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Destination Kruger 🐆🦒🐘🦏🦁

Graskop, Kruger National Park


View South Africa & Namibia 2024 itinerary on margofiala's travel map.

We arrived in Johannesburg from the Garden Route, quite a change in scenery from a coastline rainforest to a really big city! We rented a bigger car that would be more stable on gravel roads and have a much better ride than our little tinny Toyota Corolla (Dean hated it). He likes this new Audi Q3 SUV:

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We navigated successfully to our hotel, the Sunrock Guesthouse, which was enclosed behind 8 foot solid walls. It was somewhat like living in a compound, however it was truly an oasis inside with a lovely garden, cozy rooms, a pool, nice restaurant and even a pool table:

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Had a great meal, sleep and breakfast, and then hit the road to Graskop, about 4.5 hours on a really good highway, our halfway point to Kruger Park. We stayed at the Graskop Hotel which had great rooms, excellent customer service and terrific food.

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Graskop is also the start to the Blyde River Canyon or “Panoramic” route. It turned out to be a very interesting and scenic area to explore. We started at the furthest point, the Three Rondavels Viewpoint, about a 45 min drive and worked back towards Graskop. Stunning views of enormous rounds of rock, that look like giant grassy huts carved into the side of the canyon. You look down onto the river that feeds the Blydeport Dam with water.

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Next stop was Bourke’s Luck Potholes, no they were not on the highway! The area was filled with these bizarre cylindrical holes that were carved into the rock by whirlpools where the Blyde and Treuer rivers meet. The park did a great job of putting wooden walkways and bridges to explore the area.

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Really Dean!

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Next stop was Lisbon Falls, not Victoria or Niagara but still impressive to check out!

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Last stop was God’s Window. We were fortunate to have a super clear day and were able to enjoy stunning views of the hilly treed area below. We could almost see all the way to the coastline of Mozambique:

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Back in town we visited the Graskop Gorge, complete with a glass viewing elevator that drops you down 51m/167ft to a beautiful rainforest at the bottom of the gorge. There is a raised boardwalk to walk around the base of the gorge and then you take the lift back up to the top. It was like walking through Jungle Book and very peaceful:

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They tied in an adventure park that had zip lining, bungee jumping and a “big swing” at the top, completely the opposite feeling - Adrenalin and action packed. They actually did a great job of having the two quite opposite areas exist together. Who would have known!

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The world-renowned Kruger National Park is South Africa's largest wildlife sanctuary with nearly 2 million ha (4.9 million acres) of wilderness and wildlife land, and home to, not only the Big Five, but more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve. Established in 1926, we were very excited to finally get here, it is THE destination in SA and highly recommended to us by locals and tourists alike. Our route to Kruger from Graskop was 2.5 hrs, we left early to take advantage of our first day in the park. The gates:

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Another interesting sign. Given must parks and game reserves hide that they have rhinos for their protection, we found this a bit odd:

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Love the hippo sign, imagine seeing one of those giants on the road!

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We saw many many animals, some too far away to get a good photo of. We need a camera built into our binoculars! However, these are our best photos from Kruger:

First the highly endangered rhinoceros, one of the big five. We had heard about the practice of “dehorning” rhinos for their protection so the poachers don’t kill them for their horns, but had never seen one before. The horn does eventually grow back many years later, but it feels like a savage way to save these endangered animals from extinction. However, they are alive and thriving without their horns, their population is growing, so maybe it’s ok? (I keep remembering what one of the wardens told me “There are no stupid animals, just stupid people”):

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Here are some rhinos with horns that we saw in Namibia, just for comparison. The rhinos use their horn primarily for digging, but also fighting if they are male. One guide said that without the horn they didn’t kill each other as often, (which is a good thing with an endangered species I guess?)

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Hippos typically spend the whole day in the water and nights on land. We saw this pod was under the bridge near our rest camp early in the morning through to sunset:

We couldn’t decide if they looked more like olives or whales in the water:

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Sleeping after a busy day in the water:

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We saw several crocodiles cohabiting with the hippos:

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Lots of buffalos here, one of the “Big Five”. In adult males the horns are joined in the middle with a hard shield called a “boss” that covers the entire top of the head. Every time I look at them I get a headache! Imagine wearing a helmet 24/7 for your life, ugh:

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They normally stay in herds, so it’s interesting we saw several singles or pairs before:

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Calm elephants, another of the big five:

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We called him Grumpy Pants!

Giraffes, so regal and peaceful:

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Wildebeest:

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A dazzle of Plains zebras:

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A Bushbuk, a new animal for us:

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Waterhole gangs:

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A cute little lizard, might be a Rainbow Striped lizard, but not sure:

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Many beautiful interesting birds, starting with the Lilac-breasted roller:

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Egyptian Goose:

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Crested Barbet:

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The Grey Go-away bird has a very distinctive song that sounds like “go away”, typically warning animals of danger when they see a predator:

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Crowned Hornbill:

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Impala with a broken horn, I wonder if he gets headaches from being off balance?

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In between animals, we enjoyed the spectacular scenery as well. Kruger is so big, it really changes as you explore the park:

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We stayed in SAN Parks accommodation, which worked out fine, although we had been warned it was outdated and not well maintained. It was basic but clean, safe and fine. And had a restaurant! Where else can you have dinner listening to hippos roar?

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Right as we were leaving Kruger, this baboon carrying a young one went running across the road:

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No dogs allowed in the park, but I think this highly skilled service dog should receive special consideration, especially with his new haircut!

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NEXT STOP: Sabi Sands, a private game reserve adjoining Kruger National Park 🐆🐆🐆

Posted by margofiala 17:50 Archived in South Africa

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Comments

The adventure continues! Just amazing!!

by Kim Dahlquist

I remember Bourke’s Potholes. Beautiful! I wanted to see it all so was last back to the bus. I got heck for that as we needed to get to Johannesburg before dark for safety reasons. So I was happy to see you were behind an 8’ wall! I also have an amazing photo of a lilac breasted roller.
You must be counting the days & hours now………..

by Connie

Looking good 😊

by Erika Gundesen

Love this!

by Kim

Elephants and giraffes were my favourites so I loved seeing your photos. Although I must say that the baby baboon getting a ride on its mother’s back was pretty cute!

by Donna-Lynne

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