I think I have a new favourite camp at the Kruger National Park. In the deep south near Malelane Gate, which is about 80 kilometres east of Nelspruit, Berg-en-Dal is without doubt the park's prettiest camp. But there are other draw cards too.
The camp is different from the Kruger norm, unique in fact, in that it’s set in a rugged mountain environment. The surrounding koppies form a handsome backdrop, but it’s the shade of the knob-thorn, apple-leaf, jackalberry and marula trees that really captures my heart.
Not to mention the fact that there’s no overcrowding in the campsite, just a few tents and caravans dotted here and there, giving each other space to breathe, to spread out and relax. Even the chalets are cunningly placed so that none looks out over another, giving a sense of seclusion that’s fitting here in the bush.
Not that the camp is empty, though. Far from it. Hospitality Services Manager Stephen Nel tells me 88 of the 94 chalets were occupied last night. In fact, it’s a deceptively busy place, an easy stopover from Nelspruit to the rest of the park, a special favourite at weekends.
But it was so quiet last night that it felt empty – and that pleases me because I’m too selfish to want to share my dose of nature with heaving hordes of humans.
For instance, we’ve seen a denful of spotted hyena cubs playing in the late afternoon sunshine, including four really small ones, still chocolate brown and looking more like teddy bears or puppies than hyenas. Mom lazily allowed one to suckle – but kicked the poor little runt away every time he tried to get a bit of a look-in too.
Other specials of the area are wild dogs and klipspringers, who love the mountainous terrain. The unusual mountain reedbuck (more rarely seen than its cousin the common reedbuck) sometimes comes down into the valleys in search of water in winter.
When we get tired of driving around in search of elusive wild dogs, we’re spoiled for choice with loads of other things to do in the camp itself.
We relax on a bench overlooking the dam at sunset or sunrise, glass of wine or cup of coffee in hand, on the lookout for hippo, crocs or the resident leopard that sometimes comes to drink here.
We take a walk along the short Rhino Trail that hugs the camp’s perimeter, beginning with an easy section that doubles as a Braille Trail, and then goes cross-country in more 4x4 style up hills and down valleys or along dry rivers. All the while, we keep a look out for birding specials like the bearded woodpecker, woodland kingfisher, sombre greenbul, African fish eagle and white-browed robin-chat.
At dawn, we join two clued-up guides on a bush walk to see some of the San paintings the area is famous for, and to get up close and personal with the white rhino in its own element. (Read A walk on the wild side at Kruger National Park.)
At dusk we stand near the bat boxes erected by honorary rangers and watch a whole ceremony of Angolan free-tailed bats disappearing to grab some insects for their evening meal. Around our braai as the day winds down, we even get a fleeting visit from a genet, which has decided to make beautiful Berg-en-Dal.
More about Berg-en-Dal
A walk on the wild side
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