African Safari. Timbavati, Kruger National Park. South Africa.

2 Jan

December 6 – 12, 2011

Safari server, “What would you like to drink for the safari?”

Me: “Ommmm… I guess whatever? I mean, what do you have?”

Safari server: “We have anything you want – coke, wine, gin, vodka, beer, whiskey….

Me: “Oh, I will just have water…”

Safari server: “It’s included. It’s free….”

Me: “Change that. It’s gin. Gin and tonic! Better, yet, I will have both – the South African booze and a Gin and Tonic…Is that ok???”

Welcome to my first African Safari.

I have not had hard liquor since Russia – stuck with beer or rice wine for you know what you’re getting. If you order vodka in communist Asia, they more than likely to water it down or just pour tonic water, insisting liquor is floating in there. My word, it feels good to be back to civilization…

Back to a place where people know how to pour a good drink…

Made it to Johannesburg. Jumped in a car and drove six hours to Timbavati, a private game reserve part of Kruger National Park. Staying in a hut with no electricity and an outside shower encased by tall bamboo sticks. Very happy. I arrived yesterday after lunch, just in time for the afternoon wild animal look and see.

Room at the Tambavati Lodge at Kruger Ntl Park

There are ten of us at the lodge – or camp – called Umlani Bushcamp. Two teachers and three students from Durban, South Africa. A couple from Mozambique. An American from Philadelphia. And, me. We loaded into the safari Land Rover with no roof with our guide Moses and animal trekker Hendrick and off we went in search of the big five – elephants, buffalo, lions, leopards and hippos. There are many other animals, but those are the Big five. Right now, I would be happy seeing a domestic cat or dog. Take that back. I’m actually more keen on sipping a gin and tonic.

We rode for 30 mins or so and came across a pack of buffalo. One female and three males. Looked calm. Like you can pet them. Moses said he is most scared of the buffalo and elephant, out of all the animals. WHAT? What about the lion? He said with buffalo they are viscous. Buffalo? Like of the cow family? I took another look at them – and said, “ok, you are going into my fearful animals category.”

Next, we spotted a heard of elephants with their babies. One baby elephant was born 5 days ago. So micro-mini. Found out the hard way, elephants charge you. Charge cars. Especially, younger males who are asserting their power. Scared the be-jezus out of me.

First time, we were charged, we were sitting still and pretty observing a male elephant with one tusk. He was eating. Watching us. Walking a little closer. Eating some more.

I’m thinking, “come closer..want a better photo.” Think Jurassic Park.

Moses said he wants to sniff us. They have poor eyes, and sense things via nose and vibrations/hearing. He waddles closer. Lifts up his trunk. Raises his hears. Snorts loud and runs for us. I freeze. Moses keeps talking like “no big deal.” And, then he stops a few feet from the car. Shows us his butt and saunters to a tree to continue his eating. This is not funny. Moses says this happens all the time. He is just telling us he’s boss. I think, “Let’s get out of here…”

Then, we encountered a heard of 20 elephants grazing together. We pulled up in the middle and stopped our engine. Not feeling all the calm, especially with 5 day old baby. Mama and her girlfriends are not going to like us getting close.

Actually, the mother and baby came up to the car and paid us no attention. It was the teen male elephants that had to bang their chests and snort at us. Typical. Man or elephant egos…all the same.

We saw a bunch of Impala – like Antelope and giraffe. Took many pictures of the giraffe for we are both very tall creatures. We stopped for a break. Next thing I know, Moses is using the hood as a mini-bar. A bottle of gin. Wine. Beer. Sodas. And, some buffalo tongue. I’m in heaven. Sipped on my beverage and began bonding with the group.

The three young students are between eleven and twelve and attend a private school. They are traveling with their Afrikaner language and History teacher – Ms. T and Ms. A. And, yes, Ms. T and Ms. A were the first in line for their double gin and tonics. Wish they were my teachers..

The girls were hyper. Had a lot of pent of energy. By their second cocktail, Ms. T and Ms. A said it was time for relay races with elephant dung. ELEPHANT POO? I told them, “we don’t do this in Florida..” First game was, whoever found the most petrified Elephant Dung, won. They had 30 seconds. Next game was spitting dung. Not sure what type of dung for it was smaller and round. Whoever spit the dung the farthest, won. I wanted to gag.

The last game was charades. Music was the topic. Ms. T and Ms. A went for songs like Footloose, Thriller, Heart Break Hotel by Elvis, Hold my Hand by the Beatles…

The girls pulled songs from Miley Sirus, Justin B and Taylor Swift. I know these young pop stars are intentional sensations, but here I am in Kruger National Park watching South African teens go crazy over these three highly annoying pop singers. It felt surreal. I think more surreal than spitting dung for fun.

We came back to camp, inhaled beef, drank more, sat around the fire and passed out to loud bull frogs by 10 pm. Got a knock at 5 am for the morning safari. Within 20 mins, we’re back out looking for the big five.

It rained the night before, so our tracker was trackless. That did not stop us. About an hour later, we spotted three lionesses napping with their cubs. No men in sight. They were all relaxed and mellow for they had a kill earlier -either in the night or the other day.

Moses said they were no threat to us. ARE YOU KIDDING? They are female lions. And, we are in an open air car. Elephants can charge. But, lions can pounce. We moved on to more eagles, giraffes, antelope, lizards, rodents, random birds, beatles eating dung, baboons, monkeys, and elephants. No need for coffee.

That afternoon, is when we scored big. Hit the big five. Lions, Leopards, Hippo, Elephant. And, Buffalo. We also got to peek at Wild Dogs, Random Birds, Snakes, Lizards, Hyenas, Bamboos and more. What a good day…

The male lions made me nervous. There were 3 brothers who just killed a buffalo. They were ‘fighting’ – I mean FIGHTING – for the food.

Made me uncomfortable for we are food too. But overall, it gives you a greater appreciate of animals and a deeper understanding of how much we are like them – or they like us…

Click on the photo icon with the name African Safari for some more picture fun.

2 Responses to “African Safari. Timbavati, Kruger National Park. South Africa.”

  1. stephanie clem 05/01/2011 at 4:42 pm #

    If I could take my dream trip anywhere it would be on a safari. I can’t imagine being there up close to all those amazing, albeit scary, animals. I think I would be in tears if I saw it all in person. I had no idea cocktails would be available too! fabulous:)

  2. Allison 03/02/2011 at 11:46 pm #

    So awesome!! And a G & T to boot! Love it. Wild Winter Park has nothin on the big 5!