The wild things are certainly to be found within South Africa’s massive Kruger National Park Area. One of Africa’s largest reserves, it stretches through 7,500 square miles in northeastern South Africa and borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Becoming South Africa’s first National Park in 1926, Kruger National Park Area has several private game reserves in which to explore. With over 270 animal species, 517 types of birds, 90 varieties of fish and amphibians, 2000 kinds of plants and even bushman rock paintings, there is much to see and explore.
AmaWaterways travels to the area’s private Manyeleti game reserve, which means “place of the stars” in the local Shangaan language. While there are no fences between the national park and the bordering reserve, allowing wildlife to roam freely – Manyeleti is not accessible for day visitors and is home to only three lodges in the area, meaning you have the bush more to yourself for a more luxurious, true ‘safari’ feeling. Because of this, it has been called the Kruger’s ‘best kept-secret.’
Originally founded as a private game reserve in 1963, Manyeleti spans nearly 60,000 acres and is owned and managed by the local Mnisi tribe. The private safari lodges pay the tribe for use of the land.
You’re likely to spot herds of lions roaming through the savannah – or perhaps an equally staggering herd of leopards or black-backed jackals. All Big Five are represented here – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. But you may also find cheetahs, spotted hyenas, wild dogs, kudu antelopes, nyala antelopes, impala antelopes, wildebeests, zebras, waterbucks, warthogs, baboons and Nile crocodiles (the world’s second largest reptile), water monitor lizards and puff adder snakes.
Extensive birdlife includes ostriches, martial eagles, lappet faced eagles, saddle-billed storks, ground hornbills. While animals, of course, have to be discovered on safari – there is always a wide variety of trees and plants and even grass (there are reputed to be 224 varieties of grass throughout the entire Kruger area) to experience. Find shade under the grand marula trees (or perhaps find animals taking their own shelter from the sun) – or enjoy the beauty of knob thorn acacia trees, ficus platypoda fig trees (commonly known as the rock fig or desert fig) and thornveld thickets.
The reserve has an interesting history as well, setting it apart from others of the greater Kruger area. During the apartheid era, Manyeleti was the only one of Kruger’s wildlife reserves open to people of all races. A lack of investment and funds during this era, concurrent with the initial tourist boom, kept the Manyelti from becoming too overdeveloped. Safari-goers then get to enjoy a most natural setting for their safari.
All guests will stay at the luxurious Tintswalo Safari Lodge while safari’ing at Manyeleti. The 5-star hotel is known for its colonial-era décor, indoor and outdoor showers and a private deck with a plunge pool.
Some helpful tips for safari’ing: wear tranquil colors like green, khaki, brown and black so not to scare game away. You will likely also want to bring layers of warm clothing – be it a warm sweater or jacket, scarf and a hat as mornings and evenings in open vehicles may get chilly. Wear clothing with long sleeves that cover your legs to protect against bugs, mosquitos and certain plants.