Friday, January 18, 2008, 03:00 AM
Posted by Lindsay Morgan
Kruger National Park is located in South Africa and Mozambique. It is the largest game reserve. In 1898 a plague hurt the area where the park is now located and the wildlife depleted, this was the main reason the park was originally created to preserve some of South Africa’s natural wildlife. South Africa in general is one of the most species diverse areas of the entire world. Here at Kruger there is definitely a presence as soon as you enter the park, and you know you are somewhere amazing. Entering, there are only a few lights and huts all lined up in a row. We are all staying with two people each in a hut that includes an authentic straw roof. The hut is equipped with two twin beds in a circular room, a small shower area, and an outdoor kitchen. It is one of the most interesting places I have ever stayed in, to say the least. At night time you can hear your neighbors talking, and there is not a light in the distance.
When you enter Skuzuka (the area of camp ground that we are staying in)you drive over an electrical fence and walls that keep the animals out at night time. Although these walls do not keep all the animals out. The camp ground itself is about two hours back into the reserve, so we are really getting the safari experience. The first day we got here Ashley and I returned to our hut to see it covered with monkeys. There were probably thirty monkeys in the trees, on the huts, and babies running around. Although truly I was terrified, I loved it at the same time. There are not many places in the world where you can come home and share your porch with a monkey.
We had the chance to do a morning safari. This was not an eight a.m. wake up call. At 3:30 a.m. we rolled out of bed and managed to find others of our group in the dark, where we headed to get on most of our very first safari. It was pitch black but the anticipation was immense. We piled in with our tour guide Benji, who said that he usually leads walking tours. The idea of a walking tour terrified me to tell you the truth, even though at one point in the safari I did get out of the truck to say I had done it. Although in general being in the huge open air truck in the middle of the night was good enough for me, as I think the rest of the group would agree. We held spot lights to spot the animals in the dark, and a man opened the gates to the camp site for us to roll over the electric fence keeping the animals out. Everyone on the safari seemed to get a little bit more tense. Even though the first hour showed us nothing more than impalas (like deer in the U.S., they are everywhere here), and a bunny rabbit which obviously intrigued none of us, there were many exciting experiences ahead. A highlight of the morning safari was when we were driving down the road and saw three lions, two males and a female. The lions were within a foot of the vehicle we were driving in. They were amazing to see so close in person, and did not seem at all interested in the giant vehicle full of tourists that were invading their area. Later in the safari, we also saw wildebeest and their babies, hyenas, an elephant, and giraffes that walked right across our path! The loss of sleep was showing as we piled out of the safari vehicle at about 7 a.m., but it was worth it.
Although I have been to zoos and seen animals in the woods at home, this is unlike any experience one could ever have. The animals are so close to you and in their natural habitat. There are no walls to protect you and you have to be quiet as to not provoke the animals. It seems to have a much more mutual respect for the animals viewing them in their natural habitat. In zoos in the U.S., the animals are usually sleeping and hiding out, and although you are guaranteed to see them lurking in the shadows, and sleeping on a rock, this does not come close to the experience you encounter when on a safari.
So far we have seen three of the big five: lions, rhinos, and elephants. The hope is to see all during our stay here in Kruger. We have a night safari tonight and are hoping to see more of the animals, especially some of the very rare animals that can only been seen in Kruger such as wild dogs.
Although to visit this park I had to get three shots, take malaria pills, and spent the first night with a blanket over my head terrified of the darkness and bugs, I would do it all again. There is something different about being in Africa and visiting a park than anywhere else I have ever been in the entire world. The wildlife and atmosphere is something that I find hard to display in the pictures I have taken, it is the experiences that will remain with me forever.