Being unable to enter the park by motorbike, I joined a tour. $150 and four days later, I am back in Nelspruit, after an excellent tour with a very knowledgeable guide.
The “Big Five” animals for hunters, lion, rhino, elephant, leopard and buffalo, are all represented in the park. We got excellent viewing of all except the leopard - notoriously difficult to find. There were, of course, many other antelope, zebra, birds and other animals too numerous to mention.
The Kruger National park is run South-African-style - with tar roads, campsites with enviable facilities, like spotless bathrooms, free gas for cooking, shops, banks .. quite outstanding. When South Africa sets out to do something well, it is unbeatable. The gravel roads are also in excellent condition, with excellent maps, and supplementary waterholes pumped by windmill at strategic places. This is to compensate for the diminished rivers feeding the park, now used heavily for irrigation for the vast gum tree plantations of Mondi and Sapi, two timber growing companies owned by the huge AngloAmerican conglomerate - Oppenheimer and co.
To be able to roll into a ‘picnic spot’, and have clean grills, gas on demand, kitchen facilities that rival a home, squeaky-clean toilets - you know you are in South Africa. All for $8 / day entrance ..
Considerable effort is expended on anti-poaching activities, with a special army-trained squad to go after ivory and rhino poachers.
RSA has been pushing hard for a lifting of the ivory ban. This is mostly so they can unload the huge stocks the National Parks hold, and use the revenue for the parks. Culling elephants has become a necessity - as recently shown in a park in Zambia.
The long drought experienced here, broken only last year, caused starvation of the elephants in the Zambia park. Before they died, they completely destroyed all trees in the park, which will take generations now to recover. The elephant population went down to 1⁄4 of its previous value.