One of my most memorable travel experiences is my trip to South Africa. Most people head to other African countries, like Kenya, for a safari holiday, but South Africa is one of the continent’s top safari destinations with diverse parks and reserves known for superb big game viewing. It also makes it easier to combine a safari break with a relaxing start or finish in the beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Cape Town – like I did.
Kruger National Park
After a few days of city life, we took a flight north-east to the Kruger National Park – the country’s largest and best known game reserve – ready for our 4 day jeep safari! And we were so excited! With most safaris, you’ll do two trips a day (usually about 4-5 hours each), one very early in the morning around 4am and one in the evening, in order to avoid the daytime heat and as you’ll be more likely to spot the animals at these times. It was a struggle getting out of bed before 4am but if anything is worth it, this is!
The experience was way beyond what I expected and was amazing to see all these incredible wild animals in their natural habitat. There was always a sense of danger which added to the excitement of the trip – the ranger and the ‘spotter’ – a local guy who sat at the front of the jeep with his legs hanging off (!)- would be on their walky-talkies with the other park rangers the entire time trying to locate the animals and once we found one it was the most exciting thing!
A lot of the time they were really close, right up next to the jeep and again, we were warned to not make any sudden movements or sounds and to keep our hands inside the vehicle – we couldn’t even lean out slightly to take photos as this might scare or anger the animals.
The most memorable safari was on the last day when we came across a whole pack of lions on our way back to the lodge – they were right in our path and it was incredible to watch them so closely.
The ranger was with us the whole time throughout the 3 days we were there – he even had dinner with us in the evenings, and every time we needed to go back to our cabin – day or night – he had to escort us. After he’d told us a few stories about previous tourists who hadn’t thought anything of walking the few hundred metres on their own and who had never been seen again, we made sure we didn’t go anywhere alone!
On the last day, our ranger took us on a walking safari. It was a scary experience to be on foot in the middle of the African plains, with only the ranger’s rifle to keep us safe. We saw a lot of interesting wildlife, but none of the big animals (which we were quite thankful about!) – even though at one point we came across a set of lion footprints – but we made it back to the lodge without coming across them!
On our trip, we were actually lucky enough to see all 5 of the big 5 – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalos – which is amazing! It’s wild, exhilarating and definitely a once in a lifetime holiday.