I am the biggest animal fan I know. The well-being of the animals – for me – usually goes over everything and therefore I have adopted two cute little tigers. We have always had animals. And when you grow up with animals, there is no other option but to have an animal or several animals yourself. Especially cats have always fascinated me a lot. Sometimes, when I am observing my cat, she moves no different than a panther, a lioness or a tiger. Of course, she does not have such big teeth, but she sure has deep inside her this wild, untameable thing which is still slumbering… which fascinates me so much. Especially when I am demanding something from her, which she currently does not feel like doing.
Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to see these animals in the wild. In their natural environment. Sure, a tiger and a panther can also be seen in the zoo, but there’s not much left of the animals they actually are. There you can only see sad, stunted figures who live their lonely existence in cages that are always far too small. Whether you should support a zoo or not, that should not be the question here.
When we figured out where to go for the first long journey outside of Europe, it was immediately clear to me that it had to be Africa. With my best friend, I set off on the journey and what we experienced during the first week (and afterwards) should become the fulfillment of my childhood’s dream. Even more: my expectations were far exceeded.
We flew to Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo) in October and rented a car at the airport. The first hurdle was the lack of navigation system, the second: driving on the other side. In Africa there is left-hand traffic. Armed with a map and strong nerves, we made our way towards Kruger Park. Johannesburg was a very dangerous place at that time (2013). It sure is still today, but it should have improved a bit already. So we wanted to leave the city as fast as possible. About partially quite broken roads with potholes as big as a car tire, the journey began.
We landed at about 10 in the morning and we thought that we would cover the distance of about 460 km much faster. Unfortunately that took us much longer, but you are only allowed to enter the park through the gates until 4 pm. On the track we have already noticed that we will not make it and so we called the camp to arrive later. We were allowed to enter the park shortly before 5 pm via an exemption permit and were got through the gate at Phalaborwa (kruger-park-map).
It was super exciting and immediately the road conditions have become much worse. Our mini-car has coped well with the big stones on the way, the hills and other impassables, but on some passages you could not even turn around. It was getting darker and darker and suddenly the first wild animal stood in front of us: A giraffe looking at us. It was so fascinating and impressive that I could forget my fear of not finding my way through the difficult terrain for a short time. A wild animal. Unconstrained and free. We are the invaders but are completely ignored.
After a felt eternity, we finally reached the accommodation. We stopped in front of the house by car and a gun-armed man came to meet us.
The Baluleni Safari Lodge is a private lodge in the Kruger Park and therefore not fenced. So you have absolutely no separation between yourself and the wild animals except the accommodation itself. We transported our luggage inside and were suddenly isolated from the whole wide world. I could not even tell home that I arrived safely because there was neither internet nor reception at all. We were instructed that we are able to go outside on the terrace, but we should pay attention to one thing: if we hear any noises, then there is something. The animals come through the river directly next to the lodge. Not only gazelles and similar non-dangerous animals pass through the river, crocodiles, elephants and lions are always in the area.
It was such an exciting feeling that can not be put into words. You sit on the balcony, you could have even slept in a bed outside and have absolutely no separation from the wild animals. You feel free, almost like a part of nature, and yet I was very queasy. After a bottle of wine it was already better and we slept great after the exhausting day. The lodge is absolutely beautiful and at that time so reasonably priced for half a house just for us two (we stayed from 23.10.2013 – 24.10.2013 and payed 720 ZAR respectively 48 EUR).
The next morning the owners were waiting for breakfast and we had even more company. The animals in the Kruger Park are not to feed, but these monkeys were a bit more courageous. Even with baby, they took confidence and could not hold back their curiosity. The owners could not have been more hospitable and together with their pet Daisy (a hedgehog) it was the best experience I have ever had in a place to stay. Thank you Baluleni Safari Lodge! My recommendation!
If you want to spend the night in the Kruger Park, then you have to book the lodges in time. All other accommodations on our trip were no problem at short notice. Usually we have booked in the evening for the next day. Unfortunately, this is not possible with the lodges, because there are only limited accommodations available. If you do not have accommodation in the Kruger Park itself, you have to leave the park completely at the end of the day. This is very cumbersome and costs a lot of unnecessary time.
We then got hold of two more accommodations within the Kruger Park: The Letaba Restcamp and the Satara Restcamp. The camps are really nice and very romantic. The entire camp is fenced off with a large fence, providing shelter if you want to move within the camp in the evening. But be carefull, some animals are even living inside the camp! And sometimes, it makes sense to have a headlamp, because they do not always have electricity!
There is a small shop in each camp and every cottage has its own barbecue area. Mostly there is a restaurant, and various excursions are offered. The cottages are cute and small. It is a small bathroom in the interior, a small table, a little lavatory and usually the fridge is attached at the outside. For couples an absolute dream and also with my girlfriend, it was super nice, with a glass of wine, the amazing starry sky. Until this day, I never had anything left for starry skies, but the sky there fascinated me so much. All the stars… I had never seen so much stars to the same time. Suddenly you feel very small in the big wild world. Some feelings simply can not be described…
But the best thing about the Kruger Park are, of course, the animals. You will be instructed in advance how to behave in the park. For example, you should first drive past an elephant when you see one (or many), and then look through the rear window instead of standing in front of the elephant and looking at it head-on. This has the advantage that you can flee faster with 5 gears forward than with a single reverse gear. The animals have absolute prerogative here and it can happen that you find yourself in the middle of a buffalo herd. I think you can not describe that, here you just have to let the pictures sink in:
I was sad leaving the Kruger Park, but I was excited to see what’s next. We left through the Crocodile Bridge Gate:
And after that, we checked in at Buckler’s Africa, an accomodation I really loved with its large bed, the beautiful sunsets and the outside shower:
Goodbye wildlife, I will definitely come back!
And the next days, I will tell you how the trip continued…