Last month I embarked on an unparalleled adventure. It wasn’t so much a case of ‘Out of Africa’ but in to Africa and ticking off a bucket list item as I entered. I was off on an African Safari visiting some of the revered Southern African National Parks with my camera at my side and the magnificent animals the major draw-card. Yes, I was on Safari! This nature holiday was to be one of excitement, but also one helping to promote conservation and protection of these unique creatures and their natural habitat.
I visited both Zimbabwe and Kruger National Park for this, my first safari.
One of the lingering memories is how passionate and dedicated the safari lodge staff are of the preservation and promotion of African wildlife. Each of the lodges we stayed had strict rules on where and when you could explore the property and its surrounds. Primarily due to safety of course, after all we were in the African equivalent of the Australian outback, but to ensure the flora and fauna are protected and the animal’s natural habitat is well-preserved in its natural state.
Being on our first photography safari I was excited. Actually that may be understating it. For me it was exciting as Christmas morning 1980 when as a six-year-old boy I crept into the lounge room and saw my very first bike next to the tree. The glass of milk left for Santa was empty, cookie crumbs were the only remains on the plate and bite marks in the carrot left out for the reindeer. I squealed loudly with excitement that morning for Santa had visited and been so kind and generous to me.
Only this time as a 40-year-old adult I was able to contain the audible squeal to my inside voice and instead I eagerly jumped into the Safari Land Rover with my camera in hand, poised and ready to snap. I was ready for the African wild, but I wasn’t prepared for what we were about to see.
Africa was the last continent left for me to visit – I soon realised after our arrival that Africa is unique compared to other destinations on my long travel list. The scenery is spectacular, one could say rousing. The African people were warm, inviting, very genuine and full of embrace to visitors of all lands. The deep hues of the African sunsets are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Deep orange and red colours burn the horizon with its glow as we peacefully watch the sun drown behind the sweeping landscape. The wildlife is abundant.
Watching the puffs of dust spill upwards with every step of a passing herd of elephants left us in silent awe as we stared in wonderment at their giant strides.
I’m often asked my favourite part of the Safari, which of course is spotting the animals in their natural habitat. The scene played before us cannot be compared to a city zoo experience. While the landscape is vast and beautiful, it can also be unforgiving. Nature knows how to put on a show right in front of your eyes. I was in awe of how many animals we spotted. Far too many to list and more than ever expected including all the big five that every traveller hopes to see – elephant, lion, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo.
Hopefully these pictures convince you to add a Safari to your bucket list. There are many fantastic safari parks and lodges to explore in both Zimbabwe and South Africa with eco lodges seeming to be the rule rather than the exception. Below are a few of my favourite pictures from our time on an African Safari.
The animals are why an African Safari is a Bucket List must! (At least in my opinion)
I love the young hippos and their baby fat rolls. They look so grumpy at the world but oh so adorable. Taken on Crocodile River inside Kruger National Park and one of my favourite photos, this is the same baby hippo pictured above yawning while cooling off in the waters of Crocodile River.
The leopard is the most elusive of the big 5 when on safari – we couldn’t believe our luck when we found one within the first ten minutes of the first safari drive! And with a kill by its side.
I loved the impala – they were literally everywhere in Kruger National Park and travel in large family sizes. Unfortunately an easy prey.
When giraffes drink water they are at their most vulnerable. It takes a lot of scanning and listening before they spread their front hooves and lean right down to enjoy the drink.
There are many things I miss about Africa but these sensational sunsets are by far one of them. Probably my favourite time of the day, and not just because of the sundowners that awaited us each night.
It was literally our last safari ride before we saw these beauties. And thank goodness we did! Like a human finger print, the zebra stripe is unique to each individual. Predators find it hard to single out a zebra when they travel in herds as their stripes blend together giving the zebra the upper hand in times of danger.
This young pride of lions were just waking from a full day of sleeping. We captured them as they started to stir and prepare for the evening ahead.
I love the rhino – they are under serious threat from poaching with extinction predicted to be under a decade at current rate of slaughter. Why anyone would want to harm this beautiful animal is simply mind boggling.
One of the most endangered animals in Africa from poaching, the rhino is fiercely protected from park rangers. How anyone would want to harm such a graceful and beautiful creature is very mind boggling.