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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Nelson


Updated: Mar 24, 2023

After spending some time in Johannesburg, we started our 6-hour drive northeast to Kruger National Park: the largest national park in South Africa and one of the largest parks on the planet. This safari destination is home to the Big Five (rhinoceros, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo) and many other animals!

Motorists in South Africa drive on the left and the highways are in excellent condition. We did notice a lot of hitchhikers and interesting signs along our journey.

Ice cold BODIES?? Oh my... and then there's this...

Oh, those signs! There were several toll booths along the way too. It's always good to have some South African Rand (local currency) on hand.

I didn’t feel uneasy until we got off the highway and drove though some small towns on two-lane roads. Many side roads are dirt roads and the dirt blows over the main road making it difficult to navigate in spots. The streets were lined with locals walking, selling fruits & veggies and hitchhiking. There were even signs in some areas alerting tourists of high crime intersections (vehicle smash & grab). This is not an area where I’d feel safe getting a flat tire.

There are scheduled load shedding blackouts throughout the day due to energy load issues. Sometimes the power is out for 3-4 hours 3 times per day. This is affecting businesses and hitting the economy hard. When traffic lights are out, citizen volunteers put on reflective vests and direct traffic to try to make extra money from drivers.

Once we got to the Kruger National Park region, we entered our gated hotel resort - the Kruger Gate Hotel - and fell in love with the surroundings!

Yes, the resort had its own "weather station." ;)

Unfortunately, the only rhino I saw in South Africa was this sculpture.

We went on a night safari tour truck, an afternoon safari tour truck and a morning self-drive in our own rental SUV. Typically the animals are most active in the morning and evening, but ironically we saw the most animals during our afternoon tour. However, we were seated much lower in our SUV on the morning drive, compared to being seated much higher up in the safari tour truck. Summer just ended in South Africa, so there’s a lot of tall brush and grass, which can obstruct the view a bit.

Our safari guide said that poaching (especially rhinos for their horns) is still an issue. The park does its best to protect these majestic animals and now, there is even a “shoot to kill” policy for poachers caught in the act.

Here’s a lengthy list of the animals we spotted, along with photos:

Night safari:

- Hippo - Hyena - Kudu - Zebra - Rabbit - Impala - Giraffe - Elephant - Wildebeest

(It wasn't easy to get good photos at night).

Afternoon safari:

- Elephant - Kudu - Warthog - Mongoose - Baboon - Wildebeest - Impala - Crocodile - Terrapin - Vulture - Buffalo - Eagle - Hippo - Giraffe - Waterbuck - Ground squirrel - Hyena - Porcupine

- Zebra - Monkey

Morning self-drive safari:

- Elephant - Zebra - Hyena - Warthog - Ostrich - Monkey - Terrapin - Wildebeest - Impala - Crocodile - Stork

I always thought it would be scary to do a self-drive safari, but surprisingly we never felt unsafe. The elephants, zebras, hyenas and impala were very close to us - it was moving to see these majestic animals in their natural habitat. The animals are used to vehicles and don’t pay much attention to us. Although we unfortunately didn’t see any big cats (my ultimate safari desire), this was an experience of a lifetime. I’d highly recommend an African Safari to anyone. Maybe we’ll go back to Africa in the future!

Next post... our long journey home!

*** NOTE: You won't see any photos of my immediate family because I am respecting their privacy. ***


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