When a couple living in Germany are asked how they manage to keep their teenagers enthusiastic about going on holiday with their parents, their answer is quite simple. You visit South Africa and experience one of the hiking trails in a national park.

On a recent visit to Southern Africa, Joanne Harrison-Gross and her family combined a trip to Swaziland with several days in the Kruger National Park. South Africa’s flagship park was the setting for their family holiday’s grand finale: the three-night Bushmans Wilderness Trail.

For the Harrison-Gross family, holidays in South Africa’s wild places provide the opportunity to create special memories. “The natural splendour we experience in South Africa’s national parks has nothing comparable in Europe. We love the colourful birds and the game, but also the relaxed, smiling people in this country. We learn a lot about aspects of African culture, which can enrich our own,” says Joanne.

Because they would be experiencing nature and wildlife on foot, Joanne knew the Bushmans Wilderness Trail would leave the most vivid memories on their return to Germany. She writes:

Day 1

There’s excitement in the air as we watch the guides check if they have everything for the coming days. We hit the road in an open-top vehicle driving on all those “no entry” paths we have always wondered about.

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One of our finds, the horns of a kudu, caused much debate. Pictures by Joanne Harrison-Gross

Upon our arrival at Bushmans Camp we are delighted to see elephants drinking from the pool close to the lapa. After a tasty meal – we have never been disappointed by bush camp food – we sit round the fire to listen to our two guides, Rodney and Orace, tell exciting camp stories. And this sets the scene, allowing the imagination to run a little wild as we bed down in our cosy huts.

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Teenagers from big cities usually find the fire and kettle combination exceptionally fascinating!

Day 2

We rise before the crack of dawn… After a quick hot drink and rusks, we leave camp on foot to make our way to the mystical bushman cave paintings – walking in the hilly landscape for a couple of hours before a food break.

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Bushman paintings are one of the trail’s many attractions and guides aim to educate hikers on Bushman art and culture.

Editor’s note: The Bushmans Wilderness Trail is the best way to see rock art in the Kruger National Park. Most of the San rock art in the park is between 1,500 and 3,000 years old. Materials such as plant saps, ash and even blood were used as drawing mediums.

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One of the guides, Rodney, explains the intricacies of the Bushman paintings.

On our way we are blessed with multiple sightings of big game, but they aren’t our sole focus. The guides’ knowledge is phenomenal, particularly of birds, and we often stop to discuss plants, dung, insects, carcasses, birds, larger animals and anything else of interest.

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Curious ellies are not at all unusual in this part of Kruger.

We return to camp around 11:30 and after a shower, lunch is served overlooking the waterhole where large game gathers. Late afternoon is spent next to the river with sundowners.

Day 3

On the third day we discover a completely different location and we have our hearts set on spotting sable antelope. An unforgettable sighting comes when we see a leopard with cubs, as well as klipspringers on distant rocks. Down by the riverbank we scramble to higher ground after a dozen buffalo are startled, probably by a lion. What an adrenalin-filled moment!

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It’s always a good idea to keep your distance when encountering buffaloes.

Although Bushmans Camp is a fenced camp, an elephant known as Warty decides to pay a visit during our stay. Rodney, our guide, also reports that he heard a leopard by the pool on night three. You see a lot by day, but a lot happens unbeknown at night.

Joanne’s teenagers, Darcy and Fenella, will never forget their Bushmans experience. Darcy says the wilderness trail offers a unique opportunity to get as close to nature as possible. “I also met interesting people I would not otherwise have met.”

And Fenella? “I don’t usually like getting up early on holiday, but at Bushmans I didn’t mind at all. It was spectacular to see the dawn in such a setting.”

About the hike

  • The trail starts on either a Wednesday afternoon to a Saturday morning, or on a Sunday afternoon to a Wednesday morning covering approximately 12km. The trail departs from Berg-en-Dal rest camp reception.
  • There are only four huts sleeping two hikers per hut, so the trail allows for a maximum of eight trailists between the ages of 12 and 65 years per hike. Guides have their own huts.
  • Pack comfortable clothing, proper footgear and a trusty torch.
  • Insect repellents are a bonus to help against mosquitoes or other insects, and malaria prophylactics are essential.
  • During the trail meals are prepared by a cook, but hikers should provide their own liquid refreshments (drinking water is provided as well as coffee and tea with a fruit juice as part of the bush breakfast).