On Safari at Kruger in Search of The Big Five

As per our travelling style, the safari was a last minute decision, and what a tremendous one it was!DSC_1098After touring the Garden Route, we booked a room near the airport in Johannesburg with good wi-fi since we needed to plan our next adventure. After Googling possible destinations, flight options, and the weather forecast, including back and forth emails with various tour operators, and the next day, we were off on a reasonably priced, six-days, five-nights African adventure with Viva Safaris.

They picked us up at our accommodation, and we headed north towards South Africa’s largest game reserve, the Kruger National Park. This is big five country; lion, rhinoceros, elephant, leopard, and water buffalos.

En route, we had our first view of the water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) at a roadside watering hole. Water BuffaloShortly after our arrival at the Balule Nature Reserve, we departed for an evening game drive and excitedly spotted our first wild animals. Even after a few days, we never tired of watching the prevalent giraffes (Giraffa), impalas (Aepyceros melampus), zebras (Equus zebra), and various colourful birds.DSC_0026Impala, maleDSC_0008

Popularly known as Zazu, the yellow-billed honbill (Tockus leucomelas)DSC_0462Golden orb-web spider (Nephila)Gold web spiderThe next few days consisted of game viewing with a nice mix of early morning, late afternoon and night drives, allowing for chance encounters with the wildlife that is active at different times.

The highlight of the tour was the full day experience at the Kruger National Park. Covering a massive area of over 20,000 square kilometres, it is home to an abundant variety of animal and plant life, including 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and 147 mammal species. We spotted our fair share.

Blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)DSC_0430More giraffes.DSC_0044The white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum); highly poached for its horn.DSC_0329The greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)KuduA female steenbok (Raphicerus campestris)SteinbuckThe common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)HippopotamusIn the late afternoon, we encountered a group of elephants feeding near the road and stopped to watch. A young bull was in musth, noticeable by the drip from the gland behind the ear, a mating condition where the level of testosterone surges 60 times, increasing the aggressiveness and unpredictability of the mighty beast. He became agitated with our presence and feinted several charges at our vehicle, scaring the bejeezus out of everyone including the guide. Fortunately for us, he lost interest and crossed the road with his group in search of greener pastures.DSC_0186DSC_0203DSC_0210Rarer and harder to spot, are the elusive lions and leopards who lie camouflaged in the Savannah. Our expert guide knew what to look for; a pale brown patch in the swaying tall grass.

They could see us and kept a close eye. Eventually, they yawned and stretched out for an afternoon nap.DSC_0474DSC_0469And lastly, as dusk turned to darkness, we spotted the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)DSC_0277Our last day of the tour consisted of a cultural outing into the village of Acornhoek. There we had a terrific lunch at Ka S’bali, the local go-to place for flamed grilled chicken.DSC_0517We continued to Maromeni village, where teacher Emerencia Mohlolo and her students from the Chueu primary school, gathered to entertain us at parents home.

Seated on plastic chairs on the front porch, we felt like royalty. To the beat a repurposed red plastic container, and with infinite energy and awesome rhythm, the children performed traditional dances and proudly sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, the national anthem of South Africa.DSC_0603DSC_0555It was an uplifting day, with many hugs, handshakes, and heartfelt goodbyes.DSC_0604On the journey back to Joburg, a brief stop at the Blyde Canyon offered panoramic views. Blyde River CanyonA spectacular ending, from an amazing experience we won’t forget anytime soon!

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14 thoughts on “On Safari at Kruger in Search of The Big Five

    • Anita, selecting only a few images for the post was difficult task. We saw so many wonderful wild animals and as many species of colourful birds. A safari was on my bucket list, but I always thought it would be out of our price range as they tend to be luxury tours. It was a real treat when we realized that we could swing it, by combining lodge and tented accommodation. – Ginette

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