Updated: Jan 23
The second leg of our adventure began the day after Christmas. We left one paradise for another, albeit a little uncertain of the covid numbers climbing and anxious of restrictions that may limit our journey. Shortly after departing the farm on our road to Mac Mac (Kruger Surrounds), and while climbing a picturesque Golden Gate hill our car decided to shriek… very load… and cut out. We paused for a moment – convinced the gear box failed – and trying to figure out what our options were. Jay gets out the car to look (make sure there is nothing obvious) and we decided to start it again…it worked! With now added anxiety of a random car incident – unsure of the cause – we proceeded slowly and cautiously. We drove through some small South African towns, some beautiful and some utterly shocking. We were once again reminded of how fortunate our lives are. After 550km and 10 hours, exhausted, we arrived at Mac Mac Forest retreat. After a very emotional reunion with family, we started the fire overlooking the incredible forests and rolling mountains.
As mentioned in the previous blog I will cover the incredible border towns of the Kruger National Park in a separate blog. This served as a perfect pitstop and meeting point before entering the park. Highly recommended – with so much to see and do I always feel we never give it enough time.
Early the next morning, waking up at 5am with excitement, we started the journey to Orpen Gate. There are multiple entrance Gates into the Park (some with a rest camp and others with no camp) – we choose based on the time and route we wish to traverse through the park, in this instance wanting to get to Satara as soon as check out time passed to secure as good a campsite as we could as early as we could – knowing it would be 5 days. We have never stayed in Orpen – nor have we spent any time in the camp as Satara is our favourite. All main rest camps offer good shops to top up on general groceries and curios – wine when allowed. Petrol and as in available in most camps within camp shop opening hours (usually from 7am to an hour after gates close).
When you are new to Kruger, I suggest you start south of the park – unless you go up with people who know their way around. The south is more easily adaptable for beginners. Our first trip to Kruger we stayed in Hazyview and drove in every day. This may work for those less interested in the wildlife experience and prefer a variety of activities. We were frustrated that we only got in an hour after opening (usually the outside gates open an hour after the inside camp gates do – the best times of day in the park). Our first inside camp was Skukuza – the parks head office. We felt safest here as a first timer and Josh was under a year, (Skukuza has doctor) The southern camps are the busiest, with animals and people 😊
So having checked in to Satara, we found a fantastic campsite on the fence! We set up camp in 50deg heat, intense to say the least, followed with ice cream and cooldrinks in an airconditioned car on our afternoon drive (part of our daily survival kit). Our days were spent enjoying the bush and staying out of the heat. Usually in summer we have rains in the afternoon to cool things down. We did not have this luxury in Satara this year. It was wonderful stay but serious tough in the heat. You cannot survive without a strong fan. We had wonderful sightings, drives and picnics. The advantage of camping on the fence is the night sightings, this time we have relatively common hyena, but an elephant also came to visit. This was incredibly special – and our first at night– which had me a little nervous. They are excessively big and have a low rumble sound which can make you very nervous at night in close proximity. Animals are so much more intimidating from the ground!
We ended our stay in Satara with a sunset drive on old years eve. We were privileged to have a wonderful game ranger – Joseph – take us. He shared such interesting facts that after 10 years in the bush we still learning! It was our oldest son’s 21st birthday. A memory we will cherish. What a wonderful drive. We had quite a hair raising experience with a golden orb spider and web, driving through one that crossed the road…. Fortunately, our wonderful ranger stopped when it was still at the windscreen. The spider attached itself to the aerial and made its way towards a poor passenger in the front who proceeded to use whatever she had nearby to swat it away. Needless to say the rest of us were anxious it was still on the vehicle. Fortunately, we had an exquisite sighting of African wild dog and a family of hyena with babies. Summer is wonderful for sightings of pups and babies of all species, as with the migrant birds visiting for the summer.
As with the last blog, some of our photos and some video footage are attached 😊 The next instalment is of Shingwedzi and the northern camps. Our adventure took a stormy turn!