Those close to me know that I’m a pretty intense animal lover. My travel partner, Erin, would probably substitute “lover” with “freak,” but that’s neither here nor there. So, when given the opportunity to go on a 4-day safari in Kruger National Park, I was pumped! Erin, Liz (Erin’s friend from college who met up with us in Johannesburg), and I spent seven hours a day driving around, looking for wild animals. Kruger covers over 7,500 square miles (6,300 more than Yosemite), so there are many nooks and crannies where the 3,000 rhinos, 1600 African lions, 600 leopards, 120 cheetahs, and hundreds of other species of wildlife could be hiding. We were extremely lucky to see all members of the Big 5—elephants, lions, water buffalo, rhinos, and a leopard (the group was identified by hunters of old as they were the most dangerous to pursue). Each time we approached a sleeping lion, grazing giraffe, or lumbering elephant I nearly squealed with delight. Ok, most of the time I did squeal. You can only imagine the noises that escaped from my inner child when we witnessed two elephants charging a male and female lion who came too close to their babies. Get ‘em Mommas! 10 minutes later, we came within 20 feet of both the largest male elephant I’ve ever seen and a male lion that may have been the inspiration for Scar in the Lion King. Seriously. It was SO COOL!!
Our tour guide, Kylie from Outlook Safaris, was extremely knowledgeable and not only provided information on every animal we encountered, but also put up with a lot of ridiculous questions from the three of us (No, female elephants do not do #1 and #2 out of the same hole). Below I’ve outlined my favorite tidbits of information that we learned during our adventure in the bush. I will definitely be back in the future, perhaps as a professional animal tracker. A girl can always dream.
The Animals of Kruger – Fun Facts
- Elephants are pregnant for 22 months. That’s almost two years! The baby (or babies if they’ve had multiple over the years) then stay with the mother until they’re around 18-years-old. I wonder if that’s when mom threatens to start charging rent and hassling them to get a job.
- Hyaena pups are black and look like a mix between a lion cub and a pitbull. That would be quite the surprise for the kids if “Scruffy” turned out to be a spotted hyaena about 6 months in. “But mom, you can’t take back my Christmas present! We’re so attached!”
- Zebras have a parasite in their stomach that aids with digestion and also makes them look perpetually fat. You will never see a skinny zebra, even when their health is deteriorating. Instead, their awesome mohawk will go limp. What a bum deal—perpetually fat when you’re young with a limp coif when you’re old. Sounds like they could commiserate with Donald Trump.
- Impala are the main food source for predators in the park. They’re everywhere. If you’re lucky enough to see a kill, it’s most likely an innocent impala. Maybe they’ll get lucky and veganism will gain steam like it did in The Mission and Portland. All we need is some food trucks and fixie bikes and the hipsters and their food ideals will follow suit, right?
- The lions have found that giraffes lose foot traction when chased onto the paved roads, and have begun to use this as a hunting tactic. I think I smell a burgeoning business opportunity for giraffe running shoes. They have hiking boots for dogs these days. Or, perhaps I should say, my mom has hiking boots for dogs these days. Ok, maybe it’s not such a solid idea. Next…
My favorite photos have been added to the PHOTOS page. You should also check out Liz’s blog, as she captured some amazing shots and has lots of funny stories to share about this outing and others from her time on the road. http://letseatsomebugs.blogspot.com. Enjoy and let me know if you’re on-board for the next safari. I’ll start making us matching hot pink t-shirts so the predators see us coming! Hey, it worked in high school.