So the journey has begun... After our 14 hr non stop flight from Sydney we arrived at our first stop South Africa, more precisely Johannesburg. Feeling a little tired and weary we trudged off the plane, grabbed our bags and made it through to our transfer to take us to our first bed for the trip Brown Sugar. The backpackers is a grand old building apparently converted from an old 1970's gangsta house. The room was clean and simple and hotel bar on the balcony had a great view of the sunset over the surrounding area of Jo Burg.
The following day started early, with a 7hr transfer to Thornhill Nature Park, just outside of Kruger National Park. Upon arrival we were greeted by the friendly staff with a welcome drink and some much needed lunch. With the dark clouds above us we were quickly herded into our enclosed safari vehicle for the afternoon game drive. Not long after the engine kicking over the sky opened up and we were thankful for the canopy, despite its leaks. However this was only to be short lived as once we approached the game reserve gates we were informed to quickly change cars to a much smaller and much less water proof jeep. With the rain not letting up we grabbed some additional ponchos and took off into the wilderness. With my camera securely tucked away in its own poncho I allowed myself to come to terms with the possibility of no photos today. Whilst our bodies were feeling cold, wet and miserable we were still on full alert trying to spot any animal through the dense African jungle. Initially the sightings were few and far between, a heard of wildebeest walking in distance, some female impala frolicking with their young whilst the male closely stands guard looking out for rival males and lonely tortuous wading out of a puddle. With our mood starting to fad along with the light, our driver seem to be putting his foot down a little heavier than before. Thinking he too had enough and wanted to get back before the next big shower we sat back to take in what was left of our safari drive. In the distance we spotted another vehicle and noticed that it was stationary. Thinking they were either bogged or broke down we didn't take much notice until as we got closer noticed the young male lion strutting its way across the road. With the rain dulled to a barely noticeable drizzle I quickly whipped out my camera and snapped the shots below.
The next day we set off early again to experience all that Kruger had to offer and it most certainly did not disappoint. With the sun hidden with a fairly heavy overcast sky the day proved to be great for animal viewing and a photographers dream. Within moments of reaching the gate there were giraffes and zebras grazing in the plains, a baby jackal searching for food and baboons busy cleaning themselves and huddling to keep their young warm. The further we continued more and more animals were spotted; impala, kudu and springbok, frolicking through the trees and shrubs, a small family of warthogs busily hunting for grubs, hippos playfully practicing their sycrinised swimming and numerous eagles and vultures sitting up in the trees looking their next meal.
As for the Big 5 (a term phrased back in the day for the 5 most dangerous animals to hunt, nowadays the 5 main animals to spot whilst on safari) I am sad to report we were only fortunate enough to spot 4:
- Buffalo - the most dangerous due to its lack of warning prior an attack.
- African Elephant - the largest of the Big 5
- Lion - everybody's favorite
- Rhinos - the most endangered of the Big 5
- Leopard - unfortunately this one eluded us
As interesting as the Big 5 was to see, the real treat was getting to see one of the most endangered, due to breeding habits, and yet efficient killing machines throughout the whole park, the wild dogs. It is estimated that there is only 150 of these animals left in the wild and they are extremely rare to spot, as they travel in packs and over great distances at a time.