Kruger – back in the day
It's amazing to see how much Kruger has changed from its early days to modern times. Dr Salomon Joubert, author of The Kruger National Park – A History, gives us a glimpse into the rich history of the park. He shares fascinating images of travel in Kruger, a real trip down memory lane!
Wild Card members can purchase his three volume set at the special price of R849. This saves you an amazing R450! Click here to find out more about this wonderful offer.
About the author
Dr Salomon Joubert was the Chief Executive Director of the Kruger National Park from 1985 to 1994 and his intimate knowledge and love of the park and bush comes through on every page of The Kruger National Park – A History.
CLICK HERE to find out more about Dr Salomon Joubert's book, revised and back by popular demand.
In the early years of the Kruger National Park there was limited accommodation in the form of rondavels and camping played a major role. As early as 1931, only five years after the proclamation of the park in 1926, the board acquired the first six 'cottage tents' for Satara and Skukuza. Purchases rapidly increased and by the mid-1930’s several hundred tents were in use in the larger rest camps, such as Pretoriuskop, Skukuza, Satara and Letaba. Many tourists also pitched their own tents and the congenial atmosphere created by campers and open fires provided a very special experience for early visitors.
In 1926, when the park was proclaimed, the only access was by means of the Selati Railway Line. The first priority was, therefore, to open roads suitable for cars – these were mere tracks opened in the southern areas of the park and extending as far as Satara. A major obstacle, however, was river crossings. To overcome this problem pontoons were established over the major perennial rivers such as the Crocodile, Sabie and Olifants. Over the somewhat less daunting Sand River the problem was overcome by attaching logs, in parallel fashion, to one another and thereby creating the 'corduroy bridge'.
When the forerunners to the Kruger National Park, the Sabie (1898) and Shingwedzi (1903) game reserves were established, the animal populations had already been severely decimated. There were three major factors: the construction of the Selati Railway Line in the early 1890s during which the workers were largely dependent on venison; the Rinderpest of the mid-1890s that eliminated large numbers of wildlife, especially buffalo and eland; and the Anglo-Boer war, with both sides shooting game. Carnivores suffered much less than the herbivores and consequently when the first Park Warden, Col James Stevenson-Hamilton took charge, he declared war against carnivores to redress the balance. However, before the end of his term of office the onslaught on predators was terminated and he fully acknowledged their wholesome role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
When the first road network was established, it was in the form of slashed open tracks. These were later upgraded to graded, but not gravelled, roads. River crossings were by means of pontoons and 'corduroy' crossings until low-level causeways replaced these during the latter half of the 1930s. What a time this must have been to visit the Kruger National Park!
Travelling without air conditioning and modern suspension could only have been something of a nightmare. In these days, park regulations were less stringent than today and visitors could alight from their vehicles to stretch their legs and cool off! In spite of any such real or perceived ‘hardships’ the park rapidly grew in popularity as evidenced by the sharp increase of visitors during the 1930s.
Pretoriuskop was the first area to be opened to tourists. Not that there was a rest camp but merely because it was the only area that had some form of a negotiable track to make it accessible to vehicles! In 1927 visitors would enter the Pretoriuskop area from the town of White River via the then ranger’s quarters at Mtimba (now outside the park) on a specified track and return back along the same track on the same day. Pretoriuskop Rest Camp was, together with Skukuza, the first rest camp to be built – an important consideration, other than accessibility, being that it offered the possibility of remaining open throughout the year. In 1936, the new rest camp, designed by the well-known architect, G Moerdyk, was opened together with the landmark entrance gate to the camp.
As animals became habituated to tourists they allowed vehicles to approach them – and to lure them even closer by offering titbits to eat. This unfortunate habit of tourists is, understandably, largely underpinned by sentiment and love of nature with no ill intentions. However, there are inherent dangers to tourists when animals become so accustomed to being fed that they resort to aggressive behaviour when denied food and start scavenging in rest camps. In many cases this inevitably also leads to the animals having to be forcibly removed or even destroyed. However tempting, this is a bad habit that should be discouraged.
Initially tourists were allowed to alight from their vehicles wherever they wanted and even allowed to camp outside of the official rest camps. However, as the numbers of tourists increased these practices became undesirable and in 1930 a set of regulations had to be imposed, both for the safety of the tourists and in the interests of the park. These regulations included a ban on discarding burning objects or leaving unattended fires, cutting or damaging plants or defacing any objects in the park, littering, leaving the road and a speed limit of 25 miles/hour (40 km/hour). Sound regulations, as relevant today as they were then!
To give tourists access to the park pontoons were made available across the Crocodile River (two) and one each over the Sabie at Reserve (as Skukuza was known until 1932) and the Olifants (just below Balule camp). Initial costs for the pontoons was 5/- (five shillings) per vehicle, valid for any number of crossings over the same pontoon for seven days. Pedestrians paid 2/6 (half a crown or two shillings and sixpence) for a group of up to five people and sixpence for any additional persons. The tariff for vehicle crossings was reduced to 2/6 in 1931!
Get your copy of The Kruger National Park – A History:
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WIN WIN WIN
We are giving three lucky Wild Card members the chance to win a three-volume set of the popular Kruger National Park – A History. These books have been reprinted and revised and are worth an impressive R1 300. Find out what Kruger was like in the early days and see how much has changed. Want to win a set? Simply answer this question: What position did author Salomon Joubert hold during his time in the Kruger Park? Send your answer and Wild Card number to firstname.lastname@example.org before 31 August 2012.
If you ORDER a book and then win a prize set, you WILL get your money refunded – or you can choose to have the prize book for free, as well as the one you paid for.
Remember the stocks will not last last for ever. This is a very limited print run! So why not order now? There is nothing to lose.
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