This post details the first three days and respective rest camps of our 8-day safari back to Kruger National Park. Happy. We rented a car from Avis. Sibusiso was our Avis car rental guy. Sibusiso is Zulu for “blessing” or “gift”. If you’re interested in learning more about Skukuza, Satara, and Olifants rest camps then please read on. Otherwise, scoot on down to the wildlife photos.
Because of the heavy rains during the last week, all gravel roads were closed on the first day resulting in our taking all paved roads and starting through the Malelane Gate instead of Crocodile (closed due to flooding).
The 62K drive was too easy and relatively sans animals. Taking only four hours, we arrived at Skukuza by 1:30 PM. For this I am grateful, because at Skukuza we went all out and got ourselves “luxury” lodging aka sleeping with air con and an indoor bathroom. It was a perfect night to have air con, because even at 8:00 PM the temps were about 95F and oppressively muggy.
Skukuza Rest Camp – Sabie River Thickets Country
Situated on the southern bank of the Sabie River, Skukuza is the largest rest camp in all of Kruger. The main camp, it has a restaurant, 3 museums, a library, a gas station, a bank, a post office, a conference center and a large shop. It’s like a village. We rented a lovely bungalow (#89 in the 87-96 block) with two single beds together making a king, an outdoor kitchen, a bathroom (hooray!) AND air con. Did I mention the air con? You know that feeling you get when you’re baking on a hot day, and you open up the oven to be met with a rush of hot, oppressive air? That’s how it felt to go outside. And then the rains came to Skukuza cooling our world by about 30 degrees to a delightful 66F. Click the slideshow to check out images of Skukuza Rest Camp.
Rating our bungalow at Skukuza (1-6 scale)
I took off one point for some dirt on my pillow. A place has to be tip-top to receive a 6.
General Accommodations: 5
It comes with a WC, private ablutions adds an automatic point. There is a comfy sitting area outside, two single, comfy beds and air con – yes! The shower was heavenly. I took off one point because the place needs some upkeep – stains on the bathroom ceiling, the bathroom sliding door off its rails, and a window that doesn’t close fully.
General Environs: 5
Bungalow #89 overlooks the Sabie River. Bucolic. The camp is beautiful, stunning even, but it’s also huge, which makes it slightly less cozy.
**Tip** Prime real estate: semi-luxury bungalows #85-96
The SANpark lodging site is confusing, and it helps to know a little about the location and codes. The code for our bungalow is LR2ZW (1429 Rand). To give you an idea of how the coding works: L for semi-luxury, R for Riverside, 2 for two single beds, Z for handicap accessible, and W for west of the restaurant. Check SANParks lodging availability for Skukuza and check out the Skukuza Map.
Satara Rest Camp – Marula/Knob-thorm Open Tree Savanna Country
It was a good drive to Satara. We saw tons of wildlife including an outrageous happy hour party (baboons, impala, kudu) in the middle of the road just outside of Satara. Check out the photos in the lower half of this post. At camp later in the evening, I saw my first Honey badger! He was bulldozing his way past us to something more interesting, probably someone’s food scraps off a BBQ grill. I ventured out to the communal kitchen in the dark to wash dishes after Scott reheated his famous beans for dinner. There alone I stood listening to the low grumbling roar of lions just around the corner on the other side of the fence. Slightly intimidating. Fortunately, the only emissions emerging from our pores are that of rice and beans. Compared to all those folks cooking animals on the braai (BBQ), this makes us a veritable unappetizing food choice to the carnivorous mammals.
The best part of our stay at Satara besides seeing a Honey Badger was the morning. In and amongst the hustle and bustle as travelin’ folks were scrambling to get back on the road, we chilled knowing we wouldn’t miss out on anything we weren’t meant to see. And in that chill we were able to watch and listen to the cleaning staff who were laughing and talking and singing African songs. Rich voices filling our space with an inviting warmth and tranquil joy. Carrying piles of towels on their heads and smiles as wide as seven miles. Cool.
Rating our bungalow at Satara (1-6 scale)
Nearly tip-top. I thought the towels smelled like a musty basement, but Scott thought they smelled like they had been washed in dirty water. I prefer the musty basement odor to the dirty water imagery.
General Accommodations: 4
We had our own bathroom. This is a plus. The bathrooms in the little bungalows are super small. So much that one has to open the door to squeeze in and then close it to use the toilet. But given the happiness I feel to have a private bathroom, this is a minor annoyance.
