Dawn and Afternoon Walks
Daily guided early morning and late afternoon walks in Kruger’s unspoilt bush where creatures big and small are met ‘face to face’ are available at most camps.
Sunset, Daybreak and Night Drives
Leave camp before the gates open and use spotlights to search for predators just before dawn, or leave at sunset or at night and experience Kruger’s nocturnal life. Available at most camps.
Mountain Bike Trails
Full- or half-day mountain bike trails are available around Olifants camp.There are three trails - 21,4km, 12,2km and 24,8km.
Bush Braais And Breakfasts
Enjoy exquisite cuisine and refreshments in unsurpassed pristine wilderness locations with stunning views and unique Kruger ambience.
Wilderness Camps and Trails
Seven world-renowned guided wilderness trails, including three nights accommodation in a wilderness camp. Explore the Bushman, Metsi-Metsi, Nyalaland, Olifants, Sweni and Wolhuter trails for an unforgettable wilderness experience.
Meet the stars up close and personal with a guided astronomy experience at Olifants Camp, soon to be expanded to other camps in Kruger. Presentations of the southern hemisphere skies and African star lore, followed by night sky viewing through a large telescope.
Olifants Back Pack Trail
The most recent adventure product in Kruger’s stable is a four-day 42km hiking trail along the Olifants River between Phalaborwa Gate and Olifants Rest Camp.
Birding In Kruger
With about 500 bird species, some of which are not to be found elsewhere in South Africa, Kruger is a popular birding destination.
Birders enjoy the quest for the big 6 – saddle-billed stork, kori-bustard, martial eagle, lappet-faced vulture, Pel’s fishing owl and the ground hornbill.
The immensely popular Lebombo Overland ecotrail is a five day experience that takes the adventure traveller from Crocodile Bridge in the south along the eastern boundary of Kruger to the Pafuri picnic site in the north. The nine hole Skukuza golf course, built in 1972, offers a peaceful close-to-nature golfing experience.
Guides At Lower Sabie
Steven Oosthuizen joined Kruger as a student at Letaba Camp in 2001, working under the guiding hand of Kirsty Redman, interpretive officer with people and conservation, and Louis Olivier, regional ranger of the northern section. Steven was doing his year’s practical training as required to complete the National Diploma in Nature Conservation by the Technikon Pretoria (now University of Tshwane).
After obtaining the qualification he joined Kruger as a guide at Olifants Rest Camp, Berg-en-Dal, and then as a relief guide, stationed at Crocodile Bridge. In February 2005, Steven moved to Lower Sabie. He is engaged to Carine de Wet, who works in the Park Shop at Lower Sabie. Although born in Carolina, Mpumalanga Highveld, Irving Knight spent most of his childhood in and around the Hoedspruit area, close to the Kruger National Park.
Irving completed his primary schooling at Mariepskop in Kampersrus and was at Merensky High School in Tzaneen and Frans du Toit in Phalaborwa for his senior years. A lifelong dream of working in Kruger drove him to obtain a guiding qualification.
He joined the Park in 2001. “We were 22 on the initial selection orientation course, with only 14 completing the course,” he recalls. “I have been at Lower Sabie from the beginning and love what I do – especially the walks – I guess the bush is in my blood.”
The son of two teachers, Jan Oosthuizen hails from George in the Western Cape. For the last five years, except the last seven months when he has been working in Kruger, he has travelled all over southern and eastern Africa.
Jan was a guide for a tour operator who specialises in overland safaris in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and East Africa. “The focus was mostly on adventure activities,” he said. He has always wanted to work in the wilderness and settled in the bush and is “happy to have done so in Kruger.”
The Clash Of The Titans
It was shortly before 06h00 when the dawn walk group entered the Saletje walking area near Lower Sabie. Keeping the group walking in a southerly direction, into the wind, Steven Oosthuizen, senior guide and first rifle on the day, drew attention to the tracks of three white rhinos. A large bull, a cow and calf appeared to be ahead of the group somewhere.
Irving Knight, senior guide and second rifle, also heard branches breaking up ahead and as the group looked in that direction noticed a herd of elephant walking away from the group. It was a typical December day and the group, comprising four South Africans, two Irish visitors and a South African now resident in Australia, was enjoying the wilderness experience of an early morning walk in Kruger.
At that moment, the group heard rhinos vocalising nearby and Steven warned the group that the bull may be attempting to mate with the cow in oestrus. “We then approached cautiously through a thicket of trees north west of the rhinos,” says Steven. They stopped behind a bush, about 70m from the rhinos, who were about 15m apart.
