Hide out in Kruger
Many can claim to have glimpsed the Big Five while on a Kruger Park trip, but how many can boast to have heard most of them in a single night's stay out in its wilderness? By Kelly Kidson.
The wild night sounds of the South African bush were our lullaby soundtrack in the coal-black dark. We were settling in for a sleepover in a Kruger National Park hide, a unique experience that not many people know is even possible. Guests are permitted to book the hide for one night’s stay at a time and can only 'check in' and claim ownership of the secluded and rustic accommodation an hour before gate closing time on the night. This allows all other Kruger visitors the chance to make use of the hide during the day and spy on the birds, hippos and other wildlife on view from its windows.
We arrived at Shipandani Hide just as the sun was tucking itself to bed. The hide is about 3 km south of Mopani Rest Camp and it sits on the Tsendze River, seemingly guarding it. The resident pair of hippos still lazed in the water in front of the wooden hide, bobbing in and out of sight as we made ourselves at home inside.
We locked the gate behind us, the wooden barrier around the hide the only thing separating us from all that roamed on the other side. We had checked in at Mopani reception first and had been given keys and bedding for our night’s adventure. The keys gained us access to the hide’s long drop loo and a private lapa braai area that are available for sleepover guests’ use only. Inside, the hide transformed into our sleeping chambers once we unlocked the beds that folded down from the walls.
We braaied and tried to relax once the darkness had engulfed us. The bush came alive through sounds just on the other side of our fence. A herd of buffalo were grazing just metres away from us in the smothering darkness. We also heard the two hippos shuffling through the long grass surrounding the hide as they devoured their vegetarian dinner.
If only we could guarantee that one of the unidentified deep grunts of a lonely beast just outside of torch light was a rhino, we could put stake to a claim of hearing all of the Big Five! Throughout that night we heard the distant roars of lions, the audible grumble of the elephants' tummies and cracking of trees as they ate, the lowing and movement of the buffalo and the unmistakable and eerie 'coughing' of a leopard, so close by we could hear the inhalation of breath between each ‘cough’.
These and other night sounds eventually serenaded us to sleep as we safely lay our heads down in our hide, out of the wild’s reach but inside its territory.
As the sunrise woke us early, beaming into our 'room', the birds acted as our alarm clock and busied themselves near the water. When the first Shipandani Hide daytime visitors arrived, it was as if we were never even there.
For more info: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/camps/shipandani/
Shipandani Hide Check in at Mopani Rest Camp, R445 per night, sleeps a maximum of 6 people
Check in at Phalaborwa Gate, R445 per night
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