Northern Kruger

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At a glance: Northern Kruger Safari
Everything that can be said about the Kruger National Park has probably already been said, but suffice to say that it is undoubtedly one of the greatest game parks on the planet.It covers a vast area of 19485 square kilometres (7523 sq mi) and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west. It is the tenth largest game reserve on earth. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of South Africa in 1898, and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.

The park welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors every year yet never feels crowded. All the famous Big Five game animals (Buffalo, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Lion and Leopard) are found in Kruger National Park, which has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve (at 147 species). These special species are seen with relative ease in “Kruger”, as the park is affectionately known. Over 520 species of birds have also been seen in the park, along with vast numbers of reptiles, insects and other fauna and flora.

This safari will cover most areas of the Northern section of Kruger. A low-lying, sun-baked plain ranging in elevation from 300 to 450 metres above sea level, the semi-arid northern region extends north of the Letaba river. 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 also river corridors, the favourite habitat of many species of special mammals and birds. Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Impala and Greater Kudu are common, but the riverine vegetation is also the haunt of 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. A number of rich plant communities coincide with significant areas of sand formed by river flood plains, the Mozambique coastal plain and sandstone formations, and the Luvuvhu river creates a corridor of riverine forest that harbours many forest-dwelling species, something not encountered anywhere else in Kruger. 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

ITINERARY – 6 NIGHT NORTHERN KRUGER NATIONAL PARK SAFARI
Next Departure date: To be confirmed

Day 1 & 2:The Kruger National Park, Mopani Camp
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Your Nature Travel guide will meet you at Kruger / Mpumalanga International Airport near White River, a small town on the southwestern corner of the park, and then head straight to Mopani Camp for the start of your northern Kruger adventure. Depending on your arrival time at the airport, the road transfer will either be done inside the park or on the outside, entering at Phalaborwa gate, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Mopani.

Completed in 1992, Mopani is the newest of all the rest camp accommodation and lodging in Kruger park. The camp commands a truly spectacular view over the sprawling Pioneer Dam. Inside Mopani indigenous vegetation has been left largely untouched, while newly planted trees have been laid out along the camp’s tarred roads. A signature feature is the huge gnarled old Baobab tree in the heart of the camp. Mopani takes its name from the mopane trees that are so prevalent on the surrounding plains. In autumn the butterfly-shaped leaves change to striking hues before falling off in September and October. All the buildings in Mopani are built from natural materials such as rough stone, wood and thatching-grass, which blends them in beautifully with the environment.

We will spend two nights in Mopani, going on morning and afternoon game drives. We will look for all sorts of interesting animals, birds, plants and anything else that catches our eyes! We might venture north towards the Tropic of Capricorn lookout point, or eastwards towards the Grootvlei dam and the Nyawutsi hide. The Mooiplaas picnic site is nearby, and so is the Shipandani hide and the Pioneer hide overlooking the spectacular dam of the same name. The area is rich in Waterbuck, Tsessebe, African Elephant, African Buffalo and various other antelope.

As always in Kruger, it is important to explore the rest camp itself for some fascinating fauna and flora. Mopani is especially suited to extra exploration. On one of the days we might try the in-camp trail walk that goes around the rest camp. Not only is it a beautiful, relaxing and informative exercise, we might get to see something interesting!
The camp also has a beautiful swimming pool to cool off in, as well as good restaurant facilities and a wooden lookout deck from where we can search for animals and birds on the Pioneer dam. The dam is particularly good for birders, and a quick scan might reveal Goliath and Purple Heron, Water Thick-knee or even an African Skimmer!

Day 3 & 4:The Kruger National Park, Shingwedzi Camp
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Next we will move north to one of Kruger’s gems. Shingwedzi is a lovely, tranquil rest camp situated on the southern bank of the Shingwedzi river. It is a rustic camp that still carries the essence of the bush and is mostly untouched by modern technology. Experience magical evenings where the accommodation is arranged in two separate circles and the glow emanating from braai (barbecue) stands cast a tranquil spell.
The Shingwedzi river flows only in the summer months, but winter is one of the best times to view wildlife when animals fight over the small diminishing pools which remain behind as the river recedes. The mature riparian vegetation growing on the alluvial soils provides a welcome (and beautiful) respite from the endless Mopane woodland stretching out in all directions.

We have two nights at Shingwedzi, spending time in the mornings and afternoons out in the field looking for mammals, birds and anything else that attracts our interest. We will definitely go south and visit the Kanniedood dam and its associated hide, a great place to spot Nile Crocodile, Hippopotamus, Bushbuck and even Leopard. The area is well known as the haunt of big tusker African Elephant bulls, and we’ll be on the lookout for some impressive specimens. The area around Shingwedzi is also known as a year-round hotspot for birdwatching, and over the years some out-of-range species have turned up here – so keep your eyes peeled!

