It’s Thursday and you know what that means…no, not Thirsty Thursday, calm your hormones, we’re keeping it professional here. Thursday’s call for a throwback so, in keeping with the times, here’s one to last year’s road trip to the Kruger National Park.
It was the first time I’d been to the park, and I CANNOT wait to go again. Here’s why:
1. Photographic opportunities like you cannot even believe
“I was so excited I almost fell out of the window trying to get a good shot!” – this is what I’d tell my mates when they asked how the trip was. We’d be out on a game drive and if I saw something even remotely exciting (even if it turned out to be a tuft of grass disguised as a lion) my dad would obediently slam on the breaks so I could whip out the camera, prop it up on a pillow or the window for stability and snap away. Even when it was a dry day out in the field, I’d sit by Letaba’s waterhole with a sunbird posed on an aloe as my subject. You’ll also be utterly transfixed as the sun rises and sets and casts a golden light over the landscape, but don’t forget to enjoy the moment in between the clicking (Amarula is recommended if you want the full experience, just saying).
2. Picnic spots everywhere
I undergo a frightening personality change when my sugar levels drop so it was imperative that we plan our daily excursions around the picnic spots, as well as plan what we were going to make for breakfast once reaching said destination. I don’t think it gets any more “ultimate Kruger experience” than frying up French toast on a skottel in an unfenced (albeit guarded) area in the middle of the bush, and listening in envy as other adventurers boast about that “lioness and her cubs that was lying, like, right there next to the road” (we had no such luck, of course). N’wanetsi was by far my favourite.
3. Too-close encounters with large mammals
On our second day out we landed up stranded on a tiny dirt road amidst an entire herd of elephant, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a little afraid. And by “a little afraid” I mean, ducking behind the seat and just waiting for it all to go away kind of afraid. Now that I think about it I can’t actually believe I was so chicken – I’m supposed to be a badass adventurer! Eventually, though, my dad was all “I’m sick of always chickening out!” and we drove slowly and safely past the herd. Two kilometres later we ended up in the middle of a herd of buffalo. Thinking that buffalos are kind, gentle creatures (like the dairy cows of the African wilderness), I assured my sceptical family that it was chilled to drive on. Only recently I found out that buffalo are pretty mean. Oh well, we survived.
4. Just when you least expect it, something magical happens
Spending eight hours with nothing exciting to report but a hawk in a tree devouring a leguan is positively degrading when all you really wanted to see was just one little rhino. Defeated, we returned at dusk to our Berg-en-Dal chalet only to see four rhino rhino-ing about just outside the campsite’s fence. I could have cried. The following day, just as we were about to drive out the Kruger gates and return to civilisation, we noticed a pile up of cars on the side of the road – a sure sign of action! I was the first one in the vehicle to spot the wild dogs and their kill (knowing my family’s luck in game reserves, I had given up hope of such a sighting) and had another almost-falling-out-of-window-because-must-get-photograph moment.
Cell phone reception isn’t great, people sit by the waterholes and whisper and the closest city feels worlds away. This allows for the sounds of the wild to permeate – the grunts of a hippo and her calf, the gentle splash of the giraffe as he wades through the river, the hyena’s rude cackle. It also helps to go just before school holidays – this kind of genius planning is recommended, if possible.
6. Did I mention the giraffes?
No? Anyway. I can only hope to be so elegant and adept at wearing print when I grow up.
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