Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Kruger National Park: The People and Places

 The first few nights of our safari experience we stayed in the town of Hazyview just outside of Kruger. It was a great hotel and I kind of wish I would have had time to enjoy the relaxing resort amenities like the pool and spa. Hazyview also had a Nando's so I was so happy I got to eat there a couple times! (I didn't know Nando's originated in South Africa. Yum. I got my dad hooked too). Speaking of food, I tried some cool food at the hotel in Hazyview like kudu and warthog! The warthog was really yummy, and as one of our group mates pointed out, "it's pig, of course it's good!

The last two days of the safari we stayed in a rest camp inside Kruger called Skukuza. It was basically like the African version of our National Park lodges and campgrounds, except it's enclosed in barb wire electric fences to keep out dangerous animals! In Skukuza we stayed in traditional rondavel huts. Our hut had electricity, a bathroom, and a little front porch kitchen. My kind of camping!

^^a few animals did sneak in, like monkeys and this warthog family^^

Our first night in Skukuza we had a special traditional"bree" aka South African barbecue under the stars. It was delicious!

^^up at Sunrise again for a full day of safari^^
Now the people!
This was our game driver/guide Thulani and he was awesome!! He knew everything there was to know and had an amazing eye to spot animals. He was our guide the whole 4 days so we got to know him and about his family, etc. A really good guy.

This is Brett Stanley, our other guide who was with us the entire trip. Brett is from Pretoria and he was awesome too. He helped me find someone to make me a traditional beaded nativity! And Ronnie our bus driver went to 5 different stores to price compare to buy me 2 dozen kinder eggs! Awesome people. 
^^this statue is of Paul Kruger, founder of Kruger National Park^^
And our group! There were 29 of us. And I will admit, I was not looking forward to big group travel. I have never been a fan. But this group was phenomenal. Loved getting to know everyone and never had problems of rude or inconsiderate people. Sure, things took longer sometimes but I just got used to it. In case you're curious, the group we traveled with was through Dick Jensen and Alan McKay Tours based in Utah, but you don't have to be in Utah to go on these trips. 
And this was our group we spent many hours in the safari truck with! Me and my dad, Sue from Idaho, Thulani, and Robin and Dana are sisters and Katie and Ellen are Robin's daughters. Such a fun sister trip!

It felt like saying goodbye to people after summer camp or EFY haha! You get to know each other in such a short amount of time, it's weird to say goodbye and go back to your other life. But it was such a great time.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Kruger National Park: The Animals

^^Elephant crossing!^^
 ^^the closest I got to wild animals ha^^

 The thing about going on an African safari is that you expect to go and only care about the big animals. The classic Africa animals. But then you get out in the bush and realize that everything is different from anything you've seen before. So since it's all new, you are equally fascinated and excited to see new plants, trees, birds, and even termite mountains (they are huge!). I spent just as much time being fascinated by the vivid colors of birds as I was being in awe of those majestic animals like the lion, elephant, and giraffe. I have never cared for bird watching before but I was converted!

^^photo by one of our safari mates Ellen who is moving to Okinawa in a few months such a small world!^^
^^elusive owl. I had the hardest time seeing him he is blended in so well^^
^^Zazu! photo by Ellen^^
^^This colony of birds was so cool! The males make the nests to impress the ladies. I'm impressed. See all the pretty yellow birds?^^
 ^^Catch of the day^^

 Then there are the BIG FIVE. They are called the big five because they are considered the five hardest/most dangerous African animals to hunt on foot. We saw four out of the big five. We missed seeing the leopard. I thought I would be so disappointed to not see one, but when you are out in the bush realizing that this is not a zoo and these animals are doing what they are supposed to be doing in the wild, you don't feel disappointed at all. It's very surprising to say ha! Our guide Thulani saw a leopard cross the road while we were watching an elephant, and we missed it. The grass was so tall and the leopard is so incredible at blending in, it was impossible to see after it crossed! Oh well. Like I said, I am still completely satisfied with my safari experience.

The rest of the big five were awesome. The lion. Can't top seeing these kings.

^^photo by Ellen^^

So close!
 ^^big yawn^^
 The elephant. Every time I was so happy to see elephants! And we saw lots and lots. They are awesome creatures. 

The rhino. These are all white rhinos we saw.

And the water buffalo. Their horns look like cool hairdos.
^^photo by Ellen^^

The other highlight was all the mamas and babies we saw. Our South African guide joked that since our safari truck was full of women we were drawn to all the mamas and babies! It was so cool. Circle of life! A highlight was after the first two days of safari, we had only been seeing male elephants (they venture alone a lot while the females stay together with the babies), so when our guide found the elephant breeding ground with at least 20 mama elephants and babies, it was amazing!

 Even the ugly animals had cute babies! This is a warthog baby and a hyena baby. Looks like a puppy. 

Our guide said this impala baby was less than 8 days old! It was hobbling around just like Bambi. Adorable. 

And some other highlights. It was too hot for the hippos to get out of the water. 
Trouble making monkeys. Drama to watch as usual!

^^photo by Ellen^^

 Those beautiful zebras. Incredible colors.
This is the kudu. Check out those horns. Magnificent!

And some wildebeest, impala, and zebras all hanging out together.

Just an incredible experience seeing so many of the magnificent animals God has created. No zoo will ever compare after getting to experience these animals in their completely natural surroundings. Kruger National Park is amazing!!