Our first safari went to Kruger National Park
I was invited to teach at a Quilt Festival in Johannesburg in South Africa and of course we had to go on safari as well. We decided on a week trip from Johannesburg to Durban after my teaching. After some search on the Internet we found a local company who would take us from Johannesburg through Kruger National Park and Swaziland and then to Durban. Underway we visited several national parks also private ones and went on a lot of Game Drives.
Driver and guide was Berth an afrikaaner with german background and always talking in not so bad english. We got well along with Berth and a young newly weed couple from Belgium traveling with us. First day was a long transport stage towards the Dragenberg Mountains. A very beautiful and magnificent landscape. Fortunately we had time to stop and enjoy the amazing view at many viewpoints. First Game Drive was in a private reserve which was part of Kruger National Park. Kruger Park cooperate with the private reserves and most places the fences between public and private areas are removed. This way the total area of the park is extended.
Kruger national Park was established in 1898 and is today the biggest and most famous national park in South Africa. The park covers almost 2 million acres. The chances to see “The Big Five” are very good. We were lucky and saw them all during the first 2 days, leopard, lion, rhinos, elephant and buffalo. The expression “The Big Five” alludes to that this is the most dangerous animals to hunt down. But actually it is the hippo who kills most people in Africa and hippos are not on the list!
The Game Drives always starts early in the morning or in the afternoon. In the middle of the day it is more difficult to see the animals. They are fleeing the sun and stay in the shadow under big trees and hide in the high grass and bushes. We was there in September when vegetation was barren and dry and the trees were without leaves. This made it easy to spot the animals. Take this into consideration when you plan for a safari.
The most surprising thing about safari was that you got so close to the animals. A bit scary but we sat safe in a safari car. A vigorous and healthy animal would have no problems jumping into the car. Luckely it hardly never happens. The danger is if you leave the car and in Kruger National Park this is strictly forbidden. You are only allowed out of the car at special assigned areas for instance picnic grounds. The accommodation areas are fenced to prevent the animals to enter. We could add the leopard to our list during dinner in an accommodation area while sitting on a terrace with a nice view over the river. The leopard was relaxing in the warm sand on the river bank. Even though I felt safe it was very strange to have my dinner just 50 meters from this predator. Monkeys will never let a fence stop them. They were everywhere and they are serious thieves. You had to carefully watch your food and never leave anything without supervision.
In many of the private reserves you can take a Game Walk with a ranger. To be able to walk quiet and slowly through the grass plains following animal tracks and may be spot an elephant or a lion, is very different from sitting in a safari car with many others. So if you get the opportunity to a Game Walk, take it and enjoy it!