Driving on South African roads is scary - lane hopping, kamizake drivers who travel at 140-160kms and all of their cars apparently have broken indicators - or are rarely used! The trip from Pretioria to Kruger, about 4-5 hours drive, was therefore unsettling. As the car approached the causeway to the Paul Kruger entrance gate - southern park, there were hippos in a pool 20 metres away and a lone elephant wading in the shallows of the river a hundred metres away. Welcome to Kruger National Park.
Another 45 minutes and I arrived at Skukuza. It's the largest of the rest camps with large facilities - reception, post office and further in to the 'camp' - shops, restaurants and a take away food outlet.
The accommodation is varied from large houses for large parties of guests, to (predominantly) huts and campsites. The thatched roofed, circular huts vary in size and the ones on the Sabie river have views of the river where you can hear the hippos making lots of noise. The beds are comfortable and the bathroom (although sized for very tall, very big people) is fine. Air conditioning, cable TV, fans, bedside lights, a safe and screens make the interior confortable. The terraced, tiled, outdoor kitchen and bbq is adequate and the fridge is caged to prevent baboon raids!
I was initially put off by the prospect of sharing the camp with up to a thousand others, plus the bus loads of visitors however the layout of the camp meant that it was never very crowded.
The real value of staying in the park (apart from not having to pay the exharbitant fees of adjacent private reserves) is that the drives and walks start hours before the park gates open and you get first viewing of the game at dawn. The thought of a 4am start was daunting but after the sun came up (an hour later) we saw - up close- a pride of lions, giraffes, baboons, differnet types of birdlife, many impala and even some kudu.
On another occaision, a drive alongside the Sabie river to Lower Sabie camp brought me close to herds of elephants. Amazing personal experience. I think one of them recognised me - it winked!
Another plus for using the national parks and staying there is that the whole enterprise was, unlike most tourist venture experienced in the 'new' South Africa, not only staffed by black South Africans but the management appeared to be in their hands too and the service was friendly and professional.
I wish I was able to explore more of the 300kms of park but with limited time (3 days) I think I did well to have chosen the southern park and Skukuza.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Skukuza is the Kruger National Park's largest rest camp and administrative headquarters. It is situated on the southern banks of the Sabie River. The myriad of birds and wild game in the area is easily spotted by going on bush walks and game drives. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Skukuza Restcamp - Kruger National Park Hotel Kruger National Park