Africa, part two.

At the end of part one, we had just arrived at a lodge not far from Kruger National Park.

Day three started super early in order to beat the crowds at the park. It was cold, it was grey and it was raining. To be totally honest, I was less than excited at this point. In the lead up to Kruger, we had been warned that we might not see much. Expectations and morale were low. 

Initial sightings were kudu, impala and cape buffalo. Cursing the weather, things started to turn around after breakfast once the sun (and animals) came out. We saw hyenas up close and personal, elephants, rhinos and more. And just before lunch we had a true Nat Geo moment when two lions decided to get amorous within clear sight of the road. Little did I know, this was just the start. 

Day four, we were back on the bus heading to Karongwe, a private game reserve. Unlike our stay near Kruger, Karongwe put us right in the thick of things. Sure there was an electrified fence surrounding the camp but that didn't stop the warthogs, wildebeest and others from trekking by our tent in the middle of the night. Less than an hour after a welcome lecture on cheetahs, we were on our feet, out of our safari vehicle walking behind four of them. Unreal. And again, only the beginning. 

Day five saw another early start. Our third official game drive got off to an astounding start when our driver, Ruan and tracker, Thomas, led us to the riverbed. There something like 14 elephants were hanging out, getting ready to start their day. As we sat and watched, the elephants warmed up to our presence and eventually decided to walk around our vehicles. I had to resist the urge to reach out and poke one in the process (this would have been a terrible idea - apparently elephants can feel a fly land on them). 

A truly remarkable experience, the day continued with a bush walk and another game drive. On this drive, we got within 15 feet of a lion pride trying to keep cool in the afternoon sun. The male held a position on a lower rock while the females and cubs slept above him. There were also countless hippo and giraffe sightings. 

The momentum continued into day six on our last game drive. In addition to seeing our lion friends from the day before, we also had the opportunity to get close to a leopard (until this point we had only seen them from a considerable distance). Karongwe is an amazing place to visit and I could dedicate a series of posts just to our time there. But alas, after breakfast it was time to go back to Johannesburg and Malikana Guesthouse where we had started our trip. 

Up next: Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls.