Tent Travels: Northern exposure in Kruger Park

Shingwedzi, in the north, is a particularly beautiful rest camp

AFTER our restful Tsendze stopover Bill and I were looking forward to heading further into Kruger’s wonderfully wild and remote northern territory and staying in its two most northerly rest camps.

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First off would be lovely Shingwedzi where we were booked in for two nights. It is a camp I have always considered singularly beautiful. Well-watered, in an area where many rivers and streams meet, it is attractively situated on the banks of the Shingwedzi River. This is a substantial and interesting waterway that offers plenty of game viewing and birding opportunities.

Kruger’s best little breakfasts nook.

We left Tsendze early in the morning as we would not be heading straight to Shingwedzi but would be detouring to do some sight-seeing on the way. Initially, we followed the tarred main road, the H1-6, towards the camp but turned off onto the gravel S52 about 16km before Shingwedzi gates. Our main aim was breakfast at Tshange view site, the prettiest breakfast nook in the whole of Kruger.

The Tshange viewsite near Shingwedzi.

The route we chose to follow is an incredibly scenic one that that follows the Shingwedzi River and offers stunning views of the Red Rocks cliffs along the way. In the drier months, this rocky river area can be rather arid and stark, but plentiful rain had carpeted this corner of Kruger in greenery. It was all so pretty – lovelier even than we’d remembered – and we lingered quite a while at our chosen breakfast spot, enjoying the panoramic views of the undulating countryside.

When we arrived at the camp, we were a bit disappointed to find that the river near the drift just outside the camp was dry.

Parking alongside the drift and watching the riverine sunsets is a popular Shingwedzi occupation but this time round we’d have to forgo the pleasure. Instead, after a short afternoon drive and a stop at a nearby reservoir to watch some funny ellie-antics, we settled for a sundowner on a bench in the camp, overlooking the river.

This proved to be just as enjoyable as watching the end of the day from the drift-side vantage point. From our in-camp sundowner spot we watched a spectacular sunset, all sorts of interesting birds, a herd of thirsty impala, a friendly little bushbuck camp follower and a few dwarf mongooses who came over to say hello. What a wonderful way to end the day.

Red Rocks from the viewpoint.

It was Friday and a few weekenders trickled into camp while we were watching the setting sun. However, most of the new arrivals were booked into the chalets and the camping area remained amazingly quiet. Shingwedzi is a large, popular camp that is usually much busier, but even at its most crowded it has a lovely remote feel.

The only disadvantage of staying there during the quieter summer months is that you miss the amazing winter floral display produced by the camp’s many flowering impala lily shrubs. Whenever I encounter these beautiful pink blooms they remind me of Shingwedzi, a camp that is high on my lists of Kruger favourites.

Mopane country

We spent another leisurely day at beautiful Shingwedzi, starting with a gentle early morning drive, first exploring some of the small loop roads around camp, encountering plenty of general game. The we headed south along the S50 and stopped for some productive game and bird watching at the hide overlooking the remains of the broken down Kannidood dam. For a number of environmentally sound reasons, Kruger management has reduced the amount of artificial water points and dams, like Kannidood, in the park. The rest of the day we spent in camp, looking out onto the veld from our lovely campsite next to the fence. As we have come to expect of Shingwedzi, in-camp birding was good with plenty of mourning doves, red-billed hornbills and the brown-headed parrots keeping us company. I always associate the distinctive curr-cooing call of the mourning dove with Kruger’s more northerly reaches.

Shingwedzi sunset from our campsite.

Our two Shingwedzi days went far too quickly and we were sad to leave this lovely spot. However, we would now be heading north to my very favourite Kruger Camp. We hadn’t been to Punda Maria for a quite a while and a visit to Kruger’s magical northerly corner was long overdue.


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