Where to Stay in Kruger National Park | Sense Africa

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Where to stay in Kruger?30th November '16  |  - 7 Comments

I have to admit I was hesitant in trying out some of the lodges in Kruger.  Previous experiences of Kruger have had me stuck in a convoy of vehicles, on a tarred road, all trying to see a lion sitting in the shade beside the roadside. More akin to Longleat Adventure Park!  I have heard many good things about Kruger so I thought I should check this out for myself. I had been advised to visit a private concession area rather than main part of the park. So as they say in Africa, I made a plan for my ultimate Kruger safari.

Travelling to Kruger from Eswatini

I decided to check out the southern section of Kruger National Park.  I visited the Shishangeni concession area, which is only an hour’s drive from the Eswatini border and very easy to get to. Having said this I did take a wrong turn and ended up at the Mozambique border and had to do a U-turn and got stopped by police as they wondered what on earth I was up to. That is another story. Being stopped by the police is becoming a habit of mine. In my defence, the border was only 5 mins in the wrong direction, I had driven miles…

Eventually I arrived at Kruger and found myself in the beautiful surroundings of South Africa’s most famous national park. It was the heat of the day so I wasn’t expecting to see much. I pootled in my (very small) car along the tar road keeping an eye-out for wildlife. As I turned into the private concession area and found myself driving along dirt roads into the vast African bush. As soon as I had turned off the tar road there were noticeably fewer cars, in fact I only saw one other, which certainly increased my optimism about this new experience. The first animals I saw were a couple of giraffes browsing on acacia and then immediately after I spotted a herd of elephants in the distance. This was more like it.

Camp Shawu, Shishangeni

Shishangeni is about an hours drive from Komatipoort and there are three different styles of lodges on the reserve.  I only had two nights there, which I seriously regret, and I stayed at two of the three lodges.

I have to say that the highlight of my trip was whilst I was staying in Camp Shawu, the more luxurious and exclusive lodge with a genuine wilderness feel about it.  The camp has only 5 ‘tents’ which really should not be classified as tents, they are more like divine canvas rooms. Each room is enormous, the phrase ‘you could swing a cat in it’ should really be upgraded to ‘you can swing a lion in it’, they are vast.  Inside there is an enormous double bed surrounded by mosquito netting, a couple of comfy leather armchairs, a clawfoot bath and a toilet cleverly screened off in the far corner. The rooms was filled with old-fashioned adornments giving a genuine safari feel.

Camp Shawu, where to stay in KrugerOutside each tent there is a shower for washing under the stars. In front of the bed are doors leading out onto decking which overlooks the massive waterhole in front of the lodge. I could hardly contain my excitement when I got there, that real genuine ‘Out of Africa’ feeling. This is what a safari to Africa should be all about.

Wildlife viewings from my tent in Kruger

After lunch I spent a couple of hours simply sitting on the decking are watching animals coming to drink. I armed myself with binoculars, bird books, my camera and a cup of tea, all of which was precariously balanced on a small table next to my sun lounger. I have to admit it took me a few minutes to realise that directly in front of me was a pod of about 30 hippo. In my defence they were all lying in the mud playing musical statues to a tune I could not hear. I only realised that these smooth ‘rocks’ were actually hippos when one of them sorted.

The first visitor to the waterhole was a lone white rhino bull which slowly sauntered down to drink. He was closely followed by a couple of elephants which were then joined by three more and they gracefully ambled around the far edge stopping to drink on the way.  The sound of the African bush resonated in the background and I was truly in heaven.

view from Camp Shawu lodge in KrugerHowever, my peaceful quiet time was going to be disturbed, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I had my binoculars glued to my eyes looking at the far side of the water hole and I had failed to check the nearside of the waterhole, which was only 20m away.  A massive rumbling interrupted my searching. I certainly did not need my binos when three majestic bull elephants materialised on the right-hand side! They stopped right front of me to drink and to wallow in the mud. The smell of mud was a serious assault on my nasal cavities, it smelt of sewage. Little did I know that these elephants were the scouting party, 15 mins later a massive herd of elephants arrived. It was elephants on parade.

