We were in Africa for the first time. Egypt had been on my list for many years and I finally achieved that quest. Sixteen days allowed me the time to see everything on my list. So we are in Africa. What does one do here. Lions and tigers and bears! Ummm it is more like lions and zebras and giraffes or hippos. We set off to find a safari. We start with a red eye to Johannesburg. We picked Kruger National Park, but there are many parks to chose from. A safari is not the ten thousand dollars for a week on the savanna one pictures. I find a range of prices and one to fit my budget. It is more than I usually spend for a week, but it's not bad. I upgrade to include air conditioning as the weather for the next week has heat and rain. Unknown to us, there has been a dry spell for four months. As the water dries up the animal move closer into Kruger National Park and the water sources. The rain on the first couple days was welcome and helped with our viewing later in the week.
We picked Viva Tours as they responded quickly. It was a good choice.
Day one starts with the drive from Johannesburg to Tremisana Game Lodge. Once we were set in our room we boarded an open sided jeep for our first drive. We had a covered jeep with open sides. Some of the jeeps were not covered and the people looked miserable. It was raining and on the cool side. I had my rain jacket on. I am in the third row of seats at the back. Bouncing over the roads in search of animals has water falling from the sides and the back. The man next to me had water running down his back every bounce. Only my arm was getting wet. Sally was able to nab a middle seat more out of fear of being eaten than rain. Animal sightings we poor on our first night out, but all that would change in the next few days.
Day two starts out with a nice breakfast. The monkeys were fast and an unattended breakfast was a meal for the quick. We head out onto the game reserve around the Tremisana Game Lodge. It was a little damp but we ventured out. We drove for an hour and a half before seeing our first animal. An Elephant was across a small valley. We drove toward it. A close forty yards as it ignored us, ate and walked. That was exciting! The remainder of the drive is heards of impala, waterbuck, steenbok and wildebeest. We went to the river to spy the hippos, but overall it was a light day. It was not what I expected. The large herd of antelope out our window in the morning was the largest herd we saw that day, but there were many. The monkeys, baboons, and warthogs coming to the watering (feeding) hole near the lodge was another highlight. Stop watching your plate and the monkeys will steal it all.
With take in a sunset drive. The driver/guide are sharp and spot animals I would have never seen. He sees an elephant across the valley. We continue on and spy a herd across the valley. The drive/guide races down the road to get around them. He parks. The elephants crest the hill and contiue towards us. We stayed put as they approach. A baby (3 month old) elephant is sauntering down the road with mom close by. As they get close mom uses her trunk to direct the baby around the back of the jeep. For the next ten minutes we watch elephants walk by. WOW! Is all I can say. That was amazing. Sunset on the hill and a glass of wine with snacks. The spotlight gets us a small herd of elephants on the way home.
Day three we went into Kruger National Park. A large bull elephant and a couple giraffe started the day. A lion kill a few hundred yards out from the road was really cool to see. Three lionesses took down a water buffalo. Several hyenas were laying in wait for a chance to get a snack. Binoculars were the only way to get even a brief look at the kill and the hyenas. Zebra, more giraffe and antelope rounded out the light but exciting day. Birds are around with eagles, tuki bird and others. A group of wild dogs lay in the grass and can barely be seen. A couple hyenas run across the road and off into the brush. We cross a bridge and see giffafe, zebra, antelope in a valley. It looks like a kids painting or a Noah's Arc scene. Fifty animals all eating in the small valley. A good day
Day four we took in the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre. This was incredible. After a disturbing talk on why they are there, snars, posions, pouching and more, we got to meet some of the animals. Vultures were in a large cage. Now a vulture is a large bird. The claws could shred your arm. A few were curious and would peck at you. We are told to forcefully kick them away. Anything hanging down was to be inspected. A camera strap, a purse, or the bottom of your shorts apparently all looked deliscous. Our guide brought in a large bowl of raw meat and a shoulder length thick leather glove. I pulled the glove over my arm. He placed a peice of meat between my thumb and forefinger and I held my hand out. A large vulture flew a short distance to my arm and landed. That is a big bird! I don't know how much they weight but I dont want to meet a hungry one with no gloves. We went on to pet a cheetah (a well fed cheetah), see lions and a pair of jaguars. Our guide threw raw meat over the twenty foot fence. A peice landed 30 feet up a tree. The jaguar was at the piece in two jumps in one second. Whoa. This girl could leap over the fence anytime she wanted. I think she is happy where she is.
