We just got back from a trip to South Africa's biggest wildlife preserve, The Kruger National Park. We were treated to some incredible sightings and really enjoyed being out in nature.
Our two boys (who are now 8 and 5) continue to sprout forth facts that they learned on the trip – an amazing learning experience for them – and us!
We stayed outside of the national park itself, in a glamping tent in the area of Hazyview. We opted to do a guided drive on our first day and then on our second day, we got a day pass and did a self-drive. This was a great call, as our lovely guide taught us about the lay of the land, and then we could take things from there the next day.
From past trips to game reserves, we have noticed that the most prized sighting for a wildlife guide is not a lion, elephant, or even a leopard. Instead, it's a pack of wild dogs. So our guide was delighted when he managed to track down this large pack of wild dogs, who had clearly just enjoyed some breakfast. Many of them were so close that I couldn't even capture them on my long lens! There was a group of about ten of them huddled together just next to our vehicle – trying to warm up in the chilly morning air.
Of course the hyenas were hot on their tails to clean up the scraps. I was delighted with the shot I got of the hyena with the early morning sun on its face. For what it's worth, I think they are very unfairly portrayed in the Lion King #justsaying.
Later on our drive, we were greeted by this madala (big man). He was in must, meaning he was looking to mate and his testosterone levels were off the charts. All in all, this made for a cranky, aggressive elephant. He completely dominated the road, not letting us or the any other vehicles pass. He wasn't charging us, but he just kept this slow, dominating lope towards us and our guide had to put the vehicle in reverse. After all, when a guy this size, with those tusks says you cannot pass, you're in no place to argue.
So that was a good time to change course and stop at the Skukuza Rest Camp for our picnic breakfast.
Back on the road, a warthog emerged from his burrow to greet us.
We were also lucky to spot a steenbok, meaning "rock buck" in Afrikaans. The smallest antelope in Africa, it apparently gets its name because if a predator is attacking it, it curls up into a ball, making it look like it's a rock. I might go and double check that, but it sounds plausible.
Next, joining the hyena as one of the "Ugly Five" is the wildebeest.
And the classic African shot of the Burchell's zebra.
At the waterhole, we spotted this rock monitor sunning itself on the rocks, together with hippos lazing in the water. Then, we were joined by royalty, the African kingfisher with its distinctly African call. Stunning bird of prey.
Then, thanks to our guide, we got the best treat ever. Yes, he managed to track down this beautiful female leopard out on the hunt and marking her territory. It was incredible to see a leopard in the wild like this.
And, just to show that we're into all creatures great and small, we later saw a leopard tortoise, a member of the "Little Five."
On our self-drive, we considered getting a bumper sticker that stated: "I brake for birds"! Seriously, the bird life was wonderful to behold and our boys particularly enjoyed finding and identifying the birds.
We decided to drive along the Sabie River Road on our trip back and were rewarded with some excellent sightings, including a baby elephant and its mother bathing in a pond of water, and an impressive kudu bull with his crowing horns to crown off our safari.
Overall, a super memorable trip. We're planning the next one already!