There’s no doubt that searching for the elusive leopard or spotting our treasured rhinos are at the top of everyone’s list when visiting our parks, but just in case you find the Big Five before you leave, here are 5 more things to do in Kruger during your next visit.
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1. Take a walk
Kruger National Park is not just about driving. In fact I think the real joy is going for a walk with a qualified ranger who can show you all the little things. Watching a herd of zebra wander through the long grass while you are on foot is a completely different experience to being in a vehicle. You need to stay the night in one of the rest camps if you want to book a morning walk the next day. To find out more about these guided walks, visit the South African National Parks website.
2. Follow Jock of the Bushveld’s story
Jock of the Bushveld and his owner, Percy Fitzpatrick, used to travel through this area before Kruger was declared a national park. Fitzpatrick was a transport rider taking wagons to collect goods in Mozambique and supplying the goldfields in the Lowveld. Jock’s adventures are legendary and many of the places mentioned in the book Jock of the Bushveld can be found in the Park. Why not read the story while you are holidaying in the southern Kruger?
For the voracious bookworms, it’s also worth getting a copy of Exploring Kruger by Brett Hilton-Barber and Prof Lee Berger.
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3. Visit a museum
The Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library in Skukuza Camp is more a museum than a library and has a wealth of info about the history of the Kruger National Park. There is a range of memorabilia from the rangers. If you have heard the story about Harry Wolhuter, a Kruger ranger, fighting the lion with a knife, then go and see the actual lion skin and the knife. Don’t forget to look for the Heroes’ Acre outside – the pet cemetery for some of Kruger’s dogs.
4. Learn from a craftsman
Although the shops in the Park are stocked with goodies don’t ignore the sellers on the sides of the road as you drive in to the Park. For example at Numbi gate there is a small market selling curios and the wood carvers themselves are often there. It’s easy to rush past them but some of these wood carvers are true craftsmen and I loved spending half an hour chatting to them about their work and how they learned their skills. I was pleased to find out that the wood they use is non-indigenous.
5. Bone up on history
Kruger National Park has done a good job of marking out places where there is interesting history so if you see a plaque or a cairn stop and find out what it’s about. It added another dimension to our trip and made me realise the hardships of our early settlers and travellers. We stopped at the ruins of Joao Albasini’s home and store near Phabeni Gate. He arrived in Mozambique in the 1800’s and was renowned amongst locals as “a great white hunter, a provider of food and leader of the Gwamba tribe.” Watching a herd of elephant walk past brought alive for me the challenges these early pioneers experienced.
6. Play a Round
Skukuza Golf Course next to Skukuza Rest Camp is unique. Where else in the world do you have to chase warthog off the greens or find your ball in a pile of zebra dung? Impala love the grassy fairways and hippo grunt in the river nearby. It’s a 9 hole (18 tee) golf course begun in the 1960’s and slowly developed by some committed and enthusiastic rangers. Originally only for park staff, it only opened to the public in 1999. After golf, talk to the old timers at the 19th hole. They have some hair-raising stories to tell.
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A journalist by trade, features writer on occasion and now the digital editor of SA Country Life. The first chance she gets, Leigh will tell you about a podcast she was recently listening to and how you simply have to make the move from radio. In a previous life, she once taught English on Jeju which left her with an insatiable craving for kimchi.