Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

SOUTH AFRICA – Safari at Kruger National Park (part 1)

The big day had arrived!

December 1, 2015…

I was finally embarking on my indefinite journey around the world and had reached my first destination South Africa after a 15 hour flight from New York.

This was to be my itinerary for the next 2 months: Kruger National Park, the Namib Desert & Swakopmund in Namibia, a month long farm sit in the wine region around Cape Town, the Garden Route, Durban, Golden Gate NP, then into Botswana: Okavango Delta and Chobe NP, and finally Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Quite a journey!

Africa Map

For my first week, I had planned to explore Kruger National Park, the largest and most famous park in Southern Africa.

I was excited!

On the short flight from Joburg to Kruger I marvelled at the vastness of the scenery, the African bush – and ….was thrilled when I saw my first giraffe and elephant from the air….;-)

I stayed a Timbavati Safari Lodge a lovely family run lodge with little huts – and visitors like these in the early morning hours:

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

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These two were wild, of course, wandering over from the park.

And this is the ambiance I am writing this post from – soundtrack of crickets and birds included….

My first Safari

Thursday was finally the big day – my first Safari!!

Thanks to a new little gadget that almost completely eliminates jetlag, I easily got up at 4:30am and we left at 5:15am (already in full daylight).

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Since none of the other guests had booked a safari, I had my own private guide for the next 3 days and I couldn’t have found a better one – meet Ronnie:

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Ronnie grew up in one the neighboring villages and has known Kruger all his life. He is a deep soul, a quiet, contemplative man who loves and appreciates his beautiful country and all the many creatures in it.

He shared a wealth of information, but also enjoyed the quiet moments of just being in this magical place without needless chatter. As someone who loves solitude as much as I do I greatly enjoyed his company.

A lot of lodges offer only morning and evening drives and the time in between you spend at the lodge. Timbavati however, offers full-day drives from 5am until around 3:30pm with picnic breakfast and lunch in the park (prepared by the wonderful kitchen staff).

Dusk and dawn are the best time to see animals and it is also not as hot. I happened to be there during the rainy season – summer in the Southern hemisphere – and during the day it could easily go up to 35 degrees Celsius (90s Fahrenheit)

I love hot weather – summer is my favorite season – and when driving in an open safari vehicle there is always a fresh breeze (and a roof to protect from the intense sun). Some lodges use closed, air-conditioned mini buses, but for me that would have been missing the point of being on Safari in Africa – but that’s just me….;-)

At Kruger you are not allowed to leave the vehicle, except for a few picnic areas throughout the park that are manned by a staff member. And that’s a good thing, because it’s easy to forget that some of these animals can be quite dangerous and easily kill you if you get too close – and you might not even see them coming. The cars offer great protection – the animals perceive them as one big animal – and one is pretty safe there. I certainly never felt endangered in any way.

Some of the first creatures we saw were these guys:

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

I never realized how cool giraffes are, but after seeing so many of them and even having one come to my porch yesterday morning, I am totally in love….;-)

Next we saw this big guy who decided to show us the way….

3Elephon the road

There are many elephants at the park – sometimes travelling alone, sometimes in groups and they are always a majestic site to behold. This guy is climbing a water reservoir that the park put up for elephants:

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The scenery was beautiful……

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Some of the most unique African animals are hippos and rhinos. I always loved hippos., but never realized that they are highly territorial and actually considered the most dangerous animals in the African bush. Villagers frequently get killed when they get water at a river, not noticing a hippo in the bushes, and one bite is enough to kill…..

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Then we saw a large group of baboons! They look very calm and organized here, but that was only the brief moment of posing for this picture…;-) – then they were off to their usual rumbunctiousness, flying through trees, playing with each other and just having fun.

Baboons

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

A very common site are zebras who often travel together with gnus for safety reasons, and they also feel related to them. Gnus actually have stripes, too, which I didn’t know.

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Zebras were quite interested in us, frequently stopping in the middle of the road, looking straight at us or checking us out from the side. Not scared, rather with a little attitude, which was quite amusing.

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Speaking of attitude – we frequently encountered this little guy all over the park. He is cute and he knows it – nothing more to say….;-) – I also saw two at the lodge.

piggy

A beautiful addition were the little tortoises along the way. They live on land and especially love the rain. We saw many more along the road on the second day when it was raining in the morning.

Tortoise

Most unusual was this little guy – a chameleon – with its slow motion walk to avoid detection from predators. Quite a bizarre site…..

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Many different types of antelopes, and – from afar – rhinos and ostriches….

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Two majestic lions chilling in the sun….

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Summer and rainy season are also the time of flowers, adding another beautiful layer to our trip:

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

As did this beautiful sycamore tree….

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

…and the lush greenery around the river beds that created a refreshing contrast to the red, brown and black sand of the savannah.

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

Kruger National Park, South Africa - on safari

More in part 2 and 3 of the safari series, as well as an elephant encounter and a visit to the local village where I played in the Sunday service……

More Southern Africa posts:

Timbavati Safari Lodge (Review)

Addo Elephant Park

Monkeyland & Birds of Eden

A Farm Sit in Africa

NAMIBIA – The Desert Dunes of Sossusvlei

BOTSWANA – Chobe National Park & River Cruise

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks, Bill!! – appreciate you checking it out….;-) – and thanks for the tip about left alignment, will consider that in the future. – From one elephant lover to another…

  2. Great blog. Superb blend of your background and motivations, your observations, and some handy tips like the anti-jet lag device.

    Great too how you’ve broken the text with your brilliant photos, and again, you’ve varied them between the personal, landscapes and fauna.

    Chapeau!

    I’d only make one suggestion: think about changing to left text justification. With full justification (every line a uniform width, it stretches out the spaces between letters and words. For the reader, it’s the equivalent of navigating around endless traffic chicanes and speed bumps.

    Takes longer and uses more petrol as the reader is constantly speeding up and s l o w I n g down.

    But a brilliant article and I’ve bookmarked it to read in more detail.

    Africa is my one unexplored continent (apart from the poles. I used to work for the electoral commission — I’m a bit over polls! 😉 )

    BFJQ

  3. Thanks for the post.Llook exciting, but will be exhauting. I hope I will have a chance to go there some days. Any way your post make me as if I am enjoying the experience in person. Thamks again. Ye Hlaing.

    • I will have plenty of rest in between, esp. during the month-long farm sit, Ye Hlaing. That’s how I balance my travels. Active travelling and seeing things and then a few weeks of quiet time – I hope you will make it here some day, too – I think you will love it…;-)

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