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Our Trip of a Lifetime

Safari to Kruger National Park, South Africa

By Gail WyliePublished 6 days ago 6 min read
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I was in my forties when my life completely changed and doors swung open for me in ways I had never imagined. I remember sitting a car with a friend at the time, who said “we will travel the world together.” I laughed at him in my heart, as I knew I couldn’t afford to travel anywhere and had no idea how to make enough money to do so. And then the doors began to open and we were on the move. Most of these opportunities were connected directly to the work I was doing, but it didn’t take us long to ensure that we arranged to have extra time together to enjoy the different places where I was working. Thus, it only was natural to plan to take the opportunity to go on a safari when I was invited to speak at a conference in South Africa in 2006. Something I had never dreamed I would be able to do.

Kruger National Park in South Africa became our destination of choice once we had made that decision, because I had spent so much of my time there in the late nineties while I was working on my Master’s Degree. Not in person, of course, as I couldn’t afford that, but on the internet. The staff at the park had installed video cameras at many of the waterholes in the park and shared these images on the internet. When studying and/or writing papers got too much for me, I would escape to the waterholes and enjoy watching all the different animals in their natural environment.

Our first stop after the conference was at a small town called Yzerfontein on the Atlantic coast new Capetown. We booked a B&B that promised that we could lie on our bed and watch the grey whales, that were plentiful in the area, through the window. Yes, it was possible, except for the fact a major storm had blown in just before we arrived, chasing the whales out to sea. The other guests present had watched a calf being born in this harbor, the day before. Needless to say, we were very disappointed.

Undaunted, we traveled on, taking a plane to Johannesburg and meeting our tour guide at a motel. There we discovered a major hiccup to our enjoyment. When we opened our suitcases, we discovered that someone had opened them before us, taking all of the electrical cords we had with us. We would have no way to charge the batteries in our cameras for the rest of the journey. My solution was to turn to the only source of power I felt I could access, prayer. Each morning I asked God to keep the battery in my camera charged, in much the same way he had provided the oil for the widow in the days of Elisha. Thankfully it worked. The battery finally died shortly after we left the park.

The next morning we boarded Tommy, a diesel truck outfitted with school bus seats, which was to be our home for the next seven days. I can remember looking at it in amusement, wondering what people in Canada would think of anyone offering this type of transportation to look for animals in our national parks. However, the reality was that it turned out to serve us well.

Our group had people from United States, Canada, Italy, and South Korea as well as our guide and cook from South Africa.

Thankfully we were a small group, giving us lots of room to move around on Tommy while we were driving, as well having access to the windows on each side of the truck to take pictures.

Our first night was spent at a game reserve where we learned about the differences between safaris on reserves where the animals are fenced in and treated more like cattle, compared to those in a National Park where they are living in the wild.

While we were there we were taken on an early morning walk to see the animals. Our guide warned us to be extremely quiet and to stick close together in a group whenever we were near the animals so that we appeared a bigger threat, because of our size. She was carrying a rifle, one which we hoped she wouldn't have to use. This baby rhino was fascinated with us and kept coming closer and closer, which was not appreciated by his father who was watching us, ready to charge. He was huge! So much bigger any other rhino I have ever seen, including the mother pictured here. Thankfully we backed up slowly and quietly and were able to leave without incident.

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Although was a thrill for me to arrive at the gate of Kruger, I also was worried, due to the fact the whales had left Yzerfontein. What if we we came all this way and didn't see any animals?

Our first stop was at the Orpen Waterhole to watch the hippos. It was a name I recognized from my time on the internet. They were not very exciting as they stayed in the water so we couldn't see much of them.

Then suddenly the elephants began arriving, and they just kept coming and coming and coming. I had to hold myself back from taking too many pictures in order to protect my camera battery. I felt so blessed. After that, there was no lack of different animals to photograph! I'll try to curb my enthusiasm sharing too many of my photos.

I have been fascinated with elephants for the majority of my life, but it was the giraffes I fell in love with while on safari. One of their features I had learned about from the internet was their ability to stay hidden, only to have one appear right in front of you all at once. I had experienced it while watching the waterholes, but to have it happening in person was amazing. One could be scanning the horizon looking for animals with seemingly nothing out there, when suddenly there was a giraffe standing right in front of you, making you wonder where it had come from. As I watched them stride across the open plains, their movement reminded me of clipper ships sailing across the ocean.

It was spring in Kruger (November), so we got to see a lot of little ones throughout the week. These were the velvet monkeys who lived near one of the areas we stopped at for lunch. We had a great time watching them steal food off the barbecues and tables of other tourists who were trying to cook their meals.

The babies always paid more attention to us than the older animals did.

Some of the animals were seen from a distance, while others were closer.

And then there were those who were close enough to touch, if you leaned out the window. We didn't.

Some looked very pretty, but you didn't want to get too close. We have video of two of these kudu fighting with each other. I assume they were demonstrating their male dominance.

One evening we took a trip into the night in an open jeep. During this trip we came across the animal that impressed us the most, a hyena. What muscular power one felt emanating from him as he ran along side us. It was too dark by that time to get a good photo, but we will never forget that experience.

The hyena was so different from the lions who were not only thin, but looked very lazy and harmless, though I am sure they were not.

The week passed very quickly, each day bringing us more adventures with the group we were traveling with, more lessons to learn and more sightings of the unique animals, so different from those we have here in Canada. On our last morning we received the best gift of all. The evening before we had seen a herd of giraffe near the fenced in compound where we spent the night (yes, we were fenced in, not the animals). The next morning, just as we were heading out of Kruger, we saw them again and noticed one was missing. A short distance down the road, our guide noticed movement in the bush and stopped Tommy. There, before our eyes was a newborn giraffe, just hours old, if even that much. Yes, it's not the best photo of the trip, but it is definitely the most precious! And, if you look very closely, you can find its mother.

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About the Creator

Gail Wylie

Family therapist - always wanted to be a writer. Have published books on autism. Currently enjoying trying my hand at fiction. Loving the challenges of Vocal. Excited to have my first novel CONSEQUENCES available through Amazon.

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