I stepped up to the passport control booth as the immigration officer in front of me was laughing with one of his colleagues. Their laughter was infectious and as I handed the officer my passport I chuckled too. Still smiling he asked me if I understood their language. I said no, but that I understood laughter. Without skipping a beat he said, “That’s why I love Americans. They’re like us, not so reserved. When you’re happy you smile. Welcome to South Africa and please enjoy your visit!” So wonderful!
We arrived in South Africa after a quick night in Abu Dhabi and met up with a friend of mine from camp, Lolly, and her fiancé Catherine. We can’t thank them enough for being such great hosts. Not only was it wonderful to catch up, but they took us for a delicious meal at a local African restaurant and then on a bit of a driving tour around Johannesburg. Things just kept getting better and better.
The next morning we picked up our rental car and set off for Kruger. Elephants, rhinos, lions, buffalo (four out of the big five), hippos, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, warthogs, springboks, baboons, monkeys, and more…yep, we saw them all!!! Seriously, within five minutes of passing through the gates we had already seen Zebras and a welcome committee of warthogs was waiting for us next to our bungalow. We spent three nights in the park setting out early each morning to catch as much wildlife as possible. On our first full morning we drove through the southern part of the park and not only was the scenery gorgeous, but we must have seen a different type of animal every few miles. We spent the first two nights at the Skukuza camp and then drove north a bit into “cat country” to spend our last night at Satara. The nickname didn’t disappoint and we managed to spot a number of lions on our way (next time we go we’re on the lookout for Cheetah and Leopards too).
After leaving the camp we decided to spend an extra night in Blyde River Canyon before heading back to Johannesburg (thanks to the great advice from Liz Korb). It was totally different but as beautiful a landscape as we’d seen so far. Our favorite part was definitely the pre-dinner entertainment of Zebras wandering on the lawn. They were clearly used to people and came within a few feet of Greg and I before getting bored (and probably realizing we didn’t have food for them) and strolling away. The next morning we drove back to Johannesburg via the aptly named “panorama route”. Again totally different and again totally gorgeous. A perfect way to end the first part of our trip before heading to Cape Town.