2nd July, 2017
Today (2nd March, 2017) was our last day in Kruger National Park. Me and my husband didn’t want to leave this jungle. No offense to Cape Town and Knysna, but Kruger was just another level. After three days in the Jungle, we had forgotten the rest of our trip and all we could think of day and night were the Elephants, Lions and the Rhinos!!!
MIRINDA suggests: We strongly recommend doing minimum 3 days in Kruger which will give you 6 game drives – that will be enough to get an overall experience of the jungle. Lot of people just do 2 days in Kruger, but we feel it’s too cramped and you also might end up not seeing all the Big 5. Personally, I would have easily done 2 more days in Kruger. I was in love with the overall jungle experience, the people and the hospitality.
It was the same morning routine as always. Wake up call at 5 am, followed by the morning coffee and at 5:30 we were in our vehicle. Today, we had a new tracker – Jerry (Robert was on leave from today).
MIRINDA fun facts: The staff at Kirksman’s Kamp follows a very interesting leave cycle. It is 6 weeks of work and then 2 weeks off. The management had organized the entire staff into different clusters. So the shift keeps on rotating.
Morning Game Drive
We had seen more than what we had hoped to see in Kruger. So, today we had decided to enjoy the jungle one last time, leave it on Joel and Jerry to make us see whatever came in the path. It seemed like gods were smiling on us on the last day. Just as we got out of the camp, we saw an entire herd of Wildebeests grazing in the green pastures.
Further ahead, we saw a male hyena, scouting the surroundings. The hyena was making its “laughing noise”, from which it is given the name “Laughing Hyena”. Joel told us that the hyena could be calling upon the members of the clan to join. It looked like it could be following a leopard or lion with the idea of scavenging of them. It was getting exciting!!
As we moved a little forward, we heard a loud elephants trumpet noise. It was charging in the bush scampering the Impalas away. At first, it seemed as if it was trying to get rid of the Impalas bothering him. But according to Joel, this was uncharacteristic for the elephant trying to chase off a small harmless animal like Impala. Joel and Jerry smelled something fishy in the entire activity. They took the car off-route inside the tall bushes to introspect further.
Just at a short distance, hiding in the bush was a fully grown Male Leopard. It was so well camouflaged, that we could hardly see it hiding in the bush – only a tracker could have spotted him. I was quite sure that if I would have been walking alone in that bush, I would have stepped on it for sure. It was sitting there quietly, waiting for an opportune time to pounce upon the Impalas. However, the elephant had spoiled its party!! We just waited there for the leopard to make any movement, but it hardly moved. It was just waiting patiently for a perfect spot to catch its prey unaware.
After a perfect start we drove ahead, after a short while we spotted a Female Rhino along with a young calf. The Female Rhino was teaching its calf the technique to remove the ticks from its body. The young calf was clearly quite annoyed with all the ticks on its body and was trying to use a log of wood as a scratching tool. It was very funny and amusing watching the baby Rhino trying different postures to get rid of the ticks. Mother rhinos are very possessive about their young calves and we were very careful not to invade their space.
MIRINDA fun facts: Many of you might have noticed an Oxpecker bird on the Rhino back. Oxpeckers eat the ticks on the skin of the Rhinos. This appears to be a useful symbiotic relationship. The birds find food, and the rhinos are relieved from tick infestations. However, the relationship is not quite as mutually beneficial as it seems when you see rhinos and other animals with a row of Oxpeckers sitting on their backs and heads. The birds seem to prefer ticks that are already engorged with blood, i.e. ticks that have already bitten the animal, and the birds have a liking for blood, and will peck at any unhealed wounds on the rhino’s skin. This makes the wounds slower to heal.
Only a few moments later, we saw another pair of mother and its cub. But this time it was a female Leopard and a male Cub. “Today was a mother toddler day in Kruger”!! The mother was walking ahead and the cub was closely following her. The mother leopard was marking her territory in the area squirting its urine around. Suddenly, she made a rusping sound, which scared all of us. Joel calmed us down and explained to us that it is part of the whole territory marking routine. It was very touching to see that while the mother was busy keeping a strong eye on the surroundings, the cub in its own playful mood was trying to distract her – trying to engage in some childhood fun. We spent a considerable amount of time with them. It was so cool just watching them stroll around, walking peacefully, climbing trees – all along giving different poses for the camera.
