Up in the far north of South Africa, right at the corner where South Africa meet up with Botswana and Zimbabwe is a small national park. It is hidden far away from the rest of the country so the number of visitors is very limited. It is a long journey to get up there at rather small roads – it is a couple of hours to the nearest town to the south or the east where you can get supplies. Don’t forget to stoke up the necessities like cold beer, food for bbq and charcoal for the braai at night.
We drive along the deserted road and we make sure to get some supplies at the supermarket. It was lucky since the small shop at the camp really didn’t sell anything you could use for surviving a night in the national park. We have not prepared for a braai since I have done my research from home – there is indeed a restaurant next to the gate at the park. There is a bit of a drive from the gate to the camp inside the park where we will spend the night. We get checked in to the camp and it seems like we are only the fifth guest of the night. The place is not really crowded. I figure a 2 hours drive to the nearest town where you might find accommodation pretty much prevent any day trippers from getting up here.
It is a smooth check in at the gate and we get the key to our cabin. We decided to go and check out a little museum which is close to the park. The park is not just a refugee for the wild animals – there is quite a bit of history up there. The area has been inhabited for millennia’s and there is many artifacts found in the area. Actually the park has made it to the UNESCO list – not so much because of the wildlife – more because of the long history of human habitation. We go into the museum which is not included in the entrance fee to the park, so we have to pay a small additional fee. The museum building’s and layout are quite nice. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos inside – so the only little picture I sneak by the not so alert security guards is a picture of the star attraction of the museum – an old golden rhino dating back for about a thousand years.
After going out of the museum, we figure it is prudent to make a reservations at the restaurant, considering it is the only place to eat we have seen within a two hours’ drive. It turns out you are allowed to drive from the restaurant to the camp after dark if you have a bill from the restaurant. Unfortunately the restaurant is not really open all that late – in fact it will close down at six. Therefore we have to finish dinner before six. We really should have done shopping for a braai tonight. It is too late to make amends – we just have to do a booking for 5.30 at night and eat an early dinner. The opening times of the restaurant is not really clear from the SanParks website where I have booked the accommodation.
After we have make reservation for dinner, it is time to explore the park. We drive along the small roads. Unfortunately we do not have a high clearance vehicle, so we have to stay on a few main roads in the park. Fortunately the roads are very quiet. We do not see any cars on the road at all, and there are plenty of wildlife inside the park. We see a few zebras, a couple of small steinbucks in addition to the ever present impalas. Along the roads are lots and lots of elephants dropping which kind of indicates there must be elephants around somewhere. But we can’t spot a single elephant so far. You really should think it would be possible to see an animal that size but it just was not meant to be on this first game drive.
We keep driving pretty much to the end of the road where there is a little picnic area. From here you have a great view of no less than three countries – you watch out from South Africa across a river where you find Zimbabwe and a bit to the left you will find Botswana.
It is getting a bit late, so we have to go slowly back to the restaurant and do wildlife spotting on the way. We see different animals and a lot of elephant’s poos – but not a single elephant. We arrive at the restaurant next to the museum and have dinner. Since the restaurant is closing this early, we actually driving back to the camp before dark. When we get pretty close to the camp we finally spot a little herd of elephants in a rocky area to the left of the road. We stay put for a bit trying to get some nice photos of the big animals before heading back to the camp.
We get to our little camp where it is a bunch of buildings in an area with some rockies formation around. The area is very nice and the layout of the camp is very well thought out. When you are inside the cabin or at the outside terrace, you have an undisturbed view to the area without seeing any of the other cabins. The cabin consists of two round huts – one gets a bedroom with a big attached bathroom and an outdoor shower – which turns out to be somewhat fresh in the morning when the wind is blowing and you are outside and wet. The other round hut has a big fully equipped kitchen with an attached living area. You can get out to the terrace, and there is a barbeque area so we could have done our own braai during the night.
We get a good night sleep in the cabin. The isolation of the area ensures there is no noise disturbing us during the night. When we wake up the next morning, we look out the window towards the cliff. Between the cliff and the cabin is a large male kudo walking princesly by. The wildlife watching started early in the morning – we didn’t even have time to eat breakfast. We need to get the cameras out. The entertainment for the breakfast continues – the kudo has walked away, but now a taller animal has shown up. In the distance a giraffe is looking for a breakfast snack from the tall trees around the camp. We look at the giraffe for a while and then decide we really should have breakfast.
After breakfast we leave the camp. We are driving to the gate of the park which you probably could do in ½ an hour – but we are not in a hurry, so we take it slow and do some wildlife watching as we go along. It does not take long before we spot the giraffe we had seen in the distance at breakfast – it turns out it was not a lonely giraffe but a little group of giraffes. Along the road to the exit we manage to spot another elephant and a decent display of other wildlife.