KRUGER SELF-DRIVE

The Kruger Na­tional Park, Ex­plored

Road Trip - - CONTENTS -

The tolls aside, the N4 from Johannesburg to Croc­o­dile Bridge Gate in Kruger Na­tional Park and on­wards to Shishen­geni Lodge is an un­event­ful five and half hours. The Hyundai Ac­cent Sedan from Avis im­pressed with its ex­tremely re­spon­sive clutch and com­fort­able in­te­ri­ors. Not sure we made 0-100 km in 10.2 sec­onds, but it was pretty zippy and had plenty gump­tion when it came to over­tak­ing.

Af­ter end­less prod­ding, we man­aged to con­nect the Blue­tooth to the iphone hands-free to en­joy our own mu­sic, but sound qual­ity was clunky with some in­ter­fer­ence and we had to re-pair the phone each time the en­gine started.

We rec­om­mend a stop at Milly’s di­rectly on the N4, about two-and-a-half hours into your road trip, for Seattle Cof­fee, Cal­tex Petrol, and fa­mous trout pies. They also of­fer ac­com­mo­da­tion and two restau­rants. There is a deli and a con­ve­nience store so give your­self time to ex­plore.

The jour­ney down the es­carp­ment into the Lowveld is a plea­sure. By the time you pass the lush greens of Belfast and en­ter Nelspruit you al­ready feel you are in the bush.

We have made the trip into the Sabi Sand re­serve many times, but then handed the car keys to the valet and ex­pe­ri­enced the park en­tirely from the back of a lux­ury

NO HUGE DIF­FER­ENCE

game drive ve­hi­cle. This time we had a new ex­pe­ri­ence of Shishen­geni – a pri­vate lodge within the Kruger Na­tional Park gates.

Af­ter park­ing the ve­hi­cle our­selves and tak­ing our lug­gage to re­cep­tion, we won­dered which other things would sep­a­rate this lodge from others that typ­i­cally bill three times as much a night. The main lodge build­ing at Shishen­geni is set into the trees and on two lev­els. The in­di­vid­ual suites, ac­cessed by raised timber walk­ways, are very com­fort­able and spacious. They would ben­e­fit from bet­ter light­ing and Wi-fi in the suites and not just the pub­lic ar­eas.

We loved the out­door shower and pri­vate deck from which we watched ele­phants and nyala. We had two guided game drives while we were there and felt well taken care of by Solomon Lu­bisi. He was born nearby, in the area out­side Kruger Gate, and has the bush in his blood. He was ex­cel­lent at find­ing game, in­clud­ing a leop­ard that leapt from its tree in front of us to hunt im­pala.

The first morn­ing drive, af­ter a 05h00 wakeup, fol­lowed the same route we took when we drove to the lodge our­selves, but we saw plenty be­fore a cof­fee stop at the Croc­o­dile Bridge Rest Camp and used toi­lets there.

GREAT CUI­SINE

The cui­sine of­fer­ing was re­ally im­pres­sive. As the lodge was not at ca­pac­ity when we vis­ited, rather than set out a buf­fet, each ta­ble was brought a large plat­ter with var­i­ous op­tions. The amount of food on of­fer aside, we found that the veg­eta­bles, in par­tic­u­lar, were ex­cel­lently cooked.

For the af­ter­noon guided drive we took a dif­fer­ent route and called in at Shawu, the in­ti­mate five-suite camp of Shishen­geni, along the wa­ter, where hip­pos and crocs were lolling about.

De­part­ing Shishen­geni for Skukuza en route to Kruger Gate and on­wards to Protea Ho­tel Kruger Gate, by Mar­riott, we pro­grammed Google Maps. There is no mo­bile re­cep­tion in parts of the park – nada – and only mo­bile data as you ap­proach Skukuza. This makes down­load­ing new maps when you hit a Road Closed, as we did, just short of your des­ti­na­tion, a chal­lenge.

A sedan like the Hyundai lacks height and a clearer view from the open-sided game ve­hi­cle. Pho­tos taken through the wind­shield all have a re­flec­tive tinge and wing mir­rors get in the place of images snapped from the side win­dows.

We most en­joyed park­ing at right-an­gles to the wa­ter­holes where we man­aged to snap Marabou Storks, and busy yel­low weavers nest­ing nearby. If the govern­ment feels they need to change the name of the Kruger Na­tional Park, then Im­pala Na­tional Park will work well.

What a plea­sure see­ing great Im­pala herds at eye-level. It is a won­der­ful feel­ing. Less won­der­ful is be­ing tow­ered over by gi­ant ele­phants or be­ing sur­rounded by buf­falo, which hap­pened as we turned a corner.

FAN­TAS­TIC RE­SORT

The Protea Ho­tel Kruger Gate, by Mar­riott, is 60 sec­onds from the gate and a fan­tas­tic re­sort prop­erty set amid mas­sive Jack­alberry and Marula trees. There is a deck that watches over the Sa­bie River. The rooms are neat and won­der­fully func­tional with walk-in show­ers, Wi-fi through­out the re­sort, and with views into the forested gar­dens.

We were awo­ken at dawn by Vervet mon­keys run­ning along the awning and a ca­coph­ony of bird song. The buf­fet lapa din­ner, a feast around a fire pit fit for kings, must not be missed. The ho­tel can or­gan­ise game drives and other park-based ac­tiv­i­ties from R574 per per­son

Bring your own slip­pers, cof­fee plunger, binoc­u­lars, and a good guide book and ex­tend your stay by a week with what you have saved.

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