Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Safari Magic

We were getting excited as our trusty little Clio got closer and closer to Hoedspruit.  Hoedspruit lies just outside of Kruger national park and has its own little airport (a military base).  Part of the drive consisted of the famous Garden Route, and the scenery was lovely.

 As soon as we got to the Vuyani safari lodge, we unloaded our bags, ate some food, drank some water, and prepared to go on safari.
 The lodge is part of a 17,000 acre reserve in the Blue Canyon Conservancy, which was just stunning.

Our first safari ride was great and boded well for the rest of our trip.  We saw warthogs, zebras, giraffes, lots of antelopes (impala, nyala, kudu), elephants and lions!  Not bad for a first haul.   One of the most rewarding things about a safari is how much you learn about nature, and animals.  It's fascinating stuff.  Everything is so for a reason.

The warthogs quickly became one of my favorite animals because they have huge potbellies and they run with their tails sticking straight up.  They look stumpy and short but don't be fooled, they run fast!!
Male warthog with tusks
Here is an action shot.
We were in South Africa during the wet season, but the entire country was suffering a drought so it felt more like dry season.
Summer down under is the birthing season, so we saw a lot of baby animals, which were adorable!
A wee baby zebra
Affectionately known as "the boys' club," a bunch of young male impala hanging out
I was really surprised by how big the wildebeests are.  We are already eagerly looking forward to our next safari, preferably involving the wildebeest migration!
Wildebeest, a big guy
 The wildebeest are much cuter when they are babies.  The babies are lighter in color because they are close to the ground and better camouflaged.
 The animals are pretty inured to the jeeps, so they act as if we are just a natural part of the environment.  A little noisy, a little smelly, but completely harmless.  This means animals get close and cross right in front of us without any qualms.

Here, a big stork.  His legs aren't ordinarily white, but due to the heat they turn white in order to better reflect the heat.
 We were lucky to stumble upon some giraffes.  They are such cool, and weird, animals.  I love how they look at us unblinkingly.  We learned to discern between females and males - the key is size, and whether there is any fuzz on the two little horns on top of their head.  The bigger and darker the giraffe, the older it likely is.
These guys have very powerful kicks.
One cool thing about being on a safari is that you think you spot one animal, and then quickly you realize there are two, three, four! Five! animals all around.  Here, we realized we had a whole giraffe family, totaling five giraffes.

The nyala, which our guide says means onion and is derived from these stripy white lines running along the animal's body.
 Here, I am very seriously perusing for animals.  Got to stay alert!
 I could hear this elephant rustling in the bushes before he appeared.  Our guides had cleverly tracked him, anticipating his arrival at the watering hole.  Because we couldn't follow him through the bush, we drove to the water and waited for him to trundle through.
 After tracking that first one, we were driving along and suddenly, this elephant nearly collided into our jeep!  Others in the group said they could smell his musk, but I wasn't particularly paying attention and don't recall smelling the pungent odor.
Oh hello.  Super close.
Happy.  Giraffes eating in the background.
 Another thing you quickly observe on safari is that animals eat. All. the. time.  This giraffe could not be bothered to move his face away from the tree.

Funny silhouette.
A wonderful part of the afternoon safari is the sundowner, where the guides pull out and set up a makeshift bar, usually on some lovely grassy plain or in front a lake, so everyone can watch the sun set with a drink of choice and some yummy nibbles.  (We immediately loved the biltong, or jerky, here.)

 We were lucky to spot the mother lion and her three cubs (two males and one female) playing around.
She looked fierce.
 Their size really surprised me - I know they are big cats but seeing them in person is jarring because their heads… their paws… their haunches… are so massive.  They emanate a gorgeous, powerful feline grace.  They also act so much like household cats, in how they groom themselves, and play with each other!
  Some of the "play fighting" looked pretty fierce actually, like when these two brothers ganged up on their sister.
Biting was involved!

More safari pictures in the next post!


  1. Hi, I'm a friend of Casey and Joe. Question- what tour group/guide did you guys use?

    1. Hi Caroline! We stayed at Vuyani Lodge in Hoedspruit - it is a large private reserve and if/when you stay with them they provide the tour guide(s) and driver(s) as part of your stay. There were 2 game drives a day (one in the morning and one in the evening) which were always optional. This is their website: http://www.vuyanilodge.com.

      We also self-drove Kruger National park for one day (though you can also hire a driver to take you). We did our research through trip advisor.