Any of the animals the visitors are allow to see at the rehabilitation centre are hurt beyond their ability to return to the wild. We get to see wild dogs, hyenas and more lions. Our guide gets a male lion to roar. It is a deep grumbling roar. After our morning we get lunch and a few hours to relax.
The Tshukuda Game Reserve is next. This is a private reserve fensed off from the Parks. They have the largest selection of Black Rhinos in the area. We meet a huge Rhino grazing on hay. The day we arrived was the first rain in four months. We continue and find a baby rhino and its mom. The baby acts brave and tries to scare the jeep away with a short fake charge. He runs back to his mom. She ignores us and contnues feeding on the new fresh greens sprouting up.
Next up we drive up to a building and we see two chetahs laying under a tree. The guide jumps out of the jeep and looks at them. "They're okay, come on." We walk up the them and the don't move. We heard the story. Their mom was hurt and raised in capitvity. When they were born she raised them wild, taught them to hunt and they come and go as they please. They have been around, touched and petted by human since birth, but they hunt and move around in the wild as they please on the reserve. We pet them. The fur is not the soft cat fur as I expected. It is course. Don't touch their tails was the only rule.
Next are giraffe. We find a small herd of three and a small bull elephant. A few more elephants join him in feeding.
A radio call get the jeep moving. He was really moving out "lions" was all the driver said as he consintrated on the 'road'. He stops briefly for a rhino family but moves on in 2 minutes. He pulls up to a male and a lioness sleeping. The male lifts he head for a look at us and then lays it back down. It is getting toward dusk and hunting time. We watch then stir and stretch. The driver revs his engine and the male lets out a gutteral deep roar. Other lions beyond sight respond with roars. They stand and walk toward the jeep. I hear "I don't like this" in my ear. They cross in front of the jeep and join the pride fifty meters away. Dusk turns to night and we break out the spotlight for the drive home.
Day Five Kruger National Park WOW! On the 90 minute drive to the park we see baboon, warthog and wild dogs. The drive is super excited about the dogs. We start alone the main Kruger park road and see zebra. We see more zebra. We see hundreds of zebra. For the next three miles the zebra are everywhere from roadside to the horizon. Herds of zebra hundreds for miles. This is a day of herds. We watch an elephant herd play on a puddle. We find several large herds on the drive. Wildebeests herds are laying around in the shade. We see giraffes and a few more. Around the corner we see thirty or more along on the road. So many giraffe in one place. We interupt an amourous giraffe. At least get off the road. A group of giraffe standing still is called a tower but a group of giraffes in motion is called a jenny. I don't know what you call an amourous giraffe. I never imagined so many in one place. We had only seen groups of three to five this week. We extend a day to make it seven days at the lodge and skip the day in Johannesburg.
Day six is the river walk. We smoke elephant dung and watch hippos as we walk along the river. The elephant dung has medicinal purposes. We learn about the flora and fauna of the bush. We are offered the protien of a termite for tasting. Only one brave person tries it, crunchy.
Our sundowner safari drive found two sleeping lions. They raised their heads for a glance and layed them back down. One stood and stretched. She yawned and walked into the brush. The other follwed suit. We could see the momma has a young one. Our guide said the cub was down in the brush of a ravine. We followed for a short time as they walked toward the ravine and then changed direction. They guide drove off not get in the way of feeding time.
Day Seven Blyde River Canyon and the Three Rondawels
I wanted to add this into our tour. The impressive view of the Three Rondawels with the valley and lake below is good. The clouds make the scene impressive. It is a last chance to buy some local artware. I found it overpriced and was done negotiating after 16 days in Egypt.
I had never thought about a safari. I thought it would be too expensive. I find you can do a budget safari. We picked two to three star range as we normally do. I liked Viva Safaris and would use them again. You can stay inside Kruger National Park and there are many National Parks in Africa. Kenya, Tansania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and other countries all have game viewing National Parks. I had a great week and would do it again in a second.