Spurts of dust and the syncopated thump of moving limbs are usually sure signs of approaching game in Kruger, but today, it was the product of a meandering line of park visitors following closely behind two guides.
Five of us left Mopani camp at around six AM and wound out way progressively deeper through the early morning mist and into the thick bush. As we jumped down from the vehicle the guides busied themselves loading their rifles, which prompted uneasy looks from some of the party, why the sight of something that is there simply as a safety net was the thing that prompted fear rather than the fact that we were setting out to walk among wild and dangerous animals I’m not sure, but there you have it.
After a quick briefing and some wardrobe adjustment from a chap who had come dressed in a colour scheme similar to the flag of China, we set off towards a thicket of trees.
A bush walk gives you a completely new appreciation of the nuances of the park which you just cannot fathom when speeding along the tracks, and it gives the guides an opportunity to display their bountiful knowledge of the fauna, flora and smaller wildlife that are either impossible to go into detail about or are irrelevant on a driven safari.
The walk itself was a perfect length and took us through varied terrain, we were taught some rudimentary tracking techniques and also some useful tips on identifying game through their droppings.
We were fortunate enough to run into a several buffalo very early on and we actually succeeded in getting a fair way towards them before they pounded their way into the bush. We pushed on and quickly stumbled upon a group of elephants that communicated their discontent at us being there with low moans. They loped off slowly and we managed to keep them within our sight for almost the entirety of the walk.
One of the guides was eagle eyed enough to spot a small tunnel in which a spider was living, something you would never see on the road. We were also introduced to the bulb of a lily that has been causing havoc with farmers in the Cape due to its toxicity, another detail that would otherwise be completely overlooked.
The walk ended on a wide expanse where we were surrounded by zebra, warthog and wildebeest, truly a fantastic finish to an already irreplaceable experience. I think everyone that walked climbed aboard the vehicle with a reinforced appreciation for the possibilities of the park and even the national park hipster who was singing the praises of small and obscure parks all over Africa seemed to be humbled by the indisputable splendor that Kruger Park possesses.
I would recommend a bush walk to anyone, even if you believe you have seen all Kruger has to offer, which is almost certainly impossible, it will give you a completely new and unique experience that cannot fail to make you fall in love with this fantastic park.
Morning and afternoon walks are available from Mopani and a number of other rest camps, there are also several wilderness trails and backpack trails available in Kruger in various locations, more information can be found at http://www.sanparks.org