General Environs: 4
Our bungalow (#133) was nice, but the camp itself is too big for my liking. A busy place with braais (BBQ’s) burning at night, folks were noisy in the evening (though to their credit, the place quieted down around 9:00 PM), and it could use some more flora (IMO). The communal kitchen was barren with a barely working two-burner appliance. And while the camp is very clean, in general, and while there are trash and recycle bins throughout the camp, I was disappointed to see one of the housekeepers throw recycle items in the trash. Anyone who knows me knows that anything litter-related (including filling open space aka landfills with trash) is a point of contention with me. And from a Learning and Development perspective, this could be a point of education for the staff.
**Tip** Prime real estate: Bungalows in A Circle (A1-A18)
**Note** Our bungalow did not have a kitchen, but the communal kitchens for each group of bungalows is well situated. The SANpark lodging site is confusing, and it helps to know a little about the location and codes. The code for our bungalow was BG2 (950 Rand), but we had no idea where our lodging was located according to their site. To give you an idea of how the coding works: BG for bungalow, 2 for two single beds. Check SANParks lodging availability for Satara and the Satara Map.
Olifants Rest Camp – Mopane Shrubveld Country
We loved the Olifants camp. A super chill, beautiful place, it’s one of my top two faves thus far with the other being Tamboti. Our bungalow was situated on a bluff overlooking the Olifants River. Flora and fauna abound and with every turn of the head, one catches a glimpse of something interesting or stunning or breathtaking. Our little hobbit hut had a bathroom but no kitchen, which made for the perfect opportunity to check out the Carrot Tree restaurant located on a cliff with a breathtaking view of the Olifants River. Eating our dinner, watching the sunset with a shimmering golden light on the hippos and zebras below…heavenly. And then 100 bats arose from somewhere nearby and flew over our heads to the hills beyond. Cool.
Rating our bungalow at Olifants (1-6 scale)
It was in decent shape with a minor exception to the shower, which could have used some elbow grease on the tiles.
General Accommodations: 4
Our bungalow (#91 -995 Rand) was lovely but looked a bit worn. For example, the bathroom sink looked dated. We did have air con (bonus). I have found that all of the places thus far need an extra electrical socket and a place to put shampoo in the shower. I don’t like having to put shampoo, conditioner, bath soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s liquid not a bar) and my razor on the floor. We had to unplug the air con to plug in our devices.
General Environs: 6
I Love (note the capital L) this camp and the location of our bungalow. We were so pleasantly surprised to have a great view of the Olifants river from our porch. This smaller camp lends itself to a feeling of coziness. The bungalows look like hobbit huts and are surrounded by lush foliage; a bucolic scene with the river as a backdrop and Steenbok grazing only yards away.
**Tip** Prime real estate: bungalows #91-95 or if you’re willing to spend some more hard cash, go to the fancy places on the bluff closer to the river #106-111. The SANpark lodging site is confusing, and it helps to know a little about the location and codes. The code for our bungalow is NG2U. I have no idea what our code meant except for the 2 is two single beds. I’m thinking the U is for unobstructed view, because we had a spectacular view of the river. Check SANParks lodging availability for Olifants and the Olifants Map.
**Tip** After you have booked your accommodation on the SANSpark website, call the reservations office (specific rest camp) and request a specific bungalow or tent. Do this well in advance if you want to get your preferred choice.
The Wild Life
Antelopes and Wildebeest
It’s not all a bundle of fascinating joy…
On our way to Satara, having to take mostly paved roads (again, some roads still closed), we initially spotted more traffic than animals. And the three dead animals we saw on the road rendered a tender heart broken: a bird, a baby baboon and a dwarf chameleon. I only caught a glimpse of the baby baboon quickly looking away knowing the sight would haunt me. But I could see the smashed little chameleon in the middle of the road from a hundred yards away with his tail still in the air. This was on the heels of seeing a live chameleon only kilometers earlier. I’m still fretting about this little guy (below) and all his compadres hoping they make it safely to the other side not meeting the same ill fate.
The Vervet Monkeys fascinate me. They are considered pests among many here in South Africa, but I am enamored with them. They are all personality, and the little ones show off with an audience present. Somersaults and other silly acrobatics, jumping from branch to branch to ground, wrapping their arms around each other; I can’t get enough of their cute selves.
