Driving the various roads up to Satara Rest Camp allows you, the intrepid safari man or woman, to start experiencing the biodiversity that the Kruger National Park offers, especially when you consider the different vegetation types you will encounter on your route.
Starting off with Sabie River thickets, you will also come across mixed bushwillow woodlands, delagoa thorn thickets and the famous Marula and Knob-thorn open tree savanna - Africa at its finest!
There are a few options for you to consider on your Kruger safari, so we’ll explore them all.
This is one of the Kruger National Park’s most popular game drive routes - the road takes you up to Satara Rest Camp, where you have excellent opportunities to see predators, particularly lions (Panthera leo), which are often seen in this central region of Kruger Park.
Begin your journey as early as you can, the sooner after gates open, the better, and drive slowly. Keep your windows open and take in the sounds and smells of the African bush in the early morning - there’s nothing like it!
From Skukuza Rest Camp you turn onto the H1-2 towards Satara Rest Camp, and about 20 minutes after exiting the camp, cross Sabie River. It’s a low-level bridge over the river so, again, drive slow and keep your eyes open for leopards (Panthera pardus), crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) and hippopotamus’ (Hippopotamus amphibius). Baboons (Papio ursinus) are also prolific in this area and always a joy to watch.
Four kilometres after crossing Sabie River, you arrive at another river crossing with a low-level bridge, the Sand River. Same rules apply here, slow and steady, watch for movement, listen for other animals calling in distress, giving away the presence of predators and all looking in the same direction, probably leopard (Panthera pardus) or lion.
Shortly, after the Sand River crossing, you have a choice, either take the Maroela loop, which is a relatively short 7 kilometre dirt road loop which re-joins the main tar road further north, or stick to the tarred road and drive along the banks of the Sand River.
In our experience, there isn’t a specific preference to either of these roads. They’re both beautiful with the only exception being that the Maroela loop will probably be quieter with fewer vehicles.
About 20 kilometres after the Sand River crossing, you come across a ‘get out’ point called Kruger Tablets. Here you may get out your vehicle to go and take a closer look at the tablets mounted on two massive granite boulders.
Beware though this is the wild African bush and we have, on a few occasions, encountered lions and leopards at the tablets. More so than any other get out spot, this one has lots of animals in the vicinity, so please be careful.
The Kruger Tablets are dedicated to Paul Kruger, President of the South African Republic from 1883-1900 and the founder of the Sabie Game Reserve (present day Kruger National Park). Continuing north on your Kruger Park safari, it's another 15 kilometres to Tshokwane Picnic Site, a welcome and well-deserved rest where you can safely get out your vehicle, make use of the ablutions, order food and coffee or just relax for a few minutes before continuing your journey north towards Satara Rest Camp.
After Tshokwane Picnic Site, the road winds lazily along the banks of the Munywini River, usually dry but still a magnet for animals like elephant (Loxodonta africana), kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) and buffalo (Syncerus caffer).
There are two waterholes along this section of road, the first one, Mazithi, 13 kilometres from Tshokwane and the second one, Kumana, another 10 kilometres after Mazithi. When they have water, they attract large herds of animals and it’s worthwhile stopping and switching your vehicle off to spend some time at these waterholes, for interesting sightings. If it’s dry, move on.
There is also a short detour just after Kumana waterhole to a large Baobab tree (Adansonia digitata). It's worth your while to turn off and go take a look. Onward north we go!
Typical African savanna will start to become more apparent from here on. Also, larger herds of animals such as Burchell’s zebra (Equus quagga burchellii), impala (Aepyceros melampus), giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) and wildebeest (Connochaetus taurinus) are encountered. Satara is also a good area to spot the elusive cheetah (Acinnoyx jubatis) as the vegetation and prey species accommodate this predator very well.
Continue on with the H1-3 until you reach Satara Rest Camp, your stopover for the night.
This is a long, but rewarding route! The Kruger National Park shows you its true beauty on this route and here at Kruger Wildlife Safaris, it’s one of our favourites.
The road is relatively quiet and there will be periods where you see nobody else for a while. From Skukuza, cross the Sabie and Sand Rivers and continue on to Nwatindlopfu waterhole on the main H1-2 Great North Road. At Nwatindlopfu waterhole, turn left onto a dirt road, the S36.
You will pass a few waterholes - Jones se Dam, Manzimhlope and of course, Nwatindlopfu. Drive slowly in this area as there are good opportunities to spot predators such as lion and leopard.
You’ll drive for 19 kilometres before coming to an intersection, stick to the S36 and continue on to Nhlanguleni Picnic Site, where you can get out your vehicle, use the ablutions and stretch your legs before continuing on. There are no shops at this picnic site but it’s well worth sitting here for a while to catch up on some bird spotting before continuing.
From Nhlanguleni, you’ll reach an intersection after 9 kilometres - don’t turn off. Keep going on the S36, heading north. Then, 12 kilometres further up the road, you’ll arrive at the Muzandzeni Picnic Site and your turn off, the S126.
Driving in an easterly direction, follow the Sweni River all the way back to the main H1-3 tar road. It’s 22 kilometres long but an awesome drive, with stunning scenery and lots of opportunities to see animals.
Once you reach the tarred H1-3 main road, turn left and it’s a short distance of 10 kilometres before you reach Satara Rest Camp.
Satara Rest Camp is situated in central Kruger Park and is known as a hotspot for predators.
Vegetation is typical African savanna interspersed with marula trees (Sclerocarya birrea) and quite different to the bush you would encounter in the southern areas of the Kruger National Park at camps like Lower Sabie and Pretoriuskop Rest Camp.
You’re likely to encounter lion and hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and, if you’re very lucky, leopard and cheetah. There are some awesome game drive routes in this area so stay a few nights and explore the area thoroughly.
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