Wolhuter Trail, Kruger National Park

A weekend at the Trails Camp – Part 1

Saturday afternoon we left home with a bakkie full of kids and food to spend two nights at Steven’s Trails camp. Our first family break away since we moved to Malelane Gate three months ago.

 

Steven’s camp is situated in the middle of a beautiful wilderness area in the South-western corner of Kruger National Park. To get there you drive a no-entry road through the rocky hills and valleys that gave Berg en Dal Rest camp its name.

 

The Trails camp was built in 1978 and is named after Harry Wolhuter: one of Kruger’s first game wardens. There are 4 A-frame huts that sleep two people each. There are also two flush toilets, two showers, a kitchen and a lapa. The whole camp is surrounded by a little waist-high fence. But the best thing about this place: There is a waterhole right in front of the camp!

Cape Buffalo, Wolhuter Trail, KNP
Big buffalo bull at the waterhole at the trails camp.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a few daga-boys that were busy drinking. All I wanted to do was sit there by the fence and watch the animals. But first, I had to pay a visit to the ladies room.

 

When I opened the door to the toilet, I saw some movement inside. My heart almost jumped out of my chest! While my eyes were adjusting to the darkness inside, my brain was working overtime trying to figure out what it was that I saw: a snake? A rat?

 

Closer inspection revealed nothing scary. The contrary in fact! Inside were two baby dwarf mongooses! They were staring at me, blinking in the bright sunlight coming through the open door. Shame, I probably gave them a huge fright too!

 

In cases like this, the call of the photographer in me is stronger than the call of nature;-) I just hád to get a few pictures of these cuties!

Dwarf mongoose at the trails camp
The two baby dwarf mongooses in the toilet.

When I later joined Steven and the kids by the fence at the waterhole, I huge bull elephant had just arrived. Steven had switched on the Lister engine to pump some water for us and the overflow from the tank feeds the waterhole.

 

Steven reckons the elephants come from far and wide when they hear that engine run. Fresh water is always better than muddy slush! And even though the pump is a few hundred meters from the trails camp, the elephants have figured out that the sound of the engine means fresh water at the camp’s waterhole! Isn’t that amazing? If that does not prove how intelligent elephants are, I don’t know what does!

Elephants seen from Wolhuter Trails camp
One of the many breeding herds that came to the waterhole and spent some time with us!

The rest of the afternoon there was a constant stream of animals coming and going, enjoying the water. Buffalo, Impala (with babies yay!), families of warthog, big breeding herds of elephants… It was amazing to watch.

 

Water obviously is a precious commodity in the bush. And the fresh water brought on a few scuffles between the different species at the waterhole. One family of warthogs was chasing another family away from the good stuff. A buffalo chased the warthogs. Then a big bull elephant wanted the whole waterhole to himself and was chasing everybody! All this under the loud protest (or encouragement? from a pair of Egyptian geese.) Extremely entertaining for us, watching all these waterhole politics and shenanigans!

 

The waist-high fence I mentioned earlier has been tried and tested by elephants in the past. And I have to say it is looking particularly flimsy. Normally, we would not dare walk up to animals at a waterhole like that. But the fence kind of gives you a sense of security… Even though they were acutely aware of our presence, it felt like the animals had that same sense of security; the knowledge that we would not come any closer.

 

In theory, the elephants and buffalo could chase us away in a split second. Yet, they allowed us to quietly sit there and admire them. Almost as if the fence was a border; Impenetrable by them and us. An invisible line in respecting each other’s space.

Wolhuter trails camp, KNP
Haha, can you see the excitement on my face?

Later that night, with all four kids tucked safely into their beds in the huts, Steven and I returned to the fence with a spotlight. In the bright beam of the light, I picked up more than half a dozen pairs of greens eyes…: hyenas! I am really not a scaredy cat in the bush anymore, but the darkness and the approaching “floating eyes” gave me a bit of an eerie feeling: the hyenas were circling!

 

The eerie feeling was quickly pushed aside when a huge breeding herd of elephants arrived. Steven switched off the spotlight. We sat there in the dark and listened to the sounds the elephants made. It is fantastic how your senses adapt when you can no longer rely on your sight.

 

We listened to them drink, spay water over their backs, scratch an itch with a trunk or a foot. We could smell their fresh dung and a strong musky smell in combination with some tummy rumbling signalled the upcoming arrival of a bull in musth.

 

Every now and then Steven would briefly switch on the spotlight and the number of elephants that were gathering there and their proximity to us were mind-blowing. It is no doubt one of my most special experiences in Kruger and one I will treasure in a special little place in my heart!

 

Part 2 of our weekend at the Trails camp to follow soon, so please stay tuned!

 

PS. Even though my blog is still quite young, I decided to enter the SA Blog Awards. Just to see how far I get. I would love your vote! You can vote by clicking on the SA Blog Awards icon on my website! Thank you!

15 thoughts on “A weekend at the Trails Camp – Part 1

  1. Voted! What a magical weekend, I’m so envious, but also so happy that you have shared the experience so that we get a virtual visit!!! Thanks Linda; I’m sure it refreshed your soul after all the stress and hard work of moving, unpacking and making a new home and garden environment. Sitting and listening to the elephants in the darkness – such a very special experience. very glad your kids are growing up in this amazing environment.
    Sal

    1. Hi Sal!
      Thanks for voting! Much appreciated;-)
      Yes, it was wonderful to be away a bit. It is less than an hour from home, but it felt miles and miles away: a true holiday feeling!

  2. Hi Linda,
    Why don’t you put a red filter on your light, it does not bother the animals at all, and you can watch for hours.

    1. That is a great idea Wendy, thank you!
      I always try my best not to bother the animals by shining the light either above or behind them, but this is much better!

  3. What a magical experience for you all..Krueger is so special ..my husband Hannes and I visited the Park 2 weeks ago,camping at Lower Sabie and Satara,must say I suffered from the heat a bit ..a bit of air on at night would have been bliss!
    We were very lucky to see not one but 3 leopards on the first 2 days,and I was amazed at the big elephant herds that we came across..am now back in a much cooler London,so I really enjoy reading your blog Linda..what a special life for you and your children ..looking forward to your next adventure
    Barbara Van Rensburg

  4. What a special adventure. Sounds fantastic. I am more than just a little bit jealous 😂. Glad you got some quality family time and new memories. ❤️❤️ Will vote for you.

  5. Nostalgically reminded ! I was happily in the first Wolhuter Trail after it was established !
    In 1978 ! Spent a few great days with Trevor Dearlove and met Mike English.

  6. Hi Linda

    I just voted. I clicked the Lifestyle category, as opposed to Travel. Hope that’s correct.

    Best of luck
    Steve

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *