Several days after leaving Madagascar for South Africa, we reached Kruger National Park and OH MY GOD. It’s like mecca for animal lovers! We were in Kruger exactly 2 minutes before our first ungulate sighting. We saw Thompson’s gazelles, a water buffalo, and a herd of impalas. After entering through the Punda Maria gate, we went to the Punda Maria camp to pick up an identification book so we could ID all the ungulates that live in the park. One of the neatest things about the camps in Kruger is the map in the visitors center where tourists and park employees can put colored dots on the map of the roads for the big animal sightings.
While at Punda Maria, we checked the map and saw that someone had sighted a lion on the circuit around Punda Maria. Amazingly, we actually debated dropping our stuff off at our camp so that the groceries didn’t sit in the car all day (our camp was 2 hours away), but ultimately, we decided to see if we could find the lion, since clearly he had been sighted in the last two hours. We drove up the Punda Maria loop, which is only 25 km long. We were on it for over 3 hours! We saw kudus, nyalas, a monitor lizard, baboons, zebras, elephants, and two lions! We came upon a stopped car, and sure enough, about 100 m away there were 2 lions, a male and a female. I can’t even describe how big lions are in real life, out in the wild. He looked like his head was the size of our car door. It was simply incredible to sit and watch him. And farther down, we found a whole herd of elephants, including several babies!
Leaving the loop we saw giraffes, more elephants, zebras, and ostriches! We entered Kruger at 9:30 am, and didn’t make it to our camp, Shingwedzi, until 4 pm, that’s how many times we stopped to look at animals.
Here is the official list of animals we saw on Day 1 in Kruger:
Hardebeest, wildebeest, cape buffalo, African elephants, Burchell’s zebra, ostriches, lions, steenboks, impala, Thompson’s gazelles, warthogs, giraffes, roans, tree squirrels, kudu, nyala, duiker, monitor lizard, chacma baboons, slender mongoose, vervet monkeys, a martial eagle, and yellow-billed hornbills.