In summertime the gates open at 5am when it is just light. We were ready and waiting ten minutes early. A stream of coaches and safari trucks passed us to go to their waiting area. Finally the gates opened and we advanced to registration; car details, driver details and our booking form checked. The park counts you in and it counts you out. When you leave you have to get a 'clearance' from your last lodge stating how many people are leaving.
Admin done and we were off! At a steady 30kph along a tarmacked road David looking his side I looking mine. First spot was not an Impala, but a leopard! A leopard tortoise crossing the road. Later we spotted two rangers walking down the road carrying guns. They were on poacher patrol – looking for people who sneak over / under / through the fence to shoot rhinos and take their horns.
For our day we meandered east and south with a breakfast stop in Skukuza camp and a check on the 'Spottings Today' board, working our way to Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp. You drive slowly with the windows wound down, stop frequently to watch impala, kudu, elephants, giraffe, eagles, take detours along unmetalled loop roads and it is fantastic. On our first day we saw over three hundred elephants; the biggest herd, about 70 to 80 animals, were in the river while we sat in our car high above on the opposite bank drinking coffee from the Thermos taking time to enjoy the scene.
We finally reached Crocodile Bridge at 5pm, twelve hours since we began our day, and about 70 miles from Phangeni gate, checked in, found our cottage on the perimeter, and, as the sun was going down toasted an excellent day with a glass of wine. All the cottages have an external kitchenette on the balcony, a fridge inside a monkey proof cage, and a barbecue. We saw a single male hyena prowl the fence and bandicoots slipping along the grass.
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