Planet Earth

by Johnny

One of the main reasons we wanted to visit South Africa was to see its renowned wildlife, so for the grand finale of our month long drive across the country we set aside six nights in Kruger National Park. It was mind-blowing. You can watch Discovery Channel everyday for the rest of your life, but nothing compares to seeing wild animals in their natural habitat with your own two eyes. For me, it was nothing short of a religious experience.

Because Kruger is the oldest, biggest and most visited game reserve in all of Africa, I was somewhat worried it would feel a little like a theme park. It didn’t at all. We could hop in our car, turn down a dirt road and not see another car for hours. Our first day, we pulled right up next to an elephant on the side of the road, turned off our engine and watched it feed in silence for a good 30 minutes. Amazing! Overnight visitors at Kruger typically stay at one of 12 rest camps located throughout the park, and we chose the Crocodile Bridge, Lower Sabie and Olifants camps for our visit. Each evening, everybody returns to the camps (you have to be back in the gates by sunset) and gathers around the communal kitchens to have some drinks, cook up dinner and discuss what they saw that day. Our neighbor one night was a professional chef, and he shared with us some of his wildebeest stew (yum!) as well as stories from all his past trips to Kruger. It’s hard to explain, but there’s just this cool little vibe of community between everybody there…an unspoken understanding that you’re fortunate to be somewhere very special. It’s a little like being at the lot before a Phish show.

One of the highlights of our visit to Kruger was going on a 4:30am guided bush walk with Irving, the most macho park ranger of all times. This dude made Bear Gryllis look like Richard Simmons. He was a walking encyclopedia of wilderness knowledge with x-ray vision and the hearing of a jungle cat. We’d be walking along, and he’d stop in his tracks and say something like, “Rhino…800 meters to the southeast…female…25 months old…Sagittarius.” At one point, Anna couldn’t help but laugh when Irving spit out 20 minutes worth of facts about some male aardvark tracks we stumbled upon. Plus, he had such burly stories about tracking and being charged at by, as he put it, “big and hairies.” Beyond Irving’s awesomeness, being able to get out of our car and walk into the bush was an experience Anna and I will never forget. Oh, and on the way to our walk we drove by two male lions feasting on a fresh kill. It was such an amazing sighting that even our guides were taking pictures. We also took a guided sunset drive one night, which treated us to some cool nighttime wildlife sightings as well as the craziest lightning show we’ve ever seen.

During our visit to Kruger, we saw elephant, giraffe, zebra, impala, lion, rhino, hippo, crocodile, wildebeest, baboon, warthog, buffalo, mongoose, jackal and more cool birds than I can name. The only animals we really wanted to see that we missed were the elusive cheetah and leopard. We’ll get ‘em next time. We took hundreds of pictures (you can see them all on our Flickr page), but here are some of our favorites:

We had our first of many elephant sightings as soon as we entered Kruger
Two male lions feasting on a buffalo kill
Spots and stripes
Buffalo proving the butt-cut never goes out of style
Two lionesses
Wildebeest Impala
“Whatchu lookin’ at?!”
Rhino at sunrise
Up close and personal with an elephant
Zebra are the coolest
Vervet monkey
Sunrise on the drive to our bush walk
On the drive to our bush walk On our bush walk…can you tell it’s about 5:00am?
The lion was so impressive even our guides were taking pics
Irving protecting us from a leopard tortoise
Warthog and babies
African elephant
Saddle-billed stork
Anna goes crazy for elephants… …while Johny is cool as a cucumber
Post feeding nap time
Kudu
Giraffe striking a pose
Our “safari tent” at Crocodile Bridge Our hut at Lower Sabie
The huts at Olifants The viewpoint at Olifants
The view from Lower Sabie
Watching a family of elephants from the viewpoint at Olifants
Scoping it out at Lower Sabie Wildebeest stew gave me some stomach problems
Rush hour at Kruger
Sunset over some hippos

And a couple videos, for good measure:

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6 Responses to “Planet Earth”

  1. Absolutely amazing and stunning pictures of the wildlife at Kruger! Thanks so much for sharing your trip to this special part of our planet. It’s definitely the real deal and a few notches above our trips to the Living Desert in Palm Springs many years ago, although the snake and monkey exhibits were pretty intense (haha)! Safe travels…love and miss you two!

  2. This is unreal. Thank you for posting – I am living vicariously =) Let me know when Bali is next! Happy Holidays, Taylor

  3. All of these pictures are unbelievable! My mouth dropped at every single one. What an amazing experience! Every blog post makes me smile, crack up, miss you both so much, and of course inspires me to one day go see these awesome places! Love you both so much and thank you for sharing all of these stories and pictures…they are always the highlight of my day!

    PS You will be missed so much on thanksgiving, but don’t worry we are making a pumpkin dump cake in your honor and I’m sure making plenty of immature dump jokes too 🙂

  4. Johnny and Anna, wow these pictures are so beautiful I feel like I’m almost there! Thanks for the interesting description..and as always you made me laugh out loud! So happy you did this! Be safe, I love you..xo

  5. AMAAAAAAAAAAZING!!!!!!!!!
    Love On- “The Moonie”

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