In the last few years wild animals have killed or seriously injured several tourists and guides in Kruger National Park and other parks and game reserves in South Africa.  Park rules make it clear that visitors are responsible for their own safety.

Park rules

The Tsonga lived in this area for centuries until they were relocated in the early 1900s.  Now humans enter on a temporary basis only.

Close encounters with potentially lethal fauna is almost guaranteed.

Kruger National Park covers an area of over 7,500 square miles in northeastern South Africa.  It is one of the world’s largest national parks.  It is roughly 220 miles long and 40-56 miles wide.

Kruger map used to identify Big 5 and other game sightings.

The day of our safari began with a 05:00 wake up and a light breakfast at Thornhill Safari Lodge.  We departed Thornhill Lodge at 05:45 for a chilly, one-hour, 40km drive to the Kruger Park Orpen Gate.  We arrived just after daybreak.

Entering Kruger National Park

Fantastic Lion Encounter

We had been driving inside the park for only a couple of minutes when we were startled to come upon a family of lions on a slope less than 25 feet from the road.

Lions at dawn.

We stopped in this location for about 30 minutes enjoying the amazing show these lions were putting on.  Even with only a cell phone I got some great photos. 20170610_20441820170610_202435

The lions were using a small tree near the road as a perch for stretching and checking out the nosy humans.

“How come you don’t come out and play with us?”


The guide was taking as many pictures as the tourists.  That is a good indication of something special.  From discussions with other groups we met during the day, it seems that this was the best lion sighting in the park that day!

After taking tons of photos we continued deeper into the park.  The territory in the vicinity the Orpen Gate is primarily savanna or veldt populated by grazing animals, lions and other predators.

Blue wildebeests
Steenbok and waterbucks
Verreaux’s giant eagle owl.  This owl was being constantly harassed by a flock of noisy birds concerned about its presence.  The owl remained unperturbed.
Elephants were a frequent sight


Elephants have the right of way.  They insist, and no one is going to argue with them.
Giraffes were also plentiful
Giraffes grow to a height of 17 feet.  Giraffes sleep for one to four hours a day.  Because getting up takes a bit of time for these long-legged creatures, they sleep standing or sitting on their butts.
Giraffes take many cat naps (as short as five minutes) during a day.  Giraffes are often observed sleeping with one eye open.  Maybe they are Metallica fans.  Off to never never land.


Around midday we came across a very sad sight.

A poached white rhinoceros.  Two lions were resting under the bushes behind the carcass and had been feeding on this fresh kill.

Our guide reported that one or two rhinoceroses are poached in the park almost every night.  The poachers usually come from nearby Mozambique.  One rhino horn fetches $60,000 on the black market.

Several spotted hyenas marched across our path.

Hyenas are well camouflaged on the savannah.
Spotted hyenas are much bigger than I had pictured them…up to 170 pounds.


Crocodiles could be found on the banks of many of the rivers.

Crocodile by the N’wanetsi river

We saw hippos, sort of.  The guide pointed out one that was submerged.  Hippos spend the day in the water.  At night they venture inland looking for grass.  Hippos are extremely aggressive.  They are the deadliest animal in Africa for humans after the mosquito.

Lake with a hippopotamus nearly completely submerged.
Burchell’s zebra


Kudu.  Kudu jerky is good.
A small mongoose darts across the road.

Snack Break

During the safari we stopped at fenced rest areas and camps for a mid-morning snack and lunch.

The guide set up the mid-morning snack.
Our guide at the rest area where we had the mid-morning snack. Ignore the goofy looking guy on the right.
Small sandwiches, fruit, and juice 


For lunch we stopped at the Satara Camp.  A fenced area with lodging, restaurants, gift shops, fuel, and even a car wash.

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Lunch at Satara restaurant…wings, ribs, fries and onion rings.  Delicious.

We left Kruger just after 17:00 and arrived back at Thornhill Safari Lodge round 18:00.

The group from Thornhill, a Chinese couple and a Czech couple, both from Melbourne, Australia, and me.  We dressed warmly because of the wind chill during the ride.

Final Thoughts

It was an incredibly awesome experience to be with these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.  Seeing them in a zoo or even a wildlife park is totally fake, to use an overworked term.  It is truly impressive that the Tsonga people coexisted with them for thousands of years growing crops and raising livestock without the benefits of modern technology like guns and motor vehicles.