This morning we went on a guided bush walk from Berg-en-Dal camp before driving to a water hole and then leaving the park for Johannesburg.
We woke at 5 am, finished packing, and drove over to reception to get on the safari vehicle that would take us to our walk’s starting point. One of our guides – Peter – greeted us and we got into the 9 seat open air safari vehicle where 4 people were already waiting (the walk is capped at 8 people, and these people must be between 12 and 65). Our guide said we were waiting for one more person, and we waited until 6 am but he did not show. In the meantime, we chatted with the other two couples in our vehicle. One couple in their 50s was from Pretoria, South Africa and the other couple was in their late 20s and from Koln, Germany.
As we were driving to our starting point, we stopped a few times to look at rhinos (there were three laying down close to the road), a giraffe, distant elephants, and zebras. Our guide got a call, and soon after another safari vehicle came racing towards us. A guy in his early 20s exited and joined us – it seems that he was staying at Malelane satellite camp, but that our guide was not previously given this information.
Our guide parked the vehicle on the side of the H1-1, both guides loaded their guns, and then we exited the vehicle. They claimed the guns have never been needed, and that no one has ever been killed by an animal on one of these walks. So that was encouraging.
We were told to avoid talking, walk in a single-file line, and never run. Peter also explained that if we did encounter any big animals, we would attempt to hide. If that did not work, we would make loud noises. But no matter what, we had to follow the instructions of the guides.
We started off on the walk. Both guides walked at the front of our single file line, presumably so they could see any threats first. But is not an attack from behind also possible?
At all points, we went at a comfortable pace, and we stopped rather frequently for one of the guides to explain to something or show us something. The other guide would keep watch while we were stopped. We saw various things, from feeling the warmth of a termite tunnel to seeing scat from various animals to seeing a feather from a migrating bird.
We had a snack break on a rock with a pretty view about half-way through the walk. One of the guides had carried cheese, crackers, oat bars, jerky, peanuts + raisins, and juice boxes. This was very welcome, as we were hungry after not eating much/anything before the walk.
On the drive back from the walk, we saw even more animals, including a rhino, huge pack of water buffalo and some mongoose! We also took a detour to Malelane camp to drop off the guy – it looked really small and simple, seemingly with camping being to only option. It was also somewhat strange how close it was to land outside the park (including a power plant).
Once we were back at Berg-en-Dal camp (around 9:30am), we changed our clothing, checked out the water hole near reception, refueled at the camp at a surprisingly-reasonable price (R500.05 to fill-up at ~13.3R/liter) and then drove 4.3 km each way to the Matjulu water hole. Although the water hole was pretty much dry, we saw lots of animals on the 8.6 km round-trip including water buffalo, rhinos, zebras, giraffe, and elephants. It was like they were all coming out to say goodbye.
We also saw a lot of animals on the paved road between Berg-en-Dal camp and Malelane gate, including lots of zebras and three rhino crossing the road. Our last animal spotting in Kruger was similar to our first – a lone elephant by the road with long tusks. Today was an impressive morning!
We would definitely recommend the morning walk, as it is a nice change to walk in the bush, focus on the smaller things, and see things on a much closer scale.