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Kruger National Park

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The Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest and best known wildlife sanctuary. It covers 20,000 square kilometers (7,722 square miles) and well over a million people pas through its eight gates each year. The various camps in the park are linked by a 2,600 km (1,615 mile) network of roads, the main ones fully tarred, that lead to waterholes, viewing sites, picnic spots and to the wonders of the park’s wildlife.

The reserve which was to become the Kruger National Park was "born" in 1898 when President Paul  Kruger signed a proclamation for the founding of a government game park between the Crocodile and the Sabie Rivers in the Eastern Transvaal. Malaria mosquitoes and tsetse fly prevented the settlement of humans in the area. Fever and bilharzia  debilitated the  few African peoples that tried to inhabit the area and the tsetse fly killed their livestock. Major James Stevenson-Hamilton, was the first warden appointed for the park after the Anglo Boer War. Skukuza, the main camp in the park is named after the name ( siKhukuza - he who scrapes clean) that was given to this remarkable man by the Africans. The meaning of the word is said to have derived from Stevenson-Hamilton's reputation for "cleaning out" all illegal residents, poachers, hunters. blackbirders (illegal labour recruiters) and the like from the game reserve.

Roads had to be made and water supplied to be able to open the park for visitors. The park was to be a sanctuary for all living things except man (who would alone be controlled). At first no accommodation was provided for visitors and the had to make their own camps in thorn-bush enclosures.

Today a sensitive balance has to be maintained to assure that the park remains a sanctuary for the  animals and at the same time allows more than  a million people per year to view and enjoy them in their natural habitat. A visit to this park is an extraordinary experience and (according to Bulpin) "it is possible for the tourist to see the wonderful changes in vegetation from season to season; the migratory birds that come and go; the periods of love and courtship between animals, with innumerable duets and duels in the sun. During the early spring an d summer when the birds are nesting, baby elephants stumble around on rubbery legs; zebra foals are so dainty as to be unreal; little giraffes stretch their necks even further to take a snack; impala awns gambol about their graceful parents"

With far more humans visiting the park in the course of a year than there are wild animals it is difficult to assess the park as to its original intent, that it be a sanctuary for the wild, where animals. insects. birds, reptiles and plant-life would be left undisturbed to pursue their own destiny in complete contrast to the onslaught of man and developments on nature outside the park.

Today the park is intensely managed with controls on most things including vegetation. This "development" can be seen in the small towns bordering the game park which Bulpin describes as: "amenities such as drive-ins, supermarkets and assorted hideosites (that) lurk menacingly on the drawing boards for thus piece of wilderness. Very sharp watch has to be kept on the "lunatechs" and "idiotechs" (lunatic and idiotic technicians)  - the organisational men, chartered accountants and graduate masters of business administration - lest they  destroy with glib persuasion the the entire concept of a national park, carve it into a money-making area and fulfill Stevenson-Hamilton's most pessimistic vision. Perhaps one or two elderly lions would be left, chained to stakes near the roads, trained to snarl at tourists occasionally in exchange for being pelted with an empty beer can"

Kruger Park Founders: Pres Paul Kruger,  Major James Stevenson-Hamilton and

Left: A plaque at Skukuza in honour of the Founders of Kruger Park

Right: Numbi Gate

Numbi Gate, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Breakfast at the Pretoriuskop camp in Kruger Park

Left: Breakfast at Pretoriuskop camp

Right: Sculpture of impala  -  at Skukuza

Bronze sculpture of impala at Skukuza

Zebra mother and calf look-alike -see their backsides...

Many animals were too far off for good pictures but this giraffe and elephant gave a good show of how they enjoy their meals! we also saw almost too many impala and Zebra

Elephant having a thorn tree for supper

 

Giraffe reaching the juicy young leaves at the top Ever present graceful impala bull

 

Sunrise over the Sabie river

Left, right and below...

A beautiful sunrise at theSabie River on the border of Kruger Park

The view in the other direction shortlhy after sunrise

"Backpackers Palace"

Well we did experience five star treatment at some of the places where we stayed as well as "cultural" experiences at others so I cannot NOT tell you about our tourist experience at the Kruger Park Backpackers in Hazyview!  (Rose re-named this venue "Backpacker's Palace"). This is also meant as specific advice to prospective travelers to compare these photos with those found for the "Backpacker's Palace" on the internet!

The overnight stay at Backpackers was for sure the least comfortable accommodation that we had during the trip! (to put it very mildly). I was completely bamboozled by the fancy description of " private en-suite ethnic style rondavels" promising a traditional "bush" experience with a barbeque, camp fire chats and the best potjiekos in the Lowveld!  What a scam!! We arrived to a dilapidated dorm-style rondavel that must once have resembled a mock-up ethnic hut with a bathroom door that would not close! Patsi had to beg for a towel for Rose and when it eventually arrived it was obviously already used!

The promised meal arrived after I had begged and threatened and ordered from a local restaurant (from where the food also failed to arrive!). We sat gloomily next to a fire in the boma waiting for a young man to finish the braai while Jo, who was running low on blood sugar, was offered eating  some plain cooked spaghetti as a "salad" LOL! Well at the time I can promise you that this was NOT funny! The meal eventually arrived - tough and almost cremated steaks of unknown origin! (defeating our requests for them to be cooked "medium to rare") with  a salad and some putu porridge for side dishes. What a disgrace for a South African Braai but this is what happens when a Rooinek tries to imitate South African hospitality!

To be fair I must say that the beds were okay! After the initial shock subsided we agreed that some of it was indeed fun and as Jo commented later on we were for sure going to "get a bit of mileage out of telling the story!" The pictures taken tells it all!  When editing the photos I had a good giggle at our four kaftan clad ladies without any smile in sight - not even one from Rose!! Well the next picture was as gloomy but true to her nature Rose then hesitantly graced the picture with  one of her smiles!! Have fun and see for yourself in the next few photos!! Sorry sistahs I know you may not like these pictures but I HAD to show the bad and the ugly as well!!

Arriving at Backpackers

Arriving at Backpackers unaware of the "delights" awaiting us!

A gloomy group in the boma

The Backpackers boma

Greatly disappointed "smile-less" sisters

Left: NO smiles!! Patsi called us the "Sad Sacks" LOL!

Right: Trust Rose to smile bravely!

 

Tough meat with Rose the only one who could manage a smile...

Inside the backpackers hut

Left: Our "ethnic"  rondavel!

Right: Wia and a backpacker guide and a Swedish tourist enjoying a beautiful Sabie river sunrise ( see below)

Wia with the Backpackers guy and a Swedish tourist enjoying Sabie sunrise

Sabie River panorama

After our "trials" during the first night at the Backpackers we moved to the River camp managed by the Backpackers people for the following night. Well this was far better but already also showing signs of neglect. At least the owners tried to make up for our bad experience of the previous night!  The all-time bonus for me was the beautiful sunrise at the river the next morning. What a pleasure to sit there watching the kingfishers hunt for breakfast and a fish eagle swooping down to catch its prey!
     

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