On safari on a budget

The Kruger national park is one of the must do’s for South Africa. When I did my internship in Cape Town, I just had to make a stop in Johannesburg first. From there, I opted for a budget tour through the Kruger park with Livingstone tours. The tour was very budget, but I got picked up from my hostel alright and for the first hours we were driving around Joburg’s hostels and hotels. The streets were filled with kids in school uniforms and there were salesmen everywhere, many with papers, but also funny things like gigantic footballs. Traffic was crazy, but once on the highway, we made good speed.

We reached the park via the scenic route. Past Nelspruit we drove into the mountains. We passed tree plantations where people were carrying big logs around. I’d already seen lots of new, interesting things, but the first real attraction was God’s Window. From there, you could see the landscape of Klein Drakensberg from a steep cliff. You could walk up through the little piece of rainforest that used to cover the whole land with exotic plants.

Beautiful viewpoint at the small rainforest

Beautiful viewpoint at the small rainforest

We also passed Bourke Luck Potholes. There was another beautiful view, this time of the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world. Big circular holes were scattered over the ground beneath us. We made a last stop at the Three Rondavels, a rock formation consisting of three big round peaks, of course with another stunning view.

The three rondavels

The three rondavels

Camp for the night was 30km from the park. There were tents on wooden platforms and there were even mattresses inside. Dinner was served for everyone staying at the lodge. There was a buffet near the campfire, lamb, bobotie, mashed potato and salads. There was even a group that came in to entertain us with a traditional dance.

It didn’t get too late because the next day we had an early start. Our first game drive was about to start. I entered the scenery of the Lion King, dry and yellow. The trees didn’t have leaves, which made spotting the animals a bit easier. At first I didn’t see any anyway. The guide was pointing towards a giraffe, but it took me minutes to actually see it. All the animals just blend in with the landscape.

Animal spotting takes patience, during your time in the park you gradually get better at it.

I was ecstatic to see impala’s, jumping around playfully. Later, I’d find out that they’re everywhere and by the end of the day we wouldn’t even stop for them anymore. Animals worth stopping for were the rhinos, black and white, and of course the lions. This is nature, so we also saw a dying rhino, lions circling him, waiting for their dinner. They’d already taken a bite from his behind.

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It is so exciting to be with a group of people who are not used to seeing these animals every day. The adrenaline rushes through your body when someone yells “Rhino!”. Immediately your are fully alert, searching the landscape to get a glimpse. There is nothing more exciting that trying to spot these unique animals.

Even doing the dishes in fun on a safari

Even doing the dishes in fun on a safari

The next day started with getting to know some new people. This was a budget tour, so the groups were changed every day, since new people would arrive and others would leave. This means that you could even have different guides, although we didn’t.

I saw hippos in the river, warthogs elegantly crossing the road, giraffes playing with each other, necks flopping everywhere, big elephants crossing the road with their babies and big groups of zebras and impala’s.

That night there was a guided sunset drive, one you can only do with a ranger. The sunset was amazing, the red glow of the sun colored the grassy plains. We saw the eyes of the animals lit up as our jeep approached, but the animals we saw were not very interesting. That is, until we heard something stirring up the tall grass. An elephant was coming over and she was not happy. She was making noise and her call was answered by an elephant coming from the other side of the road. Thankfully we had a skilled driver and guide who managed to calm the charging elephants. Just when we thought the best was over, we saw a leopard close to the car. Our big 5 was complete!

There it is: number five, the leopard

There it is: number five, the leopard

The only spooky thing about the tour was that my guide asked me to come live with him on his farm. He said he was ready to make babies. I could meet his parents and he would take care of me. The first time I laughed it off, but throughout the three days, it kept coming back. When I was the last one to get dropped off, I was actually wondering if he would take me to my hostel. In the end it was all words though, and I could look back at an amazing trip.


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