About a week ago, I was trying to decide what I should do with these precious few days that I’m on leave and free to do anything. South Africa is my oyster. And all that. Actually, the world is my oyster. What does that saying even mean? Why an oyster? Whatever. My oyster is named Ollie Oyster and Ollie Oyster is the WORLD. What I’m trying to say, is that I had a choice. What to do with my ‘leave.’
And how shocked was I when I found myself on the impossibly complicated SANParks booking system, looking for campsites in Kruger. What? Wait. I’m on safari IN KRUGER every day. OF MY LIFE. ‘Go to the beach!’ My conscious shouted. My hand continued to tap on links and buttons. ‘Dude! Seriously, you can go to Thailand. Go to Thailand!‘ And yet I kept clicking around on Kruger’s website. ‘Don’t you want to visit your mother in Europe, because you CAN,’ my brain asked one last time. Nope. Kruger. Why? Dunno.
Undecided about where in Kruger I wanted to go, I searched for accommodation by date. July 3. Go.
Nothing came up.
‘Shame Kruger, your booking system is down,’ I thought to myself as I refreshed the page.
Oh wait! There’s a cottage available in a far flung camp for R7000 a night!
And that’s when I realized that every single space for a human to stay within Kruger Park has been taken. Every one. There are hundreds and hundreds of spaces to rest your head for the night in the two million square hectares that make up Southern Africa’s biggest and bestest game reserve and every one of them is gone.
What’s happening here? No worries, I’ll simply expand my range. I can go a day later…
Click on the next day. Even the R7000 cottage is gone.
This can’t actually be possible. The system is broken. I didn’t know at that point, but the system was broken. By school holidays. Ugh.
I never knew school holidays growing up. My parents didn’t do school holidays because they were smart enough to know that everyone else did school holidays. We did Disney World and Vegas and camping and England during term time. The school prepared homework packages. Simple. That’s why today as an adult I cannot understand why people travel during school holidays. THOSE ARE THE BUSIEST TIMES!
I don’t know why my brain persisted when it was sent the clear message that there is nowhere to stay in Kruger Park. And it is school holidays. Do not go.
Why why why?
But TripAdvisor was next.
‘Find me a place near Kruger!‘ I announced. ‘Somewhere cheapish that doesn’t discriminate against solo travelers. And isn’t right next to where I already live.’
I found the place. I booked. I paid. I was going to Kruger. During school holidays.
In the days leading up to my leave, I started to dread. What have I done? Why would you do this? Why, when you have the very best of Kruger right where you are? Y’all don’t need this. Thailand.
But why? Because Kruger has a draw. I can’t really explain it. Maybe it’s in the way that the landscape here is inscribed with memories and it hangs on to them until you’re hovering above that spot again years later. Maybe it’s the ‘Kruger Magic’ that a few friends got me beleiveing in all those years back. Maybe it goes back to my values – the value I hold that everyone on earth has the right to experience a safari and Kruger says ‘yes.’ I don’t know. I know that I love the place and it keeps sucking me back, no matter where life takes me in the meantime.
So here I am. I’m writing this in Kruger. At ‘Cattle Baron’ in Skukuza to be exact. There’s my wine and my binoculars as proof.
And yes, it’s the height of school holidays. People are looking at me like, ‘why are you by yourself? You’re taking up a whole table‘ and I almost want to make up a story for them because some people will never know about what it means to live wild and free and independently and that makes me sad for the state of the world.
This trip isn’t what I expected. I don’t know what I expected. I’m having a blast. I expected to write an article about how awful Southern Kruger is. But I’ll sing it’s praises until the end of time. I’m wildly in love with every part of this place. Even the busy parts. With children. I’m in my happy place and my bird list is up to 93 JUST FROM TODAY even though it’s winter and I’m feeling so inspired it’s unreal and there will be plenty more to come from Kruger in the coming days. Maybe even some YouTube videos. But for now, it’s wine and birds and elephants and good food and I love the way that an entire restaurant can LOSE THIER MINDS when a giraffe comes to drink at the water. Isn’t that why I became a safari guide in the first place? My authentic self is here and it’s running wild…
Love. Big love.
Live from Kruger Park y’all!