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!
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:
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).
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:
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:
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….
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:
The scenery was beautiful……
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most unusual was this little guy – a chameleon – with its slow motion walk to avoid detection from predators. Quite a bizarre site…..
Many different types of antelopes, and – from afar – rhinos and ostriches….
Two majestic lions chilling in the sun….
Summer and rainy season are also the time of flowers, adding another beautiful layer to our trip:
As did this beautiful sycamore tree….
…and the lush greenery around the river beds that created a refreshing contrast to the red, brown and black sand of the savannah.