Kruger National Park- Skukuza

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Drive 1- Lower Sabie H4-2 to Gezantfombi waterhole, then S28 to Lower Sabie.

Drive 2- Lower Sabie H4-1 to Skukuza.

Night 2- Skukuza campground.

In bed by 8:00p and up at 5:00a to get out of the gates when they opened at 5:30. Ah, the excitement in the bathroom in the wee hours is reason enough to go to Kruger. Everyone is buzzing with the prospect of seeing wildlife and I felt like part of some exclusive animal-lovers club. We made coffee and tea and headed out with first breakfast. First we crossed over the Sabie Bridge, just to see if anything exciting was going on. The dead hippo had floated down in the night and was sitting in a narrow channel right next to the bridge. I expected there to be four lions on him, but the river was quiet. I made Greg promise to go back later to see how he had progressed.

Note the crocs in the water.

We backtracked south along the tar road and didn’t see much of anything until we got to the bridge crossing the Vurhami River at the Gasanftombi Dam. There were a few cars parked on the bridge with baboons running all around so initially I thought it was for them, then I saw what everyone was actually looking at- our first lion. I didn’t tell Greg what it was- just handed him the binoculars. Gregory has a dream to see all the major big cats of the world- lion, cheetah, leopard, tiger, snow leopard, jaguar, African golden cat- and this was his first. We sat with our second breakfast- yogurt with bananas and muesli- and watched until they eventually disappeared into the shadows. But not before two of ladies came up on the road- I think to try and snag a baboon. How I wish they had. I hate baboons like I hate hippos. Greg likes to play “Would You Rather” with me. Would you rather be thrown into a baboon pit or into a hippo pool? Neither, I’d rather cut my own wrists.

We took the S28 dirt road back to Lower Sabie, and yes, we said every road we took like the Californians. We took the ECH fouar two to the ess twanty aeight. That ended up being our favorite drive in the park. Next time we’re staying at Crocodile Bridge two nights so we can drive it early morning a couple of times. We saw nine rhinos and countless zebra, elephants, giraffes, warthogs, and antelope, but no cats. Stopped at our first of many hides at Ntandayathi. Because African wildlife is so insanely aggressive you can only get out of your vehicle in designated areas- picnic areas and hides, namely. The camps, by the way, are surrounded by tall electric fences and the entry gates have an electrified cattle guard. Though I did see in a book where an adult male lion somehow made it into the Lower Sabie camp once. He didn’t do anything, just found some shade until the rangers could get him out again, but can… you… imagine?

When we got back to Lower Sabie the hippo had gone from bloated to worse. His skin had turned into a road map of blood blisters, his eyes were bulging out of his head, and blood was bubbling from his nose. Oh how I willed him to explode. I wanted to sit there all day chanting “BURST. BURST. BURST.” but Greg wouldn’t let me. Something about being covered in hippo guts and the stench of a rotten carcass. But it would’ve been quite the show. I think about that hippo every day, and wonder what eventually happened to him. I hope it was gruesome.

Filled up at Lower Sabie before heading to Skukuza for the night. Two of our tires were low so the station employee went about repairing them. He found a nail in the front left tire, but couldn’t get it out with his hands or with pliers so he tried using his teeth. This is what I love about other nationalities- they are street-smart, resourceful, and effective. He ended up getting it out with pliers. We tipped the man for his repairs, and I made him and the other two station employees pb&j’s which they all happily accepted without any polite “Oh, no thanks.” or “Are you sure?” or “I couldn’t possibly”, which is one of my biggest pet peeves in life. Just take what is offered to you and be thankful for it. I was happy as a glossy starling they all took my sandwiches.

Greg couldn’t believe he was using his teeth.


Tons of wildlife on the way from Lower Sabie to Skukuza. In Greg’s queer giraffe defense, every time I saw a hornbill I sang “Kings don’t need advice from little hornbills for a start!” And every time I saw a warthog “When he was a young warthog…” “When I was a young wartHOG!”

Southern Ground Hornbill.
Another lioness walked right by us!

After getting to camp we found a shady spot to park and went straight to the pool. What an absolute joy, being able to go to water when the day gets too hot. These South Africans have really got things figured out. After the sausage debacle I got to pick out the meat for dinner- ground impala to go in our pasta. It was a bit too gamey for me but Greg loved it.

A lovely evening sitting in our camp chairs, envious of all the braais (barbecues) around us. South Africans love their braais so much there’s even a National Braai Day every year in September. There was a small spotted genet in camp and hyenas calling from across the river. Another perfect day.


Check out our other days in Kruger:

Kruger National Park

KNP- Lower Sabie

KNP- Biyamiti Loop

KNP- Satara

KNP- Sweni Hide

KNP- Letaba

KNP- Sable Hide

Big Ten Reasons to Visit Kruger


12 thoughts on “Kruger National Park- Skukuza

  1. Love reading about your adventures. I want to know if Greg squealed in delight when he saw his first big cat?!?! Please say yes. Or perhaps he started singing ‘And I just can’t wait to be King….’

    1. He cried like a baby. I wish. He did say the “f word” when he saw one cat, which is only the second time I’ve ever heard him say it (the other was after an amazing Bears victory) so that was fun. And we literally sang that every day.

  2. I remember going on a school trip to Kruger, and one night in camp (I think it was Skukusa) we went to the fence and our guide shined a flashlight into the bush and we could see eyes glowing at us that they said were hyenas! (I think it was so that we didn’t try to sneak out at night-it was before the fences were electrified)
    Another time, there was a hyena in a ditch and my brother threw a cookie out to it. It gobbled it up then came gnashing up to the window for more! Scared me to death.
    I am so enjoying your writings. THANK YOU!

    1. Cathy, I hope you’ve learned your ‘never feed wild animals’ lesson! You’ll be happy to know the hyenas still patrol the camp fences- we had one join us several nights, though of course we didn’t give it any encouragement. The dollar is strong- it’s time for you to go back for a visit!

      1. Sometimes going a bit astray from the rules pays off. My dad took a “wrong turn” down a do not enter trail and we came across a large pride of lions. We stayed and watched them for a couple of hours! But I will never let anyone feed the hyenas again!!

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