DAY 8: Johannesburg to Kruger National Park, South Africa
Another 4am wake up to be ready to go at 5:15am.
We drove around to different guesthouses in the city, picking people up, then two vans met, a few people switched around (one was going to Botswana on the trip we just completed, and one to Kruger National Park.)
As we drove the landscape changed from farms to mountains, the Drakensburg Mountains actually. Our first stop was Maholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. We got to tour the facility, see some big cats up close, AND we even got to pet a cheetah. It was terrifying and incredible.
It was stunning. We reached our campsite late afternoon. It was actually pretty swanky (compared to what we had been doing.) There was a proper kitchen and covered seating area. The tents were very big and had either a cot or a proper mattress. None the less, I was tired of real camping and upgraded to a permanent tent, which is still ‘a tent’ but has a really bed, electricity, and a seating area. Mine was overlooking the pond.
That night, we had bunny chow for dinner. Half a loaf of bread hollowed out, stood up like a bowl, and filled with minced meat and veggies. It was so good! As per usual, I went to bed early!
DAY 9: Kruger National Park
This morning, we woke up at 4:30am to be ready to leave for 5:15am. We were going to spend the whole day in the park! I love game drives and am perfectly content to sit all day, driving through the bush in an open vehicle, looking for animals. The drive to the park was freezing! It was a bit cold to begin with, and being in an open vehicle the breeze was really strong. I had on two sweaters, a jacket, ear warmers, gloves, and a blanket on my legs.
We left on time, but had some trouble with our jeep so we arrived at the park a bit later than expected. We stopped at the gate for hot chocolate and were off! We started driving and saw giraffe, zebra, warthogs, and TONS of impala! We got a tip form another guide about a pack of lions so we headed that way! The first thing we saw was a dead zebra (yuck) then a few meters back in the grass, there were two female lions with four cubs! It was incredible. We pulled up to the side of the road and just watched them. During the day they usually rest, but they moved around for us a little bit!
We continued on stopping for snacks and the ‘bush toilet’ (peeing outside). I was walking down to a tree and walked into a HUGE spider web. The grossest thing I’ve ever experienced! We stopped to watch a little blue bird eating a dung beetle. Some of us were excited to witness a kill, even though we were thinking more a lion killing an impala!
We saw hippos, crocodiles, wildebeest, and elephants. We finally stopped for brunch at noon and cooked bacon and eggs at a rest stop overlooking a river bed. Somehow as we drove on, a girl in our group spotted a lion sitting under a tree pretty far away! We were so fortunate! It was a female. They’re not usually alone so there may have been some cubs in the grass that we couldn’t see.
A guide gave us a tip about a leopard who had killed a zebra so we went that way! When we arrived, the leopard seemed to be gone. Another guide drove away, then ours spotted it at the foot of a tree very far away. To be honest, if I didn’t have such a big zoom on my camera I wouldn’t have seen it! It camouflages so well in the grass. We stayed to watch it but he was staying put so we started on our way back to camp.
We spent ten hours in the park and had an incredible viewing day! I had dinner and was asleep before 9pm. I was a bit scared every time I heard something move in the water, thinking it was a crocodile. Luckily I lived.
DAY 9: Kruger National Park & Night Game Drive
Another 4:30am wake up and toward the park at 5:15am. We drove back to the lions from yesterday because they’ll often stay in one place until the food is gone. They were still there, and closer to the road this time! One was sitting with the zebra, eating, then rest were lounging in the grass just behind. Many cars arrived so we continued on our way.
We saw a hyena crossing the road and styed to watch it in the bush! More giraffes, zebras, a snake slithering across the road, we tried tracking a lion and leopard (from tracks our guide saw) with no luck. We were about to turn into a rest stop for breakfast when we got a tip about wild dogs. We drove up and saw a pack relaxing under the shade of a tree. Our guide said they are sighted maybe once every two months! AND we saw them in Chobe as well. They’re pretty cute!
After breakfast, we saw elephants, hippos, crocodiles, buffalo. We saw the little bird that was Zazu in the lion king! There were elepahnts and zebra walking around near our breakfast stop that got scared by a sand storm.
As we drove out of the park, we saw a herd of elephants with their babies by the river, a herd of impalas with a few zebras and wildebeest, then we headed back to camp.
Night Game Drive
After a short break at camp, we drove a few minutes up the road to Motlala Game Lodge. Because this lodge is private, we’re allowed to drive off road to get closer to the animals! One of our guides sat on the hood of the car to help spot animals. The bush was very thick because this park doesn’t have elephants (who knock down trees.) After about twenty minutes we came upon a group of three pregnant female white rhinos! (meaning we’ve now seen the big five in South Africa!) They walked around, eating grass, and looking up at us.
We drove and had to stop for a baby zebra who fell asleep in the middle of the road! So cute! Its mom was behind making noises to get him to move! We started our engine and it startled him awake, then he ran off.
We saw ostriches as the sun began to set. It was absolutely stunning. Looking through the bush to the mountains. We drove back past the zebra and our three rhino. We turned a corner and saw two female black rhino! It was incredible to see them, and so close to the others! One began walked a little too close to the car. Lloyd was able to dissuade her and she backed off. I thought it would be pretty cool to let her get as close as possible, but we were told if they rammed a vehicle they had to be put down. Luckily she backed off and we continued on.
We saw a male white rhino on his own, chomping on grass. There were some ostriches with their babies. We pulled up on three giraffe with a baby. We stopped near them at a lookout to watch the sun set behind the mountain. We had snacks and drinks and drove off when it got a bit darker to see the nocturnal animals. We saw antelope, and mongoose. We saw a herd of impala (hundreds of them) running, their eyes shining bright green because of our headlights. It was incredible! We saw a herd of buffaloe with their babies.
For our last dinner together, we had a braii (barbeque) of steak, sausage, roasted potatoes, and corn on the cob. We were all very hungry and excited! We made our way over the the fire pit, talked about our favourite part of the trip, and roasted marshmallows under the stars.
DAY 11: Blyde River Canyon & back to Johannesburg
This morning we got to sleep in until 5am (joke), packed up, and left at 6:30am. We drove for two hours to reach Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world. We arrived to a market with adorable stalls, then walked down a path to the canyon. It was incredible; the hills were so green, the water was extremely still. I was so happy! I was originally on one tour from Johannesburg to Cape Town but switched to combine two JUST BECAUSE this one stopped at Blyde River Canyon. I’m glad I did. We stayed only for about 45 minutes, the continued on to Johannesburg.
Most of the day was spent driving. When we got to town, we said our goodbyes after such a short but incredible time together. Four of us were at the same guesthouse so we were able to have dinner together one last time! Northern South Africa and Kruger Park have been incredible! Tomorrow I make my way to Durban and then travel down the coast towards Cape Town.
I’m falling in love with this country!
The entire crew (minus Lorna, who came to Botswana and Zimbabwe, but not Kruger Park)
Thank you Bazbus and Selous Tours for an incredible time!