Kruger National Park – Ngala Reserve

Our safari group during our stay! Mike, the guide, on the left and Adam, the tracker in the back by Jamie. Jen and Tony were other Americans we met, as well! Me in the front, Mom and Sherry on the right

Our safari group during our stay! Mike, the guide, on the left and Adam, the tracker in the back by Jamie. Jen and Tony were other Americans we met, as well! Me in the front, Mom and Sherry on the right

Please donate to the very important cause of rhino conservation!  More info in my story below.  Hope for Horns: Rhinos Without Borders

The Kruger National Park is a giant reserve in South Africa where you can go on game drives and all that.  AND it’s only a 45 min flight from our house!

My  mom and my aunt, Sherry, came in last week for a visit and we took them there!  There actually is a private reserve that borders Kruger National Park, and that is where we went.  We stayed in the &Beyond Ngala Tented Safari Camp and it was LEGIT!

IMG_0128Everything you needed was attended to and it was an “all-inclusive” type stay.  All your meals, all your drinks, all your activities, etc.  Our guide, Mike was amazing, too!
He was so knowledgable about the animals and environment and then our tracker, Adam, was the one who listened for animal calls and looked for tracks on the ground.  He sat up front – literally – and Mike drove.  The other guy is another tourist friend from our camp named Tony 🙂

Here are some pics of the camp:

  • Our tent
  • Tent
  • Bar inside the tent! All included!!
  • Outdoor shower
  • Dining Room
  • 5 Star Cuisine
  • 5 Star Cuisine
  • 5 Star Cuisine
  • Cute little note they left each of us 🙂
  • He lives in the camp. We were told he sleeps under our tent and sure enough he did!

IMG_0134Another super cool thing the lodge did was during your safari they would serve you coffee or cocktails in the MIDDLE OF THE BUSH (depending on the time of day)!  It was so awesome!

During our cocktail hour one evening we were standing just meters away from some zebra, wildebeest and impala!  The sunset was incredible, too!

 

 

 

Not only was a warthog or 2 living in the camp with us, but an elephant decided he was thirsty and wanted to check out the pool!  I don’t know why, but I frequently stand in a Forrest Gump stance…whatevs.

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This safari experience was much different than the one we did in Botswana.  Botswana has MASSIVE amounts of animals everywhere you look.  In Kruger, you really need to have someone track them down.  Every time we went out it was like a little tracking hunt (for viewing, not killing, obvs!) and it was so fun!  One morning, Adam heard the sound of Kudu (antelope) making an alarm call and we took off to where the sound came from.  Guess what we found that spooked them….A LEOPARD!!

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IMG_0075I can’t even believe I have typed this much without telling you the best part!  This is something that if I go on 10 more safaris I won’t see…we saw 5 lions hunt impalas (antelope).  Not only did we see them hunting, we saw one get taken down and EATEN!  Here’s how it happened:  Adam and Mike heard on the radio that there was a pride of lionesses hanging out near some impala.  So we bolted.  We get there and there are 4 lionesses watching a pack of impala from a distance.

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Look how close we were!

Then this huge mama lion comes walking up.  Mike told us she had just had a litter of cubs and you could tell.  As she walked up, the other 4 went to greet her which was so cool.  You could tell she was the leader of this group because she was looking at them like “why are you guys just laying around?! I’m hungry!”  She then leads the others in a very strategic move to encircle the impalas.  We followed as best we could, but we lost her for a bit, and stayed near the other 4.  We get a call on the radio the mama lion took down an impala around the bush from where we were!  We drove over there and the poor impala was getting eaten by the big ol’ girl.  The other 4 didn’t know where she was and it took them about 10 minutes to find her.  All the meanwhile we are just sitting there 20 meters away watching her eat this impala.  However, here is what happened when the others found her hoarding the food…

 

 

It was truly unbelievable.  Here are some more still pictures of it.  **Warning: they are somewhat graphic, but nothing you wouldn’t see on some wild animal show on TV.

  • The fight over the last bit starts…
  • the fight continues…
  • and continues…
  • someone got off with a piece of their own!
  • and everyone is happy 🙂

IMG_0131One morning we followed some hyena tracks and saw a mother hyena walking towards then sitting on top of her den!  How nuts is that?!  Would have been so awesome if the baby ones would have come out, but I’ll take what we can get.  We also saw wild dogs AGAIN!  These animals are extremely rare to see and for us to get to seem them both in South Africa and Botswana is amazing.  IMG_0262One was so interested in the truck in front of us and almost jumped in!  But they just play like domestic dogs, sleep and cuddle with each other like domestic dogs…but they hunt and can be quite mean so stay back.

