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Published: March 17th 2008
We were very lucky to spot this Cheetah on our first full day in the bush. What a beautiful creature.
Imagine that you are on a long road trip and want to get out of the car to stretch your legs, or go to the bathroom behind a tree, or get a closer angle for a picture of a bird. Then think of the feeling that you get when you realize that if you do get out of the car you could potentially be EATEN by a LION
. That is the only way that I can convey the feeling that is ever present while in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Haley and I were there in the summer so it was hot every day. We drove over plenty of nice little rivers that would be perfect for a quick swim, just something to cool us off. Then I look into the water and I see 10 foot crocodiles and even larger hippos hoping that we do go for that swim! Between the great whites, the lions, deadly snakes, and the angry elephants…this is a feeling that I have been experiencing a lot over the past week. But I have to admit, I LOVE IT!
Haley and my trip to the Kruger was truly amazing. Kruger National Park
the largest game reserve in South Africa. It covers 7,332 sq miles (which I heard is the size of Delaware, but I this might be incorrect). There are 21 “camps” which range from primitive campgrounds to small little towns with movies, shops, and stores. Haley had reserved 4 nights for us at three of the medium size camps in the park. So we rented our own car and headed from the airport into the game park and to our first camp (Pretoriuskop).
For those who have never been on safari I will give a little background information. From what I understand there are a ton of game parks in South Africa (and probably the rest of Africa). All varying in size, some are public and some are private. It seems like the “rules” for public and private game reserve differ greatly. What most people envision as a safari is most likely what happens in the private game reserves - you get to ride around in a huge land cruise or other bush vehicle, riding through the bush (not on roads) and following animals with a ranger leading it all (normally carrying a gun…just in case). These rangers are typically
Another lioness that was very close to the car
in contact with other rangers and know exactly where the game is. So they can take you right to it, you can get your pictures and be able to claim that you “saw the big 5”. So that is what I understand a private reserve to be (I skipped over the 4 or 5 star accommodations, but I am sure you can imagine). A lot of people view this kind of safari as cheating and nothing more than a glorified zoo experience, since the rangers track all the animals and just take you right to them. You are not in control of where you go or things like that since you are being guided.
The other kind of game reserve is the public park (such as the Kruger). In this kind of park you need to do everything yourself. This was much preferred for Haley and me. In these parks you stay at camps, drive along paved and/or dirt roads, and eat at rest stops (where you can rent braais aka. grills). When you are driving, you are constantly scanning your surroundings because you never know what lays around the next corner or in the grass or behind that
This is what we drove around in the Kruger
tree. You drive where you want to (as long as you are on a road) and you stop when you want to. A typical day in the Kruger involves getting up at 5am so that you can be out of the gate when it opens at 5:30.( though gate opening & closing time varies with the season). Driving around for a few hours before a “bush breakfast” (eggs and bacon that you cook on a rented skillet). Continuing that drive for a few more hours, then heading back to camp. Most likely you'll hang out at camp maybe go to the swimming pool, and then head back out for an evening drive. these camps are similar to american camp grounds but instead of cabins they have bungalows, and also a huge electric fence around the entire property. Now that was a typical day. Haley and my days where much much longer because (1) we had a short time in the Kruger and wanted to cover a lot of ground and (2) I was absolutely addicted to driving around and looking for game. We’d leave at 5:30 in the morning, and sometimes not end until 4 or 5pm.
Braiing in the bush
a little worried with the idea that we would be driving all day without any opportunities for hikes or getting out of the car. I could imagine myself getting tired of just looking at “stuff” from the window of our car, but boy was I wrong. You never really know what you are going to see. Be it a tired and sick lioness 4 feet from your window, a large black mamba snake (one of the deadliest in the world), or a herd of 50 elephants (all are things that we saw). I’m naturally a curious person and I think that really helped me enjoy this. I will also say that spotting game from the car is definitely a skill. And definitely one that Haley is better than me at - she was driving, so even with one eye on the road she was able to spot much more then I was. I actually had a hard time - there is so much to scan cruising around at 40 km/hr. You want to scan the trees for birds and leopards, you want to scan the grass next to the road for lions and things of that sort, and you want
Lioness in the road
to scan everything in between for things like like Kudu or elephants, rhinos, and buck.. My eyes were really working overtime. I had heard long tales from Haley about how her mom spotted such and such and animal way off in the distance or how her mom saw this or that - so next time Mrs. Kalil, you’ll have to come with us! It was also impressive to see the wealth of knowledge that Haley had on all the game that we spotted…who would have known (wink).
But we did see animals, a lot of animals. Apparently we had a very successful trip (says Haley, since I have nothing to compare it to). Driving around looking for animals leads to funny stories. You drive around looking for game OR looking for other cars that have spotted games. I don’t know how many times we pulled up to car that was stopped on the side of the road; we’d look around and not see anything, and then have to ask them what they are looking at. It might be some lion tucked under a bush, or rhino way off in the distance, or even better…nothing at all. One time we
A typical bush dinner
stopped by a car and were going to ask them what they saw, but the chick was on her phone so we waited. Then another car saw both of us (often the more cars that are stopped, the better the game is). So he pulled up, and then a huge bus pulled up as well. When we finally got a chance to ask her what she saw…it was actually nothing at all, she just stopped so she wouldn’t lose cell phone receptions…hahahah and it resulted in a huge car/bus pile up.
Another funny little story is about Haley’s irrational fear of Elephants. I had heard stories about this from her and her family but didn’t realize how bad it was until we came across our first elephant (in the road). We are driving around a corner and then all of a sudden see a HUGE lone bull elephant right next to the side of the road…but still a good distance off (maybe a quarter mile or so). Haley STOPS immediately, I think it is so that I can get my camera and start taking pictures. But before I am able to do that she starts shaking and slams the
The second of two places that Haley and i actually got out of our car.
car into reverse and hits the gas…going going going, until the elephant disappears because it is so far away. I plead with her to stop so I can get some pics, then I just give up and start cracking up. She will wait for as long as it takes, for the road to clear, before she proceeds. This event replayed itself many times each day. Elephants really like hanging out along the road. All the elephant pictures that you see are taken as we speed past them!
Other things that we saw:
• Elephant fighting a hippo and her baby
• Hyenas walking around camp at night
• Tons and tons of brightly colored birds
• A 50 elephant stampede
• A pair of cheetah (very rare) walking down the road.
I must say that this trip to South Africa had been one of my favorites. What I saw of this country was really impressive. From Cape Town with its urban energy, beautiful beaches, and colorful mountains. To Hermanus with its laid back atmosphere, perfect tanning weather, and interesting beachside hikes. To the wine country of Franshhoek with its rich red wines and lush valley of wine surrounded
by jagged cliffs topped with pillow like clouds. And then of course the Kruger. I feel like I really got to see a lot of SA and am really looking forward to going back and exploring some more! I was only there for 2 weeks but already have so many great memories.
For the full photo album please check out my ADDITIONAL GMAIL PHOTO ALBUM
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