Safaris in South Africa – Why So Popular?
South Africa is fast becoming the most popular safari destination in the world. It is packed with an abundance of incredible safari lodges and a diverse abundance of wildlife. And of course it is highly affordable with the current exchange rate which I, being US citizen was delighted about.
The first part of our trip involved a few hours flight from Johannesburg to the town of Hoedspruit which is situated kind of right in the top right hand corner of the country. The runway is the second longest in South Africa. I know that sounds pretty random that I mention it but the fact that this small out of the way town has the longest runway intrigued me. And being the inquisitive type that I am I just had to find out why. It turns out that it was built for NASA as a secondary landing strip for the space shuttle. And get this…sometimes planes cannot land as the resident warthogs sort of ‘hog’ the runway. Rumor has it that the local authorities release cheetahs to solve the problem. As the saying goes…TIA. This is Africa.
When we had taxied and collected our luggage we went outside into the heat of the African sun and were met by our South Africa Adventures tour guide. Just a quick note on the best time to go on safaris in South Africa by the way- We had decided to travel in February as this is the only time we had available from our busy schedules. We had been advised that the best time is from April to October. December to February is regarded as the hottest time of the year. And man was it hot. But we were safari clad tourists with a mission to see the incredible array of animals that South Africa has to offer. We drove through to the Tsakane Safari Camp in Balule region of the Kruger Park. We were met by a troop of baboons and few giraffe. I had a feeling this was going to be an experience of a lifetime. Samantha our guide showed us to our rooms where we freshened up. We had to be ready for our first late afternoon game drive. We had to be at reception by 16H00. I was there like a bear. We were eager to see animals on the first safari of the tour. We were met at the Landrover by our guide and tracker Solomzi. I cannot explain the excitement that overpowered the vehicle. And we were not disappointed. Over the next few days we got to see every kind of animal possible on our safaris in South Africa. Elephants, lions, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, zebra, warthogs and even a few snakes were abundant.
But the safari was not just about what we saw but what we learnt. The guides of South Africa Adventures have been working in the bush for 20 years. So they knew exactly where to go to find animals. And with very sighting he explained in detail the intricate characters of the animals from the behaviors to migratory habits. We learnt how the wildlife survived, how they raised their young, how they found food, how long they lived. And we also learnt that South African Safaris are also not just about fairy tales. Coming across the gore if a recent lion kill soon brought us back to reality on how wild and dangerous the African bush really is. Even the birds got involved. They twitter like crazy warning the other animals if there is a predator in the area.
The Kruger Park was an incredible wildlife experience for us and I loved every single second of the safari. Our days consisted of morning safaris in the open air game vehicles from as early as 5am finishing at 9 am. Then the modus operandi of our tour was breakfast, nap, lazing by the pool, a late afternoon game drive and then dinner. It is a really relaxing vacation. The dinners were out of this world. They consisted of fresh local cuisine served outdoors under the Africa stars next to roaring bush fire. What else could you ask for? Oh yes, and maybe a good glass of red wine to compliment the ambiance.
It is really hard to describe safaris in South Africa if you have never been on one. I was in awe of the wildlife, the people and the solitude of the African bush. After 4 days on safari we packed our bags with heavy hearts and flew back to Johannesburg for our next tour to the Pilanesberg National Park where we spent an incredible 2 days on safari before heading back New York.
South Africa will be sorely missed and we will definitely be back to experience some more safaris!
Nick Williams-New York
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