Occurred: Saturday, 2/27/10 to Monday, 3/1/10
Written: Tuesday, 3/9/10
My friend from the US was coming to visit me for a little over a week, and the first stop on her vacation itinerary was to go visit Kruger National Park, which is the largest national park in SA and well known for its safaris. Three of my other housemates joined us, so early on Saturday morning us five girls piled into our rental car and drove the six hours from Jo’Burg to Kruger. We were staying at Skukuza rest camp, which is the largest park-owned rest camp in Kruger with lots of different services, such as a post office, restaurant, pools, shops, etc. There are many other private lodges that are more remote, farther into the bush, and where the guest can get closer to the animals, but they are much more expensive, so we decided to do the rest camp. We stayed in bungalows, which were essentially little huts that had your basic bed, bath, and kitchen area, and that totally sufficed for our time there. The day we arrived, we were booked for an evening game drive. I had been on several game drives during my previous visits to SA, but they were in Pilanesberg, which is a much smaller game reserve, so I was looking forward to Kruger – Kruger is supposed to be THE park to go to. However, with the exception of really excitingly close encounters with lions and lionesses walking alongside our vehicle, I saw pretty much the same animals – giraffe, zebra, impala, rhinos, hippos, baboons, elephants, hyenas, wildebeests, etc. Now, the *first* time I took a game drive it was super exciting. Seeing the animals in their natural habitat and up close is *amazing,* so I definitely recommend doing a game drive if you haven’t already. But it was my 6th one so I was kind of over it. Also, the tour guide we had in Kruger was far less diligent than my tour guide in Pilanesberg. She drove super fast, zipping past animals until we yelled at her to stop, and barely spoke about them. My Pilanesberg tour guide was awesome, knowing exactly where to go and talking the whole time.
Besides the morning and evening game drives, my friends went on a “bush braai,” which I opted out of since I’d already done one. A “braai” is the South African term for a BBQ, and a bush braai literally means a BBQ in the middle of the bush. For about R500 each, my friends got *another* two hour game drive and a traditional African dinner in the bush prepared by the Kruger Park chefs. What’s unique about the bush braai is that it’s literally out in the open game reserve with no fences or barriers between the guests and animals. Thus, besides the chefs and the tour guide, my friends had the presence of George, a ranger with a huge rifle to shoot down any dangerous approaching animals.
While my friends were on the bush braai, I quietly ate and journaled alone at the restaurant in Skukuza. It overlooked this river that wound its way through the park, and as the sun went down I and a huge warthog (that was chilling in the tall reed) watched an elephant with one tusk bathe himself in the river. The roof I was sitting under was thatched and housed a bunch of sleeping bats. A family of monkeys was crawling around the table next to mine eating scraps of food. That night was my favorite evening in Kruger, because it represents one of the things I love about South Africa. I’m not really a nature person, nor an animal person, but the fact that people and animals and nature can co-exist peacefully and respectfully here is amazing to me.