The vleis and pans in the surrounding sweetveld plains fill up quickly, attracting lots of birds and a host of thirsty animals looking to put on condition after the tough, dry winter months. Warthogs are a Satara certainty and there are usually giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest and impala within a short distance of the Satara Camp.
The nearby water holes also attract the predators and the attendant flocks of vultures. On early-morning drives, look out for black-backed jackal making their way back to their lairs after a night’s hunting and scavenging.
Two recommended water holes near Satara are Nsemani and Girivana. Large herds of elephant are often seen at Girivana, named after a Shangaan chief who controlled broad swathes of central Kruger at the turn of the 20th century. It is rated as one of the top photographic spots in the Park because it is accessible to vehicles on three sides. This is also a favourite early morning drinking spot for lion.
All the big cats are to be found in the grasslands around Satara, which support large herds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and impala. There are also frequent sightings of elephant, giraffe and waterbuck.
This is an excellent game-viewing base in the middle of Kruger. Set in the flat, prime game-viewing knob-thorn and marula savanna plains, Satara is the second-largest camp in Kruger, and so accommodation is often available at short notice. Many Kruger veterans see Satara as the heart of Kruger because of the numbers of big game in the area and the fact that it is one of the best places to see lion in the Park.
Satara was originally designated farmland and was part of a privately owned belt that divided the old Sabi and Shingwedzi Game Reserves in the early 20th century. The camp’s name originates from the notebook of an Indian land surveyor who numbered the original farm as 17 (satra in Hindi). It was made a ranger’s post in 1910 and then became a tourist facility in 1928.
Unlike most other camps, it is not situated on a major river, although it is close to the confluence of the Shitsikana and Nwanetsi watercourses, which have well-developed riverine woodlands. The camp has a special African-ambience eating deck – the Nthuthwa (“giraffe” in the Shangaan language) Restaurant which specialises in traditional African meals. After most diners have left, this is a good place to listen for Satara’s night sounds – the clink of fruit bats, owl calls, the whoops of hyaena, the screech of jackals and the occasional roar of lions.
Satara is also a child-friendly camp because of the amount of open space within the camp and the specialised game tours customised for young ones. It has a day area with a swimming pool.
One of Kruger’s early rangers, William Walter Lloyd is buried at Satara, having died of a lung infection in 1922. His death is also the story of an act of extraordinary bravery on the part of a black ranger whose name is not recorded in the history books. Lloyd died in the middle of the night and the unnamed ranger took it upon himself to report the matter to Colonel Stevenson-Hamilton who was at Sabi Bridge (Skukuza) more than 70km away.
The ranger ran and walked through the most dangerous lion-infested bush in the Park, reaching Sabi Bridge at 3am, less than 24 hours after leaving Satara. Stevenson-Hamilton immediately set out for Satara with the ranger. When they arrived, they found that Mrs Lloyd and her three small, barefooted sons had already buried Lloyd under a tree near their house (the first building in the Camp).
Stevenson-Hamilton reflected: “It must be difficult for people accustomed only to civilised surroundings to realise the position of women living far away in the African bush without neighbours, before the days of motor cars, and how they had to be prepared to face any kind of unexpected and sudden emergency.”
Visits to Lloyd’s grave can be organised through Satara reception.