Africa, South Africa

Through the Drakensberg to Kruger National Park

2 Comments 14 March 2011

Through the Drakensberg to Kruger National Park

During his 2010 expedition to South Africa, the Monkey journeyed out through the Drakensberg Mountains and into the famous Kruger National Park—home to all manner of African wildlife (and temporarily at least one extra monkey).

Heading east from Johannesburg, the Monkey traveled through the province of Mpumalanga, crossing the northern reaches of southern Africa’s highest mountains, the Drakensberg, on his way toward the vast Kruger National Park. Kruger borders Mozambique and Zimbabwe and spans parts of both Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces in South Africa.

God's Window, Drakensberg, South Africa
The Drakensberg are more an escarpment than a mountain range, with their stunning cliffs forming the ragged transition between the plateau-like Highveld where cities like Blomfontein, Johannesburg, and Pretoria rest, and the Lowveld region that stretches toward Mozambique and the Indian Ocean.

In this photo, the Monkey surveys the wonderful scenery from a place called God’s Window, in the Blyde River Canyon area of the Drakensberg. Although you could be lulled into thinking it’s a gradual descent to the rivers and forests below, the Monkey is actually quite near a 700 meter cliff in this photo—plenty near, in fact. Notice, too, the luscious flora of the surrounding rain forest.

God's Window, Drakensberg, South Africa
The Monkey gets another view out God’s Window, this time with the cliffs more in evidence. The misty clouds conceal much of the view that can stretch well into neighboring Mozambique!

Rain forest, Drakensberg, South Africa
At over 1800 meters above sea level and in close proximity to some rather vertiginous drops near God’s Window, the Monkey was surprised to find himself in a small subtropical rain forest. But there was no mistaking the dense vegetation and humidity of this cliff-top microclimate. Just another natural wonder in South Africa.

Veld, Kruger National Park, South Africa
After negotiating his way down from the heights of the Drakensberg, the Monkey made his way to Kruger National Park. As you can see, the scenery changes quite dramatically: the Lowveld is a scrubby grassland with clumps of forest, the occasional rocky outcrop, and numerous streams and water holes. In other words, the perfect place for an abundance of wildlife—and that is precisely what draws so many visitors to this park in the northeast corner of South Africa.

Founded in 1898, Kruger National Park is nearly 2 million hectares of protected space for African wildlife, home to over 850 species of animals. Who knows what was lurking in the tall grass behind the Monkey? A water buffalo, perhaps? A cheetah or a lion? Some hyenas or a rhinoceros? And beyond that line of trees, it’s a safe bet that a herd of giraffes, impalas, wildebeests, or zebras was wandering by. And over there by the water? A hippopotamus plodding along, a crocodile sunning itself, an antelope quenching its thirst… You get the idea.

Note: Although the Monkey saw all of the aforementioned species and more, both he and his photographer were too busy admiring the animals to remember to document the fun for the Monkey’s website.

Elephant, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Of the many animals he saw on safari, the Monkey was most enamored of the African elephants. It’s difficult not to notice their grace and personality, especially in an eye-to-eye encounter like this. Roaming about in herds, elephants come in a surprising jumble of sizes, with some growing to be true giants. Kruger is home to an estimated 12,000 elephants, including this happy fellow.

Unfortunately, even within the protected confines of the park, these animals are still threatened by poachers who hunt the elephants for their tusks. Despite a global ban on the trade of ivory, elephant populations are lower now than when the moratorium took effect in 1989. University of Washington research shows that across Africa, populations fell from more than a million in 1989 to 470,000 in 2009. Worldwide, an estimated 100 elephants are slaughtered daily. The chief culprits in the trade are crime syndicates who cater to booming demand for ivory in China, Japan, and the United States.

You can help protect elephants—by never buying ivory and by supporting organizations such as Save the Elephants and WildAid.

Warthogs, Kruger National Park, South Africa
On the grounds of a lodge near Kruger National Park, the Monkey had a run-in with some warthogs. While he doesn’t believe warthogs are particularly dangerous, the Monkey maintained a safe distance just in case.

Elephant, Kruger National Park, South Africa
As his safari jeep pulls away, the Monkey grabs one last look at the majestic elephants of Kruger National Park.

This Monkey adventure has been viewed 5139 times since the 2010 website relaunch.

South Africa


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48,782,756 (2008)

Land area:

1,219,912 sq. km.


Pretoria (executive; est. pop. 1,000,000; 2005). Cape Town (legislative; pop. 2,893,251; 2005). Bloemfontein (judicial; 369,568; 2005)


In 2006, South Africa ranked 121st in the UNDP Human Development Index and 26th in total GDP, with a per capita GDP of $5,380.60. Public debt accounts for 31.3 percent of total GDP, while 50 percent of South Africans are beneath the poverty line.

Main language(s):

From most to least spoken, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Northern Sotho, Tswana, English, Sotho, Tsonga, Swat, Venda, and Ndebele are all official languages. Most South Africans are bilingual at a minimum, and many can communicate in upwards of three or four.

Monkey's name:

The Monkey isn’t sure about his name in all 11 official languages. He believes his name in Zulu and Xhosa is Inkawu. In Afrikaans, it’s Aap. And in English, the country’s de facto business and media language, it’s Monkey.

Fun fact:

The world’s first heart transplant operation took place under the knife of Dr. Christiaan Barnard, at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, in 1967.

Your Comments


  1. geoff says:

    nice pics, Monkey.  Did you make it to any World Cup matches while in SA?

  2. The Monkey says:

    Thank you, Geoff. Indeed I did make it to several World Cup matches. Those updates are still on the way, but you can see my picture from the Spain-Chile match in the post about Pretoria.

    – The Monkey

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