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Safari-Palooza

Despite the eight hour flight from Dakar to Johannesburg, our trip down south felt short; it was the first time in years we didn’t need a connecting flight to arrive at our final destination.  South Africa, which is on the cusp of winter, was cool and inviting, a reminder that it would be sticky summer by the time we arrived back in Dakar. But we had 10 days of animals, music and friends to look forward to before that return.

The first night we stayed in a charming Aviator Hotel near the airport. Primarily, we didn’t want to drive too much around Jo’burg during the hours of darkness. The rooms were clean, buffets well stocked, and the wifi free.  I thought about writing a Trip Advisor review saying the hotel was good, but the planes kept me awake, and could the hotel staff please do something to minimize the noise of the overhead planes.  I decided some readers might miss the irony.

Our drive to Kruger the next day was uneventful.  How could it be? Our car, which we fondly named the overtly masculine “Wilbur”, had horsepower of about three.  Despite this, I was nabbed for going a little fast once we got into Kruger Park. Note to future travelers, the speed limit is 50km/hour and STRICTLY enforced. We arrived late in the afternoon to meet up with DAnegla and Ollie. It was great to see them after over two years and finally meet their little one.  They showed us to our camp site and we cracked into a few bottles of wine while grilling up some tasty steaks.

The next morning, we set out for our first day of animal searching. Right out of the gate we saw two zebra and a giraffe just kickin’ it on the side of the road and I knew we were in for a good safari day.  A little while later we came across a lion relaxing on the side of the road. To catch a lion your first day of safari is quite lucky.  This was the first of five we’d see that day.  We also saw elephants, water buffalo, wildebeest, kudu, impala, nyala, hippos, crocs, and baboons.

The following day we continued our park tour, but headed south toward Lower-Sabie. On the way we pulled into a side path along the road and there were two lions, a male and female, just lazing in the shade, not 10 feet from the car.  The female went over and nudged the male, indicating it was business time and they headed for the more “secluded” main road.  We followed along and arrived just in time to see the male dismounting.  Shai asked, “What are they doing?” I said they were trying to make little lions. “How?” Well… when a male lion loves a female lion very much…

The next morning Ronit woke early with DAngela and did some leopard searching, to no avail. But they got some gorgeous rhino and hippo pictures.  That afternoon we left the park and drove down to Malelane, where we stayed in a rental house right on the river. Across the river is the park, and you can sit on the balcony and watch every morning at 10:00am as the elephants come down to the river for a drink and a bath.  This is basically safari’ing, but with wine. So nice. We took a full day to just lounge around and recuperate.

After two nights here, we headed down to Swaziland for the Bush Fire festival.  For anyone who finds themselves in southern Africa at the end of May, this festival is strongly recommended. It was well organized, with amazing bands, fabulous food and lots of family friendly activities.  Our favorite bands included Aussie hip-hop group True Vibenatio, South African rockers Freshlyground and The Parlotones.  The festival is only a few hours from Maputo, Mozambique, so many of DAngela’s friends came to the festival and we had a great group of people to hang with, including kids that Shai and Micah could run around with. We also met up with Jessie and Alyssa, friends from Ronit’s early days at USAID whom we hadn’t seen in almost 10 years.

After the festival, we piled back in Wilbur and headed back to Jo’burg to see our friends Eric and Nicky who are posted there. They were kind enough to open their home to us and show us the beauties of first world living. Malls and amazing restaurants, to which our children did not want to leave.

But leave we had to do, and head back to Dakar where summer indeed has begun and school has not quite finished. So it is back to work and school, dreaming of rhinos and Appletizers and the sweet, infectious grooves of Bush Fire and the company of dear friends.

If you’re hungry for more pictures of animals, there are LOTS more here:
https://picasaweb.google.com/CraigDGerard/201505SafariPalooza?authkey=Gv1sRgCIznzPzOp5et4AE


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