Our daily routes will depend on what we have seen so far and what the general weather and other wildlife conditions are like. Your expert guide will make the decision as to where to point the nose of the safari vehicle to ensure your maximum enjoyment!
When we are not out on safari in the park it is important to look around for interesting creatures even inside the camp fence. The camp grounds are well foliaged and there are some lofty trees along the river’s edge. The camp is a great place to spot Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Smith’s Bush Squirrel and even African Rock Python.

Day 5 & 6:The Kruger National Park, Punda Maria Camp
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Our next destination will be Punda Maria Camp, the northernmost main camp in Kruger. The camp was developed from what was originally game ranger quarters built on the Dimbo hill. The name of the rest camp was given in 1919 by the first ranger to be posted to the area, Captain JJ Coetser. He mistakenly named his post Punda Maria in the belief that this was the Swahili name for Plains Zebra, the first big game he saw on arrival. The correct Swahili name is actually ‘punda milia’ (meaning Striped Donkey). When the error was pointed out to him, he chose to retain the name, in honour of his wife, Maria.

The camp is situated in the Sandveld region that is often described as the botanical garden of the Kruger park. There are numerous plant species which occur that are unique to the area, along with many area-specific animals, birds and insects. Game species most likely to be sighted include Impala, Nyala, Plains Zebra, African Buffalo, African Elephant, Common Eland and Greater Kudu. However, this is also the best area in the park to see some species that occur nowhere else in the park; these include Sharpe’s Grysbok, Suni and Bushpig. It is also without a doubt the best place for birdwatching in the entire Kruger, with many rare species occurring only in this area.

We will enjoy our last two nights in Punda Maria camp, going on morning and afternoon game drives, and looking for interesting fauna and flora. We will venture north to the famous Pafuri picnic spot, with the impressive Luvhuvhu bridge closeby, and we will also drive through the Fever Tree forest to Crook’s Corner, a well-known spot where three countries (South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe) meet. This area is home to various spectacular bird species, and we might see Pel’s Fishing Owl, Tropical Boubou, Meves’s Starling, Lemon-breasted Canary or even Dickinson’s Kestrel. We will also do the 25 kilometre Mahonie Loop around Punda Maria camp, a favourite dirt road for many seasoned Kruger visitors, and recently a good road from which to spot African Wild Dog and Leopard.

Once again, be sure to keep an eye out inside the camp for all sorts of interesting fauna and flora species on the Flycatcher trail, like Brown-necked Parrot, Crested Guineafowl or even a Samango. The camp has what many visitors consider to be one of the best swimming pools in the entire park. We might take a dip in the heat of the day to cool down a bit!
After your 6 night northern Kruger extravaganza, your Nature Travel guide will transfer you back to the airport (or your chosen point of departure) for your onward journey. As we are very far north, a very early departure will be needed on the final day of the trip. Another option is to add another overnight stop, either further south in the park or somewhere just outside the park in the Limpopo province, to make the transfer back to Johannesburg easier.

Customize your safari:
Although the above is a finalised itinerary, we can customise this itinerary in order to create the perfect Kruger National Park safari for you.

You are more than welcome to change anything from the length of your stay, to the number of days in a specific camp, to the order of your stay at the various camps. You can also choose to take a road transfer from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg or fly straight into the new Skukuza Airport inside the Kruger National Park.

We can also add a luxury option for you at one of the lodges in the adjacent Sabi Sands Game Reserve on Kruger’s western border or inside the park itself if this is within your budget, or we can add an exciting activity like a bush walk, bush breakfast or a night drive to your stay.
Special interests:
We can also accommodate various special interest you might have on your safari. For instance, if you have a specific interest in photography, birdwatching, or maybe even want to focus on trees or insects, we can make this happen for you. We can even have our guide focus on specific species, like African Wild Dog, for the duration of your safari!

In terms of food, most of the safari will be self-catering, with your Nature Travel guide doing the cooking or coffee-making. We will provide breakfast and dinner (you will get to experience the classic South African barbeque!) and coffee and tea, and lunch will be for your own account in the various restaurants in the camps or at picnic spots.

We here at Nature Travel Kruger pride ourselves in individualising each safari according to your specific requests or needs. We are here to make your Kruger Park safari dreams come true!

To book this safari or customize your own, contact the Nature Travel Kruger team at info@naturetravelkruger.com