The majority of my time in South Africa was spent at the Greater Kruger National Park, where I resided at the Kuname River Lodge and spent 3 out of my 7 days in South Africa viewing animals in their natural habitat. My time at the Kuname River Lodge was easily my favorite and the most memorable part of the trip since it was such an incredible, jaw-dropping experience to see the animals in the wild. It truly was unlike any other vacation I had ever been on in the past. Each day, I went on 2 safari trips (one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon) that lasted about 3 hours each. Since it is currently summer in South Africa and the temperatures can get quite warm in the afternoon, my morning safari drives started at 6am, with 5am wake-up calls, so this was definitely not a vacation where I slept in! Even though I am usually not an early riser, I had no problems waking up at 5am for those 3 days (I credit that to my jet -lag and my un-containable excitement for the safaris).
My family and I, along with 2 other guests staying at the lodge, were accompanied by a guide and a tracker on each trip to seek out the big 5 (elephants, lions, water buffalos, leopard, rhino) animals, along with any others that lived in Greater Kruger National Park. Since the closest I had ever been to a wild animal prior to this trip was behind a glass window at the Bronx Zoo, I definitely had my share of reservations concerning my safety around these animals. However, I quickly learned that because the safaris run twice a day, everyday, the animals have become accustomed to the open vehicles driving by and are not threatened or fazed by our presence. Any initial concerns were squashed after my first safari ride! That being said, there have been a few moments where an elephant or rhino got a little too close for comfort and times where my heart pounded a little faster than normal, but I wouldn't trade that adrenaline for the world because seeing these beautiful animals a mere 10 feet away only added to the experience! The animals are not confined to a specific area, so it was a fun challenge to track them down based on their prints, sounds their prey/themselves make, and by knowing where they naturally linger. I saw familiar animals including zebras, giraffes, lions, elephants, but also some unique creatures I never even heard of before, such as wildebeests and kudus. The three days I spent at Kuname River Lodge was honestly such an indescribable adventure and I cannot wait to be back in a few short years! If you ever take a trip to South Africa, book multiple safari tours. I promise you won't regret it. P.S. Keep an eye out for my final South Africa travel diaries post out later this week :)