Kruger National Park turns 90! Travellers share their best Kruger memories

2016-06-06 13:56 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - Memories of holidays are often treasures we guard and keep with us forever. 

And when those memories include family, friends and one of the most unique places on Earth, they are all the more valuable. 

For their 90th birthday, South Africa's iconic Kruger National Park invited Kruger lovers from all ages to share their fondest memories in the Park. 

The results were overwhelming, and so many people shared stories of why the park will always be their favourite place on Earth. It's safe to say that every person who has visited the Kruger Park, appreciates the wildlife and magnificent natural beauty in this protected space. 

Astonishingly, despite the Kruger National Park being loved by so many, the majority of voters on News24's poll asking 'What’s your fondest Kruger Park memory?', haven't ever been to the Kruger National Park. 

You can see the results here: 

Those who have been, however, have fallen in love with the Park. 

Read these incredible Kruger memories shared by real travellers with Traveller24: 

'Reduced to tears'

"Amazing animal sightings are common to all visitors, but I must relate an event that reduced my wife and I to tears. 

It happened sometime in the mid-80s, when we were staying at Letaba and spent the afternoon exploring the northern side of the river and Engelhard dam.

We’d stopped to brew up on a bluff overlooking the river, with the Letaba Camp in the far distance on the opposite side. 

A rather large female elephant appeared on the far bank, opposite us, and headed steadily towards the river where a number of sandbars divided the flow. She was followed by more, and more, and more. 

They remained in a long line as the matriarch continued her stately walk across the river bed.

My wife was the first to spot a second group emerge on our side, no more than a hundred metres ahead of us. It turned out to be a similarly large number with a matriarch at their head.

The two lines kept coming until the two lead elephants met head to head in the middle of one of the sandbars. They stopped, as did every elephant behind them, with no signs of the end of either group.

The two matriarchs met as old friends. They locked their tusks together, wrapped their trunks around and then explored each other’s faces, eyes and ears. They were old friends; that was obvious.

Satisfied at last, they slowly indexed one elephant and then repeated the greeting with the next elephant in line. By that time, my wife had a tear running down her cheek and I was gritting my teeth to contain the lump in my throat. Even the tiniest elephant received the same greeting and acceptance."

                                                                                            - Bill Wynn 

'He took me to the Kruger for the first time when I was three-months-old'

"My Dad has been sick for about a year now. In March this year, my sister came from China, and my dad, mom, sister and I went to Kruger for a few days. 

Then in April, my dad said that he wanted to go to Kruger again. Since he was getting weaker fast, I booked the first spot I could. We went for a couple days the first week in May, and he really enjoyed it. 

Yesterday [3 June], my dad passed away. 

He took me to Kruger the first time when I was three months old, and many times after that. I am grateful that he had the opportunity to enjoy his favourite place one last time, and that I was able to take him as often as I did this last while. 

RIP Pappa."

                                                                                       - Erika Vorster 

We were hauled across rivers by locals 

"I was about nine in 1935 when my godfather took me with them to the KNP.

On the way there somewhere between White Rover and Numbi gate, it had been raining heavily and the road was so muddy, that the car would not climb the hill. To proceed, the tyres had to be let down quite far and then we could proceed. 

In the park, we stayed at Pretorius Kop, which to me has always seemed to exhibit the true spirit of the Park.

One of the most vivid memories was crossing a number of rivers by Pont, hauled across by local workers... Another was a visit to the hippo pools, near the western end of the Sabie river where askaris kept watch and acted as guards.

I also still remember the braais at the camp at night. 

Other memories have faded, but I was sure that I had seen springbok pronking, although there are none there today." 
                                                                                      - Llewellyn Hunt

'Still my favourite place in all the world'

I am 63 and have been going to the Kruger Park every year since I was born. 

My parents were avid "parkers" and we went every winter of my childhood. My husband and I have continued the tradition, sometimes going twice a year.

My fondest memories were of the "koffie, koffie, koffie... lekker warm koffie", served at 05:30 at our bungalow. The smell of the fires that were lit to boil water in the big boilers and the communal braai where everyone gathered in the evening to discuss what they had seen that day.

The staff were always so friendly and helpful. 

Even though there have been many changes to the camps, the staff and the general park, it remains one of the most wonderful places in the world. We are so privileged to have it in our country."

                                                                                    - Helen Steenkamp

'The Park will always be dear to my heart'

"The first time I ever went to the Kruger Park was on a school trip when I was 12 years old.  

We stayed at Pretorius Kop.  I fell in love with the wonderful beauty of it then and went every opportunity I got.  I've been on most of the trails, and stayed at nearly all the camps, my favourite being Bateleur private camp. 

I have walked amongst a herd of buffalo, been almost trampled on by a group of five rhino, had to flee from a rogue elephant, helped save a baby buffalo that was deserted by its mother when the herd was chased by a pride of lions, stories too many to mention.  

I am now 69 years old and living in Canada but that Park will always be dear to my heart.  I always tell Canadians that are going to SA on holiday never to miss the park. The accommodation is wonderful and so are the Rangers and staff.

Happy Birthday and may you stay the same for many years to come."

                                                                                         - Valerie Locatelli  

Take a look at these incredible then-and-now Kruger photos: 

Photo: Heather McWhinnie Brown‎ on SANParks - Kruger National Park 
Old Pretoriuskop gate, around the 1940's or 50s
"My mom is second from left, before she married my dad..." 

Photos: Joep Stevens on SANParks - Kruger National Park

View of Skukuza Camp 1953 and May 2016 - 63 years later (below)

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