After spending four incredible days in Kruger National Park, I was sad to leave it, but excited to go to our next camp. Our guide, Alfie, said that at the private rest camp, Tshukudu, we would be able to get more up close to the animals. This camp is much smaller than Kruger (about 12,000 acres compared to nearly 5 million), so it’s easier to spot animals, and you can even pet Tshukudu’s resident cheetah. Since we didn’t see any cheetahs while in Kruger (we did see pretty much every other animal though), I was immensely excited to interact with one at this private camp. So off to Tshukudu we went!
The drive from Kruger National Park to Tshukudu Bush Camp would only be about an hour with no stops, but on the way to Tshukudu, we stopped at a grocery store. Since there are not any shops at Tshukudu that offer food and drinks, we stocked up on water and snacks to take with us. After purchasing everything, we loaded back up in Epic Enabled‘s wheelchair accessible safari truck and headed to Tshukudu.
From the entrance of Tshukudu to the bush camp and bungalows, it took about 45 minutes. Unlike at Kruger, the road here was not paved. It was a dirt road and extremely bumpy. Due to having weaker muscles from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, I don’t do very well with bumpiness. It was difficult for me to hold my head up and by the time we finally reached the camp I felt like I had been through a war and gotten beaten up. I knew that there had to be a way to improve this. By the next drive, we took a scarf and wrapped it around my head and headrest, which held my head in place. This was much better, so if you have poor upper body strength I would highly suggest taking either a scarf like I did or even a neck brace. Trust me, you’ll want it.
Once we reached the bush camp, I said “Hallelujah” and my mom and I were shown to our bungalow. Tshukudu has seven bungalows total and three of them are wheelchair accessible. I stayed in the “Caracal” bungalow and it was completely accessible. The entrance was smooth, the bed was a good height, and there was a roll-in shower. The only problem about our bungalow was that the shower water was freezing. It would get hot for about 20 seconds and then feel like ice the rest of the time. I’ve never taken such short showers in my life, but at least I was good and awake afterwards. Haha! While this was a minor inconvenience, out of all the places we stayed at while in South Africa, this was definitely the most spacious and the nicest. The decor inside the room gave it an African vibe, and I enjoyed sitting on our patio and watching for animals as well.
The rooms do not have a television or kitchen, but there is a communal kitchen with an indoor and outdoor dining area that is just steps away from the bungalows. You will also have your own refrigerator in the kitchen and there is a TV in the indoor dining room. Just outside the kitchen, there was a bonfire and grilling area with tables set up. Our guide, Alfie of Epic Enabled, cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and it was always exceptional. We enjoyed pancakes, chicken pasta, and much more. It was also nice to sit around the fire each night and chat with the other people staying there. There were people from all over the world, including Australia, Sweden, Germany, and the USA.
A bush baby stayed around the bonfire and dining area every night also and I loved playing with it. If you haven’t seen a bush baby before, it’s a small nocturnal animal and is the cutest thing ever. They can jump insanely far and it even jumped on me quite a few times. It would jump from the top of my head to my shoulder to the dining table. I didn’t mind at all because it was so cute, but it did try to steal our food a couple times. Just be on the lookout for the bush baby while you’re eating.
As I mentioned earlier, the cool thing about Tshukudu is that you can get up close and personal with some animals, including a cheetah. One morning while I was going out of our bungalow, I saw the cheetah about 20 feet in front of me. We locked eyes and she started running toward me. To be honest, I was frightened for a moment, but she turned at the last second and went another direction. It was quite an experience to have that interaction. I mean, how often do you have a cheetah running toward you upon leaving your house?? So awesome!
During our few days at Tshukudu, I got plenty of other interactions with the cheetah as well. Every afternoon she would be lazing around the pool or in the dining area. Her name is Ntombi, which means “little girl”. She wasn’t very little though. She was actually much larger than I imagined, but extremely sweet. We were able to pet her and just lay by the pool with her. Even though she is used to people, she still kills for her own food and is completely free to roam in and out of the camp. In fact, she killed an impala one night and brought its body back by the pool. While it was a sight to see, I was thrilled that she was not in captivity. We also saw elephant dung all around the camp, so apparently they roam in and out occasionally. Unfortunately, I didn’t see an elephant inside the camp while I was there though. My favorite thing about being on safari in South Africa was seeing the many different animals in their natural environment. Sooo much better than a zoo!
Aside from interacting with the bush baby and cheetah at the camp, you can also go on safari at Tshukudu. However, unlike at Kruger Park, you cannot go on safari in the wheelchair accessible Epic Enabled truck. Tshukudu has its own safari guide and vehicle. For a wheelchair user to get in the Tshukudu safari truck, the accessible truck’s lift was lowered onto the other truck. This way, the wheelchair would be more even with the truck to get into the seat. You could then be physically lifted (just a few steps) into a seat on the truck with the assistance of the guides. They have done this many times and are experts at the process, but I opted out of the safaris here because the roads at Tshukudu were just too rough. It would have been even harder on me out of my own wheelchair, although we could have tried strapping me to the seat. The other wheelchair users that were on our tour had more upper body strength than me and said that it was a very rough ride, but they did get to see a lot of animals up close. I really don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not going on these rides because I saw all of the same animals at Kruger in the days before… just maybe not as close. If you have good upper body control, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but if you’d rather not be shaken around you could always hang out by the pool with the cheetah like I did.
Other highlights from my time at Tshukudu included interacting with a caracal and seeing a porcupine (who knew they were so big?!). While my time at Tshukudu wasn’t as accessible as Kruger Park was (mostly due to the rough roads), it was still a nice getaway and definitely worth spending some time at. After all, where else can you casually hang out with a wild cheetah??
1. Bring a good flashlight. At night it gets very dark and there aren’t many lights around the camp.
2. There were plenty of plugins in the bungalow (3 if I remember correctly), so just be sure to bring an adapter and converter if you need one.
3. Visit Tshukudu with a tour guide. By going with Epic Enabled, you won’t have to worry about finding accessible transportation or cooking your own meals. They take care of everything, so that you can have a relaxing and stress free trip.
*While I did work with Epic Enabled on this trip, all opinions are authentic and my own.