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A Dream Day in Kruger National Park

I’ve dreamed of going on an African safari since I was a kid.  Back then it seemed unrealistic and reserved for the ultra-rich.  As I got into my 20s, I started seeing affordable deals and knew it could happen someday.  So when I first created my bucket list in my late 20s, the African safari was #1 on the travel list.  However, it still took me another 20+ years to get there.  But I finally got there!  And I got to take my kids and husband along which was the icing on the cake.

We arrived at the Crocodile River outside the park around 10am and immediately saw hippos and crocodiles in the river!  Upon crossing the bridge, we saw our first giraffe as he casually ate then walked right in front of our car!

Hippos in the Crocodile River

Giraffe about to cross the road

We weren’t even in the park yet and had already seen 3 different types of animals!

After entering the park, we headed to the Hippo Pools to see more hippos.  Along the way we saw a rhino in the distance, more giraffe, a dwarf mongoose, and of course hippos at the pools.

Hippos at the Hippo Pools

We then headed to the Lower Sabie camp.  It’s only 34km to camp, but given that you want to go very slowly so as not to miss anything, it took us about 2 1/2 hours to get there.  It also took a long time because we kept stopping over and over to see the animals.

We quickly came upon 3 White Rhinos grazing right next to the road! I can’t even describe how excited we were. We sat there for a long time watching them and taking pictures and video. I still feel so incredibly lucky we got such a great rhino sighting!!

3 Rhinos

Close up of a white rhino

As we drove on we saw warthogs, more giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, and so many impala.

Warthogs. There was a baby warthog, but I didn’t get a picture of him.

Wildebeest crossing the road


Zebras, impala, and a cool bird

I love his stripes

Herd of impala with warthogs and a zebra mixed in

Zebra and impala

After that, we came to some water and saw a huge crocodile basking in the sun.  We also saw some neat bird – I think he’s the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill.


Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (I think)

Next, we came upon a herd of elephants beside the road.  One of them was pulling bark off a tree and eating it.  One of the moms had a baby with her and after a while, she looked at us, flared her ears, and made it clear we were no longer welcome, so we quickly drove away.

Elephant pulling bark off a tree and eating it

Next up was more giraffe and hippos out of the water!

Giraffe in foreground with hippos in the background

Hippos out of the water

Pretty heron?!?

As if that wasn’t enough, as we got near camp, there was a mass of cars pulled off looking at a lion!  Our first lion sighting in the first few hours!

See the lion right above the tree stump?

We finally pulled into camp around 1:30pm quite hungry.  The restaurant was on a fantastic deck with an incredible view.  As we ate, we saw at least 10 giraffes across the river and some buffalo relaxing at the water’s edge.

The restaurant at Lower Sabie Camp. Not the best picture, but the only one I have of the deck and surrounds.

View from the restaurant

Black bellied starling?!? These guys were all over the restaurant trying to swoop in for a snack.

After getting settled into our cottage at camp, Chuck and I went to Sunset Dam around 4:30pm for sunset.  There are usually big cat sightings at the dam, but we only saw more hippos, crocodiles, and a bunch of birds.  It was still neat to see though.

Hippo in the water, crocodiles on the edge of the water, and a stork

Hippo with it’s mouth open

Beautiful, rainbow bird. I have no idea what it is, so I referred to them as “fun birds” the whole trip.

At dinner, we were treated to a beautiful sky.  We also had a barn owl in the rafters hooting away.  And there were impala and kudu grazing in the grasses beside the restaurant.  Unreal.

I’m still in awe of our first day in Kruger.  It was a complete highlight of my life, and even the kids and Chuck were blown away by all they saw.  Definitely a dream come true for me!

Driving Route:

We entered Kruger via the R571 from Komatipoort to the Crocodile Bridge Gate.
After the gate, we took the left fork to the S25, then a left onto S27 to the Hippo Pools.
We then retraced back to the gate and took the right fork onto H4-2 to Lower Sabie camp.
The H4-2 trip is 34km and was scheduled to take 1:20, but it took us about 2 hours.

Animal Sightings:

Before the Crocodile Bridge Gate: Hippopotamus, Crocodile, Giraffe
To/From the Hippo Pools: Giraffe, Rhinoceros, Dwarf Mongoose, Hippopotamus
Along H4-2 from Crocodile Bridge Gate to Lower Sabie camp: Rhinoceros, Warthog, Impala, Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Elephant, Lion, Crocodile
At Lower Sabie camp: Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Kudu, Impala, Giraffe, Barn Owl, and lots of birds
At Sunset Dam: Hippopotamus, Crocodile, Storks, and lots of other birds