Hiking The Kruger National Park’s Wilderness Trails

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Of small percentage of South Africa is classified as real wilderness areas. In the Kruger National Park 49% of the surface area of about 2 million hectares are zoned as wilderness and it is in these areas that the KNP conduct wilderness trails. There are thousands of wildlife destinations on the African continent but few of them offer an authentic wilderness experience to tourists. Driving around in an open game drive vehicle the whole time and staying in a luxury lodge is not necessarily the real thing. Staying in a rustic, primitive camp and experiencing the African bush on foot is much closer to an ultimate wilderness type ofexperience . That is what KNP offers to the more adventurous tourist – wildness, remoteness, tranquillity, peace and a big bonus; no other people……

Although the KNP conduct trails in Big 5 areas, the main aim of these trails is to have a wilderness experience. The KNP Wilderness Trails cannot compete with other expensive luxury destinations as far as guaranteed game viewing and service is concerned but they can offer vast open spaces and a special kind of atmosphere that very few other destinations can match. Everybody nowadays offers Big 5 as part of the package. Few can offer an experience of real bush exclusivity. KNP Wilderness Trails sees dangerous animals as part of the bigger picture and not the whole picture.There are so much more to see and to experience and they focus not only on the big aspects of nature but also on the smaller things that most people miss when they only drive around. Being on foot makes you feel part of the environment and not removed from it when you spend all your time in a vehicle. It tunes you in to all facets of nature because you can smell, see, hear, touch, feel and even taste wild things. Driving is a visual experience – walking is a sensual experience.Wilderness ethics and philosophy are very important aspects of the KNP’s presentation on trails. It is a sad fact that there are so few wilderness areas left to the human race on earth and our mission is to create this awareness. The more people worldwide that stand up for our natural heritage the more we and future generations will benefit.Wilderness Trails starts on either a Wednesday afternoon to a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon to a Wednesday morning. It is a three-night trailwith the two days in between spent walking.Our group of eight people left Gauteng in two vehicles early on a mid-April Wednesday morning. We stopped at the well-knownALZU on the N4 for breakfast and from there our route took us down into the Lowveld to Kruger Gate where we entered Kruger National Park.We drove via Skukuza and Tshokwane Picnic site to Satara Camp. We met the trail ranger at 15h30 in the parking area of Satara Camp and after loading the vehicle, we left for our camp for the next three nights.We arrived at the Sweni trail camp late afternoon after a slow drive from Satara. The camp is situated on the Sweni River and surrounded by open flat thorn tree savannah where large herds of game concentrates. This in turn attracts large concentration of predators into this area and the biggest drawcard of the trail experience is to be part of this predator/prey relationship or as one of our fellow trialist put it……….to feel how it feels to be part of the food chain. On arrival at the camp, we were orientated and introduced to the camp and were given time to settle in and relax before the trail leader gave us a full briefing on the camp rules and routine for the next few days. After a wholesome meal, we all sat around the campfire socialising and listening to the night sounds. We heard lions roar frequently at night as sound travels far in this open landscape.The mornings started before the crack of dawn with a cup of coffee, tea and a rusk. We did two morning hikes of respectively twelve and fourteen kilometres each and two shorter afternoon hikes. Sightings on foot included Elephant, White Rhino, Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Duiker and Impala. Plant life is very diverseand the birding was excellent and birds typical of plains landscapes occurred. We did two night drives and the highlight were undoubtedly sightings of African wild cat, Porcupine, White tailed mongoose, lion, leopard and hundred meters further……a flat tyre.On the last morning we had a scrumptious breakfast and the opportunity to enjoy the early morning bush chorus from the camp as no walking took place. We were then returned to our vehicles at Satara camp from where we left for Berg en Dal for the final night in Kruger National Park before returning home.

 

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