Welcome to Allen on Africa

What is it about the sub-Saharan African wilderness that pulls at me to go back again and again? The French coined the phrase Mal d’Africa and deemed it an incurable wistfulness and longing for Africa infecting those who have been there. Before I went to South Africa the first time in 1991, when I was already 43, I dismissed that as a romantic notion. Now I admit that I have the condition, and it seems permanent.

I’ve traveled extensively over six of the seven continents. Many places call me back, but no place do I enjoy returning to more than the African wilderness of the great wildlife parks of Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and especially the natural beauty of the Kruger National Park of South Africa. The Kruger is spectacular, accessible, affordable, and vast.

I’ve written a lot of posts since 2007 about my experiences in Africa and they are all collected here. You’ll find the individual posts at right and collected by country below. On this blog, you’ll also find practical advice about flying to Africa and how to build an African holiday.

Kruger 2020 diary – day 11

Notes for readers:

  • Diary entries are written in first person as they were composed in real time.
  • The “we” refers to me and a lifelong friend, Razz Rasberry, who has always wanted to see African wildlife.
  • This is one of a series of posts chronicling my March, 2020 visit to the Kruger over 11 days and 10 nights.
  • For reference, I posted the below map of Kruger National Park

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March 11, 2020.  Left Skukuza at 530a to head south toward Berg-en-Dal in search of rhinos. No rhinos yet, but we came across another leopard south of Absaal (I misspelled Absaal with a single “a” earlier this week).

IMG_3782-Ted Krohn edited leopard

I was astonished to see the third leopard on one trip, more than I’ve ever seen on a Kruger trip in 29 years. Razz’s luck is holding with the cats, if not so much with seeing another rhinoceros.

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The leopard was so close I could have touched it out the window. I’ve never been so close to a leopard. Got a 15-second video that’s too large to email, but this photo does the beautiful animal justice.

After seeing the leopard (but no rhinos), Razz and I stopped at Berg-en-Dal Camp for breakfast on the lovely patio overlooking the reservoir where lions and rhinos come to drink.

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These photos give an idea of the elegance of this Kruger camp dining room, bar, and patio. You can see Razz relaxing through the glass and the weatherman on the TV.

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A quick look (below) at two of Skukuza’s permanent tents, a cheaper accommodation option than the rondavels we’ve stayed in. The tents provide linens and towels and have electricity with outlets, lights, and fans, but no A/C or private shower and lav. The nearby spacious men’s and women’s ablution blocks (interior is shown in 2nd photo below) contain toilets, washbasins, and private shower stalls.

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Personally, I’m good with the relative luxury and comfort of the rondavels given how inexpensive they are (a couple can stay for $125/night for the most expensive ones).

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The 3rd photo is a new posting on the coronavirus.

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The 4th photo is the gate at Berg-en-dal Camp as we left this morning after breakfast, which shows the electrified grate to keep wildlife from entering the sanctity of the rest camps.

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Late morning we reluctantly drove back to the airport and returned the car to Avis.  I’ve raved before about the gorgeous little Skukuza airport. These photos don’t do it justice.

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Photo above is the Kruger National Park desk where new arrivals check in and receive their documentation for entrance to the Park.

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Next photo (above) is the waiting area and airline check-in area outside security. Only one airline serves Skukuza: SA Airlink, using ERJs twice or three times daily.

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The remainder of the photos (above) were taken inside security in the alfresco gate waiting area. A fully stocked deli with food and drink and restrooms make it a most civilized place of repose and provides tranquility to soften the sadness of leaving the Kruger. As Razz put it, Skukuza airport’s human scale adds to its charms.

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Note the photo of Razz standing beside a tree incorporated into the thatched roof, typical of the environmental sensitivity of many Kruger places. The wooden gate with the grated look in the background is the single boarding gate to the tarmac, where we board our Embraer RJ (below photo) back to Jo’burg, there to connect to our long Delta flight to Atlanta tonight.

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Note compounds around single-family homes as we landed at Johannesburg from Skukuza.

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After checking in at Delta, Razz and I are lounging in the Bidvest International Club, a Priority Pass Lounge (part of Amex Platinum Card services). On to our gate shortly and then the 16-hour flight to Atlanta.

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The Bidvest Lounge at JNB is one of 3 Priority Pass lounges here. I never tried the other two because this Bidvest has FABULOUS showers and plenty of them! I just can’t believe the water pressure!  The food at Bidvest is mediocre at best, but the beverage selection is fine, and the place is kept spotless. Maybe next time I’ll try the other two.

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We collected a “helper” at the domestic terminal one arrival from Skukuza to take us to Delta at the international terminal. We tipped him generously for a service I’ve done alone many times because, well, I consider it “leakage” into the SA economy, one person at the time.

We picked up another helper named John after checking in who was even better. He asked me if I needed a wheelchair, and I said no, then suggested I limp a little, which I did (not hard, given my joints). John then took us through a different international security point that in all my 3 decades of flying out of JNB I never knew existed for people with special needs and airline crews (and possibly for VIPs–did not confirm).  No wait at all there.

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John then pulled my carryon the long walk to the Bidvest Lounge and whispered into the staff’s ear as I checked us in. He even offered to come back and get to us our gate (A11). We tipped John even better than the first fellow.

It looks like we might be 30 minutes early (says the Delta captain), which would be nice given our tight connection to the Raleigh flight.

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Pictures of Premium Economy on Delta show this in-between cabin (far roomier than coach, far less grand or roomy than business) is always full.

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In fact, EVERY seat is full again on the flight in all three classes, as always seems to be true on Delta’s Atlanta-Johannesburg flights in both directions.

I hope Razz will forgive me for the photo of our two bulkhead seats (20A, 20B).

Almost no one wearing a mask in the airport or on this flight.

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The last photo above shows on the moving map that we are nearly back to Atlanta. This has been another extraordinary trip to South Africa’s Kruger National Park.  Given the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, I don’t know when I can return, but I know that I WILL be back!