Crocodile River Road (S25)
The Crocodile River Road (S25) heads westward into fairly dense thorn thickets and grassland where one has the option of either heading into the central part of the southern Park – along the Bume Road (S26) into the Biyamiti Loop (S23), or to carry on following the Crocodile River towards Malelane.
Generally, the further west one travels in the south of the Park, the more dense the vegetation becomes. This is particularly true during late summer when the bush is at its thickest, which makes it harder to see game.
There is a get-out point along this road is at Hippo Pools (S27), eight kilometres from the entrance gate. There is a guard on duty at Hippo Pools who can show one the remains of San art on the rocks overlooking the river. Unfortunately, most of the artwork disappeared in 2000 when floods washed away many rocks from this part of the river.
The area is unshaded and can get extremely hot in summer. There’s a good chance of seeing hippos and crocs from Hippo Pools and there are often buffalo along the broad river bank.
One unusual incident reported from the Croc River Road dates back to 1960’s when former ranger Thys Mostert saw a fight to the death here between two male giraffe. The road passes the site of the site where General Ben Viljoen destroyed his artillery pieces at the end of the Anglo-Boer war.
How a bar room discussion led to the world’s biggest game reserve
One could say it all started over a beer on the stoep of Hanneman’s Hotel in Komatipoort one hot summer’s day in the early 1900s. Major James Stevenson-Hamilton was reflecting on the first five years of his stewardship of what was then the Sabi Game Reserve.
He was also having his ear bent by the local innkeeper who put up a convincing argument as to why the warden would soon be out of a job. The innkeeper’s argument was simple – there was no sustainable business model to keep the concept of a wildlife reserve afloat, particularly in the face of hostile public opinion led by the pro-hunting lobby.
Stevenson-Hamilton’s thinking shifted profoundly after that beer. He formulated a plan to turn the reserve into a national park, modelled along the lines of the Yosemite Park in the United States. He put this to the colonial authorities in 1912. He found support from his former Boer War enemy, Denys Reitz, who constructed the legal framework for his vision.
Yet it took another 14 years to overcome hostile public, mining and agricultural opposition to the idea before the Hertzog Party was voted into power in 1924. The new Minister of Land Affairs, Piet Grobler, put his personal enthusiasm into steering through Parliament an Act that consolidated the Sabi and Shingwedzi Game Reserves into a single common national park controlled by trustees on behalf of the nation.
Former Kruger head Tol Pienaar invoked a neat turn of phrase when he once described Stevenson-Hamilton, Reitz and Grobler as “the Word, the Deed and the Law”. Their collective vision survived the political turmoil and transformation of 20th-century South Africa to become one of the world’s top wildlife destinations. It also prevented numerous attempts by big business to exploit the rich natural resources that lie beneath the Kruger, stripping away mining rights between the Olifants and Letaba Rivers in the 1920s and halting an attempt in the 1960s to mine for coal on the banks of the Luvuvhu River.
Equal to their task was the late entrepreneur Anton Rupert who pioneered the Peace Parks concept which has taken Kruger to another level – incorporation into a transfrontier park linking South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in what will eventually be the world’s largest game reserve.
Not a bad outcome to a 100-year-old pub argument!
This is a 15 000-hectare private reserve in the Crocodile thorn thickets midway between Biyamiti and the Crocodile River. Lwakahle, which is derived from the siSwati word for “they fight well”, is steeped in history as there are several Iron-Age sites here dating from the 16th and 17th centuries as well as a section of the old Delagoa Bay transport road.
There are three distinct habitat zones in the concession – the bushwillow and raisin bush scrubland in the south, the gabbro sweetveld in the middle and knob-thorn, marula savanna in the north.
Lukimbi Lodge is the luxury camp in the Lwakahle. It has 16 luxury suites, each with its own private lounge and deck overlooking a woodland valley and stream. The camp has an excellent spa which offers beauty treatments and reflexology. It also has a well-stocked library, conference centre, gym and pool. There is a computer station available for sending and receiving e-mails. The camp has a chapel – just in case the flush of bushveld romance necessitates a sudden (or planned) exchange of wedding vows.
One of Kruger’s more unusual kills took place at Lukimbi soon after its launch in 2002 – a leopard pursued an impala into the dining area of the lodge sometime after midnight and slaughtered it near the buffet table. It was probably a good thing that all guests were asleep – by the time they arrived for breakfast, staff had cleaned up the grisly remains of the kill. The woodlands around Lukimbi have both white and black rhino and elephants are frequent visitors to the camp.