After a little taste of wildlife viewing in Zimbabwe and Botswana, we were pretty psyched to head to Krueger National Park in northeastern South Africa for a four day safari. We were even more excited to be sharing the experience with friends from the States. Our friends Mary, Paul and Jack met up with us in Johannesburg for a week of sights and safari before they head to Uganda for a two week cycling trip. (Very cool!)
The thing about Krueger is that it’s huge – the size of Wales. As a result, you have to be extra patient while you ride about in an open vehicle with every ounce of clothing on wrapped up in a wool blanket. It is winter here. The chilly mornings and long drives are definitely worth it. Krueger has the greatest variety of animals in Southern Africa and is home to all of the “Big Five” – lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants and rhinos. Did you ever wonder why they call them the Big Five? I didn’t know and couldn’t figure out why the buffalo rated as one of the Big Five. I mean, we have buffalo in the U.S. Big deal. Turns out Big Five means the five most dangerous land mammals – or so I was told. Mr. Buffalo is big and bad.
While we didn’t spot any rhinos or leopards, we had many encounters with elephants and buffalo along with many other animals and birds. But perhaps the biggest highlight of our time in Krueger was watching lions. Our first sighting was on a night drive. As Dave was holding the spotlight in search of eyes glowing in the dark, we rolled right up on a pride of 10 lions laying at the very edge of the road. We were speechless. Uh, uh, uh stop please. No wait. Move ahead just a little. It just didn’t seem right to be sitting in an open vehicle feet away from these guys. Really amazing. And we were just about to give up on the night drive which until the lions had only resulted in seeing the glowing red eyes of the bush baby hopping from tree to tree. Not that I am underestimating the bush baby. he was cute too.
It always seemed kind of strange to me the whole idea of going on a safari. Like something you have to have a lot of money, khaki clothes and a funny hat to do. But observing wildlife in its own environment is absolutely fascinating and can be done for a reasonable amount of money. Of course sometimes the animals don’t always stop and pose for you, but just watching a giraffe chomping on leaves is entertaining. These animals are just surreal. Well, ok not the buffalo so much, but we’ll still respect his bad-assness.