Friday, January 9, 2015

Honeymoon: Kruger National Park Safari & the Big 5

I hope you have enjoyed my previous Honeymoon Blogs, and now it's time for our highlight! The final destination on our honeymoon to South Africa was the Kruger National Park. This was the highlight for both Christian and me as we were super excited to head out on safari in search of the Big 5. I knew we were in for something special from the moment I arrived. I kid you not, warthogs were running next to our plane as we landed on the runway at the tiniest airport I have ever been to in Hoedspruit. After landing we walked off the plane to the "terminal" and waited for our luggage to arrive.

After about 15 minutes a tractor rolled up with a trailer and all of our luggage inside.

Our tracker/guide from the safari camp we stayed at picked us up in our off road vehicle.


 We drove off the airport lot, onto a road across the street, and headed 30 minutes into the bush to our camp. We arrived at Kampama Buffalo Camp and the place was incredible! We were greeted with hot towels and cocktails by the manager and then given a complimentary bottle of wine in honor of our honeymoon.

We were given a quick tour of the camp, given a list of specific rules and our itinerary, and then escorted to our room- the giraffe tent.

The tent was so much better than I ever expected! We were encouraged to keep our screen door shut so that the monkeys did not come in if we were out. We were also told not to wander off the camp. Our guide Collin stated, "You won't last more than 30 minutes before the cats get you."
 
The lodge only had a capacity of about 20 residents, so many times we felt like we were in our own private resort. It was fantastic!
Monkeys really loved hanging out by the pool.
The staff has squirt guns to get rid of them at breakfast!

Every morning we received a 5am wake up call. Game drives were twice a day from 6:00am-9:00am and 4:00pm-7:00pm rain or shine. We went out with out individual guide and a spotter each trip.
 

When you are on safari, you never really know how long it is going to take to see an animal. Our tracker and spotter really were amazing throughout our stay. Our goal was to see the Big 5, but we ended up seeing so much more. the Big 5 are lion, rhino, elephant, leopard, and water buffalo. These are the 5 most difficult animals to hunt on foot. We actually were able to see the Big 5 after 3 game drives. Our guide said that most people don't get to see them because the leopard is especially hard to find, but we were lucky enough to catch one at night with spotlights! Here are some of my favourite pictures from our game drives. I seriously felt like we were in the Lion King film!

Mamma and baby Rhino

Impala

Warthogs

Lions, lions, and more lions! 


How beautiful is this guy!


I caption the picture below, "I Like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie"

Vulture

Wildebeest

Zebra


This was a giraffe carcass. We saw lots of bones on our game drive, but as our guide always said, in nature it's kill or be killed!

At night our tracker picked one of these off of a bush. He was able to see it with his spot light because of the reflection it made when he was scanning around. He saw it from about 50 feet away- we were amazed! Needless to say I had, "Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon" in my head the rest of the night!

Water Buffalo- the most dangerous of the big 5 


Giraffe

This giraffe was drinking at a water hole. We learned that sometimes they drink to long and the blood rushes to their head causing them to pass out. What this giraffe didn't realise is that about 100 yards down the way was a family of lions. We waited to see if a kill would happen but luckily for the giraffe it got away this time.

You can see how close some of the vehicles would get to the animals. I must admit I was a little freaked out because you are next to these wild animals, and unarmed! But we were told to remain seated at all times and the animals would leave us alone because they think the truck with us inside we is just a large single animal. 

This is what traffic looks like in the bush- a heard of giraffes blocking the road!


This baby giraffe still had his umbilical cord attached- that's how new he was to the world. We also learned that when they are born they have a 1 meter drop from the mother's uterus. Our guide said it is funny to watch because they just plop out and get up and walk awkwardly for about a day or two.



We were super lucky to catch a cheetah fresh off a baby impala kill.


Cheetahs are one of the most endangered animals, and because they are poached they are given tracking devices. I seriously can't imagine how anyone would want to kill these beautiful animals for sport.


Did you know Hippos spend most of their lives in water? Sadly we didn't see one outside of the water, but we got a few shots of them shown below.



One of the best moments of the trip was when we came across a family of elephants, my favourite animal. I had my first encounter with them in Thailand, where I visited a protected Asian Elephant Camp. and was looking forward to finding them on safari.







When we arrived I immediately told our guide I wanted to see elephants most. He said that there were rumours of a 3 day old elephant, but it would be extremely hard to find the family. Elephants are very family oriented and protect their young, especially because the mother is pregnant for 2 years before giving birth. We were amongst a family of about 15 of them when out of no where a giant female walked crossed the road. Our guide pointed it out and then before we knew it we saw the brand new baby.

I was really trying not to freak out because I was so excited and you really can't make too many noises and scare the animals. If an animal feels threatened they will charge the vehicle, and the last thing we wanted was an angry 3-ton mother coming after us. Our guide said she could flip our vehicle if she felt threatened or threatened her baby.

We also saw lion cubs! They were a couple of months old according to our tracker.






We also saw lions on "Honeymoon". Our guide let us know that this was a very rare thing to see; he in his 8 years had only seen it happen a couple of times. Lions mate up to 40 times a day for 2 weeks when they are on honeymoon. Needless to say after about 15 minutes we had seen enough action and moved on.

Crocodile sunning itself

More Giraffes- love these animals! They are so beautiful and when they walk are very elegant. In my opinion they are the Top Models of the Bush.


We also were able to attend an elephant interaction. The elephant pictured here was rescued after his family was killed due to poachers. Because he was a baby when he was rescued and grew up in a rehabilitation centre, he thinks he is a human not an elephant so he can't live in the wild.

The camp also offered the ability to sleep outside in the "Lover's Den" cabin. I was not keen on being outside at night, alone, especially since we saw a Black Mamba snake when out one morning. Those snakes are called one foot bite snakes because you're dead in one step.





Here are a few other favourite shots I picked out from the 400 I took over the 6 game drives. To be honest, 3 days was enough time on safari. After 3 game drives we saw all of the animals, so the remaining 3 were bonuses. I would suggest if going on safari to look into doing 2-3 nights max as I can see people getting bored of driving around for 6 hours a day once you have seen all of your highlights.




On our last game drive, towards the end, we were radioed by another vehicle for assistance. The driver was cornered by an aggressive rhino and was not able to move for 30 minutes. When we arrived we revved our engine to distract them and they were able to safely get away. I am sure the tracker on the front of the car was sweating bullets with that horn being pointed at him!

 

The entire honeymoon was incredible as I am sure you can see from our photos. It was everything I had dreamed of and more!  Again, thanks to all those who made it possible for us to visit South Africa. We are so grateful for your generosity. Who knows what 2015 will have in store for the Baumann's, but we can't wait to find out!

Until next time, I will see you on the internet!