Kruger National Park: Berg-en-Dal
The Berg-en-Dal reception office has had the “Camp of the Year – Southern Region” trophy on display for the past three years. The service is excellent, the camp is spick and span, and the game-viewing in the area is excellent.
Hang out with your neighbours
By sunset the campfires are lit among the trees, neighbours visit one another and children race around on bicycles among the caravans.
The most sought-after stands in the Berg-en-Dal campsite are next to the fence at the bottom end of the camp. You have a view of the Matjulu River, the land is level and there are big trees for shade. Because you can’t book a particular site, you should arrive around 9 am in the busy season to get the best spot – that’s usually the time when campers move on to the next camp.
The rest of the campsite also has good stands. Look around electricity boxes 18 and 19 for two lovely level, shaded stands.
The three large ablution blocks are neat and well-maintained. You won’t have to worry about hot water or toilet paper. Each bathroom has at least two showers and three basins, as well as a toilet for physically handicapped people.
Laundries and kitchens
There’s a small kitchen and laundry next to every bathroom. The kitchen has basins, an urn and five twin-plate cookers. The laundry has deep basins, three-point plugs and washing lines.
It costs R130 per night for a stand for the first two campers, and R42 extra per adult and R21 extra per child (maximum six people per stand).
Who goes there?
At night, a genet does its rounds in the campsite. Don’t turn your back on that chop on the braai! During the day you might spot a water monitor or tortoise ambling through the campsite. Also look out for the busy little vervet monkeys – make sure all your food and valuables are secured when you go out.
I don’t do camping…
The chalets are surrounded by beautiful shaded gardens. The rate for a chalet with three beds, a bathroom and a small kitchen is R580 per night for two people, plus R124 per adult and R63 per child. For an extra R55 you get a chalet right at the camp fence.
(Note: Prices are accurate for May 2009)
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Drive three routesIn the morning
(53 km, roughly 3½ hours)
Look for leopard. Make sure you’re ready to set off when the gate opens, and then drive sedately along the S110 Matjulu circular drive (13 km; 1 hour). Leopard are sometimes spotted in this area. Stop for coffee at the Matjulu waterhole, where you might see white rhino.
Spot a hyena. Turn left on the H3 tar road (9 km; 20 minutes) and keep your eyes peeled for spotted hyena. Then turn right on the S118 gravel road and follow the Mhlambane River via the S119 to where it joins the S25 Crocodile River road (14 km; 1 hour).
Follow the river. Get out and stretch your legs for a while at the Gardenia hide – plenty of buffalo and elephant are seen here. Then slowly drive back to camp on the S25 and S114 gravel roads and the S110 tar road, and scan the treetops for martial eagle (17 km; 1 hour).
Out all day
(91 km; about 6½ hours, lunch included)
Biyamiti, here we come! If your Skyline has air conditioning and you want to watch game all day, we suggest you drive north on the S114 gravel road to where it crosses the Biyamiti River (35 km; 1½ hours). Look for water thickknee, black crake and hamerkop at the weir.
Take in the scenery. Turn left onto the S23, which runs all along the Biyamiti River. You’re now on one of the most scenic roads in the park, with beautiful, giant trees and rocks along the dry riverbed (10 km; ¾ hour). Keep your eyes peeled for white rhino and lion.
Stop a while. Turn left onto the S113 and drive to the Afsaal picnic site for lunch (16 km; ¾ hour). Make your own burgers (you can rent a gas bottle and pan for R17), or order a takeaway (you can buy a mince-and-mushroom pancake for R22 or a hotdog and chips for only R16).
Don’t leave before you’ve seen the scops-owl in one of the tamboti trees!
Swing back. Take one of various scenic gravel roads back to camp (30–45 km; 1½–2½ hours).
(13 km; at least an hour)
Matjulu, again. One of the best chances you have of seeing a leopard in the Kruger is to take the S110 Matjulu circular drive slowly in the late afternoon.
Venture further afield. If you have time, also drive the S121 Timfenheni circular drive (18 km; 1 hour) and then follow the tar road to the camp (12 km; ½ hour). You might see African wild dogs on this route.
Can I go for a walk in the veld?Consider the guided morning hike in the hilly veld around Berg-en-Dal. You might be lucky enough to look a white rhino in the eye.
You and up to seven other people leave camp about half an hour after opening time in an open vehicle and drive to the point where you start hiking. The two armed rangers point out animal spoor, plants and interesting features such as rhino “scratching posts”. You may also see impala, giraffe and, yes, elephants.
How difficult is it? The trail isn’t difficult, but in summer it gets very, very hot. Halfway along, you stop for a short rest on a koppie with a beautiful view and enjoy snacks that have been arranged neatly on a rock.
What should I take? A hat, sunblock and at least a litre of water – and your camera, of course. Wear good shoes and long trousers, because there are ticks and the grass makes your legs itch.
How long? About three hours.
Cost: R270. Book at reception.
What can I do in the camp?
Hike the rhino trail
You can see lots in Kruger without driving anywhere. The Rhino Hiking Trail in the camp is an easy walk that you can do during the cooler late afternoon.
The second part, a narrow footpath right next to the gate, ends at the campsite. Here you might see a black-collared barbet.
From the campsite you have to keep to the right in the direction of the ablution blocks to get to the final stretch of the trail, which leads away from the fence through dense undergrowth all the way to
the petrol station. You might hear yellow-bellied greenbul or spot violet-eared waxbill and bronze mannikin in the long grass. Look for crested barbet and pearl-spotted owlets at the end of the trail.
How far and how long? About 30 minutes (an hour if you’re watching birds), about 2 km.
Watch movies under the stars
Yes, you can watch wildlife programmes on television, but the kids will never forget watching a wildlife documentary under the stars. When the weather is good, documentaries are shown in the amphitheatre next to the shop.
It’s lovely to relax out in the open, and besides, you’re in the right frame of mind to learn more about animals.
It’s also a great place to meet girls… if you’re 14.
When? Mondays to Saturdays just after sunset.
How long? About an hour.
Read the rest of the storyBerg-en-Dal is leopard country. The rocky koppies around this camp in the southwest of the Kruger National Park are ideal territory for them. So keep your eyes open for the distinctive spotted pattern.
This part of Kruger isn’t only for cat lovers, though; you have a good chance of seeing white rhino and, if you’re very lucky, even African wild dog. And a birdwatcher with a pair of binoculars could tick off 50 bird species without leaving the camp.
Berg-en-Dal’s biggest asset, however, is that it is a lovely campsite. It’s also the easiest to access if you’re coming from Gauteng. The Malelane gate is in the south-western corner of the park, and Berg-en-Dal is only about 12 km from the gate.
Unlike the old camps such as Satara and Shingwedzi, which were originally only a patch of fenced-in veld with a few rondavels and campsites, Berg-en-Dal is modern and luxurious, with a lovely shaded campsite.
There’s a large swimming pool, which is a godsend in the hot summer months. It’s surrounded by lawns and trees, and there’s even a jungle gym for the children.
Within walking distance of the pool you’ll find the Rhino Hall, where the difference between a black and white rhino is clearly illustrated, and where you can also read up about the other animals in the region.
The camp also has a hiking trail, a petrol station, a laundry, a shop, a restaurant and a takeaway, whose portion of spaghetti bolognese at R36,95 is enough to keep a lion happy for a day.
Berg-en-Dal also has an Internet café from which you can send your brother in Dubai pictures of this morning’s pack of African wild dogs. Unfortunately, the connection is intermittent…