Friday, May 02, 2014

Safari At Kruger National Park

Up close to the wilds of elephants, leopards, lions and herds of cheeky impala in South Africa’s Kruger National Park is something for every traveler’s wanderlust list – and an unforgettable and frankly unbelievable experience.  Spotting flocks of guinea fowl, a chameleon, birds of all kinds, and mammoth rhinos right alongside your vehicle as they go about their day was a delight at every amazing moment.  

Laura did all the research, and it was spot on. She was picked up from the Jo’burg airport upon her arrival, and then Outlook Safari also picked me up from my Pretoria hotel, and we were on our way up the highway to Kruger. We arrived in the heat of the day, where we had lunch in the main touristy area of our Skukuza camp, before being shown to our hunt.

We had time for a nap and a swim, before our Sunset Safari, which was when we managed to see all five of the Big Five. Incredible! And so, so lucky, first roll of the dice for wild animal spotting!

Still pinching ourselves at our experience, we were taken to the dining area of Outlook Safari, the only tour company with these facilitates in the Park itself.  Joining the group who had been here for the day safaris, we swapped stories over a delicious three course meal and wine.

The next morning, early, early, we were joined by just one other traveller for coffee in the pre-dawn light.  Debbie, our Zimbabwean tour guide and animal lover, drove us out in our safari truck to spot more game. It was clear from the very beginning that Debbie is one of those people who truly loves her job, and loves sharing the magic of Kruger with people – she told us stories all along the way, answered a million questions, and stopped for every bird and animal, and still-rock that looked like an elephant, at every request.

Families of lions, and then families of elephant was our morning and afternoon treat – with cute impala amazingly becoming an every other minute view. The brilliance of the black and white Zebra, and the luck of seeing a hippo out of the water. Kudu and their beautiful ears and inquisitive faces, huge buffalo by the water, and then a cluster of baboons doing all sorts of things around the vehicle. No giraffe though, at this point!

Many of the other trucks on the road swarmed in packs, chasing the sight of the same thing, radio information about a spotting was apparently bounced across the airwaves. Debbie was all about opportunity and the natural being of the animals, and respecting their space, which we loved. She stopped to chat to other drivers to get tips, and pass on tips, as her friendly nature was evident and respected.

Another three course meal awaited us after our prolonged afternoon drive, as we met the new arrivals into camp, who talked of nothing but seeing giraffe at every metre on their drive into the Park.

The final drive out of the Park the next morning of our 3 day/2 night experience was with our driver that would take us back to Jo’burg airport, and he was tasked with the responsibility of finding the one animal we hadn’t yet seen - the elusive giraffe! No pressure!

Zebra and impala were spotted, and I think all three of us were starting to prepare for not seeing the long-necked animal of Africa. Our driver started asking more vehicles, and getting a tip from another truck, took a detour from our intended direction for the day, to a back trail to find three gorgeous giraffe, twinning their necks with each other, playfully fighting, and eating from high up branches. So incredible! Our safari was complete!

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