On Safari: Getting Our Metaphorical Feet Wet

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Welcome to all of you who found your way over from my interview on Gala Darling’s website…as I halted my South Africa coverage in the spring with wedding planning and tales of our honeymoon in Borneo, I thought our safari in Kruger National Park would be a good place to pick up from here…

ngala, kruger, south africa, safari, travel, photography

When Mom and I arrived at Ngala, we had no idea what to expect. Neither of us had ever been on a safari (outside of the United States, at least), so we had no expectations or anything upon which to compare the experience. As our transfer arrived from Hoedspruit, the safari vehicle we were assigned to was already leaving base camp for the afternoon drive. So without even getting to explore our fancy suite, we threw down our luggage and hopped aboard. I had heard it’s not rare to drive for hours before spotting anything, so I was ready to settle in for the long haul when, not even a full minute later, we came to a fork in the dirt road where a large herd of impala grazed…

ngala, kruger, south africa, safari, travel, photography

I swear, as excited as my mom got, she would have been happy if our safari ended then and there. Luckily, the excitement only continued to build. We drove along an abandoned stretch of the park for 10 minutes, the eight of us keeping our eyes peeled for stealthy wildlife. The thing to remember when going on a safari is that your eyes need to constantly be scanning the horizon—both horizontally and vertically. Because you never know what might be watching you from high above in the trees.

ngala, kruger, south africa, safari, travel, photography

Truth: I’ve never understood people who do bird-watching as a hobby. I’ve just never found run-of-the-mill birds that interesting. (My husband, whose favorite animal is the crow, would disagree.) But in Africa, I changed my tune. While the big game were captivating, the birds fascinated me (nearly) just as much.

We had our first glimpse at a cat soon after, but leopards are slippery suckers who like to stay hidden and he stayed crouched behind the tall grass, only allowing us peeks of his spotted back here and there.

ngala, kruger, south africa, safari, travel, photography

Members of the antelope family, however, were out in full force that afternoon. Every time we rounded a corner into a wide open space, we’d encounter one, such as this kudu buck in all his antlered glory.

 ngala, kruger, south africa, safari, travel, photography

Just as the sun was sinking low behind the bush and our eyesight was becoming forced, we came across Him: the king of the jungle, sitting alone, no doubt resting up before the night’s big hunt.

ngala, kruger, south africa, safari, travel, photography

Initially, our vehicle was at a safe enough distance to make an easy escape should Sir Lion decide we warranted an early evening snack.

ngala, kruger, south africa, safari, travel, photography

Then our Evil Driver Dyke decided to get closer. And closer. Until Sir Lion slowly got up and approached our vehicle out of curiosity.

ngala, kruger, south africa, safari, travel, photography

He wasn’t feet away from my mom’s side of the truck—an OPEN truck with NO SIDES, save a guardrail, mind you—when she jumped three feet to her left and into my lap. My mom, all five feet and one inch of her, isn’t scared of anything (other than heights), so this was nothing to take lightly. I got that sense of adventure from my mom, but I can now say with authority if there’s anything that’s truly bone-chilling, it’s a 500-pound beast out in his natural habitat, licking his lips and eyeing you as if you are some delicious morsel that might make a tasty appetizer. (These pictures are a bit blurry as it was twilight, I had no tripod and, well, you try holding the camera steady in such a scenario.)

ngala, kruger, south africa, safari, travel, photography

Evil Driver Dyke cackled mischievously as Sir Lion gave the lot of us the once over—so close we could feel his warm breath in our faces—decided we were of no interest to him and mosied on back to his resting spot. Senses heightened, we sped back to the lodge under the veil of darkness, jumping at every tree branch that cracked in the distance along the way.

COMMENTS
  • November 23, 2010
    SVV

    If you’re new around these parts, don’t miss the “Destinations” drop-down menu.

    Love the vulture pic!

  • November 23, 2010

    I know it’s probably really insane (ie. death wish) but I just want to cuddle that lion…so fluffy and squishy!

  • November 23, 2010

    Isn’t Kruger Awesome! All the animals are captivating because they’re so different than what we’re used to. I had heart palpitations when the lions strolled past our rig. We were in a pickup truck but had the windows down.

    BTW, the bucks have horns that don’t shed, not antlers.

    Glad you were “inspired” to post more of South Africa. I’m only 8 months behind.

  • November 23, 2010

    Loooooooved this post! I’m itching to go on another African safari BAD. My favorite pics are the ones of the lion–just amazing!!! He’s definitely the King of Kruger.

  • November 23, 2010

    Holy hell! That’s crazy! Good thing you didn’t look tasty.

  • November 23, 2010
    Michelle

    Wow I’m so jealous! While on safari in Kruger last year we only saw 1 female lion and from a great distance. Those pics are great! 🙂

  • November 23, 2010

    One of my favorite places on earth! I was taken at how getting a glimpse of these animals in the wild made me feel so small. I love your picture of the vulture! I hope you do more South Africa posts 🙂

  • November 23, 2010
    Wenchy

    Did you visit Jessica the hippo whilst in Hoedspruit ?

  • November 23, 2010
    Sid

    You saw a lion in Kruger? Do you have any idea how lucky you are??? I’ve been to Kruger and have yet to see one of these bad boys.

  • November 24, 2010
    Maria

    Wow. I’m OBSESSED with lions, and would love to see one, but not sure if I’d be brave enough for a close-up! The picture of the bird is beautiful too, although generally I agree: birds = not very interesting.

    Also, great interview!

  • November 24, 2010

    I totally agree with Stephanie! SO CUTE and CUDDLY.

  • November 24, 2010

    I’m with you, birdwatching sounds incredibly boring but the big ones do seem interesting. Would love to go on a safari but I need to save for the zoom lens first!

  • November 24, 2010

    wow, how exciting! I adore the second picture and that last picture is divine! Man, what an exciting job!!

  • November 24, 2010

    I love that last photo.

  • November 25, 2010
    Amanda

    Great review! Safari is one of my very favorite experiences anywhere in the world. And I totally know what you mean about suddnely being a birder. Nothing like Africa!

  • November 28, 2010

    I love all the photos and that authoritative Sir Lion looks so handsome!
    And his eyes are surprisingly calm.

  • November 30, 2010

    Sounds like you had fun! I’m surprised your guide didn’t tell you that you should never move in the cars when the big cats are nearby. They are used to the cars- especially in South Africa- and they would never attack unless they get scared by sudden movement. Every drive I went on in East Africa with &Beyond the first thing they said was never to jump or wave our arms around the lions! Glad no one got eaten and sounds like you had a good time!
    These are some of my fav lions from east africa:
    http://www.rebeccayale.com/2010/08/lions-of-east-africa.html

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