Animals in South Africa!

What an incredible few days it has been here in South Africa! We began with a four day trip to Kruger National Park, one of the best places in the world for wildlife! Immediately upon arrival, after a seven-hour trip to the national park, we were headed out on a safari to the greater Kruger area where we got up close and personal with a lion (literally feet away), saw two rhinos along with giraffes, elephants, antelope, and lots of buffalo–seeing four out of the big five on just an afternoon game drive certainly wasn’t too bad! The next day we spent the entire day in Kruger National Park itself. The weather wasn’t so lovely as it was quite cold and rainy but with this came a few positives, one being that animals are much easier to spot in cooler weather. Well, the weather was on our side as we spotted the entire big five (rhino, leopard, lion, elephant, and buffalo) along with plenty of other animals. In fact we were able to spot three leopards… an animal that many visitors aren’t fortunate to spot. Our guide said it was the best day he has had in three years so despite the rain, it was well worth it!! The following day we visited Moholoholo, a rehabilitation center, where we learned how they care for and release hurt and orphaned animals. We also learned about some of the problems South Africa is facing with wildlife, especially regarding rhino poaching. In fact, at the current poaching rate, the rhino could be completely extinct in just a few years… a very, very sad situation. The rehabilitation center had a very permanent animals (those who were unable to be released into the wild) which included a warthog that you could pet (my personal favorite), a cheetah (once again that you could pet), a baby giraffe, serval cats, a honey badger, lions, rhinos, and lots of birds–they even had vultures that we were able to feed! Following Moholoholo, we were off on another game drive… yet again, an absolutely incredible game drive where we got up close and personal with yet another leopard! Personally I absolutely love safaris and wildlife so Kruger was wonderful! Before leaving the following morning, we went on a bush walk where we got just a few meters from giraffes, impala, and zebras. On our way back to Johannesburg, we stopped at Blyde canyon, the third biggest canyon in the world. Today, my mom and I spent the day up close and personal with elephants and lions which turned out to be one of the best days of my life! Our first activity was “Walking with Elephants” in which we spent about two hours hanging out with elephants, playing with them, taking pictures with them, and observing them in their natural habitat. We got quite lucky as there can be up to twenty people in a walking group but we only had three (us included) which meant a ton of time with the elephants! There were three elephants–Three (27), Marty (5), and Hannah (5)–all of which were very friendly as they loved the interaction and getting petted. Being huge animal lovers that both my mom and I are, we were absolutely in heaven! Three, the largest and oldest of the three elephants, was undoubtedly my favorite as the four ton animal loved hugs, even around her trunk! The entire experience was incredible and literally one of the best of my life! Once we said goodbye to the elephants, we were off to see the lions. First we visited “the devils,” nine 3-6 month old lion cubs. Initially the cubs were quite sleepy and I even got to hold one in my lap for a good fifteen minutes before they began getting rowdy and we finally understood where the cubs nickname was derived from. Given their age, the cubs were soon full of energy, climbing on everyone and everything, playing with one another, and biting at anything they possibly could as they were currently teething… oh but they were adorable! We got to spend about forty five minutes with the little cubs before heading over to see the babies in the nursery area. The nursery cubs ranged in age from two weeks to two-and-a-half months. The two week old cub wasn’t even old enough to see properly yet and was wrapped up in a blanket like a baby. The baby was born in a litter of three of which two of the other cubs did not survive so they removed this cub from its mother in hopes that it would have a better chance of survival. We got to hold this cub along with the other three adorable cubs in the nursery before heading on a tour of the property itself. The property aims at conservation and education of animals, especially dealing with efforts regarding the lion. Although the main effort focuses the lion (as it houses about 100 lions), the center is also home to other wildlife including cheetahs, servals, carcals, and tigers. We ended the day with a lion walk as we spent time in the bush with two of the lions that were about two years in age. They ran and played as they explored and enjoyed the openness of the bush. Lured with treats (of baby chicks), the lions jumped up into trees and played fetch (minus the return portion) during the hour walk. It certainly brought back many memories of my two-week walking with lion volunteer program in Zimbabwe! Although the day was long as we visited and interacted with both elephants and lions, it was a brilliant day and both my mom and myself couldn’t have been more pleased with how the day went… it will definitely be a day with lifelong memories for the both of us! Our stay in Johannesburg and Kruger National Park has been absolutely wonderful but we are now off to Cape Town, a city that we are both a bit more familiar with. Although we will be home in just a week, we have lots of fun planned ahead of us!
~Susan

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My mom and I at our lodge in Kruger Park with zebras

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Lion 🙂

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Elephant

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Leopard

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Zebras

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Impala

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Warthog

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Vulture

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Lion and cub

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Leopard

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Elephant!

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Elephant!

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Lion!

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