It has been almost 6 months since I went on safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa. 6 months since I discovered what travelling is supposed to be – an adventure that leaves you breathless, inspired, and complete. Going on safari was one of those experiences. After hearing a lion roar deep into the night, seeing a baby hippo yawn and cuddle with its mother, and a giraffe running alongside zebras and warthogs I feel renewed. We all get so caught up in work, life’s little dramas, and money, sitting and watching baby ostriches peck around for food reminds you that there is more to life than the everyday grind. There is a world of adventure out there. You just need to get out and see it. Don’t wait until it is too late, don’t wait to retire. Go. Live.
The first day of my safari was marked with intense anticipation. I couldn’t wait to get out there and spot some animals. After a long drive from Johannesburg to the lodge, we finally arrived. I threw my bags down in my plush room. I practically ran to the open safari vehicle, eager to see what sunset had in store for us. I sat in the front row behind the guide. I was joined by a family from Australia and Britain. As we left in our giant vehicle I thought I was going to cry I was so excited. Within a few minutes we came upon a small pond at first I didn’t see anything, and then a head emerged from the water. My first hippo sighting! The hippo peeked his head out of the water and then let out a giant yawn.
We moved on and our guide Wes told us about the different birds we saw flying by. He pointed out things I never would have even noticed, I really appreciated that. It made the experience all the more enriching. Sitting at the front of the car was our tracker – a highly trained local with eagle eyes and a penchant for animal poop and tracks. He said something in Afrikaans to our guide and he deftly drove us over to a tree, hiding behind the tree was a giraffe, extremely close and skeptical of our intentions. We drove a few feet further and out of nowhere another giraffe emerged from the thick trees. Then another one. And another one.
Giraffes like to go solo, so seeing a large group of them isn’t common. In the end it was about 12 giraffes travelling together. In the waning light, we watched as sun set over this beautiful group of animals. From the trees, we noticed a smaller giraffe lumber out with his mom and dad. We watched as a group of wry warthogs taunted the baby giraffe, scaring him so much that he leaped into the air. Our guide remarked that he had never seen a giraffe jump. Soon afterward a herd of zebras also came out of the trees accompanied by even more giraffes. A little spook from the warthogs and the giraffes and zebras went running together. All of this happened surrounding our car. I’ll never go to a zoo again.
As the light faded we went in search of the nocturnal creatures. As we stopped to watch some funny impala, the guide and I heard a faint noise in the distance. The roar of a lion. We travelled along for a short time before the tracker pointed out something in the dirt below us. The guide and the tracker started chatting quickly in Afrikaans and pointing to the ground. We followed the prints in the dirt for sometime. Finally the guide told us they were lion tracks, fresh ones. It was dark now and we were guided by the spotlight on the car. As we turned a corner, the tracker scanned the spotlight over the horizon and right there was our lion. A lovely lioness lounging on a rock. I couldn’t get a good picture of her because of the bad lighting, but she was beautiful. At one point she stood as if to pounce on something but then decided against it and laid back down.
We watched her for about 10 minutes before moving on. We rounded another corner and were greeted by a black rhino trying to cool off. The rhino had rolled in some nasty mud earlier in the day and let it dry against his thick skin. He found a low stump of a tree and we watched as he scratched the mud off. Off his back, sides, butt, and ummm giant rhino oysters.
We slowly moved on and heard big footsteps. As we turn to our right, we found the source of the early evening’s noise. A male lion. The male lion was on a private reserve, fenced off from main Kruger. The male was giant and the ladies in Kruger knew it. The lady lions could tell based on his roar that he had some mighty fine genes that they wanted to get their paws on. Every night the male lion would pace the fence hoping the ladies would somehow sneak in. It was incredibly sweet and sad at the same time. The male lion laid down for us, he looked so defeated and sad. Our guide wanted to perk up the lion, so he reved the engine – mimicking a roar. The male lion finally got upset enough that he stood up, stared at us, and bellowed out a earthshattering roar. Being that close to a male lion’s roar is phenomenal. You can feel it in your entire body. It reverberates through your bones. Soon after our friendly scratching rhino made a second appearance and we watched as the male lion got up and walked along the fence side by side with the rhino.
Two fierce animals, going about their business deep into the night in South Africa.