Berg-en-Dal to Wolhuter, Kruger National Park

Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp

Before breakfast we took a stroll around the perimeter trail and were immediately greeted by a small herd of buffalo no more than 50 yards from the fence. They didn’t seem to be bothered by our proximity, just standing and staring in the early morning light. We walked around the camp and checked out the other facilities – a nice pool, laundry room, a couple of restaurants and small outdoor amphitheater.

Once our bags were packed we had a few hours free to explore the park on our own before meeting our guides for the Wolhuter walking safari. Cruising just a small ring of dirt roads around the Berg en Dal camp in the middle of the day (the worst time for viewing game), the area was still teaming with wildlife – impala, rhino, kudu, and baboons.

Even on the main road we encounter big and smaller mammals. One elephant was literally eating by the side of the road. Using the road as his own personal trail he crossed back and forth munching on whichever side he fancied. We watched and snapped photos for a long time before we gently drove around him.

Shortly afterwards we encountered a giraffe, again close to the road and not bothered by the traffic.

Wolhuter Walking Safari

Around 3pm we meet our guides and the other guests we will be spending the next three days with – a young couple also from the US and a Swiss couple on a month long trip in SA. Our guides, Rangani and Moses, are originally from the area around Kruger and are both knowledgeable and entertaining.

Wolhuter is a basic camp with running water, showers and flush toilets, but no electricity. The huts are rustic yet comfy and not much bigger than the two twin beds they contain.

Each of the four huts faces the dry river bed that leads to a watering hole. Twice now I have seen elephants stroll down the river bed to get a drink or splash themselves with the cool water.

I watched one bull for a long time, happily snapping photos until he noticed my presence and took a few steps toward me. Suddenly I was aware of just how close I was to this awesome beast. I look down at the flimsy chain link fence separating us and feeling extremely small and vulnerable take a few slow giant steps backwards until he loses interest in me and returns to the cool water. This is most definitely not a zoo; this is the real deal.

The rest of the afternoon was relaxed, getting acquainted with the camp, watching the wildlife at the watering hole or the mongoose play by the shower stalls. At dusk we pull up chairs near the watering hole and sip our sundowners while we wait for the dinner drum.

Sometime shortly after 6PM we hear the drum and head to the table where there is a simple meal of chicken with a tomato barbeque sauce, mixed vegetables, lettuce and tomato salad, and rice. Guests are expected to furnish their own drinks other than water. After dinner Rangani talks to us about the next morning’s routine and the precautions we need to take walking in the bush. He lightens the mood with silly jokes but walking in the bush is quite serious. By the end of the talk I’m nervous but excited about the morning’s adventure. We retire early and wait for our 4:30AM wake-up call. Sleep comes quickly in the dark quiet night.

September 18, 2011

For links to all the posts in this series see the South Africa page.

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