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PLANNING A 3 DAY KRUGER SAFARI TOUR
3-DAY KRUGER SAFARI
Moafrika Tours recommends that the first two days of a 3-day Kruger safari should be spent exploring the south-west region and the central-west region of the Park. Your second night can be spent at Satara Rest Camp which is ideally located to exploring the central basin of the Kruger National Park, and the many scenic routes in the Olifants and Letaba area.
Moafrika Tours can recommend places to stay and popular destinations to visit in the Kruger National Park if you want to spend more time at this incredible South African destination.
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You will leave the Park via Phalaborwa Gate where you can take the main national highway back home via Hazyview, White River and Nelspruit.
Satara Rest Camp
Satara Rest Camp is the third-largest camp in the Kruger National Park and retains much of its old colonial ambiance, with red-roofed buildings, thatched rondavels (round huts) and neat gardens and paths. Many of the Park’s largest herds of grazers are found in the open grasslands around the rest camp and hyenas are often seen prowling the fence line, lured by the smells coming from evening braais (barbeques).
The rest camp is surrounded by marula/knob-thorn open tree savanna and is a great spot for sightings of lion, leopard and cheetah. In fact, Satara Rest Camp is often referred to as the “cat camp” with large numbers of cats found in the Muzadzeni area. There is a resident pride of lion that protects a territory that runs along the east side of the camp, hugging the bank of the N’wanetsi stream.
The Satara region is also well-known for its large numbers of vultures who are lured to the area, following the predators and waiting patiently for a kill.
Visitors have the option of family cottages, semi-luxury guest houses or the traditional bungalows and a well-maintained camping site for caravans and tents. There is a good restaurant on the property, a picnic site for day visitors and a well-stocked shop.
Satara is a name derived from the Hindi word ‘satra’ meaning 17, given by an unnamed Indian prospector who was sent to the area to mark out the present-day rest camp.
Satara routes and surrounds
The area to the east of Satara Rest Camp is rich in game, many of which congregate along the N’wanetsi River that runs alongside the S100 road. Good game viewing points along this route include the Shibotwana and Nsasane waterholes. You can get out of your car at two vantage points; N’wanetsi and Sweni, which offer panoramic views of the Lebombo Mountains. The two other waterholes that are known for good game viewing are found on the H6; Sonop and Shishangani.
A magnificent baobab tree is found just after the junction of the main Satara-Tshokwane Road (H1-3) and N’waswitsontso River Road (S125). It’s estimated to be over a thousand years old.
Satara Rest Camp to Olifants Rest Camp (H1-4)
The drive to the Olifants area takes about an hour and a half and winds through flat and rather monotonous landscapes dominated by knob-thorn and marula trees. It’s not the most scenic route but there are a number of waterholes and pans dotted along the route that are excellent for game viewing. The grass is sweeter in this region which attracts large numbers of herbivores.
The drive from Satara to Olifants crosses over into an eco-zone known as bangu stunted knob-thorn savanna, with lightly undulating grasslands on basalt. Closer to the Olifants Rest Camp, the landscape changes to Balule rolling plains which are dominated by interesting tree species that thrive in the shallow, clay soils, including red bushwillow, know-thorn acacia, purple-pod cluster-leaf and white-leaved raisin trees.
Old Main Road to Balule (S90)
About 5 kilometres from Satara Rest Camp is a road branching right off the main road (H1-4) which is the original Old Main Road. It’s an excellent dirt road to take if you want to get off the busy main road. The vast region is less populated with game but is scenic and peaceful.
The S90 dirt road takes you through open grasslands with stunted bush into the stonier Olifants rugged veld. Game viewing along this route is fairly uneventful until you reach Bangu waterhole which is located close to the Balule camping site and Olifants Rest Camp.
Balule Camp is a satellite camp of Olifants and is not open to day visits. It really is for the hardier campers, with a rustic atmosphere that offers visitors an ‘up-close’ experience with the natural surrounds. The majority of the camp sites do not have electricity points and the camp facilities are very basic. If you enjoy camping in the bush with minimal fuss, it’s a place to come back to on your next visit to the Kruger National Park.
