We woke up early, very excited about the next 5 days in Kruger, and got a shuttle to the airport where we picked up the car. It was a long 400 km drive from Johannesburg to Kruger park so we arrived at 4pm and checked in at Numbi gate. Once through the gate we had a 20 minute little game drive, full of expectations, to get to our accommodation at Pretoriuskop camp site. Unfortunately we didn't see anything on the way and started to wonder if we'd be the only people in history not to see anything while in Kruger! We arrived at our camp and checked into a cute but basic twin bungalow with a BBQ and kitchen outside. After a little explore around what was quite a big camp site, we set about making a BBQ dinner with the supplies we had bought on the way to the park, and chilled with a glass of wine before forcing ourselves to bed early as we had a game drive in the morning and had to get up at 4am!!
After getting over the shock of it being the middle of the night, we managed to get up the next morning and made our way to the meeting point to get in a big game truck. There were quite a few people there already and the truck was a full house but we still managed to get good seats :-) As it was still dark we were expecting not to see much and as we sat in the truck for the first hour I kept thinking, why did I get up so early?! But as soon as it started to get a bit lighter we were rewarded for our early start and saw an elephant right next to the road (where we all scrambled to take photos, even tho it was still dark, and probably scared the poor thing!) and then saw a hyena walk right out behind us carrying a dead impala in its mouth, that it had obviously managed to scavenge from somewhere! When the sun was finally up we saw more elephants, a couple of rhinos but they had their back to us, and lots of impalas, which looked like deer. We saw so many impalas that we started calling them oh dears! :-)
Back at the camp, and half an hour later as we managed to get lost trying to find our bungalow, we had checked out and were slowly driving slowly through the park, on our way to crocodile bridge where our next accommodation was. The morning was pretty slow, we didn't see anything at all for the first few hours and we were starting to think a self drive wasn't a good idea after all, but after stopping at a cafe for lunch, checking out the sighting boards and heading off in a different direction, suddenly everything changed and there were elephants and giraffe everywhere! It was all just about luck and where you happened to be at the time the animals appeared. By the time we got to crocodile bridge gate in the late afternoon we had seen 4 of the big 5 with just leopards missing, although we were also not sure if the lion sightings counted as they were pretty far away. The day had been long but really good, it was a lot of fun trying to see as many animals as we could! That night we checked into a beautiful lodge outside crocodile bridge gate, right on the edge of the park. The room was lovely with a big double bed and its own kitchenette. and we could see elephants, lions and buffalo from the gardens right in front of our room. They even provided binoculars, it was amazing! At one point 2 mummy and baby elephants wandered over the river and were about 10 meters away from us! When it got dark and we couldn't see anymore we locked ourselves away in our room, turned on the massive TV (a luxury we hadn't had in ages!) and ate pasta dinner in bed :-)
The next day we were up fairly early to drive to the shops to stock up on more supplies and then head back to crocodile bridge gate and back into the park for another slow drive, heading to Paul Kruger gate where our next hotel was. We saw 4 of the big 5 again, loads of elephants crossing the road right in front of us, quite a few zebra, hippos by the dozen, baboons, monkeys, buffalo and giraffe, some right next to the road, and a close up sighting of a rhino, this time facing us! He was all on his own and looked quite looked cute, he looked really shy! We even had lions cross the road in front of us, a proper sighting we could count! :-) It was my birthday the next day so we had booked a posh hotel for the night, again on the edge of Kruger at a different gate. We checked into a lovely big room then went and sat in a tree house with a beer watching for wildlife. Grant had bought me a massage for my birthday so I went off for a lovely relaxing massage while Grant sorted out our room door lock that had seem to have broken since the last time we were in the room! Dinner that night was a massive buffet in an outside restaurant by a big open fire, all very African. We ate so much that although we tried to watch a film when we got back to the room we pretty much just passed out straight away!!
