Growing up, one of my favorite movies was The Lion King. The scene where Simba found Mufasa helpless on the ground after the stampede makes me cry buckets every single time. So you can imagine my excitement when I finally went on that African Safari. Being in the wild and seeing first hand how these untamed animals live is just beautiful.
I am stingy when it comes to tours so I wanted to do a DIY tour to Kruger Park but that whole shenanigan was too much. Renting a camper van, driving 7 hours from Johannesburg to Kruger Park, camping, figuring out where to eat and where to drive every day to see the animals just puts my head in. Another thing I considered was booking a private game drive in a lodge where you don’t have to think about anything because everything is at your service. (Hotel pick up, buffet breakfast, comfortable rooms, sunrise game drives with champagne and cheese – the dream, right?) The view of the room will be the park and if you get lucky, you’ll have elephants greet you in the morning or when you’re bathing in their spa, a giraffe will pop by and say hello. But these were way over our budget! I even considered sleeping in one of the tree houses so I can have a romantic night under the stars with lions roaring in the dark and who knows what else will be creeping up on you while you sleep. All these were just a bit too lavish for me though. After weeks of researching, my uncle suggested a tour that just hit the spot! It was the perfect one for us and was just exactly what I was looking for, a 4-Day Classic Kruger Park Safari Package.
This package came with an airport/hotel pick up at 7am, 6-7 hours drive to Kruger Park, a 3 night stay in Skukuza rest camp in a private cottage, all meals are included (morning snack, breakfast buffet, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner), and 2 game drives a day around the Skukuza area. They also gave us an option to do a “Panoramic View”. Here’s my 4 day African Safari experience with Outlook Safaris
The driver, Will, who was absolutely amazing, picked us up from our hotel in Johannesburg at 7:30am. We picked up 2 more Belgian girls and then we were off to Kruger Park. He gave us a complimentary water bottle and light snacks to make the drive more comfortable. We had a lot of space and the girls were very friendly too. The 6-hour drive was beautiful because you can see a different side of the country.; the vast African landscape is just magnificent. We also had pit stops so we can stretch.
We arrived in Skukuza Rest camp after driving for 7 hours. We stayed in the heart of Kruger Park and it was just exciting! Right when we entered we already saw impalas and a few other animals on the road.
They took us to the restaurant in the camp with the view of the river while they checked us in. We went to our room, cottage 171 and relaxed for half an hour before going to our first game drive.
So just a bit of a lesson, a “game drive” is probably the highlight of any safari. It’s when you hop on an open air vehicle and drive around for a few hours searching for animals. Another term to know is the “BIG 5”. This refers to the Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, Water Buffalo and the Lion. It’s called as such because these were the animals that were the most difficult to hunt.
Hopping onto the open-air vehicle made me feel like a little girl excited to see the Lion King in real life or pretending to be Eliza Thornberry. We were off to drive around the park for 3 hours to search for the animals. The first part of the drive is really just seeing bushy landscape and suddenly a giraffe pops out of no where. You really have to keep your eyes open because you’ll never know what to expect.
On that very afternoon, we saw a lot of hippos, water buffalos, vultures, giraffes, different varieties of birds, impalas, antelopes and warthogs or commonly known as “Pumbas”.
The best and most exciting part of the afternoon was seeing lions kill a water buffalo. Fun fact I learned is that the female lions do the hunting while the males just sit around and look pretty, what a life! And what’s even more interesting is that when they eat, they take turns. They don’t all hover around their prey at once. The pack finds a spot where they rest while one lion is eating, when that one has had her fill, she goes back to the pack and the other one walks to the prey. It was such an amazing site to see! I just wonder why they don’t ever jump to our vehicle and eat us all?
It was amazing but the worst part was the heat. Oh boy, that was suffocating! It felt like we were in a sauna, came night fall and I thought it would be better but not even a degree cooler. After driving for 3 hours, they surprised us by taking a detour in this dirt road. They prepared us a welcome dinner in an open space in the middle of the jungle! I’m not kidding, there was even a hyena lurking around just 100 meters from the tables. It was a candle light dinner buffet with complimentary wine. It gave us a chance to meet and greet other people our age. We met 3 British who were travelling the world, 2 Belgian girls in a study tour, 1 Canadian and 1 English solo travellers and an Israeli family from Telaviv and we all had one thing in common, we loved to drink! It was such a divers group of individuals that just made this trip even better than I expected.
We had a morning game drive at 6am. We had to wake up at 5:30 to have coffee and a little bite to eat before driving off for 3 hours.
Thinking the weather was going to be the same as yesterday, we didn’t bring any jackets. I was just in shorts and a tank top. What a big mistake – today was freezing and they didn’t prepare blankets for us. 3 hours of excruciating cold and the wind just hitting our face.
We saw more animals today as we drove deeper into the heart of the park. We saw a herd of elephants crossing the street, a mama and baby Rhino, hyenas, a pack of wild dogs, another Lion kill and a lot more buffalos. We saw 4 out of the Big 5 animals in one game drive! One thing about the Skukuza area, there will be a lot of people and sometimes it gets too crowded that you’ll miss the view if you don’t get there first.
We were more equipped and ready for whatever weather today was going to bring. We had 2 game drives every day. One at 6-9am and another one at 3-6pm, In between we can rest, do whatever we wish around the rest camp where there are swimming pools, a restaurant and a museum. Walking around was entertaining enough but I spent most of my afternoons just sleeping. I slept from 10am until 2pm. My sleeps here were so unbelievably heavenly, the kind of sleep where you just wake up happy and so satisfied. I told Matt we should go on vacation more so I can sleep this deeply more. (Little did I know I was already 4 weeks pregnant –haha)
Today we saw the 5th of the big 5, the Leopard. It was chasing after an impala. It was too quick to take a decent photo but we saw it in action! What a beauty ❤ We also saw a herd of Zebras and Giraffes and those animals that killed Mufasa called Wildebeest.
Game drives can be very boring at times because it’s not every second that you see animals. Some days it could take an hour before seeing something worth while so I love that they have these little excursions during the drive. We parked the vehicle and went for a little walk into this hideout. We needed to be extra quiet so we don’t scare away some of the animals in the area.
After having been to 5 game drives which is a total of 15 hours of driving around and we already saw the Big 5, we decided to give the very last one a miss and catch up on some sleep before driving back to Johannesburg and going straight to the airport for our flight back to Sydney. When we went for our breakfast, Olivier, our guide was there and he said “no one showed up for the game drive!” apparently, everyone had the same idea as us.
The experience was wonderful! Having a close encounter with these beautiful animals in their natural habitat was breath taking. I would definitely recommend this to anyone traveling to Kruger Park without the lavish budget of booking the private lodges. Meeting people from around the world was also a highlight for me and not to mention the great tour guides.
February 20-23, 2016