When you live in South Africa you have to go and watch some game. If you haven’t seen the big five, you haven’t been in South Africa. There are several ways to watch game: Luxury private resorts with exclusive game drives, staying in regular camps and drive around yourself or book some tours or walk. Walk in the bush with no fences and the animals around you? Yes.
During Easter we have been to the Kruger national park for almost a week. We were going to hike for four days and camp in the wild and do some old fashion game watching from the car the other days.
From Mopani camp in Kruger Park we departed on Sunday afternoon. Together with two other two Dutch guys (we Dutch people are everywhere) and two rangers with impressive rifles, we left for the wild experience. Since it was hot and the rangers thought of doing a new route, we needed to take some extra water with us as the rangers weren’t confident if we would be able to find water on the first day. So with six litres (equals 6kg) and food for four days, tent, mattress, sleeping bag and an extra t-shirt on our back, off we went.
Within one hour we crossed a little river and scared a lonely bull, the first of many to come. He didn’t hear us coming and he got as scared as we got seeing that massive animal in front of us. The rifles were pointed at him, but luckily no need to use them.
In the evening we camped at a dried riverbed, where we also found water in a bend of the riverbed. We learned how to dig for clean water. Elephants use the same method, they only drink clean water. So if you see a ‘fresh’ hole dug in a corner of the riverbed you know you’ll be able to find clean water too.
The noises at night are incredible loud and since I don’t know the sounds an animal makes, I didn’t sleep at all. Turned out the sound I was afraid of was an Impala…The trail is about living as the animals live; get up when the sun rises, rest in the middle of the day when it is too hot to do anything, and go to bed soon after night falls. The second and third night we had an amazing camping spot near the Letaba River. On the other side of the river an elephants family was chilling in the shade, hippo’s in the water and a couple of buffalos on our side of the river. When reaching the Letaba River after a long day of hiking through the Mopani trees, spiders and lots of tracks of animals, the river and surroundings were just magical.
The trail and mostly the rangers taught us about animal tracks and sounds, and how beautiful the park is outside the roads and what a small part you see if you stay in your car. Our ranger told us that if you drive all the roads in the park you only see about 1% of the park.
We are definitely doing this trail again, every time the route and circumstances are different. But mainly because watching game from your car is so boring after the trail. If you’re going to Kruger and want to do something else, think about a wilderness trail!