Exploring Kruger Continued

Exploring Kruger Continued

Kruger National Park is vast. The aspects of the park are unique to South Africa and there are so many angles one can focus on.  Today I  will be discussing  best game viewing areas, what activities are available, do’s and dont’s in the park as well as some interesting facts about the animals that call the park home.

 

A white backed vulture (Gyps africanus) leaves the nest in search of food.

Activities in the Park

Driving around the park

There are two ways of driving in the park (KNP). The first is in your own car, in this way you can plan your own routes, once an animal has been spotted you can stay as long as you like. Another benefit of using your own car is that it is more comfortable and you can eat and drink what and whenever you like.

Alternatively you can book a game drive at one of the main rest camp receptions. This is a great way of experiencing the bush, as well as possibly going on routes that the general public are not allowed to go on. A qualified guide will give you more in depth information about the wildlife, such as their general habits and what they eat.

Walks

Like the game drives, guided walks are available in the park for an even better encounter with nature. There are day walks and extended hikes, where participants return to a base camp each night. The guide may provide information about the vegetation, birds and animals with lots of facts along the way such as seed pods, animals droppings and spoor (animal tracks). The guide will also be armed with a rifle, just as a precaution.

Other activities

There are restaurants at all main camps, a golf course at Skukuza, 4 x 4 trails, picnic sites, small museums pertaining to the history of the park and a tribute to the big seven at the Letaba rest camp which were seven elephants with the largest tusks ever recorded in the park. As for photography… the sky’s the limit.

 

A water buck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus)resting in the shadow of a tree.

Hot spots

The (KNP) is full of animals and certain areas will hold different types of species. In the northern part of the park there are more large herds of animals such as buffalo and elephant, whereas in the southern parts, the vegetation changes and becomes more dense which is great for the predators to stay concealed when hunting. In my recent visit to the Kruger I found that the main road between Skukuza and Lower Sabie H4-1 was very rewarding. Another two places which are great for birders is Transport Dam and Lake Panic, I was amazed at the diversity of birdlife I saw and even crossed off a number of species off the life list.

 

Do’s and Don’ts of the park

A couple of things to take note of when in the (KNP) or any nature reserve in fact.

Switch your car off at waterholes and other sightings.

Don’t litter.

Be quiet at lookout points and at hides.

To have a better experience of the bush and the animals, switch your radio off. Its courteous to the animals and fellow patrons.

Don’t tease or provoke any of the animals, you may just come out second best.

Stick to the speed limit. The amount of Impalas crossing the road in my last visit was quite staggering and you don’t want one of those smashing into the windshield.

However, take lots of photos, share time with family and enjoy the sights and smells.

Get up early and listen to birds.

Count how many bird species you see in the park.

Be courteous to other visitors.

Some interesting facts 

  • Zebras (Equus quagga) are not originally African animals. Single toed horses evolved from the Americas, then passed through Asia and Europe. Eventually settling into Africa 2,4 million ago.

 

  • The African rock python (Python sebae) is the biggest snake in Africa. It has been seen to eat buffalo and antelope.

 

  • It has often been believed that hyenas (Crocuta crocuta)  are mainly scavengers, however research states that lions (Panthera leo) steal more from hyenas than the other way around.

 

  • The serval (Leptailurus serval) ( a member of the cat family) is among one of the busiest predators. It may hunt up to 15 times a day.

 

  • The goliath heron (Ardea goliath) is the largest heron of the heron species in Africa.
A goliath heron (Ardea goliath) surveys its surroundings before settling in for the night.
  • In the breeding season the southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas) female lays her eggs in a hollow of a tree and then encloses herself in that tree hollow with mud and feces. She leaves a little opening in order for the male to pass her food.
A yellow billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas) pecks on the ground for insects.
  • In the (KNP) it is well known that lions have found out that giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) struggle on paved roads. They run slower, get less traction are more susceptible to slip. Therefore easier for a lion to hunt.

 

  • Leopards (Panthera pardus) are known to arrange their lives in order to avoid encounters with humans. Unlike lions they are secretive and solitary, appearing and disappearing as if it was a hallucination.
The silent assassin
  • Lean, long- legged and light on its feet, wild dog (Lycaon pictus) are built for endurance chases that demand persistence, speed and stamina.

 

  • One may think that elephants are destructive in the park, however they open up areas for other species of animals. Subsequently falling into the category of an ecosystem engineer.

Elephants and Conservation in the (KNP)

In 1967 a formal aerial count of elephants took place in the Kruger National Park. The amount counted was 6500 which exceeded the amount counted in 1964 which was 2400. The decision to cull not only elephants but also buffalo (Syncerus caffer), hippo ( Hippopotamus amphibius)giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), impala (Aepyceros melampus) and wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus). The decision was made in keeping with the old philosophy that follows with the “balance of nature” concept. This was to protect the environments natural state. The limit to the elephant population was capped at 7000. After a while the culling of the other species was discontinued when research found that most herbivore species populations grow and decline in a 20 year cycle of wet and dry periods. However elephants don’t play by the rules, their large size determines that they have a low metabolic rate per unit of body mass. This enables them to eat less nutritious food. The culling thus continued until 1994 by which time 16027 elephants had been culled. An outcry from animal welfare units caused SanPark to review their elephant policy, prompting the suspension of the elephant culling programme.

 

Elephant herds are mostly made up of females, with males being pushed out at a certain age.

 

The Kruger will always have a special place in my heart. It is not only a great place to relax and have a holiday but also to learn more about nature. So if you haven’t been….. What are you waiting for. Go to this link for more informationhttps://www.sanparks.org/

 

 

 

References

Hilton-Barber, B. & Arthur, L. 2005. The Prime Origins Guide to Best Birding in Kruger. Cape Town: Prime Origins.

Hilton-Barber,B. & Berger, L.R. 2004. The Prime Origins Guide to Exploring Kruger. Cape Town: Prime Origins.

Reardon, M. 2012. Shaping Kruger. Cape Town: Struik Nature.


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