Visiting the Kruger National Park never gets old. Each visit to the park yields a totally unique experience with one never knowing what one will experience. Seeing as it was free week in the Kruger we thought we would take advantage of the opportunity. We didn’t realise it, but we were in for a treat because it was Kruger National Park baby season.
Kruger National Park, Free week
South African National Parks (SANParks), together with Total South Africa and FNB is hosting the 15th annual SA National Parks Week from November 16 to 20, 2020. The free access to parks does not include free access to accommodation facilities and other tourist activities. SANParks postponed the free access week for September to November due to the Covid-19 alert level 2 regulations, which restricted the number of persons allowed within public spaces. Free week is the perfect opportunity for South Africans to experience this wonder that is bound to cultivate a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage.
Kruger National Park, Baby Season
While animals within the park have babies all year round, November is Kruger National Park baby season. The cuteness factor is unbeliveable and the park is definitely abuzz with excitement. As we drove through we were fortunate to see many of the babies up close. I however missed so many amazing photo opportunities because I was oohing and ahhing over the babies. These were the babies we saw:
- Impala as young as a week old
Big 5 Extravaganza
The Kruger National Parks big 5 are lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos and leopards, Heading to the Kruger everyone hopes to witness these gorgeous animals in the wild but it really comes down to luck. Why are they called the Big 5? Because these animals are most wanted for their ivory, horns and skins and this has made them famous.
We opted to do a full day game drive on our first day and we didn’t regret it for a second. Game drives are phenomenal as the guides keen eyes can spot wildlife without hesitation. The game drive vehicles are higher and you have a better view. Open vehicles also mean you can enjoy the fresh South African air. The guides also communicate with each other and know where sightings happen throughout the day. In addition you get to enjoy the experience instead of focussing on driving.
Within the first 4 hours of our 10 hour game drive we were blessed to see 4 of the Big 5. We see elephants, lions, buffalo and rhinos often, but seeing a leopard in the wild is a rare opportunity. This beautiful leopard lazed in the comfort of a tree seeking shelter as the African sun baked down on the Kruger. The lions however eluded us on Day 1. We were a little disappointed, but we know that the Kruger National Park is so large that there is a chance you won’t see anything. It’s an experience of chance and patience. I’d recommend planning a few days in the park to increase your chances.
We persevered and went back for Day 2 and were not disappointed. We came across 3 lions at a watering hole on Waterhole Road. The lions slept under the trees attempting to cool of while antelope casually but carefully walked past. For heading home we returned to the exact spot and found the entire pride lazing in the afternoon sun.
We have been on many game drives but the one we did on Day 1 out trumped them all. It was a drive that presented unique experiences we will probably never forget. Here are some of our experiences:
This bull (male) elephant who was in musth. A phase where male elephants display highly aggressive behavior, accompanied by a large rise in testosterone levels. An elephant in musth secretes a thick tar-like secretion from the temporal ducts on the sides of the head.
Magnificent Kudu bulls lock horns in a dominance battle. Young Impala that were close by also mimicked the exact behaviour which was absolutely adorable.
Communal spiders work together to build, maintain, and clean their webs. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangements and we saw many of them as we drove through the Kruger.
Zebras and impalas casually quench their thirst at a watering hole while 3 hyenas keep a keen eye on them. The hyenas decided not to pounce but it was remarkable nonetheless.
A rare wild dog sighting just before we exited Phabeni Gate.
Related Posts – You can check out more of our travel experiences here or on the blog
The Little 5
Just as Kruger National Park has a big five, it also has a little five. They’re five small animals which share part of their names with the big five and some of them have a feature in common with their larger namesake. We didn’t get to see any of them but next time you visit the Kruger National Park make sure to keep an eye out for these tiny critters.
- Eastern rock elephant shrew
- Leopard tortoise
- Red-billed buffalo weaver
- Rhino beetle
Kruger National Park on a Budget
KNP has a reputation for being exorbitant and over the top in terms of its offerings and pricing as they tend to cater to the international tourists. You however can visit the Kruger on a budget. Here are some tried and tested tips:
- Stay at a self-catering accommodation
- Find accomodation located outside but close to one of the KNP gates
- Travel in free week
- Or buy a Wild Card to reduce costs pertaining to entrance fees
- Take your own food, snacks and drinks
- Kruger is known as a self-drive park, so why not explore the park on your own
- Travel out of season and avoid the crowds
Massive shoutout to Hanna for an amazingly fun and informative day out in the Kruger National Park. We loved every minute of baby season and our Big 5 experience with you.