My camera was working on overdrive. Thank goodness for digitalisation…

stay in Kruger, how about this for a view?

The elephants were in no rush. After the initial panic of trying to capture the ideal photo I put my camera down and enjoyed the spectacle. Elephants waded into the mud and I could hear the suction slurping sound as they pulled their feet out of it. The youngsters were over exuberant around the water and adult mothers sedately kept everything in check. It was a beautiful sight to behold, such a privilege.

Kruger safari drive

Our game drive left a little bit late, well, watching those elephants was truly spectacular and we could not leave until they had left. However we did go on safari and the excitement didn’t stop then. Within half an hour we spotted a black rhino and her calf, this is a very rare sight. You don’t often see black rhino, let alone calfs, and these were out in the open. Surprisingly, she didn’t really seem that bothered, she just carried along with life. We watched her feed off the scrub bushes nearby and sat about 30 m away just watching the spectacle for over half an hour.

black rhino calf seen on Kruger safariWhat I loved about it was that once we had seen the mother and calf there was no rush to try and tick off other wildlife, we had the joy of spending time watching these animals simply going about life. Why rush through life?

The rest of the game drive included more elephant, a herd of very old buffalo and giraffe. There was also the compulsory sundowners of beer with delicious chilli biltong. Biltong is rather addictive and I was thankful that only two of us actually liked the stuff. Obviously I wasn’t going to try and change anyone’s opinion on it either. As we drank our beer a fish eagle elegantly took off from the river towards the sunset, purely idyllic. With the darkness encroaching we watched a couple of hippo plodding out of the water and onto land to feed.  It was time to get back to camp for supper under the stars.

fish eagle take off on Kruger SafariThat night I went to sleep to the sound of snorting and honking hippos who generously provided me with a rather interrupted sleep, however I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.  Every time they woke me up I smiled, rolled over and went back to sleep again. I heard lion roaring in the middle of the night, but we never saw them. Kruger’s carnivores were elusive that day. That is the nature of being on safari, even in Kruger.

But what a really wonderful night.

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  1. Lena says:

    November 30th, 2016 at 6:48 pm (#)

    Wow amaZing Jenny your making me jealous! Sounds incredible, I still hear the sounds of Swaziland and have dreams that I’m back there!

  2. senseafrica says:

    December 8th, 2016 at 11:28 am (#)

    Thank you Lena, really pleased you are still ‘sensing’ Africa, even if it is in your dreams!!! x

  3. Michela says:

    November 30th, 2016 at 8:11 pm (#)

    Gosh this sounds wonderful Jenny. If ever you need a stand in do let me know!

  4. senseafrica says:

    December 8th, 2016 at 11:26 am (#)

    Ah yes, a stand in, of course! But there is a long queue…! x

  5. phil says:

    November 30th, 2016 at 8:41 pm (#)

    love reading your adventures as always Jen x

  6. senseafrica says:

    December 8th, 2016 at 11:25 am (#)

    Thank you Phil x.

  7. Lari says:

    December 15th, 2016 at 9:15 am (#)

    Hi Jenny,
    I have to say, I’ve been to Kruger quite a few times and have had great experiences there, as long as you’re patient, though it does depend a lot on luck and being in the right place at the right time. We’ve had a leopard sighting all to ourselves on one of the unpaved road, due to my husband’s eagle eye. Just the flick of an ear, and we stopped to witness this beautiful creature get up and saunter towards us, walk in front of the car to mark it, before wandering off across the road. We followed him at a safe distance as he walked just off the road before he disappeared further into the bush. One of the best sightings, but not the only one! It is possible to find quieter areas, and it helps to avoid peak South African holiday time.

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