• ROUTE: Phabeni Gate / Pretoriuskop / Phabeni Gate
  • TIME: 3 hours with animal sightings traveling at 30 km/h
  • DISTANCE: 71 km
  • BIG 5?: Yes

This is a great, easy-going route that is, for the most part quiet, but can be extremely rewarding! Most of my African wild dog sightings have been on the S3 and S7 roads in Kruger as a large pack that frequents this area to breed hangs around there. Wild dog will stay in a food rich area while the pups are very young for around 2 months so the chances of seeing them on an early morning / late afternoon hunt is good when this happens

Make your way through Phabeni Gate and travel on the S1 until you hit the S3 split. Just a word of warning for you dudes – during peak seasons this game reserve carry outs a quota system and only a certain number of vehicles are let into the park… At these times getting to the gate at 05:30 (summer) will not work as many operators use Numbi, Phabeni and Kruger gates so I would suggest that you get to the gate at least 30 mins before it opens to avoid any surprises as people can become extremely nasty in a queue, sad but true! Take a flask of coffee with some muffins, it is well worth seeing the sun rise over the acacia trees anyway

Turn right onto the S3 and travel about 10km until the S7. This is normally a quiet road traffic wise, but is a great area for lion and rhino

The S7 normally is very quiet, but I have seen lion and African wild dog here on my safaris plus there is always fresh lion and leopard spoor so the big boys are in the area! Drive about 5 km until you reach the S10 loop road. This road loops around the Shabeni koppie. This road is amazing at times – kudu, rhino, wild dog, baboon, buffalo and lion seem to like the vantage this koppie gives so keep your eyes peeled, especially on the koppie itself

Rejoin the S7 and travel a short distance until you hit the main H1-1 tar road. Turn left here and drive towards Pretoriuskop where there are a series of ring roads that move around the camp, namely the S14 and S8. These roads have produced a few leopard sightings over the years as well as a chance of seeing a small tsessebe herd. It is a scenic route and is perfect for a lazy drive

Make your way back now to Phabeni… I normally retrace my steps on the S7 and S10 route, but you can head back towards Numbi gate and rejoin the S3 if you would like. I just find the latter to be more fruitful to be honest

Whichever you choose, make sure you stop over at the large Mestel waterhole. This waterhole is not the best point for photographers, but it attracts many species for their late afternoon phuza and holds good populations of hippo and crocs.

Turn around and head back to Phabeni on the S3. At the S1 / S3 junction be very aware, as mentioned in earlier posts this is a great area for leopard, especially later in the afternoon. Turn left and race off to the gate!

Let me know what you see!