On 10 - 12 December 2004, I had the privilege of experiencing the Bundu Trail. The group was out on an afternoon/night drive and I arrived at the camp alone. I immediately realised why it was called the Bundu Trail when I saw the camp.
Situated between giant Tambotie trees on the bank of a dry streambed were only the five small dome tents arranged in a semi-circle with a boma roughly packed with dry tree trunks to act as a kitchen, lounge, and dining room. The mobile toilet only partially screened by a canvas sail, was situated on one side with an open view of the bush.
Although a small fire was packed I decided to wait for the group to return from their night drive before lighting it. Sitting waiting in the boma in total darkness one realises how vulnerable you are out there in the bush with no fence or brick walls to protect you.
At one stage I smelled something like rotten meat coming from right behind me. Because it was dark I could not see what it was but it was really nerve wracking, because the boma is totally open and anything can walk in there. On inspection later with the trails guide, we saw that it was a hyena and that he stood in the opening watching me from less than 3metres away.
When the group arrived I immediately felt welcome and could see that they had had a very successful drive. Successful it was indeed as they saw a lot of game including three of the Big Five, elephant, buffalo and lions. The groups tour guide Johan, prepared a great tasting dish for us and after dinner we sat around the fire discussing the day and Jannie Kriel (our guide) informed us of the plans for the next day.
We would start with an early morning drive around 04h30 and have brunch at Timbavati Picnic spot. The drive up to Timbavati was a successful one adding leopard to the list, leaving only rhino to complete the Big Five. From here we took the round trip through Satara back to camp.
It is a huge advantage to view game in one of the Park's open vehicles as your vantage point is higher than normal and you are accompanied by a guide who knows the area and what to expect. Back at the camp we quickly grabbed our bags and went to Orpen to shower and to freshen up. We relaxed for a while and it was time for a night drive again.
We drove out to a viewpoint next to the Timbavati River and enjoyed sundowners and the African sunset until it was dark enough. Again we had a good drive with interesting spottings such as civet, genet and jackal. We then went back to camp for dinner where we were treated to a traditional South African braai. Our guide once again informed us of the next day's program which would start with a morning walk in an area north of the Timbavati River.
The morning started early and we were up at 03h15. We picked up three more guests and left for the walking area. On our way there we were fortunate to see four rhinos. There was a bull trying to attack a calf while his mother protected him with all her might. With a lot of noise and pushing and charging the bull eventually backed off and you realise that a rhino cow is not only very powerful but will do everything to protect her calf.
So, to our group this was the completion of the Big Five and just to top it off we saw another rhino along the way. On arriving at the spot from where we started our walk we were briefed by our guide on all the do's and don'ts and set off to what was the most exciting part of the trip. We were now on level ground with the animals and it is here where you realise just how vulnerable you are. We had an incredible walk in a beautiful area.
At one stage we were on top of a hill overlooking the Timbavati River with a herd of elephant below us. We quickly realised how fortunate we were to be on the hill and not in their way when some of the elephants charged a herd of zebra that were in their way, chasing them off the plain and into the bush.
There was another commotion in the bush with a lot of trumpeting from the elephants and the next moment a rhino cow and her calf came running out of the bush. This all happened right below us without them even knowing that we were there. From here we started on our way back to the vehicle that was about 3km as the crow flies. While walking back our guide picked up the tracks of the Rhino and started to follow it. We only went a short distance when we spotted the rhino and her calf grazing. This was very exiting especially after we saw what a rhino cow with a calf was capable of that morning.
Our guide took us to a spot downwind of the rhino and we approached them very carefully, with the guide and his 'second rifle" always between the rhino and us. We got very close to them and were able to take some great photos. We spent about half an hour with the rhino's before quietly sneaking away. We were all very ecstatic and realized how privileged we were. Our guide made the walk very interesting by sharing his broad knowledge of nature with us, teaching us things that we never knew about.
To experience Kruger Park on foot is a definitive must for all visitors and it is here that you really gain respect for nature and its inhabitants. You get the real feel of what it must be like for the animals living out there.
To be accompanied by experienced people like Jannie Kriel and his 2nd rifle Rooney Landella makes this trip even more worthwhile as they are prepared to share with you everything they know and make you feel at home. There are real salt of the earth people who will go the extra mile to make your stay an unforgettable one.