African Reserves

A Week at Kruger – The Mother of All Safari


Being born and raised in the remote state of Assam in northeast India has its perks, especially when it comes to appreciating concepts like wilderness, mountains, conservation issues, etc. -National parks known as Kaziranga, Manas, Pobitora, etc…, accompanied by my father, who being an agricultural scientist frequently had to visit the remote hinterland of the region.

When it comes to seeing the wilderness in all its glory, nothing beats the excitement and drama that is guaranteed in any “African safari” and it took me a while to focus on one of the largest wildlife reserves in the world – Kruger National Park and embark on a dream safari.

Kruger Park has not only gone down in legends, it is also iconic in terms of vastness, incredible landscapes and extravagant African wildlife. The only irritating part, if any, was the journey – every 12.5 hours from New Delhi to Johannesburg.

It is always wise to do your pre-departure homework well in advance of your trip, as visiting Kruger is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many visitors. After consulting my friends in Travel / Tourism & Hospitality, I chose Singita because they had two upscale lodges in Kruger – Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge. The idea was to experience Kruger from two different wild places that would give me the most comprehensive views of this truly fascinating wilderness on planet Earth.

Much of Kruger is bush and both lodges gave me rare and exclusive entry to over half a million acres of unspoiled wilderness. Indeed, nowadays, it is difficult to find wildlife reserves that can boast of “Big Five” in the same reserve (elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo). But then, Kruger is an exception! And I hope it will always be so!

My Personalized Naturalist – Ross Couper knew the terrain inside out, having spent many years in this part of the wilderness. As our 4/4 vehicle drove deep into the main Kruger wilderness area, I was told the park was 19,485 square feet. Kms and was officially designated a national park in 1926 by the South African government.

As we crossed with the Kruger Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO designated ‘International Man and Biosphere Reserve’, I honestly listened to Ross’s scholarly talk on the history of Singita – the genesis in 1925 when Luke Bailes’ grandfather bought a small piece of land which would later evolve into a “Success Story” in the field of wildlife conservation.

A Week at Kruger - The Mother of All Safari

The park is so vast that if, for example, you travel from east to west, you have to travel 90 kilometers. Both north and south of Kruger are blessed with two sparkling rivers – Limpopo and Crocodile, which kind of elevate the wildlife panorama a few more notches.
We decided to take a break and my shriveled naturalist – Ross, set the table against the surreal backdrop of Khandzalive Hill, which just happens to be the highest point in Kruger.

As a travel writer, I have often wondered about the kind of life a naturalist or field guide leads on a daily basis in foreign habitats. Back in India I think they lead a difficult life not only to guide visitors but also to take on the added responsibility of protecting the forest and its resources from poachers! And it goes without saying that they are poorly paid.

I wanted to hear Ross about his life in the African wilderness and this is what he had to say: “Every day we guides and trackers totally rely on ourselves to find animals. We are only equipped with keen eyesight, tracking skills, and our knowledge of animal movements and habitat preferences. The excitement builds as we search for clues that might lead us to find a particular animal. It also takes patience.

When we find what we are looking for, finding animals can be extremely rewarding. When you can’t find what you’re looking for, frustration can set in. However, because the results are unpredictable, the research is bound to be fascinating ”. That perhaps sums up life in the African wilderness.

A Week at Kruger - The Mother of All Safari

But then, in the words of Luke bailes – easily one of the greatest conservationists of all time, the African wilderness is a ‘place of miracles’ (Shangaan) and they truly strive to conserve and protect these miraculous and amazing places. When I asked Ross if he was happy with what he was doing, Curt said, “Why not? Is there a job on earth that would pay me just to be in harmonious union with nature ”? By the way, are the mandarins of the Indian Ministry of Forests and Wildlife listening?

Kruger and if I’m not mistaken much of Africa’s wilderness is an unpredictable place to me. You never know how your next animal drama is going to turn out. Along with the Lions, which are definitely the eye-catcher of all eyes, the Rhinoceros are on the list of top visitors. But, luckily, or sadly, Rhino passed by for me, having been exhibited countless times in the Mecca called Kaziranga, where it is much easier to spot them, given the strength of the species in terms of numbers.

The buzzword here at Kruger is “UNPREDICTABLE”. Came here to spend some time lion watching and would settle for anything less. Is a week in the African fauna long, man? And true to the spirit of the jungle, Kruger never disappoints Lion aficionados. My only contact with the Lions was in Gir Forest, Gujarat. But then, they were Asiatic Lions and not prized African Lions that the whole world craves.

