If there’s only one thing you can do travel-related this year or next, or whenever you come up with enough money to go, I HIGHLY recommend an African safari!
It is an utterly thrilling experience spotting a variety of wildlife animals roaming around free, in a world where we as humans are inferior to these creatures. That we are simply part of the food chain if we’re not careful or respectful of their nature.
Maholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Before the official start of our safari tour in the famous Kruger Park in South Africa, we stopped by the Maholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center nearby to learn about the constant danger wildlife animals in Africa face daily, and their rapid decline as they are being hunted, injured, or forced out of their natural habitat. Most, if not all, animals in the rehab center have been rescued from snaring, shooting, and natural injuries suffered.
While they release a good portion of the animals back in the wild, a small percentage are sold in a large number of Game Drives all over the continent, and an even smaller portion are kept in the rehab center to serve as “ambassadors” to their own species.
This ambassador cheetah, along with its other siblings, are very well trained and visitors are allowed to pet them. I was extremely excited to pet one in real life – do you see my face?! No matter how very “well-trained” these animals are, it’s a known fact they never lose their instinct. This cheetah especially kept staring at the small children in the group. He followed their every movement, every direction. Sniffing out prey, I tell yah!
Mufasa! When I was in Johannesburg briefly, I met this American girl who admitted to asking all safari-related questions based on the famous movie The Lion King. Later as we progressed into our safari tour, I finally realized how useful watching all those Disney movies have been all along.
Although we did spot some lions during our game drive in Kruger Park, the only opportunity we got up close and personal with one was at the Rehab Center. I did, later on, get to pet some lions in Zimbabwe as well during a Lion Walk adventure. Now that was surreal!
The leopard is the only one we missed during our safari game drive, but we did get to see one close enough at the Rehab Center, so I’m counting that one in my “BIG 5” (the five most difficult, and amongst the most dangerous, animals to hunt: African elephant, Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, and black rhinoceros)
Africa’s wild dog. As everyone says, they are almost as vicious and fierce as the lions.
I think I might have been the only person who went on a safari tour without a point&shoot or dSLR camera. I used my iPhone 5 to take photos, and although I was a tad bit disappointed with the results (and that I lost my camera charger in Spain and never got the chance to purchase a new one), I was forced to really watch and observe the animals, fully enjoy the experience, and not have to worry about camera settings, while occasionally taking photos.
Full breakfast served inside the park by our very vegetarian tour guide Kenny.
Rhinoceros! It’s very unfortunate that rhinos have become a critically endangered species as they are poached simply for their horns. They were once widespread in Africa and Asia, but poachers have driven them close to extinction. In the black market, one horn can have a value as high as $100K per kilogram sold especially in Asia because they are believed to cure cancer, liver problems, and all other serious illnesses.
To prevent poachers, mostly those from Mozambique, some game reserves in South Africa and Botswana cut the horns themselves once they reach a certain age. The first question that popped into my head after hearing this was “does it hurt?” They say it’s like cutting one’s nails and is proven not to be harmful to the animals.
Some of the ladies taking photos of those dung beetles. “Holy shitballs” as we referred to them. Just a quick tidbit: many safari tour companies highly recommend wearing “safari gear”, meaning neutral/natural colors. My personal take on that? Boring and too costly! As if safari tour packages aren’t already expensive enough. If you’re on a tight budget, don’t even worry about it; work with the basic colors you already have in your closet.
Exciting evening drive in a private Game Reserve.
One of my absolute favorites – elephants! I was concerned at first that we weren’t going to see any but by the second day, we spotted them everywhere. Not to mention the ones in Botswana.
Watch out – zebras crossing!
Love the giraffes just as much as the elephants!
A great way to end a safari in Kruger Park – treating ourselves to this stunning view of Blyde River Canyon.