We embarked on our Safari adventure with one backpack (and another small bag for me because my backpack is tiny). We started our day at 5am, and had to be ready to be picked up by 6am. We stored our remaining luggage at JoBurgBackpacker’s storage room. Our guide from Intrepid Bundu (our safari company) was a bit late by 15 minutes, so we spent the time eating Ice Cream (Haggen Daaz from yesterday) and our leftover pizza. It was a healthy breakfast for sure. Soon, when we were picked up, we knew we had a long ride ahead of us. However, we were the only passengers in the minivan, which made it very comfortable for us. We stopped at a gas station – and FINALLY, I can use the ATM. Reminder to self: need to use Nedbank rather than ADSA for ATMs. We also picked up some chips and water for the road.
About 2 hours in, we stopped for a washroom break and then weirdly enough, there was a rhino outside. It was found out that the rhino is placed there by humans after cutting its horn off. Another couple hours more, we finally met our safari guide – Israel. He showed us our safari vehicle – and it seems like we’re the only ones on this safari. Our own little private safari – that’s always nice to know! We get to stop and start whenever we want without bothering other people. After meeting our guide, there was about another hour drive until we got to the entrance. At this point, we saw many impalas along the way. When we got to the gate (Orpen’s gate), we stopped for lunch, where I bought fruits, coleslaw, dried mangos, and gummy coke candy. There wasn’t much – it was just a little shop. It really wasn’t much of a lunch, but the choice was decent compared to Malawi. After lunch, it was about 1:45pm (our drive to the gate took 6hrs and 45 mins). We then set out on our very first game drive, which lasted for about 3 hours. Our first decent sighting was on a giraffe with its majestic beauty. It’s dark spots tell its age, and its horns differentiate males from females. We sat in awe and took pictures of our first sighting. Then we saw an elephant probably about 3 metres away eating leaves, and then it decided to cross the road right in front of us. That was pretty nice – one of the best sightings of the day for sure! As we’re driving, we also saw some wildebeest, two or three waterbucks, more impalas, plenty of giraffes, a lot of zebra, and probably about ten elephants. We even saw a herd of elephants eating grass about 5-10 meters away. It’s quite used to humans around it because our presence didn’t bother it. Our second Big 5 sighting is the buffalos, which we must have seen at least 100 of them. They are supposedly the most aggressive of all Big 5s because of its short-tempered nature. We saw them at a watering hole and it was just bathing in water to cool itself off. We drove very close to their watering hole – and it was just staring at us. Our third and final Big 5 of the day is the rhino, which we saw only from a distance, so that wasn’t too interesting.
After this, we went to our camp (which was literally a tent, but with BEDS). The camp is called Satara Camp – it’s definitely better than typical camping as there are clean washrooms and showers. We checked out the gift shop and bought some more snacks. After this, we head over back to our campsite and had a delicious meal of beef stew, rice, and salads. A little simple, but still can’t complain coming out of Malawi. The salad was especially great, as we haven’t had that in a very long time. We were also then briefed of our day tomorrow. We would be waking up tomorrow at 5:30am to go for a drive at 6am. Then come back around 8:30, eat breakfast, and leave again for another game drive at 10am. We will have lunch at some camp along the way again and then go for another drive – head back to camp, eat dinner and embark on a sunset/night game drive. Hopefully in the night, we will be able to see different animals – like the nocturnal leopard. Overall, I love the Safari experience – only thing is that I don’t have a camera since I lost in. It’s quite sad to see so much, but not have photos to document it. Oh well – maybe I should do it again at one point – maybe in Tanzania? Or the Masai Mara?
So, as I said, we had to wake up at 5:30am to get ready to leave at 6:00am. So, I woke up and took a hurried shower, but of course, even though it’s South Africa, This is Still Africa. We had another T.I.A. (This is Africa) moment because our Jeep broke down. So we decided to take breakfast and our guide will switch our vehicle with another one. Breakfast consisted of mixed fruit, watermelon, eggs, bread, yogurt, museli, and corn flakes. It was delicious and relatively healthy considering the amount of junk food we’ve been eating lately. After breakfast, I took a nap and read, while Israel (our guide) went to switch the vehicle. At 10am, we finally went off.
We had a game drive basically from 10am to 6:30pm. We only stopped for one hour to eat lunch, but otherwise, it’s game drives. We went off to see more of the Big 5. The previous day we saw rhinos, elephants, and buffalos. Today, the only exciting addition is a lion in the distance. However, we did see more elephants, giraffes, buffalos, impalas, wildebeasts, rhinos, hyenas, vultures, and mangooses. At one point, an elephant was travelling on the road and it’s supposedly looking for a mate and was considered at its most aggressive stage. Israel revved the engine and managed to make it avoid us, but it came pretty close to us. It was also such a hot day that the hyenas we saw were just bathing in a pond to cool itself off. We also played a game to pass the time by seeing who can point out the most animals. Basically, the whole day was spent seeing animals though we did fall asleep at some stretch of the park, where animals are scarcer. For lunch, we ate at a camp called Olifants, which is pretty close to the Mozambique border. I had a steak, egg, and chips meal and it was 45 rands, which about $6. For a tourist place, the price is surprisingly average and not too expensive.
