Amazing Safari In Kruger National Park, South Africa

In the last few years wild animals have killed or seriously injured several tourists and guides in Kruger National Park and other parks and game reserves in South Africa.  Park rules make it clear that visitors are responsible for their own safety.

20170801_174705
Park rules

The Tsonga lived in this area for centuries until they were relocated in the early 1900s.  Now humans enter on a temporary basis only.

20170610_202640
Close encounters with potentially lethal fauna is almost guaranteed.

Kruger National Park covers an area of over 7,500 square miles in northeastern South Africa.  It is one of the world’s largest national parks.  It is roughly 220 miles long and 40-56 miles wide.

20170801_165355_resized
Kruger map used to identify Big 5 and other game sightings.

The day of our safari began with a 5am wakeup and a light breakfast at Thornhill Safari Lodge.  We departed Thornhill Lodge at 5:45am for a chilly, one-hour, 40km drive to the Kruger Park Orpen Gate.  We arrived just after daybreak.

20170801_163137
Entering Kruger National Park

We had been driving inside the park for only a couple of minutes when we were startled to come upon a family of lions on a slope less than 25 feet from the road.

20170805_104240
Lions at dawn.

We stopped in this location for about 30 minutes enjoying the amazing show these lions were putting on.  Even with only a cell phone I got some great photos. 20170610_20441820170610_202435

The lions were using a small tree near the road as a perch for stretching and checking out the nosy humans.

20170801_163345
“How come you don’t come out and play with us?”

20170803_12561920170803_190319

The guide was taking as many pictures as the tourists.  That is a good indication of something special.  From discussions with other groups we met during the day, it seems that this was the best lion sighting in the park that day!

After taking tons of photos we continued deeper into the park.  The territory in the vicinity the Orpen Gate is primarily savanna or veldt populated by grazing animals, lions and other predators.

20170610_201933_resized
Steenboks
20170803_200512_resized
Blue wildebeests
20170726_222001
Steenbok and waterbucks
20170801_165916
Verreaux’s giant eagle owl.  This owl was being constantly harassed by a flock of noisy birds concerned about its presence.  The owl remained unperturbed.
20170801_175636_resized
Elephants were a frequent sight

20170609_075225_resized_120170609_122614

20170609_121943_resized
Elephants have the right of way.  They insist.
20170610_195418_resized
Giraffes were also plentiful
20170801_170002_resized
Giraffes grow to a height of 17 feet.  Giraffes sleep for one to four hours a day.  Because getting up takes a bit of time for these long-legged creatures, they sleep standing or sitting on their butts.
20170619_085144_resized
Giraffes take many cat naps 9 as short as five minutes) during a day.  Giraffes are often observed sleeping with one eye open…off to never never land.

Around midday we came across a very sad sight.

20170610_200331_resized
A poached white rhinoceros.  Two lions were resting under the bushes behind the carcass and had been feeding on this fresh kill.

Our guide reported that one or two rhinoceroses are poached in the park almost every night.  The poachers usually come from nearby Mozambique.  One rhino horn fetches $60,000 on the black market.

Several spotted hyenas marched across our path.

20170610_201433
Hyenas are well camouflaged on the savannah.
20170610_201255
Spotted hyenas are much bigger than I had pictured them…up to 170 pounds.

20170801_170401_resized

Crocodiles could be found on the banks of many of the rivers.

20170801_171244
Crocodile by the N’wanetsi river

We saw hippos, sort of.  The guide pointed out one that was submerged.  Hippos spend the day in the water.  At night they venture inland looking for grass.  Hippos are extremely aggressive.  They are the deadliest animal in Africa for humans after the mosquito.

20170804_165045
Lake with a hippopotamus nearly completely submerged.
20170801_171452_resized
Burchell’s zebra
20170726_214723
Impala

20170801_175255_resized_1

20170801_175541_resized
Kudu.  Kudu jerky is good.
20170801_171326
A small mongoose darts across the road.

During the safari we stopped at fenced rest areas and camps for a mid-morning snack and lunch.

20170801_170723_resized
The guide set up the mid-morning snack.
20170801_175833_resized
Our guide at the rest area where we had the mid-morning snack. Ignore the goofy looking guy on the right.
20170801_170824_resized
Small sandwiches, fruit, and juice refreshments

For lunch we stopped at the Satara Camp.  A fenced area with lodging, restaurants, gift shops and even a car wash.

20170801_174840 (1)

20170609_122736_resized
Lunch at Satara restaurant…wings, ribs, fries and onion rings.  Delicious.

We left Kruger just after 5pm and arrived back at Thornhill Safari Lodge round 6pm.

20170801_180146_resized_1
The group from Thornhill, a Chinese couple and a Czech couple, both from Melbourne, Australia, and me.  We dressed warmly because of the wind chill during the ride.

Final Thoughts

It was an incredibly awesome experience to be with these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.  Seeing them in a zoo or even a wildlife park is totally fake, to use an overworked term.  It is truly impressive that the Tsonga people coexisted with them for thousands of years growing crops and raising livestock without the benefits of modern technology like guns and motor vehicles.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s