Posted by: adventuressetravels | April 26, 2013

Point and Shoot Safari

I adore animals.  Having grown up watching nature shows, I, like many people

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first thought of safaris when I thought of Africa.  I envisioned lions in the Savannah, Leopards lolling in trees, herds of starkly striped zebras blending into shadowed grass.

Now I was actually in South Africa, but how could I afford a safari?  A number of the ARC owners had saved tens of thousands of dollars to go on posh safaris.

Looking on the internet even the less expensive ones seemed to cost thousands.  Though I longed to see animals in the wild that was too rich for my blood.

Then I heard.  The WARC South Africa tour was a day-long safari!

The buses left the marina a little after 7:00 am.  By 8:00, the WARC group was at the park.  The signs up around the park were fantastic.  An elephant pictured pushing over a truck, warnings not to get out of the jeeps… we were really going on a safari!

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We piled into 4 black and white camouflaged open-sided safari jeeps at the park gate.  The only African game park I had even heard of was Kruger, but that was a little too far.  Instead we were going to the nearby Imfolozi.

00001076George, the ranger driving our jeep, introduced himself.  He had been a ranger at Imfolozi for 15 years and loved it.  Not 20 meters past the gate he stopped the jeep beside a herd of impala.  Soaking up the thrill of seeing zoo animals in the wild we all snapped photos like mad.  These were Africa’s version of fast food.  Not only are they everywhere, he joked, but they’re fast.

00001522We only had to pull a few meters further before a massive giraffe appeared just to the left of the road.  The graceful brown and tan giant stopped munching the treetop and gazed at us through long lashes.  Giraffes were George’s favorite animal.  Not only were they beautiful but they were also the most docile, peaceful animals in the park.  These gentle giants weren’t afraid of people and posed for pictures like the models of the Savannah, never causing trouble.

The morning was incredible.  Animal were everywhere and so many seemed to stay close to the road. A wildebeest rubbed elbows with a small group of zebras.  George explained that these animals often grouped together.  It was a symbiotic relationship:  one had a good sense of smell and the other had excellent eyesight.  Together they were unstoppable.  We slowed as a Warthog scurried across the road, strained our eyes to glimpse a distant water buffalo, oooed and awwed over a small herd of young bull elephants, and marveled at the landscape.

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When I think safari, I think of the animals, but the surroundings were as beautiful as they were foreign.  Verdant hills rolled away into the distance dotted with copses of trees and bushes offered cover.  Tender new shoots of grass crowned and expansive grasslands.  Even a silver ribbon of river, complete with crocodiles, snaked its way between several of the hills.   This was Africa.  It didn’t let you forget it for a second.

Late in the morning George stopped the car to point out a white rhino; her calf nestled in the grass next to her grey tree trunk legs.  The guide explained to us that the difference between white and black rhino was not the color, but the shape of their mouths.  The “white” rhinos were grazers with wide shovel-like mouths meant for eating as much grass as possible.  They were called wide rhinos because their mouths were wider than the browsing black rhinos that preferred a steady diet of shrubbery.

00001550Our guide’s commentary was excellent and much appreciated and it was wonderful to see the animals in the wild but I wished we hadn’t been rushing through the park so quickly.  Stop for a minute, take some pictures, and then on to the next animal.  Unfortunately we only had a day to see everything and staying in one place to watch the animals’ be animals wasn’t on the agenda.

What was the big 5? I asked.  Being on a safari and not knowing I was almost embarrassed to ask.

Water buffalo, rhino, elephant, lion, and leopard.  George explained that these were the five most dangerous animals if you don’t take them down with one shot.  Leopards are normally quite mild-mannered, but when they are injured… watch out.

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By the end of the day we had seen 3 of the “Big 5.”  We hadn’t seen any big cats or predators of any kind.

The safari was amazing, but just enough to whet the appetite.  I  wanted more.

How could I do it on a budget?  How do you take a safari on a shoestring?

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Responses

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