Day 130: We decided to make the best of our time in Johannesburg, so we called around to price 3-day safaris into Kruger National Park. We found an outfit called Outlook Lodge and Safaris. Most of the 450 km long and 110 km wide Kruger Park is inside South Africa but there is a portion that is actually inside Mozambique. There are 150,000 impalas, 250 wild dogs and a few hundred lions and leopards all in the wild, along with elephants, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes and many other species. It's a self-sustaining game park. By this I mean, the park officials do not feed the animals supplementary food. They are left to roam and feed as they would normally do without human intervention. The only human interference in the park are regular anti poaching patrols. We were told that just last week 4 poachers were shot dead on sight, no questions asked. There is a zero tolerance policy for poaching, the price for getting caught is your life. Last year 350 rhinos were poached within the park boundaries. Their horns sell for 1 million Rand (one hundred forty thousand USD) per kilogram on the Chinese market.
Day 131: They picked us up at 7 am for the 450 km journey to our lodge inside the park. We stopped at a transfer point to pick up two other people, Kristin and Ragnar, a couple from Sweden. Fun people. Hielke, our wildlife guide and driver for the trip to the park was a very affable guy. Our first safari was a four hour drive through the park that started the minute we arrived. No wasting time here. Our guide Robin, told us there is a 50% chance of seeing all of the Big-5 animals in three days. Lion, leopard, rhino, Cape buffalo and elephant. We kept our hopes up. Robin knew his stuff, even the Latin names of all the species we encountered, including birds, insects, flora and fauna. These people are extremely passionate about what they do and the animals in the park. They would even avoid running over a millipede.
We did see a leopard, elephants, giraffes, impalas and many very colourful birds the first day. It was a good day. We arrived back at camp in our Land Rover around 7:30 pm for supper. Rob and I stayed up talking to the guides until 10 pm, even though the next morning the safari was to start at 5:30 am, so we had to be at camp at 5 am.
Gate to our lodge. These compounds are fenced to keep all but the baboons out. They seem to be able to get around the electric fencing.
The elusive leopard.
One of the many dirt roads through the park.
Day 132: Off on safari number 2 with Robin which would last another 4 hours through the park in search of more animals. We covered over 50 km, but managed to see hyenas, a lion, wild dogs (which are extremely rare), more elephants, two rhinos, blue wildebeest, zebras and more giraffes. Back at camp around 10 am for a break as the animals tend to lay low during the heat of the day which reaches 50 Celsius (130 F) during the summer months. There were several different types of habitats throughout the park from open savanna to dense bush to water holes and rivers and rolling hills.
Hyena resting by the road at dawn.
Rare wild dogs.
The evening safari was a 3 hour tour that started at 4:30 pm and ended at 7:30 pm. During this one we saw baboons, more impalas and a leopard walking along the road. These leopards were incredible. Such beauty and grace yet extremely powerful. They can reach speeds of 80 kph. Elephants and rhinos are pretty impressive themselves as they can reach speeds of 40 kph and will bulldoze large trees. Supper was at 8 pm and again Rob and I stayed up late talking with the guides even though the next morning was another 5 am wake-up for the final safari and the trip back to Johannesburg.
Day 133: Last chance to see the Cape Buffalo, the only one of the big 5 that has eluded us thus far. Our patience was rewarded. We also saw more wild dogs before we headed for Johannesburg via the scenic route through Hazyview, Graskop, Dullstroom and Belfast. We did see some amazing sites along the route such as the Three Rondawels at Blyde River Canyon and Lisbon Falls.
We saw a bird caught in one of these spider webs.
Hielke, our crazy guide out on the rock ledge from which the Bushman threw the Coke bottle off the end of the earth in the movie, "The gods must be crazy." .
Took some nerve but I managed to get myself out on the rock.
Lots of amazing crafts could be bought at the many artisan stands along the way.
Day 134: Nothing much to say about today. We walked through downtown Johannesburg to see the Nelson Mandela Bridge and search for a duffel for RobC. We had a security guard from the hotel accompany us, as we were told it was unsafe. From what we saw only a few side streets were questionable. We let our security guard return to the hotel when we reached a shopping complex. We didn’t want to keep him from his job at the hotel. As we left the mall, a security guard from the shopping complex approached us and asked us where our security guard was. He had noticed us enter the mall. We told him we were looking for a cab back to the hotel. He was really concerned for our safety (we were the only white people we saw the entire time) and led us to a taxi stand outside the complex. Not sure what all the concern was about, but I guess he knows the area better than we do.