Many visitors to Kruger can say they’ve seen nearly every animal in the park. But how many have you seen on foot? Lize Froneman recounts her walking experience on the Sweni Wilderness Trail. Two days of no cell phones allowed? Bring it on.
I have often dreamed of doing something wild and when opportunity knocked, I jumped at it – on foot, in the bush, where there’s nothing between us and the animals. I also thought this was a little crazy, but with two armed and experienced guides to lead the way, we put our fears aside and so we began the hike on a lovely early spring morning.
From Satara Rest Camp, the starting point, we were driven to Sweni Camp, which hosted the eight of us, two guides and an excellent chef. The camp rules are clear: no electronics, no music, no generators. Just you and the bush.
We departed on our first walk the next morning after rusks and coffee, carrying only snacks and water to be had later during our break. Our first sighting was a crash of rhinos. Even with calves among them, they were relaxed, and we could really enjoy watching them. Then, we had our snack break on the riverbank right next to a lonesome hippopotamus, who tried to impress us with his antics and baring of teeth. Did you know? For all the time they spend in the water, hippos can’t swim. They always have to stand on something. They can hold their breaths underwater for up to seven minutes.
After the 12 km hike, we were exhausted and enjoyed the huge brunch prepared for us when we got back to camp. We spent some time lazing around the camp, spying a black mamba and yes – scout’s honour – an African rock python in the tree right next to the lapa. These scaly reptiles can grow to well over 4 metres!
Later in the afternoon we opted for a sundown drive and spent the sunset watching another hippo in the dam nearby, as well as a rhino and a herd of elephants having a last drink before nightfall.
The next morning saw the same routine, but with a different route. We were somewhat startled by two hyenas jogging past us. Then came the big moment – the one we all hoped for yet silently did not hope for: A lion. She lay about 30 meters from us under a bush and if the guide had not spotted her, we never would have. Of course, lions are rarely too far from the pride and we knew there might be more nearby.
She was heavily camouflaged in the shade of a tree and some bushes, watching us, assessing the situation. After a few minutes, she got up, looked at us more intently and silently disappeared behind the trees. What an adrenalin rush, and a humbling experience. We also came across a wild dog, one of the world’s most endangered mammals.
Another lovely brunch, lazy siesta (the python was still in the tree) and a hearty dinner. The bush sounds of hidden night creatures all around us, the crackle of a fire and great company brought a life-changing experience to an end before we headed back to Satara the next day.
- It is a three-night trail with the two days in between spent walking.
- A maximum of eight persons between the ages of 12 and 65 years may participate per trail.
- A reasonable level of fitness is required as up to 20 km may be walked per day.
- Camps have no electricity, but there is hot water.
- Rates: R11 000 per hut, sleeping two. All-inclusive.
For more information or bookings, visit sanparks.org/trails/sweni.php
Pictures: Lize Froneman
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