Nightjar, Macrodipteryx vexillarius. The bird is an intra-African breeding migrant that moves down to South Africa from Central and West Africa. Birdwatchers take the annual trip up to Punda Maria rest camp in Kruger in November as this is possibly the best place in South Africa to see the bird.

Imagine the excitement when I woke to hear the news that a male had been seen displaying with full pennants very close to Numbi gate on the Nkambeni Concession, some 2km west of Albasini road(S3). The bird was spotted by Alision Drake from Nkambeni Safari Camp while on a sunset drive. I have had a look into previous records and there are records of the birds been seen around Pretoriuskop Camp and around Shabeni granite Rock. I had to make a plan to see this bird as it’s been a bird that is always such a treat to see and view.

We managed to get a drive to go out on Friday the 17th of November 2018 to see this amazing bird. I felt like a kid in a candy shop due to the excitement. Good distractions on the drive included: Bushveld Pipit, Violet-backed Starling, Cardinal Woodpecker and a female Leopard slinking through the grass with the sun setting behind her. The stuff dreams are made of in my opinion!!

We positioned ourselves on the rock where the male was seen displaying, and after a nervous wait of about 20 minutes, the call came out, “Here it is! Look!” Boy oh boy we were treated to a spectacle with the bird flying overhead, landing on the rock just in front of us and displaying on the rock. This sighting ranks as one of my top bird sighting I have had in my career. To have this elegant, awe-inspiring bird flying overhead and in front of you with its full, long pennants on show is an amazing, mind-blowing experience that will live with me for a long time. I was so blown away by the sheer size of the bird and how amazing it is I eventually stopped taking photos of the bird and just enjoyed having the bird displaying for us. We had 2 different males displaying for females.

It’s amazing to know that these birds seem to be breeding and are comfortable in Southern Kruger as the habitat in the area is suitable, and just shows how important the Kruger National Park is at protecting habitats for our Birdlife and Wildlife. I am hoping that these birds hang around and that a trip to see these birds might become regular for us in November in Southern Kruger. (Marc Cronje – Nature Travel Guide)

Finding the most powerful eagle in Africa

Any birder who comes to Africa will know of the Crowned Eagle, Stephanoaetus coronatus.Birding in Kruger Park with Nature Travel BirdingThis mighty bird mainly occurs in our forests in Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia to South Africa. It is often seen soaring high above the canopy calling its characteristic kewick-kewick-kewick call.

With its powerful talons, the Crowned Eagle preys on small antelope and monkeys. Pairs have been documented hunting monkeys cooperatively.

Imagine my excitement when I spotted a juvenile Crowned Eagle along the Sabie River on a recent birding trip in the Kruger National Park with some guests. This was my first sighting in Kruger and the first sighting of the species for our guests on a Nature Travel Birding trip. My heart was pumping and it was amazing to see this normally shy species out in the open for us to admire. We all managed to get cracking views and photos of this amazing bird. It was even more special for one of my guests as he had always wanted to see a Crowned Eagle in the wild. What an exciting and rewarding sighting.

Birding in Kruger Park with Nature Travel Birding
Crowned Eagles are rare in Kruger National Park but are common in the forest plantations just outside the southern part of Kruger.  It is believed that birds looking for territory do wander into Kruger National Park on occasion. Why the birds don’t become resident in the Southern part of the park is a mystery as the habitat along the rivers is perfect and prey availability is high. One theory is the competition and pressure from the other large eagles in Kruger, like Martial, Tawny and Fish Eagles.

The species is near-threatened and it is great to see juveniles looking for territories and setting up territories to breed.

Every birder should experience the joy one gets when looking up into the African sky and seeing a raptor soaring above you. It is a mesmerising site which will stay with you for a long time.

Come and experience the Kruger National Park with us – an amazing adventure awaits! For more info about birding trips or safaris to the Kruger National Park, get in touch with us at info@naturetravelkruger.com

Written by Nature Travel Guide: Marc Cronje

Duke – A true legend of our time

The story of Duke with Nature Travel Kruger
Duke was one of a kind. He had an incredible set of tusks that was as big as some of the biggest “tuskers” that roamed the African savannahs. And on top of that he was very relaxed and approachable which is not common as most of the Elephant Bulls with big tusks keeping a low profile and in areas away from tourists and people in general.

He roamed a very big area in the southern part of the massive Kruger National Park in eastern South Africa and was often seen in the area north of Lower Sabie. Most of the other big tuskers of Kruger Park were found in the more popular, in Elephant terms, northern part of the park with Mopane Woodland the dominant vegetation type.The story of Duke with Nature Travel Kruger

He died of natural causes a couple of years ago and it is great that an Elephant with such incredible tusks survived until old age in an area where Elephant poaching is constant threat. It was a true privilege to have seen him on two separate safaris to this great park. We can only hope that his genes were passed on that there will be many great tuskers to come.
The story of Duke with Nature Travel Kruger
These type of intimate connections we make with nature is part of the experience when you join Nature Travel Kruger on safari. For more info get in touch with us at info@naturetravelkruger.com

The Magical place they call The Kruger National Park

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How to summarize a safari in the Kruger park? It’s nature at its best, a birders paradise with the most beautiful landscapes and breathtaking sunsets. And if you want to take superb photographs, this is the place to do so. Then we’re not even mentioning the fantastic wildlife sightings.

There is nothing that can compare to the smell of nature while quietly admiring the Big 5 in their natural habitat. And tonight when the sun sets and the evening noises fill the air you won’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

If you get the chance, visit the Kruger and if you get the chance to go again, don’t let it pass by because you might just be surprised and experience something new this time round.