S41 to N’wamanzi waterhole
If you are running out of time, you can branch off the S90 onto the S41 and backtrack along Gudzani Road to the exclusive Singita Lebombo Concession and N’wanetsi waterhole. There is a good picnic spot at N’wanetsi waterhole.
From N’wanetsi waterhole, take the H6 along Satara-N’wanetsi Road to make your way back past Satara and onto Orpen Gate which is the closest gate to exit at the end of your third day in the Park.
Olifants and surrounds
The area around Olifants Rest Camp is made up of three eco-zones and is rated as one of the best areas in the central basin for game viewing. The area is home to the Park’s original herd and boasts large numbers of elephants who have criss-crossed an ancient elephant migration path for centuries.
Olifants Rest Camp is perched on the edge of an escarpment with panoramic of the open savanna grasslands and the Lebombo Mountain range in the distance. The region is dominated by mountainous thornveld with black rocky outcrops and mixed woodland forming a barrier between the northern mopaneveld and the southern mixed bushwillow woodlands. The lush vegetation in the Olifants area is what attracts large numbers of elephant, giraffe and zebra.
Satara to Letaba Rest Camp (H1-4 and H1-5)
The main road from Satara Rest Camp to the Letaba region is dominated with mopane shrubveld. The area has black clay soils and consists of flat northern basalt and gabbro plains. Halfway between Satara and where the road becomes the H1-5, there are a number of waterholes and dams that provide good vantage points for game viewing.
The main attraction along this route is N’wamanzi waterhole which is the ideal place to stop for a break and a refreshment pit-stop. The Olifants region consists of three eco-zones and, at the N’wamanzi waterhole, you can see where the grasslands to the south, the mopaneveld to the north and the riverine forest of the Olifants River merge into one eco-zone.
From the waterhole, you can follow a direct route on the H1-5 to Letaba or you can pick a number of interesting loops that take you on a path that travels alongside the Letaba River. This area is known for its spectacular views, prolific birdlife and excellent game sightings. Taller trees flank the river banks, such as leadwoods, tamboti and nyla trees. It’s a good area to spot leopard as they are often seen in the drainage lines and riverine forests.
The best bird watching sights are at Engelhard Dam and the Matambeni picnic spot, but you may be running out of time and will have to save that for your next Kruger safari tour.
Letaba Rest Camp to Phalaborwa Gate (H-9)
The last part of your journey on a 3-day Kruger safari recommended by Moafrika Tours is the drive from the Letaba area to the Phalaborwa Gate. The main road winds through mopane/red bushwillow woodlands with rolling granite plains and expansive shrubveld and grasslands.
The main attraction along this route is Masorini Heritage Site. Excavation work at the original archaeological site revealed stone walls, grinding stones, potsherds and the remains of foundries dating back to the 19th century. The site provided valuable information on the inhabitants’ way of life, the implements used and cultural activities. Masorini Village was restored in 1973 and is an interesting site to visit.
An interesting feature on the road between Letaba and Phalaborwa Gate is the number of termite mounds. These tiny creatures are fiercely territorial and you’ll notice that the termite hills are at least 50 to 100 metres apart. The termite colonies attract a variety of birds to the area, specifically eagles, which come to feed on the flying termites.
Another animal you may see who loves to snack on termites is the rare aardwolf (meaning earth wolf in Afrikaans) that has a keen sense of hearing and can pick up termite activity deep underground. It uses its long tongue to reach the termites and is known to eat as many as 300 000 termites a night.
Exit via Phalaborwa Gate
The closest gate to leave the Park after a day exploring the central region of the Park and the Letaba and Olifants area is Phalaborwa Gate. It’s important that you plan the third day of your 3-day Kruger safari carefully as the distance between rest camps and game viewing points is deceptive and you have to be careful that you allow yourself enough time to get to Phalaborwa Gate before it closes.