For four days of our South African adventure we were lucky enough to stay in Kruger Park, the enormous game reserve about a six hour drive north of Johannesburg. It contains multitudes and definitely cannot be covered in a single blog post. (Well, or in a blog in general. I recommend that if you really want to know about it, you go there!)
A statistic shared by my cousin’s husband Peet: if you drive on every single road in the Kruger (and it’s enormous, larger than Israel), and could see simultaneously 30 meters in every direction… you’d still only see 5% of the park.
A good way to start is by meeting the impala:
The game rangers love to say the impala are like McDonalds- they’re everywhere, and they have a big M on them (on their rumps!) We saw probably hundreds of them during our trip to the park. They truly become ubiquitous. Like let’s talk about how wild it is to spend enough time in a place that you’re like “*yawn*, another antelope”.
But let’s start with the trip there. We drove a long ways, first through the Joburg suburbs (I saw a community with solar panels on the roof and Mike said it had been constructed as an athlete’s village for the Africa Games and then became affordable housing- actually v successful which apparently is not a guarantee with that kind of project. They added that the World Cup had been great for Joburg). Then we went through countryside and saw cows grazing.
We stopped for petrol and it was wild- the gas station had a breeding program so back behind it there was a water hole surrounded by rhinos, zebras, buffalo, and more! We got interesting snacks and then kept driving. The terrain changed and it got very hilly and lusher and greener and gorgeous, and we drove past lots of citrus farms (we stopped at a farm store and got a mix of fresh and dried fruit). Then rather abruptly we exited the highway and began driving over a bridge and… there were elephants! Right there in the water! We weren’t even in the park yet!
We went through the gate and Kruger majorly showed off for us.
We also saw a warthog that had just been swimming, lots of impala, some monkeys, elephants (what looked like a mom, a baby, and maybe a teenaged niece and nephew), a family of zebra with a baby who was stretched out on the ground napping. And more!
We made a joke that it was National Giraffe Day because Mike and Linda said that in the past they’d see maybe 1 or 2 in a weekend, yet we saw a few dozen in just an hour or so. Some were so close to the road (eating leaves from trees next to it) that we could see their eyelashes.
Most of the giraffes had a couple of birds balanced on their back who kept gaping their beaks open in a very amusing way.
We made our way to camp and discovered that a short walk from our cabin we had a beautiful overlook down into the valley. That valley had an adorable family of elephants, which included a sweet little baby as well as some teenagers.
(Malindi and Linda)
(Oh hai elephants!)
The place we stayed was called Biyamiti Bush Camp. It was a small area that really was not dissimilar to camping in the US. No frills, nowhere to shop (you have to drive elsewhere in the park to do that), just little rooms with cots to sleep on (no air conditioning!) and a wee kitchenette with a fridge. There was no living room- you just soaked up the outdoor space!
As you can see, we had a really nice porch and yard type area.
There was lots to amuse us just around our camp. In our own little backyard, cute little hens pecked about and beautiful more exotic birdies (like electric blue starlings and crested barbet) (I just paused journaling to go out and ask Mike the name of that bird. He is a treasure trove of information). We kept going down to the overlook down the little path and seeing everything imaginable- impala, water buck, elephants, zebras, warthogs. Sometimes we heard the elephants trumpeting at night too!
Meanwhile there are four adult brown bats (two with babies tucked under their wings) roosting adorably, upside down, under the porch roof. From time to time the babies squirm around and annoy their moms and we see everyone stick out long pink tongues.
And thennnn on our last day we were hanging out with the cute little birdies who liked to hang out with us in the yard begging for snacks and eagle eye Malindi spotted a little green snake in a tree! We were all “Hi little snek!” And it was peeping its head out at us adorably (see if you can find it in the last pic). And then we discussed it with our family and they were all “… that’s a boomslang. It is highly dangerous and full of neurotoxin.”
A big about eats and evening activities:
Apparently avocados grow very happily in South Africa so they are abundant and cheap. I don’t know if ever in my life I’ve really had All The Avocados I Wanted and am thrilled to say that I had that opportunity in South Africa.
They had the Hass kind like we have here but I saw these guys pictured above more… larger, greener (even when ripe), and thinner skinned.
Gas station snacks are better too:
Breakfast would typically involve gorgey fruit (that’s papaya glistening on the lower right… mm, so good!)
And this stuff… I don’t know exactly what the fat content is of “double cream” (!) yogurt but I deeply approve of it.
For the keto/carb averse, you actually have some solid options in South Africa because the low carb thing was big-ish there and still somewhat is.
I eat carbs like it’s my job but I still enjoyed this muesli a lot:
As for dinners, after finishing our drives ogling at the animals each day, we’d grill around the fire (charcoal is cheating… you buy wood and cook it down to the coals!) and watch bats and owls swoop around and chat about family and so on.
One thing we talked about was the difficult work of the game rangers who look after Kruger. They don’t get paid much and in recent years have basically served as military, dealing with poachers who are actively trying to kill them as well as the ivory-tusked animals. They don’t get paid well despite having a demanding job with difficult hours (most game drives are dawn and dusk).
It’s a bit tricky for me, hearing these animals referred to as game, as in the US I’m used to thinking game= things that’s shot for sport.
Another thing we learned is that the Kruger connects to another park in Mozambique but that area is poorer and also still has villages of people living in it, so it’s somewhat easier for the poachers on that side of things. Again, it leads to extraordinary demands placed on the rangers.
We’d talk about such matters while gnawing away on the most wonderful stuff.
Tasty grilled meats, more avocado <3, fresh pineapple and papaya (mm), more veggies.
More Kruger to come!