So off we went – zip, zap, zoom on the bushy, secluded trails of Kruger where Lions are known to hang out. My field guide Ross was of the opinion that the Lions had been very active late so there was not much to worry about.

A Week at Kruger - The Mother of All Safari

As Ross continued to recount how the “Mhangene” pride matured in terms of numbers, of the four unique Mhangene lionesses, the sudden disappearance of a lioness and the acceptance of a lioness by all three, our 4/4 vehicle did. suddenly stop, the tires come to a stop almost instantly.

My head felt a thud when it hit the windshield. For a moment I saw nothing, a complete blackout, as it was dawn and the molten red ball rose beautifully through the Kruger. magnificent panorama. As I came to my senses, Ross offered me an energy drink, rubbed my shoulders and shook my hands warmly, inviting me to get out of the sturdy vehicle and made me contemplate my utter amazement at the view of a fairly large pride of lions. , known as are – “Shishangaan Pride” drinking water from the marshy pond just 500 meters away.

A full 5 minutes have passed. An intense animal drama unfolding before my naked eyes…. The landscape is desolate, uninhabited and the wilderness – WOW splendid seclusion. I completely emptied my Nikon. The pride, fully sated with their morning drink, made one growl too many and all the pride vanished into the surrounding bushy vegetative canopy, lifting their manes with pride as if to convey to us – “WE GIVE A DAMN”.

This is the essence of being in Kruger National Park. Here it’s all the attitude and the positivity that reminds me Swami Vivekananda immortal words –

“The moment I realized that God was seated in the temple of every living creature, the moment I reverently stand before every living creature and see God in them – then I am free to all bondage, all that binds vanishes and I am free “.

A Week at Kruger - The Mother of All Safari

And indeed, Kruger sets you free and touches visitors on all levels – spiritual, emotional and physical. Kruger’s memories will linger forever.

Traveler information sheet

Accommodation

Singita Lebombo Lodge

This remarkable lodge in Kruger National Park offers 13 grand suites and there is also an exclusive villa for private use which offers discerning guests the best of African hospitality.

The private villa is indeed the most sought after part of Singita Lebombo Lodge. It is nicely tucked away from the central lodge and includes two 2-bedroom suites, with an exclusive private pool. The villa is close to the river bank and has an open plan kitchen to pamper the diverse tastes of the guests.

Singita Sweni Lodge

This lodge is nicely spread over 33,000 privately owned acres in the Kruger National Park and the sparkling Sweni River provides a truly surreal backdrop for guests to relax in the very heart of rugged Africa.

This lodge is the epitome of harmony – a fusion of African architecture with contemporary.
Guests of Singita Sweni Lodge can be sure to spot a variety of animal species that meander along the banks of the Sweni River to quench their thirst.

A Week at Kruger - The Mother of All Safari

Getting There

By plane

Singita operates routine charter flights and all flights land at Satara airstrip, a 45-minute drive from the lodge. Singita staff transport guests to the lodge in air-conditioned vehicles.
Travel time from Johannesburg to Satara is 1.5 hours.

The rich and famous affected in their exclusive private aircraft pilots and are recommended to broadcast their arrival on the 124.8 Mhz frequency. Please note that only a small number of companies are permitted to land on the Satara airstrip, by the way, is maintained by the National Parks Board.

King Air, Cessna and PC12 can land in Satara without any problem.

By the road
• From Johannesburg: around 8 hours drive (+/- 600km).
• From Hoedspruit: around 2-3 hours drive (+/- 155 km).
• From Skukuza: around 2-3 hours drive (+/- 110 km).
• From Hazyview: around 3h30 drive (+/- 156km).
• From Nelspruit: around 4 hours drive (+/- 216km).

Keywords:
Africa, animals, Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, Luke Bailes, nature, New Delhi, safari, Singita, Singita Lebombo Lodge, Singita Sweni Lodge, Swami Vivekananda, travel, UNESCO
Subhasish Chakraborty

Subhasish Chakraborty has worked as a travel journalist for the past two decades and has contributed to the writing of numerous international in-flight magazines from renowned airlines such as Cathy Pacific, Dragon Air, Bhutan Airlines, Air Asia, Airport Authority of India and many more. others. He was also involved with the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) as a consultant.