In South Africa the wilderness areas, national parks etc. are called the “bush” and there are basically three ways to spend time in the bush.  Go to a national park, book a few days at a private game lodge, or visit somebody who owns their own bungalow and Land Rover in a private game farm.  We have been lucky enough to do all three during our five trips to South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, but we only have digital photos from our trips in 2007 and 2012 to South Africa.  In fact, all our pictures are from Kruger and preserves in the surrounding lowveld.

Our trips have all included at least a week in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.  It is one of the great national parks of the world.  Unless you are on a tour, you explore Kruger in your own vehicle. The rules are simple. Stay on the road, stay in your car, and be in a rest camp (fenced in motel, restaurant, gas station etc.) by sunset.  In 2007 we roamed around Kruger by ourselves and loved exploring the quiet dirt roads and spotting birds and animals (Kruger I Gallery). In 2012 we traveled in Kruger with another couple who really know their birds and animals, and added to our knowledge (Kruger II Gallery).

In 2007 we stayed at the private lodges Ngala and Kapama.  They both have beautiful accommodations, excellent food, and a wide range of interesting guests. But we were more impressed with the guides and the conservation ethics at Ngala.  There only three vehicles can be at a site at any time, even at a fresh Cheetah kill. The other vehicles wait out of sight watching other animals until it is their turn.  At night they are very careful to shine lights only on predators and not their prey.

Best of all is visiting our friend Michael Sears at his bungalow along the Olifants River in the Olifants River Game Reserve. (Among other things Michael is a coauthor with Stanley Trollop of the Kubu Mystery series set in Botswana by “Michael Stanley.”) Here you have maximum freedom and privacy.  His bungalow has a beautiful deck with fabulous view of the river. When you are not out on a morning or evening game drive, you can sit on the deck and watch a large variety of birds and animals.

Olifants River Game Reserve, comprising 6200 hectares, is unique among private reserves in the Lowveld, in that it has a perennial river running through it. Intrinsically this area has always been big game country, and has a pioneering history that goes way back.  There are now no fences between Kruger National Park and Olifants River Game Reserve because they have agreed not to feed wild animals, not to drill new bore holes, and to maintain secure fences with only monitored gated entrances.  Thus Olifants River Game Reserve is an ecologically integral part of the Greater Kruger National/Transfrontier Park system.  In this manner, Kruger has more than doubled the size of the preserve for the animals.  Most of the animals never see a fence here.