Africa · Travel

A South African Safari Sojourn – Our Garonga Safari Camp Adventure

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Clambering up onto the jeep, bedecked in multiple shades of khaki, the anticipation was running high. We had done our reading, we had listened to everyone’s advice, and finally, here we were. South Africa is famous for its abundance of wildlife and we had travelled from the first chills of winter, across the equator, to the sunny climate of the southern hemisphere to find some. Our Garonga safari camp adventure was definitely the best way to try this magical experience for the first time.

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Little Garonga

Little Garonga is part of a three camp group based in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve. This is a smaller reserve near Kruger, South Africa’s most famous park. This is not a self drive park so staying in one these gorgeous properties is a grand plan. They are all-inclusive, and that includes food, drinks and fame drives. We were so lucky to have amazing guides, provided by Garonga, that were knowledgeable, respectful of animals and other Safari jeeps and were lots of fun too.

Check out our full Little Garonga review here.

They Never Forget

As we entered the game reserve, the first thing we noticed was that the dry heat had wreaked havoc on the landscape. The park was parched and bare. Trees lay on their sides, which we just couldn’t work out. Had a wind storm passed this way? Our guide and tracker filled us in. Once the trees are picked bare by the animals, hungry elephants push them over. They can then enjoy the roots which are packed full of nutrients. We encountered one hungry male doing just that and the power of the creature was immense.

We had another encounter with a single bull elephant doing the same thing the following day. As we drove by, along the dusty track, he followed us. He was a grumpy chap. Turns out, he wasn’t hungry (or hangry). This poor guy was just in search of a lady friend. He harrumphed quite close to us, and the guide decided to take evasive action. We careered into some bushes on the side of the track. It was the closest we got to a close call.

Taking a Safari? Find out what to pack for safari in our handy packing list here.

The Prey

Along the way, we got to meet some of Africa’s most famous residents. On our second morning, we spotted some long necks reaching for leaves in the distance. As the jeep approached we noticed that there were also zebras winding their way through the area as well.

Did you know that Burchell’s zebras like to walk in single file?

These two sets of species like to co-exist as it gives them a little extra protection from the predators of the area. Plus, as they feast on different parts of the tree, they are not competing for food. Giraffes, at up to six feet tall, like to strip acacia trees from the top down. Zebras, being a little more squat will take the leaves from further down.

Did you know that the ancient Egyptians had a giraffe hyroglyphic?

The Predators

Speaking of predators. We stopped to look at some vultures, perched ominously in a tree by the road. As we tried to snap a photo (very difficult against the bright blue sky) our tracker, was using his amazing eyesight to spot something a little more exciting nearby. What none of us had seen, was a pride of lion twenty metres into the bushes.

The jeep crunched through the branches to bring us just three metres from the group of big cats. There were about 6 lions and their cubs. Some were basking in the sun, whilst others were finishing the last remnants of a recent kill. It was thrilling to be so close. They weren’t interested in us at all, bellies full and with the heat of the day leaving them lazy.

We could have watched them all day, but had to make tracks. As we left the scene, we saw the hyenas beginning to prowl the edges of the area but we had an even better hyena sighting when we visited their den. Until the cubs are grown, their families live in underground dens. It was our good luck that everyone was out and about when we drove past.

The cubs were incredibly inquisitive. They wandered around the jeep by themselves while mum rested nearby. This guy even had a little chew on the tyre to find out what it was all about.

Over our five game drives, we saw so much beautiful fauna. Springboks, impalas and tiny little deer darted in front of the jeep. We met a beautiful leopard tortoise. Birds and butterflies flitted past. These were all lovely and not at all scary, but I was definitely more nervous with the next spotting.

The Big Bruisers

Meet the chubby guys, the ones that you don’t want charging you, whose centre of gravity would trump yours every time. First, were the hippos. We heard them before we got to the waterhole. They grunt and snort surprisingly loudly. Now, don’t be fooled by there dainty swimming, or chilled out demeanour. If a hippo takes a disliking to you, you are in trouble. They kill more people than any other large creature in Africa. With this in mind, we didn’t get too close.

Back on dry land, we were lucky enough to see, rhinos; black and white! I was over the moon, knowing that rhinos are so rare and having very fond memories of a tangerine rhino soap for The Body Shop as a kid. The rhinos were slowly wandering aroud in search of lunch and seemed so relaxed. Mind you, we were quite far away.

You’ll notice that this black rhino still has its horn. Some places have resorted to de-horning their rhinos to protect them. but in Makalali, these big guys have around the clock, armed poacher patrols.

The white rhino was out with its little one. I was willing it to come closer but it was clearly shy and kept hiding behind the brush.

Did you know that when the locals described white rhinos, they were actually saying “weit rhinos”? Weit means wide in Afrikaans. If you look closely at the two species, the black rhino has quite a pointy mouth, where the white is…well…wider!

Final Thoughts on our Garonga Safari

Getting up early, and hammering around in a jeep was a little exhausting but it was so rewarding. To get up close and personal with such interesting animals was such a privilege. I still can’t quite believe that we had the chance to do this, and to stay at Garonga. Stopping at sunset and enjoying a sundowner drink along with delicious snacks (biltong and plenty of it please) we felt like VIPs.

Let’s face it, even if you don’t tick off your big five, you are still gifted with skies like this. The advantage of getting up and early and going out later is the chance to indulge in sunrise and sunset everyday.

We just made sure that between our 05:00 start, and 23:00 bedtime, we enjoyed the chance to chill out in our beautiful lodge. (We fully intended to nap but unlimited Savannah Light, a plunge pool of our own and a hammock to relax in we’re just too exciting).

Rosie xx

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