Time for another travel snapshot! And this one is going to be fairly photo heavy. I recently read a post by my friend, Niki, entitled Dream Destination and it got me thinking about one of my dream destinations. It’s a place I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited a couple of times and I’m always looking for the next opportunity to return. It’s Kruger National Park (or more specifically Greater Kruger) in South Africa. My first visit there was in September 2013, it was a short 3 days spent at Thornhill Safari Lodge in Guernsey Private Nature Reserve. My more recent trip was in August 2015, 6 nights in total, split between two unique lodges – nThambo Tree Camp and Africa on Foot in the Klaserie Private Game Reserve. Now, I should say, obviously a trip to Kruger is about the wildlife but I feel the need to mention the accommodation too – as each of these lodges was amazing. I’m particularly partial to nThambo, there’s something that just appeals to my childlike nature about staying in something of a treehouse. Sitting up high on my own private balcony just watching the wildlife wander in and out of the camp. Magic!
In the last 2 years, I’ve made three separate trips to southern Africa. I confess, I never anticipated that it would get under my skin quite like it has. There’s something about the place … The landscapes, the incredible sunsets, the people and of course, the magnificence of the wildlife, that just grabs you. I’ve been to somewhere in the vicinity of 33 countries but I find I’m stuck now … I have this almost constant, underlying need to return. I’m always looking for the next safari. My trip last year was, in a word, spectacular. It will go down as one of the best holidays I’ve taken. I travelled with someone who is as passionate about travel as I am & who is equally as fond of wildlife too. For me, that really added to the experience. There was never a question of whether he was bored or restless – just the comfort & enjoyment of sharing the wonderful sightings with a likeminded person.
The typical day on a safari starts early, approximately 5:30am. Time enough for a quick wash & change, and a light refreshment of rusks and coffee, before piling into the open 4WD safari vehicle. Our morning game drives were usually about 3 hours long, with a brief stop where you can hop out of the 4WD for coffee (or tea, if you prefer). Returning to the lodge for a hearty breakfast and then your day is pretty much at leisure until your evening game drive, which kicks off at about 4pm. The night drives are a completely different experience, there’s something so amazing about rounding the corner of a dirt track to be confronted by rhino blocking the road or to find yourself suddenly surrounded by a massive herd of elephant (you would not believe how quiet elephant can be!). The highlight of a night drive for me (aside from the wildlife) is when you stop for “sundowners” … an alcoholic beverage of your choice, in a picturesque location, to watch the magnificent sunset! Honestly, does it get any better? I think not.
If I were a better writer I’d know precisely the words to explain what it feels like to get up close to an elephant or a rhino in its natural environment. To have nothing but air between you and these massive, powerful, majestic animals is a humbling experience to be sure. To be surrounded by a herd of 300-odd buffalo or to witness a lion devour a stunningly beautiful male kudu, is as intimidating as it is awe-inspiring. But it’s not just the search for the “big 5” that makes a safari what it is. It’s the smaller wildlife or the more “common” creatures that all add to the experience. And some of the bird life is just as incredible. So, because I can’t describe it in words … I’ll show you in photos:
I could’ve shared so many photos … I quite literally took hundreds. It was my first trip with a DSLR camera too, so lots of experimenting and learning on the fly was going on! Perhaps some of my other photos will make an appearance in future posts. But I hope this small sample has given you all a taste of the wildlife encounters to be had in Kruger and its surrounds. As for me, I’m not sure when I shall return to South Africa. I have been discussing safari options again though … so perhaps it won’t be too far off. Fingers crossed! 🙂
All photographs are the property of the author © Kim Richardson