The group moved to a better viewing area, with better cover behind a split wattle tree, about 55 m from the animals. “The bull noticed us, but did not approach.” Instead, the bull walked over to the cow, which was standing south east of the group. “She turned around immediately to face the bull and at that instant their horns clashed with an incredible sound.”
According to Steven, the calf remained at the mother’s side throughout the scuffle, while the bull was trying to stab her from the rear. During the fight, the rhinos had turned towards the group again and were now running blindly towards them, unaware of their presence in the thicket.
Steven and Irving made sure the group stayed together and against the cover. They then began shouting at the rhinos in an attempt to scare them off. This did not work. Steven kept the cow in his sights while Irving placed a warning shot to her left. The warning shot seemed to have worked as the rhinos turned to the left about 11 metres from the group.
“As they turned the bull came to the left of the cow and stabbed her in the frontal chest area,” said Steven. Again, the rhinos turned and charged towards the group, who once again shouted to scare them off. The bull ran off in a southerly direction. The cow and her calf ran to the far left of the group.
“While this was happening Irving took the guests to a larger fallen tree stump north west of us about 100 metres away from the primary cover. I stayed behind to ensure the rhinos did not return and saw the cow collapsing to the ground,” said Steven. With the guests safely behind cover, Irving and Steven tried to get the cow up, but to no avail. She was breathing with difficulty, obviously suffering and clearly seriously injured.
Irving explained to the guests that the cow had to be put down. Steven watched the calf and when it moved a safe distance away from the cow, Steven destroyed the cow. On closer inspection, Steven and Irving found a deep wound in the cow’s chest, where it seems the bull’s horn apparently punctured her lungs.
Both guides, as well as fellow guide, Jan Oosthuizen, and the section ranger, returned to the scene later that afternoon, only to find the calf at the cow’s side. The following day the calf was still keeping vigil at its mother’s side, bravely defending her against anyone attempting to come close, but in the ensuing days the calf, aged between two to three years, disappeared from the scene.
When Predators Become Prey
No day in the bush is ever exactly the same as another, but November 8, 2005 will stand in guide Andrew Desmet’s memory as being extraordinary. On a walk along the Thutsi River south of the Phalaborwa Gate, Andrew and his group of hikers paid heed to the alarm call of a tree squirrel and began to search the nearby trees for signs of a leopard.
To their amazement, they found the carcass of an adult male wild dog hoisted up a nearby leadwood tree. The carcass was fresh, having just been killed that morning. With rain the previous night providing a clean slate for tracks, Andrew was able to read the spoor and uncover the tale of predator versus predator.
The wild dog, known to wander alone in the vicinity of Sable Dam, had chased down a herd of impala and managed to kill an adult female.
From the impala carcass, Andrew saw the wild dog’s tracks lead to a tree about 50m away, where it lay down to rest and digest its meal. Here, the leopard pounced, killing the wild dog and feeding on it before dragging the carcass up the leadwood tree.
That morning the walkers were also treated to the sight of a hyena carrying off the leg of a buffalo bull, which had been killed by lions the previous day.
The buffalo kill was located about 400 metres from the wild dog carcass, and the lions had been feasting on it the night before the walk, but the rain had washed away the lion spoor, leaving the walkers with the uneasy certainty that the lions were still in the area – somewhere!
The call of the wild lures teacher to become expert guide in Kruger
Johann Mdluli was born to be a teacher, yet always longed to work in the wilderness. At present, he is carving a niche as an expert guide, while almost instinctively applying his teaching skills at the same time.
His father was an employee at Skukuza and Johann used to visit the Park at times as a boy.
He was born and grew up in Huntington, a village not too far from the Kruger Gate. After he obtained a teaching qualification at the Hoxani College of Education at Mkhuhlu, he became a teacher who excelled at taking the children to nearby private game reserves and on other conservation excursions.
During the eight years he taught, he did a tracking course at one of the private game reserves and obtained both a guiding and a first aid qualification to enable him to register with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Deat) as a guide.
He then joined Umlani Bushcamp in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve where he added advanced weapons handling and trails guiding skills to his competency levels. Johann had always wanted to work in Kruger and when the opportunity arose in 2004, he applied for the position of relief guide at Letaba – a position he holds dearly today.
“I love this job, and regard it as a privilege,” says Johann. “It is definitely not about the money as I earned more money with more benefits as a teacher,” he adds. Johann says he loves bridging the gap between people and nature and is immensely pleased when people understand how nature and her whims work.
“People want to understand,” he believes and this is where the teacher and the guide in Johann becomes one. In an attempt to remain relevant and professional, Johann has added stargazing, customer care, fire fighting and German to his list of skills. Johann is married to Shirley, who works in the Park Shop at Letaba. They have a son, Ponani (8).