Camping in the Kruger National Park (South to North)

Berg-en-dal  –  Skukuza  – Letaba – Shingwedzi – Punda Maria

Berg-en-Dal camp site

Berg-en-Dal camp site

Just some history….my last visit to the Kruger was in 2001 (Christmas).   Although we didn’t travel between the camps, but stayed at Mopani Camp for the duration of our stay, I still remember with pride the way Kruger was then…….tidy, clean, staff visible and very polite, bathrooms maticulous, rondavels clean, linen crisp, not forgetting the complimentary soaps we used to get.

Back to the now…..we traveled from Sabie to the Kruger in August 2013.  I was so excited as it had been a very long time since I was last there.  John had been back with his Mom and sister, but I  didn’t accompany them.  So, with my memories in place, I was so looking forward to camping in the camping areas of the above 5 camps…it was also a first for John and I travelling from the South to Punda Maria in the North.

Berg-en-dal camp was crowded but nice level stands.  We were a stone’s throw away from the ablution block.  Good electrical and water facility.  Camp was reasonably clean, but nothing like it used to be.  Staff were visible but I didn’t see anybody cleaning the ablutions while we were there.  The ablutions were definitely not up to the standard of Sanparks…..the showers were grubby, lots of creepy crawlies everywhere. The old locks on the the doors had broken over the years and had been removed, but had been replaced with cheap coachlatches, most of them only having 2 screws in to keep them in place.

Skukuza was a very big campsite. I was  surprised how full the campsite was for that time of the year, nevermind the rondavals.  John and I didn’t really have a very big selection of stands, however we found one big enough to accommodate the campervan and zook.  We stayed two nights at Skukuza.  Here again I was quite disappointed at the state of the ablutions, the locks on the doors were exactly the same as at Berg-en-dal.  The good quality locks that were present and had broken, had been replaced with cheap rubbish.

So, my question to Sanparks…..your camps are fully booked most of the year (or so it seems).  I have been told that one needs to book at least a year in advance if one wants to get a specific booking at a specific camp….so….where does all the money go,( apart from rhino conservation, anti poaching units and perhaps animal monitoring, plus of course salaries)?   What about maintenance?    Surely there must be budget for upkeep and maintenance of ablutions, rondavels, new linen, decent towels, DECENT LOCKS ON THE DOORS PLUS SCREWS IN ALL THE HOLES…..etc etc etc….this is probably one of the biggest tourist attractions, nevermind a wonderful holiday experience for locals (those that can afford it, that is), but if maintenance is not an issue and things start falling apart, where is all the money going?

Lethaba camp

Lethaba camp

Letaba – was always my favourite camp, although we had never camped there before but had in the past stayed in the chalets.   Ditto above with regards to the ablutions.  This time tho’ I wanted to do some washing, so, I wandered around the camp looking for staff that would assist me with new and old R5 coins (as both were needed for washing and drying).  I couldnt find anybody, so I went to reception and stood in the check’-in queue, just to find out where I could get some change from.  After about 30 minutes of waiting, I was finally no. 1 in the queue., only to find out that Reception don’t carry change, definitely not R5 coins and definitely not new ones…why bother having washing machines and tumble driers that offer a service but yet nobody carries change of any sort or description.  Beats me.

Shingwedzi is a camp we have only ever been one before and that was in the good olde days with Peter and Norma.  We happened to make a trip there for lunch.  Shigwedzi was all but washed out last year, so lots of rebuilding and refurbishing going on.  The campsite was small but neat and tidy.  The ablutions here still had the original locks on them, is this perhaps that fewer people visit up North?  The camp shop was also pretty well stocked.  Unfortunately we were unable to walk onto the deck as this had been closed for renovations.  On the whole, this I would say so far on our trip was the cleanest and perhaps because of the floods, maintenance was a forced occurrance….maybe!!!!

Punda Maria camp

Punda Maria camp

Punda Maria was the furthest camp South that we visited.    Again, like Shingwedzi, the ablutions still had their original locks and hinges on.  The campsite was rustic, not alot of shade or grass but pretty level.  Good electrical and water points.  John and I went to the restaurant for a meal that evening.   The camp manager came over to chat to us, apparently he had just taken over at Punda Maria so was very keen on asking our opinion and suggestions.   Hoping that what we suggested will eventually be actioned.  Went on a nice walk in camp, but unfortunately they were plauged by baboons, definitely a problem up there.

So overall, Kruger is still the Kruger when it comes to the animals….we saw alot of game and probably the most leopard we have ever seen on one trip.  However, the cleanliness, maintenance, staff attitude and general well being of the Park has gone downhill miserably over the past 20 years.  I ask again…if most of the camps are full year round, what happens to all the money?   Surely the Parks ablution facilities could be upgraded with better locks.   They could use a lick of paint and a good scrubbing.   The rondavels had also deteriorated, the linen threadbare, the staff sort of ‘ho hum.   Pity really as Kruger was one of my favourite places to visit.


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