Discover the incredible wildlife of South Africa
South Africa is a dream destination offering a staggering array of wildlife. But not only that, you can also experience incredible food, wine and stunning landscapes from sweeping vineyards and majestic mountains to gorgeous coastline and cosmopolitan cities with a laidback ambience and sun-soaked vibes. It truly is a wonderful destination. For our Product Manager Phil, who was lucky enough to visit this beautiful country, he wanted to share his incredible experiences getting up close to the wildlife that he saw during his South African safari holiday.
Seeing Kruger for the first time...
Welcome to Nelspiuit the gateway to the Kruger National Park, the voice of our pilot came as we taxied down the runway. Hearing the pilot saying this gave me goose bumps as whenever I draw near to Kruger I know that an adventure is about to commence and no two visits to the Kruger are ever the same. We travelled north by road winding through banana plantations and massive swaths of sustainable forests which often spread as far as the eye can see. After passing through the charming town of Hazyview we turned off down a dirt track, this is where my heart started to beat faster as we headed into the true wilderness of Africa. We passed through Shaws Gate as the dust of the road kicked into air behind us creating an orange shroud between us and the outside word.
Following the signs we reached the iconic Mala Mala Private Reserve the oldest reserve in South Africa. Mala Mala is an enormous concession of land which nestles up against Kruger National park and with no fences between the two animals roam freely. We were warmly greeted by our ranger Joe as we stepped out of our vehicle and were given the opportunity to freshen up in our extremely spacious room which overlooked the vast expanse to the private reserve. We sat with Joe for a delicious homely lunch overlooking the river and discussed what animals we’d like to try and see. The first word that came from my mouth was Leopard as this area is famed for its high density of Leopards and is often the stage for many of the BBC and National Geographic wildlife documentaries we see on our TV’s. As with all rangers Joe explained that we’re working with nature so nothing was guaranteed however there was a glint in his eye which oozed optimism. After over indulging at lunch we left some time for our middles to recover and this also afforded time to acclimatise to the passiveness of the wilderness compared to the buzz of modern life which we’d left behind.
An amazing wildlife safari
We headed out on Safari in our green Land Cruiser passing through thick scrub and over flowing rivers; it was not long before we got our first sighting. There ahead of us strode a heard of no less than 16 elephants a mix of different ages and sexes. We sat with our engine turned off watching and listening to these majestic creatures as they gracefully crossed our path. I’m always amazed when I listen to elephants that they hardly make a noise when their cushioned feet hit the earth, however they tend to make up for this when eating with their mouth open.
Once the elephants had passed us by we ventured deeper into the Mala Mala reserve, Joe continued to scout whilst plying us with interesting and often astounding facts about the wildlife and environment which surrounded us. All of a sudden however Joe fell silent and angled his ear to the air, all I could hear was a guttural sound in the distance which held no relevance to me. We crept forward in our metal chariot and headed down into a dry river bed. Joe explained the noise we heard was a warning call from an Impala and an indication that cats are nearby. We continued travelling along the riverbed until we came to a slow halt and there in a tree was a stunningly beautiful leopard with her supper. We sat in stunned silence as we marvelled at the beauty of this creature; the unique patterning of her coat set against those emerald green eyes is a sight I’ll never forget.
Then all of a sudden there was a rustling of bushes and to our amazement out popped two younger leopards a male and a female which Joe advised were the original leopard’s cubs and were about 8 months old. As is often the case with humans the mother leopard stood aside for her cubs to join her at the elevated dining table and a hierarchy between the cubs for who got first helpings kicked in.
After admiring and being immersed by these magnificent animals for nearly an hour we’d completely missed the iconic African sunset, however this was a small sacrifice to pay for a memory of a life time. The evening continued with sightings of lions, a porcupine and interestingly a chameleon which to this day I don’t know how Joe spotted it in the dark. I twinned my adventure in Kruger with a stay in Cape Town to indulge in the culinary delights this cosmopolitan city; these tales will need to wait for another time however. Both Mala Mala and Kruger seem to be teeming with wildlife and offered me an unforgettably experience in South Africa, pairing this with the exceptional value offered by the current exchange rate I’m sure to return to the Rainbow Nation in the very near future.
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Phil has a love for wildlife and often finds himself being drawn back to Africa to search those ever-active plains. He recently returned from visiting the gorillas and chimpanzees of Uganda – a life-affirming experience and one which created memories that’ll never fade.
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