MIRINDA fun facts: The typical duration of the Leopard pregnancy longs about 3 months. The female leopard gives birth to 3 to 5 little leopards, which begin to see after 10 days. The little ones learn from their mother how to swim, to climb, to hunt and how to protect themselves from other predators. The mother takes care of her cubs until they become 2-3 years old, after that they are on their own.
We were having the best morning. And to make it better, it was time for the last morning coffee in the jungle amidst the animals. For the final time, we had the “Robertocchino”, although this time Robert wasn’t around with us. As we sipped the coffee away, in our minds we bid a final goodbye to the wonderful animals of Kruger – but with a promise that we will come back very soon.
At around 9:30 am we were back to Kirksman’s Kamp. Post a nice breakfast, we packed our bags and were all set to depart from Kruger. Before departing, we of course shopped a few souvenirs from a small shop at Kirksman Camp. We thanked the hotel staff for a wonderful time and around 12:00 pm, we reached the Skukuza Airport.
MIRINDA fun facts: The in-house shop at Kirksman’s Kamp had a good collection of souvenirs ranging from clothes, hats, posters, soft toys, animal sculptures etc. With reference to the tipping guidelines, Kirksman’s Kamp has an in-house guide book which is provided to each guest on arrival. It clearly lays down the suggested tipping for the ranger, tracker, butler and other in house staff.
Halt at Johannesburg
With an idea of resting a bit before the long journey back home, we had decided to stay for 1 night at Johannesburg. At the time of making reservations in Johannesburg, we had heard a lot of concerning things about tourist safety there. Hence, we had booked a room at Peermont D’oreale Grande Hotel, a popular hotel located very close to the airport. We landed at Johannesburg airport at around 2:00 pm and took an airport taxi to our hotel.
MIRINDA suggests: Most taxi drivers at Johannesburg airport, even the authorized ones with orange t-shirts, do not follow the cab meters and are known to overcharge for even small distances. We advise you to make a very clear deal with the taxi drivers before driving away in one of them. The best alternative is to use Uber or other taxi apps.
Peermont D’oreale Grande Hotel was located around 10 mins from the airport. The entire setup was like a mini township with a shopping arcade, restaurants, casino, theatres and hotels of various categories from 3 star to 7 star. We were extremely exhausted after three days of the safari and just wanted to rest in the entire last day. We decided to take a small stroll and check out the entire complex, also we were craving for some Indian cuisine, so we decided to eat lunch at the Taste of Mumbai. We chit chatted with the owner for a bit, who was also from India, and then took off to our room.
MIRINDA suggests: There are a number of things that can be done in and around Johannesburg even if you just have one day. We would suggest to visit the Stanton area – It’s popular for its high street shopping experience. Later, you can take a guided city tour of the city and then you can finish with dinner at Nelson Mandela square, which is home to a variety of restaurants and bars.
MIRINDA suggests: We would recommend avoiding Johannesburg as a part of itinerary. Some people do visit Sun City, which is a 2 hour drive from Johannesburg and is known for its resorts and casinos, but there is not much unique about it. Further, the safety issue is a very concerning point in Johannesburg and might kill the fun out of your stay. In fact, if you have time, then we would suggest adding Victoria Falls or Hermanus, or even adding more days in Kruger or Cape Town to your itinerary.
Finally, on 4th March, 2017 we checked out of Emperors Palace and made way to the airport for the flight back home.
MIRINDA suggests: We advise you to keep 2-3 hours margin for the flights. It is a very busy airport with a lot of flights and tourists coming in. Plus, if you are looking to avail tax-credit and do some shopping, you need to keep extra time in hand. We suggest you keep all your shopping bills handy in order to get a tax credit card.
It was the end of our honeymoon. It was a sad feeling, but we knew we had lot more trips to come. This might sound a bit cliché but we will never forget South Africa, for this is the country which not only showed me amazing landscapes, great people, breathtaking views and gorgeous wildlife, but it is also the country where we laid the first step of our marital life.
I end this blog by quoting the famous South African song “Shosholoza”:
Stimela siphume South Africa
Stimela siphume South Africa
Stimela siphume South Africa
Stimela siphume South Africa”
To many more trips ahead…. Cheers to South Africa. Totsiens!!! (Goodbye!!)
Coming up next… MIRINDA fun facts and suggestions & our South Africa Itinerary..
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