I’m sure most regular visitors and birders to the Kruger Park will have a favourite rest camp they enjoy staying at. Rest camps in the Kruger are of course some of the best birding spots, and offer us the chance to walk in safety while we search for them. For many birders, including myself the far north of Kruger is the place to be to see many of the park’s specials. It is said that 90% of the Kruger’s biodiversity in terms of birds can be found in the northernmost 10% of the park. However my favourite camp does not occur in the north of the park, but instead it is the oldest of the Kruger’s camps, and is situated in an area of the park which receives the highest average annual rainfall. I am of course talking about Pretoriuskop Rest Camp.
Different camps in Kruger always invoke certain species and memories for me. When I think of Letaba, I think of Bushbuck, for Skukuza I think of African Green Pigeons feasting on figs by the river, in Shingwedzi I think of all the scorpions on the sandy ground, and for Pretoriuskop, I always think of Brown-headed Parrots and Dwarf Mongoose.
Pretoriuskop is situated in an area of Kruger where the predominant type of vegetation is sourveld, which is characterised by dense trees, tall grass and gently sloping hills and valleys with scattered granite rocky outcrops. It is a very unique area of Kruger, and is also an excellent area for animals. As well as all the usuals of lion, leopard etc., Pretoriuskop is the best place for the endangered White Rhino, and is also a haven for some of the rare larger antelope, including Sable and the extremely rare Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest. The granite outcrops are also the best place to find another one of Kruger’s distinct antelopes, the very aptly named Klipspringer. This is also an excellent area for the endangered Wild Dog, and some of the larger packs in the park, can be found roaming the area.
So why is Pretoriuskop my best camp in the Kruger? One of the reasons is that it is the easiest for me to get to. I live on the KZN south coast and while you can travel through Swaziland, and get to camps like Crocodile Bridge and Lower Sabie in less time, I definitely don’t recommend it. I have done that route numerous times, and since I switched to travelling around Swaziland and entering the park near Pretoriuskop I have found the journey much more enjoyable, and Swaziland can keep their potholes, bad attitudes and extorting traffic fines with their ridiculously low speeds which are just designed to catch out tourists.
Another important factor is pricing. Whenever I look to book a holiday in Kruger, I check the different camps and the various accommodation options and pricing, to see what they have. I keep coming back to the huts at Pretoriuskop, the ones that have a fridge and aircon (essentials), but make use of communal kitchens and bathrooms. To me this is one of the best value accommodation options in Kruger (forgive me if I don’t even consider camping), and my bit of advice is to book the four or five sleeper hut, even if your party only consists of two people, as you pay the exact same price and you get a bigger unit.
Pretoriuskop also feels less touristy than the other bigger and more popular camps of the south, namely Skukuza and Lower Sabie. It might not have the wow factor of having views over the Sabie River, but it makes up for it in its more homely and South African feel. It still has all the amenities e.g. spectacular swimming pool, a restaurant (Wimpy) and shop, as well as offering the full array of game drives and guided walks etc.
The birding in Pretoriuskop is very good indeed. It is a very well wooded camp, and is also the only camp which has allowed some of the exotic trees to remain. These trees are a haven for Barbets and woodpeckers, with the Crested Barbet being particularly common in the camp. On a walking trip around the camp I have found numerous Woodpeckers, including Golden-tailed, Cardinal and Bearded. This south western part of the park is also the only place in the park to relatively easily find Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, and I got my lifer of this species in the camp. Interestingly I also got another lifer in the exact same tree as the Tinkerbird, this time being a Purple Indigobird. I have already mentioned the Brown-headed Parrots which give the camp its characteristic vibe and their noisy squawks can be heard all around. The camp is also used by Red-headed Weavers who like to build their nests on overhanging lines. Near reception is an area of tall trees where the resident Pear-spotted Owlet hangs out, and will make an appearance if you tease it out with a playback. If you go on a night drive from the camp, you are also aure to see plenty of Spotted Eagle Owls, due to the abundance of woodland habitat.
So next time you go to Kruger, give Pretoriuskop a try, and I am sure you will not regret it. I would also love to know which is your best camp in the Kruger, so please say so in the comments section below.