Planning your own wildlife tour
Making the most of your visit to the Kruger Park - part 2
Planning a wildlife tour to the Kruger National Park? Read on! This is the second article in a series that provides you with essential information about visiting the Kruger National Park. If you missed the first one, you can view it here: viewing wildlife part 1.
How long should my wildlife tour be?
Once you have chosen where you would like to stay, you need to decide how long you would like to stay for. This is a key part of making the most of your visit the Kruger. If you love wildlife, I promise you that a 1 or 2 day tour will be too short a visit for you. I have been there countless times and I still prefer to go for at least a week at a time. It's the perfect haven in which to relax, unwind and absorb the sights, smells and sounds of the bush around you. You don't want to feel rushed to see everything in 2 days - and besides, that's absolutely impossible. Every day in Kruger is different, and on every game drive you spot new and different wildlife. Perhaps you saw lots of zebra today, but tomorrow you might spot a zebra being born! (Or caught by a lion, for that matter).
Here is my suggestion for a first-time visitor: Book at least 3 nights with a quality tour operator who can show you the Kruger Park on a guided wildlife tour with an expert guide. After these 4 days, you will have a good idea whether you want to come back to the Park on your own in the future, or even add a few days on after your guided safari tour.
If you prefer to tour the Park on your own from the start, choose 2 camps in different areas, and book yourself about 3 nights at each camp. For example, spend 3 nights in Letaba or Olifants camp and 3 nights in Lower Sabie camp. This will give you the time and opportunity to see a lot more of Kruger and a variety of wildlife. Once you have decided, make a reservation through the Parks Board's website (www.sanparks.org) or through a tour operator (www.wild-wings.co.za). It is best to book a year in advance to ensure availability.
The Kruger Park has a hot, sub-tropical climate and most of the year it is hot during the day (above 25 degrees C). In the summer months of October to April it can be very hot, and camping during this time can be unpleasant. But there are advantages to coming in summer time - the bush is green and lush, the young impalas are born in late November and offer lots of entertaining viewing, and the thunderstorms can be spectacular. If you're planning a wildlife tour during this time of year it is advisable to stay in air-conditioned accommodation and travel in an air-conditioned vehicle so the heat doesn't make your vacation unpleasant.
Wintertime, from May to September, is the most popular time to visit the game reserve, because the daytime temperatures are very pleasant (warm but not too hot). At night time it can be a little chilly, enough for you to want to bring long pants and a warm top with you. The bush during winter months is very dry, especially late in the season (September - October) before the rain comes. The dry bush may not look as attractive as the lush, green summer vegetation, but it is easier to spot the animals in the dry season. This is partly because the bush is more open and allows better visibility, and partly because in such dry times the activity of the animals revolves around the need to drink, which makes it more rewarding to sit and wait at a watering hole. Those drinking holes, dams and rivers that still have water become a hive of wildlife activity.
People often ask what time of year is best for visiting the Kruger Park. Well, I have experienced all the different seasons many times, and each has its own unique beauty and advantages. I have seen fantastic wildlife sightings at various different times of the year. However, most people prefer the cooler winter months, which offers excellent game viewing and a lower risk of malaria on your wildlife tour.
Should I be worried about malaria?
You are advised to take precautions against malaria, but the risk of it should not stop you from visiting the Kruger National Park. Every year, thousands of tourists from all over the world come on wildlife tours to the Kruger Park, and cases of malaria are very seldom reported. This is because there are steps you can take to avoid contracting malaria. One of these is taking your anti-malaria tablets prescribed by your travel clinic or doctor, and the other is avoiding being bitten by mosquitoes. You can do this by wearing long clothing (especially in the evenings), keeping your room's insect screens closed, keeping the air-conditioner on, and using insect-repellant on your skin. If you do get bitten, don't panic - most mosquitoes do not carry the malaria parasite. If you do feel sick or develop a fever after visiting a malaria area, consult your doctor and tell him that you have been to a malaria area.
What should I bring?
I'm not going to discuss a long list of everything you need to bring with you on a wildlife safari - I will only mention the important items people sometimes forget. Bring a hat and sunscreen lotion. Bring your anti-malaria tables and other medication you may need. You do not need water-purification tablets, as the water in most of South Africa including the Kruger Park is clean and safe to drink. Bring a towel and swimwear - there are swimming pools in many rest camps. Bring a flashlight with spare batteries. For open vehicle game drives, bring earwarmers, a scarf and perhaps gloves, as the early morning game drives can be chilly. Bring a good pair of binoculars - this is essential on game drives. If you have any reference books on birds or animals of Southern Africa, bring those along on your tour too. And bring some leisure reading material for those lazy, peaceful African evenings you will enjoy. Besides all that, don't forget your camera, wallet and reservation letter or reference number! Most daily necessities can be bought in the camp shop, so there is no need to arrive with a month's supplies.
Now that you have planned your safari and got everything ready, it's time to actually get there! Read more about that in part 3 of this series (coming soon).
© Copyright 2005 - Onne Vegter - All Rights Reserved
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