Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kruger By the Numbers

Eight days and nights spent in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, (or “the Kruger” as South Africans seem to call it).  Kruger is the country’s largest park, covering amazingly varied terrain and climates and including a vast array of different animals.  In just one day, seeing elephants, giraffes, zebras, impalas, and other animals became second nature.

Six hundred forty eight kilometers at an average speed of twenty five km/hr: In Kruger, visitors can drive themselves on safari, just as long as they don’t get out of the car (due to the danger of wild animals). We spent most of the trip driving ourselves from one animal sighting to another, with binoculars and camera always at the ready.

Three rest camps: South Africa has an amazingly-organized system of overnight rest camps, ranging from bare bones camp sites to more elaborate camps like small towns.  The last camp we stayed in has capacity for one thousand people each night.  At the Satara rest camp, situated on vast plains favored by lions and their prey, we could hear lions roaring at night.  The view from our rondavel (bungalow) at our favorite (and smaller) camp, Olifants, is below:

Olifants is situated on a large river, where you can hear hippos grunting throughout the night.

Eight picnic stops at what are apparently the world’s most dangerous picnic sites.

One three-night wilderness trail:  Stay tuned for our next post, detailing our adventures hiking in the South African bush and living in a safari tent without electricity for three days.

Eight 5:30 am wake up calls: Animals wake up early and sleep in the middle of the day, so it’s best to rise and shine at dawn to get the best sightings.  We were thankful every morning that we brought along our French press all the way to Africa (kudos to Cherryl Kachenmeister for bringing hers on several girl scout camp outs and giving Stephanie the idea).

Eight 5:30 pm gate closings: If you’re not back by then, tough luck – you get to sleep outdoors with the hyenas and pay a fine.

Eight 9 pm (or earlier) bedtimes:  Waking up at 5:30 every day is exhausting!

Two bags of charcoal for nightly braais outdoors.

Two dozen beers, seven hundred mL of Scotch and three bottles of wine consumed as “sundowners” and to go with our braais.

One thousand eleven photos taken by Giorgio: Just think how many there would have been if he were 100% Japanese!

Two professional game drives:  We took a few breaks from our DIY safari to go on professional game drives run by the park.

Ten minutes wasted on a professional game drive to see a lilac-breasted roller at the request of another tourist – seriously, who cares that much about birds?

Four of five of the “Big Five” sighted:  Hopefully we’ll see leopards soon!

Approximately thirty elephants crossing the road within feet of our SUV.

One monkey attempting to steal a bottle of wine from our kitchen, one monkey attempting to steal our daypacks and two monkeys outsmarting Giorgio to steal his sugar.

Fifty+ “Zazu Birds” (hornbills) and twenty+ “Pumbaas” (warthogs).

One relatively minor wildebeest stampede.

Three hyenas found in an “elephant graveyard” (or by the side of the road).

Still not seen - a meerkat, followed by a warthog, followed by a lion, crossing a log, swaying their heads, singing Hakuna Matata.  Disney: Stop lying to us!

One very rare Nyala (which is, as far as we can tell, the animal from Princess Mononoke) and one herd of the endangered sable antelope.

Two realistic possibilities of being trampled by an angry hippo (the animal that causes the most fatalities in Africa other than the mosquito) plus dozens of hungry hungry hippos.

Ten crocodiles that did absolutely nothing other than lay in the sand.

One hundred+ “Lion Sightings” that were really rocks.

One hundred+ “Rock Sightings” that were really hippos.

Five actual lion sightings.

Zero leopard sightings.

Forty+ sightings of endangered white rhinos, including two instances of almost being trampled by one crush of rhinos (see our post regarding the Wilderness Trail for details).

PSA: Rhinos are highly endangered due to poaching in the national parks.  Poaching is at record levels, with three hundred seventy poached from Kruger so far this year (that’s more than two per day).

Innumerable Sightings of Amazing Animals.


1 comment:

  1. Wow. Such great pictures and what a great adventure. I am so envious! Quick question are you Simba/Nala or Timon and Pumbaa? Did you sing Hakuna Makata while you too Pumbaa's picture? Where was Timon?
    Traduccion en castellano:
    "Wow." Que buenas fotos y que gran aventura! Tengo tanta envidia! Pregunta son uds Simba/Nala o Timon y Pumbaa? Cantaron "Hakuna Makata cuando vieron a Pumbaa y le tomaron foto? Donde estaba Timon?