***Interesting Factoid*** When a baby vervet is born, all the members of the group will inspect the infant by touching or sniffing him or her. All group members partake in the caring of an infant vervet, but most of the care comes from the infant’s mother and juvenile females. This behavior is called Allomothering.
We saw a baboon party on the road just outside the Satara Rest Camp about 5:30 PM. Click on the images to get a better view of the BABIES and to see the dominant male getting groomed by his servant babs.
**Interesting Factoid** Did you know a group of baboons is called a Troop?
The Evolution of Happy Hour
Scott and I discovered Darwin’s lost chapter on the evolution of happy hour, and you’ll see it too on this 1-minute video! Give it a moment to load.
The Impala and the Oxpecker: A pictorial fable of acceptance
Click on slideshow and watch this touching tale of enduring love, growing tolerance and reluctant acceptance unfold.
The Yawning Hippo
We are falling in love with the hippos. Those sweaty portly bodies, their pink features and bulging eyes are increasingly endearing the hippos to us.
Click on the slideshow and watch this wide-mouthed sleepy hippo yaaaawn and splash to sleep.
There are 42,000 African (or Cape) Buffalo in Kruger. The old African Buffalo males are often found alone. When they get to a certain ripe old age, they are unable to keep up with the herd and sometimes the younger males who are vying for dominance will oust them out. While herds are known to travel great distances, these old Donga boys search for one safe area with plenty of food to spend their golden years. They become familiar faces in the areas they choose to settle down eventually becoming more vulnerable and prey to the carnivores.
***Interesting Factoid*** An entire herd will respond to a distress call from one of its members by ganging up on the predator. They have been known to kill lions and will chase a lion up a tree (keeping her up there for hours) after a member of the herd has been killed. In order to protect the calves from predators, they will form one massive group with the little ones in the middle.
Giraffes and Zebras
If I had the choice of joining the zebra or giraffe clique, I would have a tough decision to make. They’re both super cool. Giraffes do seem a bit more shy than the zebras and they are also leggy. The zebras seem more playful and chill. Maybe in my next life I’ll be a giraffe so I can try on leggy and shy.
Giraffes sleep only 4 hours a day and only in 20-minute power naps. They spend the rest of the time feeding their very large bodies.
The best elephant sighting thus far was just outside of the Olifants Rest Camp late in the day. A large herd was emerging from the bush after what must have been a nice, cool, afternoon bath. We saw THE most precious baby elephant bouncing along with his mama.
An American monkey, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men. ~Charles Darwin
In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate
and improvise most effectively have prevailed.
Check out the other South Africa posts below:
South Africa Post #1: Our first Kruger National Park Safari
South Africa Post #2: Babysitting a Banded Mongoose Pup in Marloth Park
South Africa Post #3: When Zebras Visit
South Africa Post #4: Daily Living in Marloth Park, South Africa
This is South Africa Post #5: Kruger Restcamps: Skukuza, Satara and Olifants
South Africa Post #6: Kruger Safari: Full Moon over Letaba
South Africa Post #7: Kruger Safari: Treasure Hunting in Tamboti and Lower Sabie
South Africa Post #8: There’s a Mongoose in my Ear!
South Africa Post #9: Peering through God’s Window at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #10: The Dam Boat Tour at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #11: Rare Sexual Encounters of South Africa
South Africa Post #12: To the Wildlife of Marloth Park
South Africa Post #13: Nelspruit to Cape Town
South Africa Post #14: Moved to Tears on Freedom Day
South Africa Post #15: Penguins in South Africa?
South Africa Post #16: The Southernmost Tip of Africa
South Africa Post #17: Birds of Eden at Plettenberg Bay
South Africa Post #18: Dear South Africa: I love you, but…
South Africa Post #19: Elephants at Addo National Park
South Africa Post #20: The Garden Route: Nature’s Valley and Wilderness
South Africa Post #21: Endangered Bontebok
South Africa Post #22: Top Five Cape Town Experiences
South Africa Post #23: Chasing Rainbows in South Africa
South Africa Post #24: Vegan Wanderlust in South Africa
South Africa Post #25: Ubuntu
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A million and forty-one thanks.
And shoot me an email if you’d like to learn more about the Skukuza, Satara or Olifants Rest Camps at Kruger.
Thanks for reading, and may your day be like a massive happy hour attended by the coolest kudu, impressive impala and bouncing baboon babies.