Explore the very first road built in the Kruger National Park and a hotspot for wildlife. Before arriving at Crocodile Bridge Gate and rest camp, you will need to cross the low-level bridge that takes you across the Crocodile River. Take it easy here and drive slowly - this bridge is a good place to see hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius), buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and as the name describes, crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus), basking in the morning sun. Birds like kingfishers (Alcedinidae), herons (Ardeidae), hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) and even crake (Rallidae) are often seen as well.
Remember to drive to the Kruger National Park’s Crocodile Bridge reception to check in before proceeding.
It’s always a good idea to stock up on a map book, cool drinks and snacks before entering the Kruger National Park as there are no places to buy snacks again before Lower Sabie Restcamp. There is a shop at Crocodile Bridge where these items can be purchased.
Before you begin your journey into the Kruger National Park, here’s some game drive etiquette to make your life a little bit easier. The likelihood of coming across a pride of lions lying next to or in the road is quite high, and usually there will be other people in their own vehicles at the sighting. Everybody wants to see the lions and it’s therefore important that everyone is courteous and keeps other vehicles and people in mind when stopping at a sighting.
Generally, a natural queue forms where people at the front get access to the sighting, spend some time looking at the animals and then move on so the vehicle next in line gets a chance. This works well even if you always get people who push in. Do not spend hours at the sighting when it’s your turn and try not to block the whole sighting so that people third or fourth in line cannot see anything. Follow these basic guidelines and everyone is happy!
Ok we’re on our way folks! Right from the start, this area of Kruger Park is probably one of the best in terms of animal sightings, so do not rush this part. Lions (Panthera leo), elephant (Loxodonta Africana), rhino (Rhinocerotidae) and various antelope species such as impala (Aepyceros melampus) and wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) are commonly seen. Zebra (Equus quagga burchellii) are also abundant in the South of the Kruger National Park. There is even a chance to spot the rare black rhino (Diceros bicornis) in this area.
Take the H4-2 road North until you get to the S28 dirt road turn-off, 4km from Crocodile Bridge Camp. Turn off to the right and follow the road North.
The majority of the drive takes you through a Marula/Knob Thorn open-tree savanna ecozone, and indeed these are the main tree types you will encounter on your drive on this day. Marula (Sclerocarya birrea) trees are many animals’ absolute favourite, especially around January when the tree is ripe with Marula fruit. These fruit are especially delicious, can be eaten by humans and contain a very high concentration of Vitamin C. Marula trees are also dioecious, meaning they have a specific gender - a tree is either male or female. As a result, the Venda people believe that by drinking an infusion of bark from either a male or female Marula tree, that it will be reciprocated in the child that is born.
Whilst on a game drive in the Kruger National Park, especially during the mid-morning, it’s important to keep your focus on animals like cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and lion lying under bushes, and leopard (Panthera pardus) lying in trees or under bushes. If you think you spot something, stop and make sure. Movement often gives them away, like the flick of a tail or even just an ear twitch.
Then, 15km north from the turn-off, there is the S107 turn-off to the east towards the Nhlanganzwani Dam. This dam is dry and no longer holds water, but it is always worthwhile to drive to it anyway as it’s only a 4-km detour and you may spot elusive cats on the way.
About 2kms from the S107 turn-off, on the main dirt road going north, is the Ntandanyathi Hide. There is still water at this hide and it’s, therefore, a good idea to go and see what animals are coming there to drink. You may get out of your vehicle to enter the hide but do be aware that there are free-roaming wild animals in the vicinity, so be alert before exiting your vehicle.
After viewing animals at Ntandanyathi Hide, take the S137 dirt road towards the west. This road is 8kms long and takes you past Duke Waterhole. This is a waterhole where you may NOT get out of your vehicle but you can still see the waterhole and the animals that come to drink.
This waterhole is named after Tom Duke, who was the head ranger at Lower Sabie Restcamp, in the Kruger Park for 20 years from 1903-1923. A magnificent elephant with massive tusks who passed away from old age on 1 October 2011, who frequented this area, was also named Duke. His tusks measured 317 and 305 centimetres, respectively, and he truly was... magnificent!
After approximately 8kms, turn right onto the S130 for 2kms before joining the main tarred road (H4-2) again. About 11kms remain before reaching Lower Sabie Rest Camp, but be advised, again, that this area of Kruger Park has prolific sightings of wildlife, so drive slowly and keep your eyes open.
After 6.5kms, you will join Sabi River on your right-hand side and the numbers of animals you see will also start to increase. Water is a major attraction for wildlife and a river like Sabi River flows throughout the year, and is a magnet for animals in the Kruger National Park. Hippo, elephant, leopard, buffalo, lion and giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) are often seen whilst driving along the river.
As you approach Lower Sabie Restcamp, the drive draws to an end. Lower Sabie is a popular and busy camp in the Kruger National Park, where you can visit a well-stocked shop and restaurant before checking into your accommodation for the night.