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- European Policy Office
Put a post-lockdown Kruger Wilderness Trail on your bucket list
“Wildness, remoteness, tranquillity, peace and a big bonus: no other people!” – that’s how SANParks bills a Wilderness Trail and all of it is true. But there’s so much more to it than that.
We all have a need to feel that little bit more alive. Why else would one choose to go walking in the Kruger National Park? And then keep going back for more? I have done four wilderness trails in the Kruger and each one is as different as the last, although the drill is always roughly the same.
You spend three nights in a remote bush camp – ferried there in a game vehicle from a nearby camp. You sleep in a proper bed (be it in a safari tent or hut) and although the ablutions might be basic, you’re guaranteed a hot shower after your exertions and hearty meals, courtesy of the camp cook.
Each morning, your group of eight will set off from base camp for an early walk in the company of two rangers whose job it is to keep you safe and to share their knowledge with you.
You’ll quickly learn that it is harder to see game on foot than in a car. Us humans are at something of a disadvantage when it comes to tiptoeing up to wild animals which have much finer hearing and are much more attuned to danger than we are. So even if your guides set off in the direction of a roaring lion, you may not actually be able to sneak up on the King of the Jungle before he gets wind of you.
The wilderness trail experience is all about the intricacies of nature – be it dung beetle biology, what goes on inside a termite mound and what a civet's midden looks like. Your guides will amaze you with their vast knowledge and feel for the environment.
Siestas and sundowners
After the morning walk, there’s a hearty brunch waiting for you back in camp and time for a siesta or a game of chess. In the late afternoon you’ll be lacing up your boots again for a more leisurely walk to a scenic sundowner spot. I still cherish the memory of a magical hour at the confluence of the Olifants and the Letaba rivers, watching the hippos stir as they prepared to leave the water for their nightly feed.
The last trail I did was the Nyalaland Trail in the far north. Our group on the back of the game vehicle burst into spontaneous applause as we arrived at a magical camp overlooking the Luvuvhu River – it was just so beautiful.
What's that noise?
There are also thrills aplenty – like creeping up on a grazing rhino from a safe vantage point, or one of your party catching a glimpse of a leopard basking in the evening light before the rest of the group catches up. There are the funny moments too – when you and your friend are scared to death by the sound of a ferocious beast which turns out to be a male impala in rut (if you’ve heard one then you’ll know what I mean).
That night around the camp fire, as the hyenas whooped in the dark, one of our guides Christopher Muthathi told us his personal story of how he grew up desperately poor, his struggles to become a qualified field ranger, and his hopes for the future of his son who wanted to be a doctor.
Even though it is now a few years back, I drop Christopher an email now and then to find out how he is doing. In his last reply, he said: “Good to hear from you. Lockdown is a problem; maybe one day it will be fine. My son is doing well at Medunsa, but since lockdown he is at home. Nice to hear that you still have good memories about Nyalaland. Stay well also. Look after yourself and your family.”
Hopefully, now that we’re emerging from lockdown, things are looking up for Christopher and all the trail staff and their families who make this such a magical experience. Hopefully Nyalaland will not be my last.
Just writing this has me itching to go back.
Just do it
If there’s something you need to add to your bucket list, it’s a Kruger Wilderness Trail. You can win a spot on a trail for a group of four by making a donation to support the conservation of our national parks: R300 will cover the costs of conserving a hectare for a year. Our parks, and Christopher and his colleagues, need you.
SUPPORT YOUR PARKS & WIN
R300 can maintain a hectare of our parks for one year. A unique SANParks experience is up for grabs.