Safari in a Daihatsu
“Alight from vehicle at your own risk,” so say the signs at every get-out point in the park. Kruger is a drive-through nature experience. Wild lions, leopards and cheetahs hunt antelope and zebras throughout this park the size of Israel. Crocodiles and black mambas troll the rivers and forests and elephants graze, bathe, or simply just walk down the road.
For this reason they don’t let you get out of your car. That’s not to say that Kruger is a drive-through nature experience in any cheap or commercial sense. In fact, the depth and severity of the natural experience in Kruger is strong enough to penetrate any mid-sized sedan. However, it does help if you roll down your windows.
We spent five days driving through the park from south to north in our tiny Daihatsu rental car. We entered the park through the Numbi Gate near Nelspruit and set to a slow pace on one of the park’s dirt roads. We rolled down the windows and switched off the stereo and AC and let in the overwhelming heat and buzz of the bush. Kyle drove slowly while Albie and I stared intently into the tall grass. Here’s the first Kruger resident we came across.
We got all excited, snapped our photos and then came across a herd of impala.
We stopped to watch them munch the grass and then carried on. Once we rejoined the paved road we noticed a group of cars up ahead. Best signal that something must be visible from the road.
As we drove up we saw them. Two lionesses just walking down the road with their 5 car escort.
We watched them as they strolled along, seemingly oblivious to the red Honda CRV that was tracking their every move. Hanging out the passenger side window I was only about 10 feet away from them. At one point they stopped at a tree to scratch their claws and then continued on their way.
We followed them for a bit, giddy over the sighting and only two hours into our visit to the park. Eventually we tired and went to check out a nearby watering hole. We saw a crocodile, hippo and some birds and then rejoined the road right as the lion convoy was passing. Cracking jokes about the boring lions being old news we made to plow ahead when we saw the lions leave the road and start sniffing the air.
Then we saw what they were after. They had approached a small herd of zebra and impala from downwind. Now this was going to get interesting. The zebra and impala were conveniently grazing in a large open meadow that sloped gently downward from the road. The effect was a perfect natural stage. We pulled around to get a front row seat on the prey and set to waiting.
The lions sniffed for maybe 15 minutes unseen to the zebra and impala. Then one split off. She circled back around us, making a large loop and then reappearing on the other side of the herd, crouched low in the grass. For 20 minutes or so the tension built. The zebra and impala seemed to notice that something was up (perhaps it was the 10 cars pulled over and the chatter of their passengers) but they made no move to flee.
All of a sudden she went for it, chasing a zebra into the trees.
And that’s all we know. Unable to leave the road we had no other angle of vision so we were left to wonder who won the race. We heard some zebra calls and the rest of the herd seemed to circle back to help, but that’s all we saw. Ah well, it was only our second hour in the park after all.
The days that followed brought tons of wildlife sightings. Giraffes, hippos, elephants, more lions, waterbuck, nyala, bushbuck, duiker, rock monitors, crocodiles, scorpions, buffalo, baboons, vervet monkeys, warthogs, rhinos, wildebeest, a jackal, ostriches and about a million other birds including 4 different types of eagles, vultures, storks and more.
Here’s the best of the photos I took, keep in mind that I don’t have a strong zoom on my camera. We just kept turning the corner and finding herds of wildebeest standing in the road. It was incredible.