Zulu for “There comes a lion,” in case you were wondering what the words from Circle of Life actually means. 🙂
As my first post for South Africa, I felt it fitting that it be about the safari since that is usually the first thing people think of regarding anything involving Africa. Quoting Circle of Life lyrics in the title is about as close as I can get to referring to Lion King since I saw every character except the freakin’ lions. Seriously…I spent a month there and I didn’t see a signle lion. Other people in my safari group did, but they were in a different jeep. Oh well, I am not finished with my African experiences by far. I will be back and I will see lions!
I went on a 4 day, 3 night camping safari in the Kruger National Park with African Budget Safaris. They are based in Cape Town, South Africa, but they offer a ton of different safari options with various lengths and locations, even outside of South Africa. A few people in my group were continuing on to Zambia and/or Tanzania after this trip.
I was mostly satisfied with my experience. I saw four out of five of the Big Five (which are lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and leopard). If you want a guarantee that you will see animals, go to a zoo. But don’t go to zoos, they are terrible for the animals. Just go on a safari hoping for the best, but know that you may have to go on multiple safaris to see what you really want to see! Every day is different. Every hour is different. Even every second, depending on how fast the animals are. Safari guides communicate with each other so they have a good idea where the activity is. Unfortunately though, just because there is activity at the time Guide A saw something, doesn’t mean things will still be happening by the time Guide B arrives to that exact spot. The park is huge, and there are other places to go on safaris that are even bigger. Do go, but don’t expect to see anything. That way, you can always be pleasantly surprised with you do see things!
Sometimes you will see nothing but plants after an hour or so of driving, but then all of a sudden ten elephants decide to cross the rode in front of you, or a white rhino marking his territory, or three hyenas sleeping on the side of the rode, or even a leopard in a tree eating an impala. If I can guarantee that you will see anything in Kruger, it’s impala. Seriously, So. Much. Impala. It is entertaining to see people on their first game drive getting so excited when they see impala, because they don’t yet realize that they will always see impala. After two to three drives if anyone hears any rustling or sees something running and gets excited, the excitement quickly turns into a sigh or groan accompanied with “Nope. Just more damn impala.” They are delicious to eat as jerky though! Oh don’t give me that…there is no shortage of impala whatsoever here. And besides, helloooooo it’s unusual to foreigners so of course I’m going to eat it. 😉
When my group first arrived to the park, there were a sh!t ton of vultures in the trees as if they are waiting for something. There was a gigantic hippo laying there dead, probably due to dehydration as it traveled too far away from their water source. The vultures were just in the trees waiting though, not eating. This is because they know the lions get first dibs, so the lions clearly have not yet arrived. The guide announced that we will be having baboon stew for dinner. Cool! Just kidding, we had chicken. Sigh, South African humor. They joke, but are not always actually joking so it’s hard to tell whether they are serious or not. I totally would have eaten the baboon stew if it was a thing. I’m sure it’s a thing somewhere. The camp is fenced to keep the majority of the animals away from campers, however warthogs (Pumbas), monkeys (thiefs!), and even hyenas are known to roam the camps. Use extreme caution, a flashlight, and the buddy system when walking around at night, even if the toilets are close by.
Before the first game drive, you have a waiver to sign. That way, if you die, you can’t sue them. Standard procedure of course. “Here is a pen so you can sign your life away,” the guide said, to which I responded with, “Man if I had a knickel for every time I do that, I could travel without working for years!” I know that is not comforting to boyfriend and certain family members, but oh well. Hee hee! I obviously survived as I am writing now. 🙂
I am quickly figuring out the limitations of my GoPro. It is fabulous for landscape shots and extreme activities, but not so great for animals and other more specific and stationary things. One of my next investments will be an actual camera, because my phone isn’t really sufficient either. Life is a learning process…
We got to go on a night drive, which apparently they’re not really supposed to do? Oh well, it works for me! We saw giraffes, lots of hippos and rhinos, impala (duh), and some hares! We also saw an African civet buuuuut I didn’t get a good picture because I had terrible camera access and the sucker was fast. A giraffe drooled very close to the jeep…how nice.
In the Game of Hippos, you play or you die. It’s such a sad and usually short life to be a hippo. They are extremely territorial, even within families, so fights to the death are typical. 😦 They also kill more humans than Great White Sharks, soo then there’s that.
On the second day, there were a few elephants crossing the road right in front of us. Cool! Except not cool because they are very protective of their young when the young are around. They were. The male stopped in the middle of the road, turned towards us and started walking. The guide said “Okay everyone, stay quiet and still, we are just going to wait here and hope he doesn’t charge at us.” The girl in front of me ducked her head and let out a faint squeal in terror. And what is that going to do? Absolutely nothing. Dude it’s an elephant. If it’s going to charge, we are all dead. Ducking your head won’t do anything. Unless you don’t want to see what is about to kill you, but you already saw it soooo…. Eventually the elephant just turned and completed his trek across the road to meet his family on their merry way towards the empty water hole. California isn’t the only place suffering from drought.
Things I learned: 1) get a good Canon camera, and 2) if seeing lions in Africa isn’t guaranteed then nothing is.
Would I recommend? Yes!
Would I do again? Yes, if with someone who hadn’t done it before. The next safari trip I really want to do is in the Mesai Mara, Kenya during the wildebeest migration (sometime between July and September).
Why did the lion start running? Because he wanted to mufasa! Haaaaaa
Okay bye, see you next week!