Every time, I think of going on a safari in Africa, I get the Lion Sleeps Tonight stuck in my head – hence the title. I tried to get everyone to sing it with me while on safari, several times, but it never really took. In the spirit of this next blog, if you would like to get it stuck in your head too (or if you just need a good laugh), check out one of my favorite youtube renditions by clicking here.
I’ve vowed to get a piece of video footage each day on this trip. My wide-angle zoom lens is not the best for safari, but you’d be amazed how close we were able to get to some of the animals. I’ll put it all together and reveal it at the end. But in the meantime, please enjoy Nellu’s photos.
Day 2 starts before dawn. What seems like early now will become a regular starting time for us on our trek. To be honest, over the last year, Nellu and I have settled into a comfortable routine only getting up before 9am if the place that we’re staying stops serving breakfast. But on a high note, it seems like all the worrying over our bags was for naught. There is plenty of storage in our overland vehicle, which brings me to the subject of our overland vehicle. I think it looks like a cross between a truck and a bus. But if we call it a bus, our driver Barry will, after two strikes of course, start collecting mandatory donations of $1 per offense.
And what about the people? Nellu and I are the last to board the bu..truck so we’re sharing seats with different people. I sit myself next to Ken, the doctor from Orange County, and talk travel and healthcare reform, before we realize we have something even bigger in common – our love for HGTV and do-it-yourself renovations. Oh, I think we’ll get along just fine.
We’ve got our first game drive today. We drive several hours through Kruger National Park to our campsite for the night. Since we’re in our overland truck, which I’ve decided looks more like a boat than anything, we have to stick to the paved roads. But we still see tons of impalas, zebras, elephants, a giraffe, and warthogs, which are adorable.
It’s funny to get so giddy and to see other equally grown adults get so giddy over wild animals.
Once in camp, we get a brief tent tutorial. These tents look pretty easy to set up. And even better, we have thick foam mats to sleep on. This camping for 21 of the 28 days thing is not going to be so bad.
Another early morning but today we’re going on a real safari! Two smaller jeeps, just like the ones you imagine when you think safari, meet us at the campsite to take us back out into the wild of Kruger National Park. We hope we’re early enough to catch some big cats on the prowl for breakfast.
It soon becomes clear that yesterday’s game drive was just a taste. In the smaller jeeps, we’re able to drive along dirt roads, getting up close to many of the animals. One of our first grand encounters, a male elephant coming right down the road.
Now, you’re allowed to drive around Kruger in your every day car from a mini to a sedan, as long as you pay the entrance fee at the gate. But it’s situations like that make me glad we’re in a big jeep, driven by trained professionals, unlike the group of people in a car small enough to be a Prius who backed up and quickly left the scene. We got to stick around and enjoy.
By lunch time, we had seen three of the big 5 – the big 5 most dangerous animals to hunt on foot (not that there would be any hunting going on): rhinos, buffaloes, and elephants.
We actually saw a big herd of elephants, complete with a few babies. And if you thought a car full of adults getting all giddy over animals was funny, you should see this car full of adults get all giddy over BABY animals. They’re everywhere in Kruger in January.
As we ooh and aahh over the babies, I’m reminded of an idea that has started to germinate in my head over the last year – the importance of conservation. Seeing such amazing exotic animals out in the wild furthers a belief that we need to treasure these animals and protect them. Especially when it comes to animals like elephants and rhinos that are being poached at alarming rates for their tusks or horns, respectively. And even the not so endangered kind like zebras. Kruger National Park has zebras just hanging out everywhere the way New York City has rats and we need to make sure they’re here for generations to come.
After lunch, we take off and drive some more but it’s so hot out now you can see the herds of animals standing closely together in the shade offered by trees. It’s quite comical. But the likelihood of us seeing a big cat in this kind of sun steadily decreases. Our jeep starts joking around about an elaborate plot/marketing ploy for Kruger Park. We think what they really need to do is get a stuffed lion and stick it underneath a tree at a distance far enough away from the road where people won’t know the difference. It will of course have to be close enough so that all the tourists can snap their pictures and go home telling everyone that they saw a lion.
Oh and I almost forgot, there were no tents for us on Day 3. We were treated to simple bungalows with ensuite bathrooms! The staff at the guesthouse also performed traditional songs and dances for us. They chose participants from the audience and of course they chose Nellu. He just has that look in his eye that says, “I’m game.”
More to come…