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Drive 1- Crocodile Bridge to hippo pools, H4-2 to Mativuhlungu Loop to Lower Sabie.
Drive 2- Lower Sabie to S29 to S122 to H10 to Lower Sabie.
Drive 3- Lower Sabie H4-1 to N’watimhiri causeway and back.
Night 1- Lower Sabie campground.
Our first drive in the park was like living The Lion King. I conveniently “forgot” my driver’s license at home. WINK. No, really, I did forget it. WINK WINK. So Greg was forced to drive the entire time while I navigated, spotted animals, and read interesting facts about every animal we encountered. In short- a dream come true.
I had read questionable online reviews about Lower Sabie- one blogger said it was the biggest dump in the park. Still, I read the area around it was great for lions and leopards so we went against opinions and booked one night there. It ended up being my favorite camp! There’s a dam about 500 yds outside the camp fence which was always loaded with hippos and crocs of course (BLECH!) as well as lots of water birds, impala, kudu, and baboons. P.S. Every body of water in Kruger is loaded with hippos and crocs. I read a story about a German woman skinny-dipping in a waterhole when a ranger found her and made her get out. She was very upset until the ranger shined (shone?) a light on the water and the eyes of all the crocs and hippos shined back. Can you imagine?
There’s a great bridge across the Sabie River where you can stop and watch critters. There was always at least one elephant hanging around camp if not twenty or thirty, and from the bridge we could see big groups of them, as well as buffalo, impala, hippos, crocs, and baboons. Our first time crossing the river Greg spotted a dead hippo in the water, about halfway between the bridge and camp. Mmmm… I love a good carcass. It was still early when we first got to camp so we took another drive north along the Mlondozi and Muntshe loops until it was too hot to go any further. I don’t think we saw a single animal on that entire drive until just before camp a big group of giraffes crossed the road in front of us. One thing we learned- where there is one giraffe there is sure to be another. They quickly became one of our favorites. We stopped to watch them graze and a big male crossed right in front of us. We were dumbstruck- it was unreal how tall he was. It’s amazing how every animal here is so specialized; everyone has a purpose. Did you know? A giraffe’s heart is two feet long and weighs 25 lbs, and their necks are equipped to reach leaves 19 ft off the ground. And they’re super classy- we called them the Belles of the Ball. And every time we saw one Greg said “You sold me… queer giraffes.” Every. Time.
Once we were able to check into our camp site we realized just how wrong the internet was. A dump?! Lower Sabie was awesome! An open-air restaurant with a covered deck overlooking the river, a pool, clean communal kitchens with boiling water on tap, and plenty of shade to escape the midday sun. We parked our eyesore and made ourselves right at home. After that boiling hot second drive we needed a chiller so we sat out on the restaurant’s deck and enjoyed bottomless ginger beer and lemonade (with ice!) along with a basket of fries and watched big groups of elephants going to the river for their baths. “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s South Africa.”
That evening we drove west along the Sabie, hoping to spot a leopard, but settling for hippos at the dam instead. The campground gates close every night at 6:00p (you’re fined if you come in later than that) which is nice for getting to bed early. At the grocery store back in Nelspruit we had argued over the meat to get for our first dinner. I voted on ostrich steak or ostrich burgers while my particular, Nancy of a husband chose plain ol’ beef sausages. He got his way of course, because regardless of what he may tell you, what papa wants papa gets. We had grilled halloumi, cous cous, and boiled sausage for our first dinner. Boiled. Beef. Sausage. I took two bites out of courtesy then offered the rest to Greg. As everyone well knows, it’s not often Gregory denies food, but even he couldn’t take that greasy lump of grey rubber. The Warckens actually threw food out that night.
Earlier, when we were headed back from the restaurant everyone was looking up at the ceiling where a furry mammal with a long tail was walking along the rafters. I asked a woman next to me what it was. “What IS it? It’s a bush baby.” Like I was a complete moron for not knowing. I said “Really? Looks like a mammal.” Get it? It’s a bush, baby.
Drifted off to sleep with the sounds of hippos drifting up from the river. Aside from the sausage, a perfect day.
Enjoy our amateur video!
See our other days in Kruger: