Kruger Park Trip Report April – 7 Day Safari Diary

Our Kruger Park trip report is the story of our 7 day safari to the game reserve in April 2012.

April is the dry season and it didn’t rain once while we were there. We did think it might have rained on the evening we were going on our sunset drive, but we were assured by the helpful waiter at Mopani Rest Camp that it would not rain that night.

The land and grasses seemed quite dry in general and the weather was warm every day, but not humid! A lovely time of year to visit the park.

Our Kruger trip report is broken down into 7 sections:

  • Kruger Park Trip Report Day 1: Cape Town to Letaba
  • Kruger Park Trip Report Day 2: Letaba
  • Kruger Park Trip Report Day 3: Letaba to Mopani
  • Kruger Park Trip Report Day 4: Mopani
  • Kruger Park Trip Report Day 5: Mopani to Orpen
  • Kruger Park Trip Report Day 6: Orpen to Skukuza
  • Kruger Park Trip Report Day 7: Skukuza to Cape Town

Day 1 – Cape Town to Letaba, 4th April

This was a big day! We got an early flight at 6:30am from Cape Town and arrived at Johannesburg Airport two hours later. We collected our luggage and picked up our rental car. We had quite a long drive to get to the park as we were entering the central region of the park through Phalaborwa Gate. The drive to this gate took over 6 hours.

Phalaborwa Gate shop

Phalaborwa Gate is right on the edge of Phalaborwa town. We filled the car up with petrol at Phalaborwa as we expected it to be cheaper there than inside Kruger National Park. In reality though, it was only fractionally cheaper.

We entered Phalaborwa Gate to Kruger National Park at around 4pm. The gates close at 6pm in April and so do the rest camp gates.

We were staying the first night at Letaba Rest Camp, which is about 50km (31 miles) away, so we really had to concentrate on the driving and not stopping too much to look at animals. We didn’t want to risk being late into the camp. If you’re late, firstly you get a warning and if you’re late again you’ll be fined!

Our accommodation at Letaba was a bungalow in the rondavel style with a thatched roof, which is common throughout the rest camps. We bought a couple of things from the Letaba shop and had a nice BBQ dinner outside our bungalow.

Bushbuck, Letaba Rest Camp

Letaba has bushbuck and vervet monkeys about the place. We watched them walking around and climbing trees. When it was dark, we even spotted a bushbaby, a nocturnal animal, in a tree.

Day 2 – Letaba, Thursday 5th April 2012

We were up early in the morning and out the rest camp gate just after opening time at 6am. We spent the day on nearby roads and had lunch at Olifants Rest Camp.

Olifants has a really nicely located restaurant with a balcony with trees growing through it. The balcony has a wide sweeping view of Olifants River far below it. It’s a very attractive place to have lunch!

Day 3 – Letaba to Mopani, 6th April

We left Letaba Rest Camp behind and drove further north to Mopani Rest Camp. We were staying in a larger cottage this night.

When we arrived at Mopani, we booked on a sunset drive which left the camp at 4:30pm. We were driven around the nearby roads by a Kruger Park ranger in a special safari vehicle with open sides.

As the sun began to set, nocturnal animals started to come out. We saw an owl on the road, African wild cats and thick-knee birds. We were also lucky to see roan antelope and tsessebe. Then we even saw two female elephants chasing each other at great speed. The ranger said they were in heat and competing with each other. We’d never seen a sight like that before!

Day 4 – Mopani, 7th April

As we were staying at Mopani again, we took the opportunity to drive even further north into the park. The first thing we came across was the Tropic of Capricorn just north of Mopani.

We crossed into the tropics and carried on until we reached Shingwedzi Rest Camp where we had lunch. On our way up we saw a bunch of vultures also having lunch on what appeared to be the leg of a buck! Who knows what happened to that buck the night before.

Tropic of Capricorn, Kruger National Park

On the way back from Shingwedzi, we took a tree-lined road alongside the river. It was really attractive and the best kept secret of our entire safari!

Day 5 – Mopani to Orpen, 8th April

It’s quite a long drive from Mopani to Orpen when you only average 25km (15 miles) per hour, so the trip took us most of the day. We stopped at Satara Rest Camp for lunch.

When we got to Orpen, we stayed in another type of bungalow and had a nice dinner in front of our braai (BBQ) place.

Day 6 – Orpen to Skukuza, 9th April

Orpen to Skukuza is also a fair distance.

There was quite a bit of flood damage noticeable near Skukuza, even more so than in other areas. Tshokwane picnic site was completely closed off except for some port-a-loos which had been set up. The vervet monkeys which plague Tshokwane were still around though.

Kruger National Park had severe flooding in December 2011. We saw partly eroded roads and impassable causeways and twisted railings on bridges.

As we neared Skukuza, we came across a group of cars blocking the road.When you see a lot of cars about, it can only mean one thing – a good sighting of a rare animal. When we got to the scene, we could see what all the fuss was about. We were looking at a pack of wild dogs sleeping in the bush!

Wild dogs are not only very rare in Kruger National Park, they’re an endangered species. We were really lucky to see them!

There is a lovely bird hide near Skukuza called Lake Panic Bird Hide which we went to. There are often hippos, crocodiles and terrapins in the lake and jacanas walking over the lilly pads. You could spend a long time there just watching the scene.

Lake Panic Bird Hide, Kruger National Park

At Skukuza, we stayed in another bungalow. For dinner that evening, we ate at the Selati Station Grillhouse. It’s a restaurant on the old train platform that used to bring visitors to the park years ago. The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and its show-piece is the old steam train at the station.

Day 7 – Skukuza to Cape Town, 10th April

As we had to drive back to Johannesburg and catch a flight, we planned to leave the park by 11am. We took our time in the morning and driving from Skukuza down to Malelane Gate where we checked out of the park.

The drive back to Johannesburg Airport took just over 4 hours. We returned our hire car and waited for our flight back to Cape Town. Overall, another very good safari!

To finish off, here’s a list of all the animals we saw in the park during the 7 days:

And all the birds we could identify:

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about what it’s like to go on a safari in our Kruger Park trip report. If you’d like to read about another safari, see our trip report from our December safari.

If you’re planning your own safari, best of luck and happy animal spotting!