Safari at Kruger National Park.

One of the most exciting trips one can do is to go on a safari in Africa. You don’t have to be a photographer  to appreciate the beauty of nature. The level of interaction you get with the wildlife in their natural habitat  is an experience you’ll never forget.

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© nilo photography

It took us a whole month to prepare this trip. We were lucky enough to find Tanya Kotze from Africa Direct. She helped tremendously and since then she has become our official African tour guide. (we have sent 3 different couples to Africa through her and they were all very happy).

The first part of our trip was in South Africa. After  spending 5 days in Cape Town (this will be in another post) we headed to kruger National Park, a 3 hours flight from Cape Town.

Kruger National Park is one of the worlds most famed protected areas, known for its size, history of conservation, and diversity of wild life. it’s a place where the drama of life and death is played out on a daily basis. To understand how vast and diverse the park is, try to imagine a national park the size of Isreal with bushwillow interrupted by open savanna , rushing rivers and rocky bluff. Now fill it with lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, rhinos, giraffes, cheetahs, hippos and you get an idea of what is all about.

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© nilo photography

Getting there

Nelspruit airport is the closest airport to the park. From there you have two options to get you to your destination lodge. One is to go by car and the other one is to fly with a small aircraft. The first option is far cheaper, plus you get the chance to see scenic sceneries, people in the streets, and villages it’s a worthy pre safari experience. The only consideration might be the duration of this trip. It is usually between 2-4 hours depending how deep in the bush is your lodge. You should have in mind that by arriving late at your lodge you might miss your afternoon game drive which usually starts around 4p.m.  And since you pay a lot of money for your safari, every game counts.

The other solution is to fly to your lodge which is a far more expensive option but basically you zeroing the time. When we flied, we were on a tight time schedule and we had to choose the plane option so we don’t miss the afternoon game drive. We were staying at the Exeter Leadwood lodge which is a 20 min flight from Nelspruit (or a 2.5- 3 hours drive).

Exeter Leadwood

Exeter Leadwood lodge

Like all safari lodges all meals and 2 game drives per day are inclusive in the price. One drive is in the morning (at the sunrise) and the other one is at the afternoon (starts around 4 to 5 pm)and goes well after sunset. Every game last between 3 to 4 hours. In some cases if the weather is good you will have the option of walking safari, which  we did once and it was the only opportunity we had to step on the soil of the predators.  A truly unique experience.

So your daily schedule pretty much will be as followed:

You are up and awake around 5 am, you have  a quick coffee at the lodge and by 5.30 you are out in the bush.  The vehicle is usually a Land Rover with seats for up to 9 people (3 rows of three seats) but we were never more than 6 which is very important if you are really into photography. It goes without saying that for serious photography the  best seats are always on the sides. The Leadwood rangers, but I assume that goes for all the rangers, will try to give you the best view to the animal which means that they will move the vehicle so all the people get the same viewing opportunities.

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© nilo photography

By 7.00 am the ranger will pick a picture perfect area to stop the vehicle wether it is under a big tree or by the lake or river so you can relax and have another cup of coffee or tea with some amarula liker :) if you like.  The drive will continue for another couple of hours and by 9.00 am or so you are back at the lodge for a royal breakfast. The  rest of the day is free time and it’s up to you how to fill it up,  although being deep in the bush in an unfenced lodge the only options left to do is hang out at the dinning/lobby area or at your suite. “No, it’s neither a misspell nor lost in translation”  you are going to have your own huge suite with private pool and a personal butler as well. Le me make one thing clear I’m not a Bill Gates but comparing to what is normally paid in the big cities it’s 1/3 the price. It was absolutely the best suite I have ever stayed in my life (and yes being in the african bush helped a lot).

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© nilo photography

By 2.00 -2.30pm it is a good idea to take your lunch. In this particular lodge you get to choose where you want your lunch to be served. By the pool, at the veranda or maybe up in the trees (not joking). It doesn’t really matter because the whole place is wow.

Then you have an hour and a half to rest and by 4.30 pm you are out in the bush again. During sunset the driver will stop in another beautiful spot for a sundowner (coffee , drinks snacks at sunset) and you will continue your drive until 8.00 pm or so.

by 9.00 -9.30 it  is… guessed what…food time again. It’s dinner this time and you either have another romantic dinner for two or a bomma (barbeque) by the fire with the rest of the hotel guests. Leadwood has 4 suites so at the most we were 8 people plus our ranger.

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© nilo photography

Game drive facts.

Vehicles can not be more than three in the area near the animals as it is very important for the animals not to be disturbed.

The animals have accepted these vehicles as part of their eco system and they do not feel threatened unless you actually threaten them which cannot be the case with the high skilled rangers and trekkers accompanying you.

Since the animals recognize the outside shape of the vehicle , it is important that you don’t hang your self out of the vehicle. In other words you do not attempt to alter the outside shape of your vehicle by moving irregularly. This could put everybody in danger.

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

Animals are constantly moving. Nobody can guarantee you that you will see all the animals (even the Big Five). But you more likely will.:)

Conservation

Everything in the park revolves around conservation. The preservation and protection of the natural ecosystem, the vegetation and wildlife is the ultimate priority. Conserve food, conserve water, conserve wildlife, conserve Africa…..

In the safari the meaning of conservation has to do with the non human interference to the ecological chain. Nobody, not even the ranger can interfere or alter the circle of life. There, people are the guests , the nature and the wild life are the hostesses. The interaction with the wild life is limited to observation. Even if you see an injured animal or an animal dying you are not allowed to interfere. Put it simply and clearly, you can’t interfere with the circle of life. One can interfere only in the rare occasion of  injuring  the animal. Then help could be provided but this is rarely to happens.

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© nilo photography

Africa was a dream come true. The safari experience was the highlight of this dream. Wherever I will be I will never forget…. I will be back.

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