After a whole day of game viewing, we returned for dinner. Dinner today was plentiful. We had nsima (they call it something else – but it was the same as our Malawian nsima) with an AMAZING relish that resembles sweet/sour sauce, chicken kebabs, lamb chops, coleslaw, and sweet potatoes. Another great meal by our amazing chef. For desserts, we even got a chocolate mousse. Then, everyone took a shower to cool themselves off (something we learned from the animals haha), and embarked on our night game drive. On the night game drive, I got to be one of the people controlling the lights in the vehicle! That was quite exciting. We saw most of the things that we saw during the day: elephant, giraffe, hyenas, mongoose, and impalas. We even got to see wild cats, and jackals. However, the most spectacular thing is at one point, we were stopped by a lion on the road. We thought it was cool that a lion was right in front of us, but then about twenty lions came and started crossing the road. This was the first time that we got to see lions at such a distance. During the day, they avoid humans – so that’s why we didn’t get to see any. This satisfactorily satisfied our desire to see lions.
After the game drive, it was about 10:20pm – and I’m writing this blog in a very tired state of mind. We also need to wake up before 5am tomorrow because tomorrow is our last day in Kruger National Park. Tomorrow, we’ll be having a game drive in the early morning, return to eat breakfast, head out and have another game drive, then leave the park to head to a lodge in the Greater Kruger Reserve, where we can have a relaxing night. The final day will be a bush walk and a return to Johannesburg. So we’re starting early tomorrow to get the most of our experience. Hopefully, we can see a leopard to complete our Big 5 experience.
Today is the third day of our safari experience. It began at the wee hours – since we were woken up by our guide at 5am and left the camp by 5:30am (the car actually started up this time around). I was way too tired to get up so I just got up right before we left without showering or anything, since I know that we’ll be back for breakfast. Surprisingly, it was a great game drive. We had two lion sightings (supposedly it’s best to see them during the mornings because it’s cool and they’re more active). We also saw many elephants and giraffes – no leopards unfortunately. It was also ridiculously cold –especially in the jeep that was open and wind blowing at you while driving. It was also very early so we all fell asleep and woke up when Israel saw something in the park. The only new animal we saw was the ostrich. Pretty cool birds, I must say.
Afterwards, we returned to our camp, where I wrapped up in a blanket since it was so cold until breakfast was ready. Breakfast was once again: beans, museli, yogurt, fruit salad, eggs, cheese, and bread. It was very delicious. After breakfast, we had to pack up because we’re moving out of our camp accommodations to a private lodge for our last night. We’re also leaving the park to get to the private lodge – so up next is our last game drive. So, I took a shower and packed then left for our last game drive – saying goodbye to our cook. During our last game drive, there wasn’t too much unique – we didn’t end up completing our big 5 sightings, as leopards are nowhere to be found. We saw a lot of zebras, elephants (a huge group was crossing the road in front of us at one point with many baby elephants – cute), giraffes, impalas, warthogs, and wildebeests though.
So at the end of all this, we stopped for lunch at Orpen Camp/Gate, where we had our first lunch as well. There was very little selection – so I got a chili dog, ice cream, juice, and a bag of chips – there wasn’t any healthy options. Afterwards, we headed out of the park towards our private lodge in a private reserve.
The lodge was probably an hour away – but it was BEAUTIFUL! In this private reserve, there were surprisingly giraffes and zebras around. It had a pool and the rooms were easily the nicest we’ve been in for three months. The washroom was large and beautiful. It had a nice swimming pool in the center of all the rooms. We took a dip in the water from 4:30 to about 6. Then we went back to our rooms for a shower and had dinner after. We were called for dinner with drums. We ate in a little pit with a small fire in the center. We all gathered around with tables in a semicircle formation– and had a nice feast at the front. We were talking to the other people at the lodge – four of them were Canadians – others European. The food was great – it consisted of: Potato salad, chickpeas salad, nsima + relish, chicken kebabs, pork kebabs, corn and a coconut cake. After the wonderful dinner, we retreated to our rooms, watched Gossip Girl – and started writing this blog – and now it’s 10:30pm and I have to sleep since I need to wake up by 5:15am. We would be going out for a bush walk early tomorrow morning and then return for breakfast – then head back to Johannesburg. Hopefully, we would get to see the world cup stadium or something like that –if not, I’m sure we would at least get some wonderful food. Overall, the game drives for this safari is very satisfying. Though we didn’t see all five Big 5 animals, this was a great introduction to game viewing – highly recommended if you want to have a comfortable glimpse at animals. It may not be as densely populated as other parks – but it is the biggest park in Africa –and the infrastructure is incomparable as I’ve heard. Technically, all the Big 5 animals are there though – you just need to search for them.