Editor’s Note: This is the third and final blog post in a three-part series about our South Africa Hiking, Safari & Wine Adventure and is written by our Zephyr guide and participants. (Read Part 1 & Part 2)
Day 6 / Friday (written by participant Treshel Washington)
Today we flew northeast to Nelspruit near Kruger National Park and then drove another couple hours to get to the Thornybush Game Reserve and Chapungu Luxury Tented Camp. On the way there we saw wildebeest (collectively called a herd) and zebras (collectively called a dazzle)! When we arrived, we were all very excited for our first game drive! Our goal was to see the “Big 5” which consists of the elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo. Despite a steady rain, we managed to see a menagerie of animals on our first day: waterbok, vultures, lions and scores of imapala! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings…
Days 7 & 8 / Saturday & Sunday (written by Kris Thomas)
We get “knocked up” (as they say here) at 5 AM by our lodge hosts and after a quick cup of coffee or Rooibos tea, we settle into our comfortable and open-air safari Landcruisers – our group fills three of them and we each take off in a different direction to start the search for animals. We have both a ranger and a tracker on board each vehicle. The tracker’s job is to watch for evidence of animals on the road and lead us in the right direction. The ranger not only drives the vehicle but also has a stunning amount of knowledge about every single animal in the bush! All in all during our visit to Thornybush we have four game drives; two in the morning at dawn, when many of the animals are becoming active, and two at dusk, when the predators are gearing up for full hunting mode. We also get to take a “game walk” with our armed ranger in the afternoon. This allows us to stretch our legs and see some of the smaller creatures and plants of the bush. My favorite is the dung beetle – I could have pulled up a chair and watched them work for hours!
Our rangers are keen on making sure we see as many of the Big Five as possible. Today’s weather is much better – no rain, which definitely makes taking photos easier. Right off the bat, our ranger Kilmon turns a corner and nearly runs into a herd of elephants on the dirt road. He quickly kills the engine and we get to watch the amazing sight of a four-day-old elephant being surrounded by five or six HUGE creatures. Wow! Can our day get any better? Why yes! We get to mark the following animals on our checklist: cheetahs (I just wanted to lay down and cuddle with them), several types of mongooses (or is it mongeese?), a hippo, white and black rhinos (very shy), giraffes (I was entranced by their long eyelashes), african buffalos (formerly called cape buffalos), more zebras, more wildebeests, warthogs (hakuna matata!), baboons, vervet monkeys, lots and lots of birds (with my absolute favorite being the yellow- and red-billed oxpeckers – they are the ones that sit on the backs of the buffalo or hippos and harvest the bugs – I even saw an oxpecker on top of the head of a giraffe!) and many hooved animals – kudus, lots of impalas, an eland, a nyala, a bushbuck, waterbucks, steenboks, and a grey duiker.
There were a couple animals on my list that we didn’t see. The first was the honey badger (see this hilarious video if you haven’t already – warning: swear words are involved!). This ferocious little animal will attack even a full-grown lion! The other was the leopard, one of the Big Five. Because we got so much quality time with the cheetas, and then three lionesses on the last morning, I felt that I had gotten a lucky dose of “cat-time” and was not super disappointed, as leopards are very rarely seen.
I can’t imagine anything better than getting to wake up and have somebody drive me around to look at exotic wild animals, feeding me a delicious breakfast, taking me on a game walk, feeding me a delicious lunch, taking me on a game drive as the sun sets (and serving me “sundowners” – drinks on the front of the Landcruiser) and then bringing me back to the lodge for a fantastic dinner. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, then you must join us on our South Africa Hiking, Safari & Wine Adventure next year from October 6 – 13.
To see additional safari photos by Kris Thomas, click here. While you’re there, “like us” on Facebook!