The next morning was my birthday! Grant decorated the room while I was in the shower and put my pressies on the bed, he bought me a jumper, T-shirt and hat :-) We wolfed down a buffet breakfast so we could get back on the road and slowly drove the long distance to get to Satara rest camp where we had booked a sunset game drive that evening. On the way we saw 2 lions up really close, the male one trying to mate and the female not having it at all! Down a side road where there was only us and one other car, we saw a massive herd of elephants walk right past the car, less than 10 meters away. They had some really tiny babies with them and at one point one of the mums saw me taking pictures (my camera has a red light on it) and got aggy, staring at me and flapping its ears, it freaked me out a bit! I was kicking myself afterwards for not filming it, it was amazing!
The sunset drive that evening was better than the morning drive the previous day. We saw loads of random smaller animals like Jackals, Civets and bush babies (so cute!) Then on the way back, just outside the gate to our camp, was 3 massive lions sat right in the middle of the road. Our truck pulled up along side them and one of the males just sat there looking at us, at one point turning to face us and gave us a growl and evil looks, I thought it was going to pounce! The truck only had open spaces where the windows would be and I was sat right next to a low gate so I freaked out a bit that the lion was going to jump in the truck!! It was a brilliant end to the night drive, it was awesome!
Back at our bungalow and we made dinner on the BBQ of Chilli con carne and jacket potato, one of my favourites, before passing out shattered!! Lovely day.
The next morning we woke up early as we wanted to make the most of our last full day in the park, and we were in the car just after 7am and on our way. We drove round a dirt track loop which had had good sightings the day before but didn't see anything interesting, so headed to the Lower Sabie river, the main water source in South Kruger this time of year, and saw loads of wildlife everywhere. Elephants, hippos, giraffe and buffalo were all drinking from the river and lions were sleeping on rocks. We had heard about a cheetah sighting so went off in search of it but couldn't find it so made our way to Lower Sabie rest camp where we were staying for the night. We checked into our bungalow, walked round the perimeter with a torch trying to see if we could spot anything, did some laundry and made dinner then passed out in preparation for a sunrise drive we had booked for the next day.
We were up at 4.15am for our last morning in Kruger, and it was the best day! Yet again we drove round on our game drive for the first hour not seeing much but then came across a dead cheetah in the road and 2 younger cheetahs sitting near by. Our guide thought that the younger cheetahs had killed the older one in a turf war, and that it was probably their dad! She wanted to move the older cheetah out of the road but when she got out and touched the dead cheetah the younger cheetahs looked like they were ready to attack her! She got back in the truck and tried again a few minutes later when we were distracting the other cheetahs all taking photos. They were just sitting there posing for us for ages, sitting on a rock in different positions, it was wicked! We were there for 20 minutes just watching them walk around. We were told that they are shy animals and it's actually pretty rare to see them, let alone them prance around for you for ages! On the way back to the camp we saw a group of 5 rhinos which was cool, we'd not seen them in a group before. They ran away from us then about a 100 meters away just turned round and stared at us, quite cute! Scardy cat animals considering how big they are!
When we got back to the camp we were heading to the cafe for some breakfast and bumped into the brummy couple we had met in Umzumbe, such a small world! It was nice having a chat with them, we'd only spoken to each other for days!
When we had packed up and checked out, we drove round for a couple of hours by the river, clinging onto the last bit of time we had in Kruger and the wildlife were showing themselves to us everywhere! Elephants, giraffe, zebra, oh dears, baboons, velvet monkeys were only a few of the things we saw. We actually couldn't get out of the park on time as we had to keep stopping in the road to let them pass! The only thing we hadn't seen was leopards and we were just saying to ourselves come on leopards come and see us before we leave and the next thing we knew 2 leopards ran out in front of us in the road posing for photos! Was amazing!! Normally there would be loads of cars about trying to get a decent view but there was only one other car the other side of the leopards, our own private viewing! We even saw 2 more, a mother and a cub, wandering around and playing on the river bed a few minutes later, we could believe it. No leopards for 5 days then 2 sighting on the way out! We'd completed the big 5 at last, was a brilliant way to end an awesome 5 days in the park.
Eventually we were out of the gate, and on the way back to Jo'burg to stay in the crappy but cheap little hostel we'd stayed in before, before dropping the car off early the next day and catching a flight to Uganda.