One magnificent animal we got to see on this trip that we didn’t in Botswana was the White Rhino.  The poaching rates are alarming even still.  Sadly 3 weeks ago a mother rhino was poached and her baby was with her trying to protect her.  The rangers came in, albeit too late for the mother, but were able to save the baby and take him to an orphanage in the area in order for him to thrive.  Our guide, Mike is doing a walk that is over 900 km for a fund called Hope for Horns: Rhinos Without Borders.  Please click on the link and donate to this incredibly important cause.  If things keep going on the way they are now, we will not have anymore rhinos within the next decade.  Their goal is to relocate one rhino to a safer area.  Relocating one rhino costs $40,000…please donate and send your support.

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One morning Mike took us on a nature walk.  Now, we thought we were just going to walk somewhere around the camp.  Nope.  We went into the bush.  It was kind of scary and I stayed as close to Mike as I could, since he was the one with the knowledge…and the gun (thank goodness it didn’t come to that!).  I really enjoyed the nature walk, though.  We got to see animals and bugs and flowers and all the other small organisms of the bush that you don’t get to see on a safari truck.  The critter that gets the award for most outstanding is the dung beetle.  This little creature is fascinating!  They are such hard workers.  So they roll this big ball of poop, right.  A female will come a long and examine his work and if she likes what she sees she’ll latch on to the poop ball.  He will then roll the poop ball with her on it to his burial spot.  She will lay eggs in the poop ball he made and then he will bury it all.  Then when the eggs hatch, they have a source of nutrition to eat their way out of and start their new life!  We found one with a female attached and I videoed it for your viewing pleasure:

 

Look at that little guy go!  Impressive.

Other things we saw on the walk were African HibiscusIMG_0171birds

  • Walburg Eagle
  • African Kingfisher

and a frog nest made out of foam!  Once the tadpoles hatch in this foam ball they fall into the water just below and get to swimming!

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We also saw a buffalo carcass…Mike said some lions took it down weeks ago and along with the head, there were several spinal vertebrate scattered throughout the grass.  We saw the head and had to pick it up:

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IMG_0140We saw a bunch more critters and big game during our few days at Ngala!  Elephant, buffalo, hippos (not my fav), baboons, vervet IMG_0133monkeys, warthogs, tortoises…ok we found the first of 2 tortoises, but upon further examination it had been eaten.  Mike checked the shell to make sure a black mamba wasn’t inhabiting it, then showed us the shell pattern.  We also saw a live one scurrying across the road.  So we waited.

IMG_0134This little guy fell into Sherry and Mom’s seat.  I took a picture and with my super awesome selfie stick was able to show Mike what it was, from the back seat to the front seat, to determine if it was poisonous.  It wasn’t.

 

IMG_0069Let me just say that selfie sticks are incredible.  Make fun all you want, but when you need a steady hand or a high up shot when you can’t stand up (ie. when you’re in a safari truck), they come in handy!  My mom came loaded down with gizmos and gadgets!  Our guide looked at her not long after the picture here was taken and said “Karen, you are incontainable!”  Hahaha!  It was hilarious.  I highly recommend you bring a selfie stick with you on vacations, and a bluetooth one is best!

Here is my aunt Sherry with an elephant selfie.

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Here is my mom and my Aunt taking a picture of a hippo in a watering hole next to where we were having coffee.  I stayed in the truck.

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Depending on the creepy-crawly, I like to feel what it’s like when they walk.  Mike was holding this giant millepede and I thought I would like to hold it, too.  It was weird.  And quick!  I kept having to move my hands around so he wouldn’t fall.

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When we were having coffee in the bush, Jamie wanted to see what it was like from the tracker’s spot.  Haha!

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Here are some of our other pictures from the safari.  We had an AMAZING time!  I highly recommend going to any &Beyond lodge when you are in Africa.  They do it completely right!

  • tons of buffalo and one hippo
  • wildebeest
  • baboons
  • cameleon
  • African sunrise
  • clearly an elephant
  • African sunrise
  • dry riverbed
  • buffalo waking up in the riverbed
  • waterbuck
  • baby elephant!
  • sunset cocktails in the bush!
  • my birthday cake 🙂
  • wild dog that is too close
  • napping wild dogs. they had just hunt some impala
  • very last image of the trip! leopard sleeping in a tree
  • unfortunate picture. this is the spine of the poached rhino from a few weeks back.