Trip Report – Safari & Bush Walks @ Kapama River Lodge – Kruger National Park, South Africa

This is part four of a ten part trip report from my travels to South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and covers my stay at the Kapama River Lodge. This picture and video report includes the game drives and bush walks, while yesterday’s post covered the lodge itself and an overall review of our experience.

Included in everyone’s stay (regardless of the room type booked) are two daily game drives in open safari vehicles and complimentary bush walks. The vehicles can comfortably fit about eight guests, but during the off-season your group is likely to have the whole vehicle to yourselves. We had a group of five, but we saw several vehicles with only two riders. On your drive you’re accompanied by a ranger and a tracker. Warm blankets are provided as well.

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Here’s the “getting ready for your drive” literature that we were presented upon check-in (our wake up calls were at 4:45am) , it provides a nice description of your daily schedule:

Accompanied by a skilled ranger and tracker, guests should expect to encounter a diverse range of animal and bird species on game drives. Since this is a Big Five reserve, seeing lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo is possible over a two-day safari in Kapama Private Game Reserve. The day starts with an early wake-up call between 5am and 5:30am. Tea, coffee and rusks are enjoyed together before heading out at first light. While seeing big game is always exhilarating, there are many other smaller species that are also captivating, and birding enthusiasts will be delighted at the approximately 350 species of birds recorded on the reserve. Halfway through the game drive, there’s a stop for hot drinks and snacks, before returning to the lodge at around 9am for a full breakfast. Throughout the day, it’s likely you will see wildlife around the lodge – nyala antelope and vervet monkeys are frequent visitors, though seeing some of the Big Five is also not uncommon. At around 3:30pm, everyone gathers for a decadent high tea, before heading out with your ranger and tracker for the afternoon game drive through the reserve. En route, you’ll stop for a sundowner drink and will have a chance to stretch your legs as you watch the sun set over the distant peaks of the Drakensberg mountains. As darkness falls, the nocturnal animals of the bush come out. The skilled tracker will scan the landscape using a spotlight, which illuminates animals’ eyes. A variety of completely different species can be seen on the night drive back to the lodge. Arrival is at the lodge is usually around 7pm, allowing time to freshen up before enjoying a sumptuous dinner.

Finally found those lions…

As mentioned in the last post, Kapama is a private reserve and our vehicle was off-road more than we were on the dirt paths. If we were tracking an animal, we’d follow it wherever, even if that meant literally riding over and through the bush (our vehicle could even chop down trees that got in our way).  It was pretty crazy, here’s an example…

A complimentary benefit I really loved was the bush walks themselves. Our same guide from the drives and a special walking ranger (gun equipped) took the five of us on private walks through the bush. On one, we decided to track a rhino and literally followed its footprints and droppings until it was literally right in front of us.

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Supposedly, large animal are normally avoided…again from our welcome pamphlet:

Feel Africa underfoot on a guided bush walk with a highly trained game ranger. The experience offers an intimate encounter with nature and wildlife, and medicinal and other plants are identified en route. Rangers also teach walkers to track wildlife in the traditional way, using animal footprints and scat. Expert trackers are able to tell the gender of many animals just from their footprints. Large and dangerous animals are avoided on walks, but many other species can be viewed from a safe distance at ground level. A bush walk through Kapama Private Game Reserve is a truly memorable and authentic encounter.

…And then there was this, a supposed sport where everyone competes to see how far they can spit game droppings. I did not compete but the talent of our guides was pretty impressive

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Our drives were fantastic and we spotted all of the big five, though at times we drove for what felt like hours without seeing more than birds and amazing scenery. It’s all about patience…

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A chance to warm up while still on the search for lions with some coffee, tea, a selection of wines, or liquor from the portable mini-bar…

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  1. Sounds like a great trip! Just curious, did your guides have sightings called in or did everything you encountered happen by chance?

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