24 May 2007
One of the world's best loved travel guides, Lonely Planet, describes the Kruger National Park as "one of the biggest, oldest and quite simply one of the best wildlife parks in the world," adding appropriately: "A visit here is likely to be the highlight of your trip to South Africa."
And that, in a nutshell, is exactly what Kruger is, a tourist facility South Africans love, but invariably take for granted, grumbling when the conservation fees go up or the accommodation and camping rates rise.
Southern Africa is blessed with vast game reserves, many state-run, others privately owned. Yet Kruger has something few can emulate. Can there be anything more exciting than driving your own vehicle through a park where you can encounter a range of creatures at the side of the road?
Through the years I have had some incredible experiences in the Kruger Park. I have watched a python gobble up some poor creature, a cluster of about 60 striped rodents nibble at an unidentified treat on the edge of the road, lions revel in falling rain, a leopard prowl along a river bank at dawn, carmine bee-eaters bedeck a tree in full blossom, a pregnant lioness wallow in a river....each experience has been memorable and, frankly, one that was never again to be repeated.
The Kruger Park is well over 100 years old and has changed considerably through the years, with possibly the innovative establishment of the concession areas the most dramatic.
The new upmarket lodges within the boundaries of Kruger have added an extra dimension to the wildlife experience, with some lodges adding nights in the open under the stars, morning walks in the bush and even dinner under huge old trees in unprotected areas. It's heady stuff indeed.
Now many of the old camps in Kruger are being upgraded. Many of the units will be refurbished, some to a higher standard.
Apparently the units most in need of maintenance (new tiles, coat of paint and so on) will be targeted first. Some of the larger family cottages are to be virtually rebuilt.
Details of the upgrades - that is the dates and camps involved - will be communicated via the SANParks website (www.sanparks.org) during the next few months.
The Star Verve - 15 May 2007Winnie Graham
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