We’re jealous! You’re starting your new job as a TEFL teacher in South Africa. You’re going to have such a fantastic time exploring this amazing country. Not to mention trying out a few “interesting” foods (let us know what you think!).
And one place that you simply must include on your have-to-see-whilst-I-am-in-South-Africa list is Kruger National Park.
You are going to love this 19,485 sq km of ruggedly beautiful scenery where Africa’s truly amazing animals roam free. Get yourself there now!
What to see
Wondering what you might spot when you get to Krugar? The answer is EVERYTHING! Well, the “big five” for starters anyway. That’s lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo, in case you’re not sure.
There are also cheetahs, zebras, hippos and – our own personal favourite – the bizarrely beautiful giraffes. Plus one hundred or so other types of mammals. And over 500 species of bird. And dozens of different types of reptiles. And amazing trees, such as the baobab, mopane and fever tree. Not to mention several iron age sites and the remains of a 19th century Portuguese trading post.
Like we said, everything (pretty much!)
Knowing the animals are there is one thing. Spotting them is quite another. It’s amazing how easy it can be to drive right past a snoozing cheetah or a lion napping under the shade of a tree.
The best way to avoid coming home disappointed is to join a wildlife drive – at least to get you started.
The guides are brilliant at making the fantastic array of wildlife appear almost magically before your eyes. Joining a tour also means you get to travel around the park before the gates officially open. And a lot happens at sunrise and sunset when the bigger animals are at the most active.
If you want to get closer still, join a wildlife walk. Heading out without a sturdy piece of metal between you and the wild bush makes you ever so aware of how small you really are.
It also gives you time to look at the less obviously dramatic aspects of Krugar – the insects, the birds, the stunningly diverse environment itself – and wonder at how you could ever have overlooked them.
How to spot animals
If you are going it alone, make sure you check out the sightings boards at camps (or listen out for excited chatter) to find out about where animals have been recently. And drive slowly. You are unlikely to spot that lion having a doze if you are going past at 40mph.
Most of all, be patient. Take time to enjoy all the wildlife around you, rather than getting annoyed that a predator hasn’t yet made an appearance.
After all, you never know when a leopard or a cheetah might make its move on that antelope you are watching. It’s always worth the wait!
Where to stay
If you like to go to sleep knowing that the wilder animals are unlikely to join you during the night (or just fancy having facilities such as shops, restaurants and petrol stations close by) we recommend you stay in one of Kruger’s 12 large, fenced-in rest camps.
If you’re up for more of a wilderness experience, try the smaller (and generally unfenced) bushveld and satellite camps. Although you might need to hold your nerve when the cry of a hunted animal makes that predator feel rather closer than you expected!
Best area to stay
Being the helpful people we are, we’ve tried to narrow down your options into a single best area. But we have to admit we’ve failed. Sorry!
Southern Krugar is the most popular area. You’d be hard pushed not to see white rhinos, buffaloes and zebras here – and may well also spot lions, hyenas and leopards.
If your heart is set on cheetahs, then your best bet is the central area. And for sightings of huge herds of elephants, head north – where the scrumptious (if you are an elephant!) mopane tree abounds.
To be honest though, it’s all fantastic. And as there are no boundaries, animals can be glimpsed anywhere.
Now if trips like this don’t make TEFL feel worthwhile, we don’t know what will.