We cruised on to Kruger, and although Paul and Susie had been previously, for Kaz and I it was our first world-class game reserve. As we crossed the river into the park we were met by a couple of large crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks………"not a bad start". We signed in, checked the spotters board for the day and proceeded through the gate. I sceptically remarked that "apparently there had been some Rhino spotted just within the gate", however almost before I had finished my sentence I caught a glimpse of some grey objects between the trees "oh, there they are" I commented casually. I don't think the others quite believed me at first, especially due to my lack of enthusiasm, but at the time I didn't realise how fortunate such a spotting was, especially given people could spend weeks in Kruger and never see a Rhino. Not surprisingly this is the first time Karen and I had seen such animals in the wild, for such strong and impressive creatures Rhinos seem so shy and they kept their distance. Spotting two of them only minutes into our 9 day stay in Kruger was such a win for us, and whilst our immediate thoughts were that "this spotting game is too easy", we never would have expected we would only see 1 more Rhino the whole trip. We continued driving on through to camp, spotting a few giraffe and antelope along the way. Tonight it was Berg en Dal where we would camp, we set up and settled in before enjoying a relaxing swim as a welcome respite from the searing African summer.Whilst I enjoyed my sleep, Kaz was up early the next morning, and her run round the perimeter fence yielded success as she came across a family of elephants on their morning stroll. More impressive than your average morning jog. It had rained heavily overnight and our camp had turned into a boggy mess. This slowed us down a little, but eventually we had packed up and were back on the road in search for our next photographic victims. Barely out the camp gate and again we came across a beautiful male lion lazing under a shady tree. Another big animal to tick off and we had literally spent less than an hour spotting within the park. Although not much distance was covered in the day, we spent hours behind the wheel on day 2, straining our eyes for anything that we could see whilst making our way to Letaba. Letaba seemed to be an older, more crowded camp with one fantastic drawpoint - the bar and balcony overlooking the river. As we sat there in the late afternoon we could again see crocodiles sunning themselves on the bank whilst we listened to hippos grunt loudly at one another. Later in the evening Kaz and I enjoyed an evening stroll to the bar to encounter a lone hippo feeding on the grass below. Some more spotting the following day - Karen once again went for an early morning run and this time encountered some huge, male baboons searching for some food inside thecampsite, she quickly changed her course. By now we had ticked off most of the big animals we had hoped to see. There had only been the solitary lion, but plenty of giraffe, elephants, baboons, hippos, enough impala to sink a ship and numerous other antelope including, kudu, nyalla and waterbuck. Not unlike our feline friends who we could hear roar just beyond the fence as night folded, we again feasted on antelope steaks and any other exotic meets we came across. We were safely nestled beyond the 10ft electric fence, although there was still something quite unsettling about knowing that an apex predator was hunting for his next meal within metres of your tent, especially as the electric fences never seem to be turned on.After spending 2 nights at Letaba we headed north to Satara. A slight detour was needed en-route as our tent had continued to give us grief over recent nights and by now I had convinced the manufacturer that he would need to replace the poles and courier them to us in Kruger. We arranged to meet the courier at a central camp by 12 at the latest, those last 3 words would in most cases imply that you would be there some time before midday, but in typical African style 12 became 2, 2 became 3, and I became very angry. New tent poles secured we journeyed further north to Satara camp for 2 nights. We took the opportunity to sign up for the dawn drive and the following day we assembled at 3.45am for the early morning spotting session. The whole experience reminded me a lot of fishing adventures back home, the early morning starts venturing into the great outdoors, and the long periods patience coupled with the anticipation of the catch. Whilst Karen and Susie occasionally rested their eyelids, Bones and I kept a keen watch, or the spotting in this case. On this morning we had some reasonable encounters spotting a pride of lions, some giraffe, elephants and water buffalo amongst others, although by far and away the highlight was a lone hyena hiding his kill in a roadside pond, an animal which had so far eluded us during our time in Kruger.
Our last 4 days in Kruger brought few things of note. Our time was split between Satara, Shingwedzi and Tsendze camps as we headed to the northern end of the park crossing the Tropic of Capricorn. By now the bad weather had settled in, and we were growing more frustrated at camping and packing up in the rain. We spent some time sitting in the bar and restaurants overlooking the swollen rivers, however even when the rain temporarily stopped the only thing that had dried up were the animal spottings. We still saw occasional game, most notably "more bloody impala" but the last animal on our list, the leopard, had continued to elude us. By now we had given up hope of seeing one and we were ready to move on. All the dirt roads had been closed due to the rain and we were unsure whether they would be open for us to venture across into Mozambique the following day, the alternative being to return via where we had entered Kruger, at least a 12 hr detour. On our day of departure the sun came out, the roads opened up and we were free to head to Mozambique. We had greatly enjoyed our time in Kruger, but with the benefit of hindsight would perhaps have limited our stay to 5 or so days split between just a couple of camps. We were glad to be moving on but were again a little apprehensive, this being the first "major" border crossing. Customs limits on food and alcohol had been brought to our attention, and when we arrived at the border the car of Afrikaaners in front of us were being heavily scrutinised. However, after harassing those in front, the customs officials must have been due for a rest and in little more than an hour we had successfully negotiated our way into Mozambique and country number 3……… thank god they didn't check our rations of food and grog matched our story.