South Africa is a beautiful country with an array of tourist offerings that feature its oceans, towns, cities, climates, forests, mountains, grasslands, plantlife and wildlife. There are so many different experiences to explore when you visit this diverse country. But for now, let’s focus on a South African safari, like a Kruger National Park experience, and discuss what it’s really like.
19,485 square kilometres. The Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa and it’s easy to understand that there is an array of landscapes within this park. From pure savanna grasslands to woodland areas and river beds. There are 13 different habitat and vegetation areas throughout the park for you to explore.
Each area has its own endemic plant life with the famous Baobab, Mopane, Marula and Umbrella Thorn trees on display. These trees are like South African landmarks and a safari experience is incomplete without them. One could spend hours in the park just admiring its vegetation and how one minute you’re in thickets and the next you’re in a sandveld area. Learning about the plant life during a safari opens your mind to the conservation efforts of the park and why certain trees are crucial to the survival of some animals.
You also get ideas of which animals like which vegetation and can follow the battle scars left on tree trunks by the rhino, or scratch marks from the leopard or even the pure destruction of vegetation from a herd of elephants. It helps to know these things when you start looking for the wildlife, that is the main reason you’re on this safari after all.
517 bird species, 147 mammal species (including the Big Five) and 114 species of reptiles. You will see something, don’t you worry. When out on a safari, your tour ranger will probably point you towards animal droppings or lead your eyes to the skies to follow the kettle of circling vultures where a hunt is most likely going down or has just occurred. After one safari, you’ll feel like an expert knowing what signs to look out for and how to spot certain animals.
Animals that you won’t have to look too hard to find, however, are zebra, impala (seriously, they must be antelope equivalent of rabbits), elephants, buffalo, hippos and giraffes. These are popular and regular sightings, but you’ll never get tired of stopping to watch them. You’ll be lucky if you see leopards, cheetahs and rhinos. But your guide generally knows the popular areas and is connected to the other safari guides who can fill them in on any sightings.
It becomes something of a competition when cruising around the park to see who can spot the most animals or the hard-to-find animals. But it really is a great thing because you end up really searching and enjoying the views around you. And, if you’re up to it, your nature experience doesn’t have to limited to the view from a vehicle. There are day and night walking tours around the park (guided, of course) or even viewpoints around the park where you can climb out and stand amongst the great landscape around you.
Now that you know what you can expect to see, be prepared to start a safari tour in the early mornings to catch the sunrise over the African plains. In an open safari bus, you have an unrestricted view of the beauty around you and don’t forget to have your camera charged and ready.
But, sitting back in a bus all day, constantly on the lookout for animals, is draining. The Kruger Park has different lodges and campsites within their borders, each with a story and activities. Find the Jock Safari Lodge for accommodation in the middle of the park and a spa to treat you in the surrounding environment. Enjoy breakfast at an outside restaurant with nothing but a fence (if that) between you and the elephants coming to say good morning. And, in the evenings, enjoy the sound of nature and the nocturnal animals owning the night.
There will always be something new to see and experience on a South African safari. A zebra “laughing”, spotting little mongooses tanning on a rock, hippos fighting, lions hunting, elephants bathing… there will always be something new. Not to mention the sunsets. A South African sunset is as unique as an individual's fingerprint – always new and always beautiful.
This is what a safari is really like in our country. Exposing you to new things, making you stop for a herd of impalas even though you just saw some a few moments ago, never really adapting to the unpredictable weather, being able to relax among the wilderness and trying new meals in this safari environment.
And the best part is, you don’t have to be from a foreign country to experience it as a true tourist would. But that’s just one of South Africa’s superpowers.