The Kruger Parks first facilities
It was finally in 1928 that the establishment of facilities for tourists finally commenced. The first three tourist “rest huts” were built at Satara, Pretoriuskop and Skukuza. At the same time that these hits were being built a further six additional huts were also being planned for development. These huts, or rest huts, each consisted of a set of rooms with a carport. Sadly nothing came of the six planned additional huts, but later in 1929 two rondavels with a radius of six metres and ten and a radius of a little more than four metres had been erected at Skukuza with two additional rondavels being built at Satara. Rest camps of the same size of Skukuza had now been envisaged for Pretoriuskop, Satara and Letaba Camps. There was also the idea of two smaller rest camps with six rondavels each that had been planned for Balule and Olifant’s Poort (Olifant’s Gorge) near the confluence of the Olifant’s and Letaba rivers.
Construction on the rest camp at Olifant’s Poort commenced in later part of 1929. The continued into 1930 and apart from the two additional rondavels built in Skukuza, four more had been erected at Pretoriuskop, fifteen at Satara, twelve at Letaba, six at Balule, one at Olifant’s Poort and four at Malelane. At Lower Sabie a five-bedroom guesthouse of wood and steel was erected from what was previously Tom Duke the areas Game Rangers quarters. This had now been restored and made available for tourism. All the rondavels that were built during the period of 1929 to 1931 were according to the so-called “Selby” construction style. Paul Selby was an American mine engineer who had come to South Africa and served on the Board of the Reserve. His hut design had a gap between the wall and the roof and a small hole on the top half of the entrance stable door. The hole in the door was intended as a peephole for dangerous as at that time the camps did not have any fencing. These initial Selby huts attracted much criticism over there design as they were seen to be too cold in winter, too dark as a result of no windows and lacking in privacy because people see in through the top of the stable door. Over and above these points the holes in the structure made for easy access of mosquitos carrying malaria. Having learnt from this initial design all huts from 1931 had windows that could open and close. During this period of the early nineteen thirties, a tremendous amount of positive progress was made with the establishment of tourist focussed facilities.
With the development of rondavels in early 1931 it was decided later in the year to also look at using tents. These classic old white travel tents, which each had four beds, were first commissioned at Skukuza and Satara camps. Over and above developments at Skukuza, Satara, Olifant’s poort, Pretoriouskop, Malelane and Crocodile Bridge camps its was decided that a further six sites be identified for further facility development. In late 1931 after agreement from the board construction began at Rabelais Gate. It was ambitiously suggested that greater presence was required in the far North of the park and so in 1932 Punda Maria camps was identified and the first huts were built. These huts were constructed of traditional material in that of a wattle and daub, as cement could not be afforded during the early stages of development. A small rest camp was built at Malopene during 1932 with an additional small temporary camp next to the Tsendze River at Mabodhlelene later in 1933. These camps were small and simple and only comprised of tents. Later in 1933 the Reserve commenced with It was only in use for a few months, before construction of Shingwedzi rest camp as the replacement for these two small camps Initially Shingwedzi Camp also only consisted of tents but by 1935 the first three huts where built that each had 3 rooms. Incredibly the 3 original huts are still functional with the roof and external wall structures still in use today.
During 1932 the first ablution block was also built at Skukuza and this provided guests with a four baths and four-shower cubicle. At the same time it was decided that camps needed to be fenced. There was also further experimentation with a new hut design later in 1935 and once approved the first new Knapp-Huts were erected at Skukuza, Crocodile Bridge and Letaba. This new design made use of a square foundation with corrugated steel roofs. It was later felt that these huts did not suite the Reserves requirements and no further huts were erected. In 1934 the SAR and the Transvaal Publicity Conference made an urgent plea to the Board to provide more accommodation. Under this pressure it was even proposed to SAR to park a number of coaches at Skukuza to serve as sleeping quarters. This proposal could not be executed, as it would have been illegal.
In order to secure the required funding for more accommodation in the Reserve, during 1935 a South African Publicity Conference with the backing of the Publicity Associations of Pretoria and Johannesburg formalised a proposal that was directed at the Government for a donation of £50,000 (R900,000). The donation was to be used for an additional 150 beds at Pretoriuskop rest camp and a new rest camp at Lower Sabie that would accommodate 200 visitors.
Over and above all these new developments one inclusion that was critical was that existing huts had to be made mosquito-proof. During August of 1935 the Government communicated that an amount of £30,000 (R540,000) had been approved for the development of tourist facilities. The Board decided that only R720,000 of this amount would be applied for tourism and that the other R280,000 for the provision of water sources for game. In the meantime the Board had instructed architect firms Leith and Moerdyk to prepare plans for the anticipated developments. Gordon Leith was tasked to present a design for the new Lower Sabie rest camp, while Gerhard Moerdyk had to deal with extension of Pretoriuskop rest camp as well as Malelane. By the end of 1935 the plans were already finalized, with an additional proposal that eight to ten wattle & daub huts be erected at Tshokwane. The Board accepted the latter proposal on condition that there were sufficient funds available. The architects, as well as the executive subcommittee of the Board, had not taken account of the chairperson, Judge J de Wet. Not only did he regard the hot water for showers and baths as unnecessary luxuries, but he could not identify with extravagancies such as septic tanks, retail areas, a dining room, etc, for rest camps. According to his view, there was only a need for sleeping facilities and nothing else! The plans by Leith for Lower Sabie, were accordingly rejected on grounds that it would be too expensive, and instruction was given to Moerdyk to draw up a new – and significantly cheaper – plan.
With over a decade of facility development and construction it was finally decided in 1946 that the last two rest camps to be developed for tourists were Lower Sabie and Pafuri.
After the closing and later demolishing of the guesthouse at Lower Sabie, it was later decided that a new rest camp should be built. The initial buildings of this new rest camp were designed by architects Gerard Moerdyk and were finally completed during 1936. This new Lower Sabie rest camp comprised of three large units with six bedrooms each and was designed in a U-shape. In the north a tented camp was opened in 1939 on the banks of the Luvhuvhu River, where the current Pafuri picnic spot is. Only 12 months later was the camp closed due to heavy rainfall, flooding and mosquitos..