Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest and most famous wild animal park. Thousands of people from around the world travel here to go on safari. Kruger is large, spanning over 200 km from north to south and 50 km from east to west. This park is home to the Big Five (elephant, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros, and lion) as well as other popular animals such as cheetah, giraffe, baboon, and many, many more. This is a self-drive park, meaning anyone can get in their car and drive down the roads, looking for wildlife. There are also plenty of options to take guided safaris, at all hours of the day, traveling by safari jeep or even by foot. During our time at Kruger, we did a lot of self-driving, but also took a guided sunset drive.
Our first accommodation in the park was safari tents at Tamboti Tented Camp. This rest camp is one of the smaller camps located on the western border of the park, at about the center of the park in north south direction. We chose this camp as our starting point for two reasons: it’s cheap accommodations and it’s convenient location to the park border and Blyde River Canyon, which we explored prior to arriving in the park.
Tamboti Tented Camp
For two nights we slept in canvas tents on raised platforms overlooking the Timbavati River. Since it was the dry season, the river was completely dry, but would still be a hotbed of activity during nighttime hours. Our day would start with a self-drive through the nearby area at 6 am. We would then take a break in the hotter, mid-part of the day, and then go out later for an afternoon drive. During our drives we would see a lot of the same animals: baboons, giraffe, elephant, wildebeest, and more, but they were always very cool to see.
The highlight of staying at Tamboti was the nocturnal sounds. Our tents overlooked the dry river bed of the Timbavati River, with just a chain link fence separating us from hyenas, lions, elephants, and leopards. Tamboti does have monkeys and honey badgers that roam the campsites, so the tents, and especially food, need to be locked up at all times. Monkeys are able to open refrigerators, turn doorknobs, and find their way into unlocked tents and even cars.
Both nights we heard an animal kill. Out of the silence there comes this sudden chaos of roaring, squealing, lots and lots of rustling and thrashing in the brush, and then grunting as the captured animals dies. The second night it sounded like an elephant may have even got into the mix, as we heard the trumpeting of an elephant that may have been a little too close to the melee.
The second kill we heard, on our second night, occurred during dinner. It was 6:30 pm, already nighttime, and we could hear everything perfectly, we just couldn’t see it because of the darkness. It sounded like it was just 100 meters down the fence line. If I had to make a guess, I would say some lions caught and killed a warthog. Hearing it was amazing. It is such a violent, dramatic, alarming thing to hear one animal catch and kill another.
The canvas tents offered no soundproofing, so during the night we slept with the sounds of the African wilderness in the background. Literally all night long, almost every fifteen minutes, we heard lions roaring not far from our tent. Early in the night monkeys would raid our trashcan outside. We would also hear elephants, many different kinds of birds, and a multitude of unidentifiable animal sounds. These were wild, unforgettable nights. To hear a lion roaring in the not so far off distance during the night was my favorite part of staying at Tamboti Camp.
After our two night stay at Tamboti we traveled into the park, spending two nights at Satara Rest Camp. Our safari adventures continue!
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Want to learn more about traveling in South Africa? Check out our South Africa Travel Guide.