Kruger National Park --- South Africa
This was the only tour we had pre-arranged before we went to S.A. We found the Regent Exclusive Safaris on the web, www.regentsafaris.com. We arrived at Skukuza airport early in the morning of June 19th., Ann and John were there waiting for us. Our safaris started right after we left the airport grounds, as the airport is in the park. We saw animals literally within minutes of beginning our drive. And when John stopped the car at the picnic ground at Nkuhlu for lunch and Ann set up the table with table cloth, silverware and wine, we knew that we were going to have great treats not only in seeing animals in the wild but also with comforts as at home! Indeed, we had four wonderful days.
There are 12 camps in this 400 square kilometer park. We stayed in three of them when we were in the park and had breakfast and dinners at the camp restaurants. Ann and John furnished our lunches four times. The camps are surrounded by high voltage wire fences to prevent animals from going in and humans from walking out. The front gate is closed at 5:30 pm when the sun sets. There are all kind of facilities in these camps, from TV, movie house, museum to restaurants. All cabins have hot water, frig, outdoor cooking setups, and a small covered porch with table and chairs. They are very impressive!
The camp rangers make regular safaris trips, using tall safari vehicles, three times a day, one early in the morning at 5am ( yes, Janice made one of them with Tom fully awake!), one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. (We did two evening safaris, they were quite fun. You get to see a lot more animals that you do not usually see during the day time. Hippos would hide their heads in the bushes and leave their big behinds out when they see big lights). The early morning and evening trips do have disadvantages - first you can not get good pictures, second you must prepare for the cold weather at this time of the year.
Within 24 hours, we had already seen the so called big five, i.e., elephants, buffalos, lions, leopards, and rhinos. At the end of our trip, we counted that we had seen a total of 21 common mammals in the park. All kinds of birds were there also, of course, every where, and if you are interested in plants, you would have to spend more time than we did. It is truly a spectacular park! a heaven for nature lovers and biologists. Both Janice and Tom got saturated very quickly, and would not be able to tell you what we saw specifically. We just kept saying "wow!".
The most memorable experience for both of us had to be the few minutes we stopped on the side of a road to watch a lion stalking a waterbuck, which was bigger than the lion. The lion crawled slowly toward the waterbuck, just like a house cat, behind a bush, we were about 100m behind the lion, and gradually she inched closer, while waterbuck was eating the bushes without any inkling about the pending emergency situation. Suddenly, the cat jumped on the buck, but she was not close enough to make the first contact and the waterbuck was very quickly nowhere to be seen - any where.