A Safari Christmas in Kruger National Park

Elephant herd in Kruger

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be spending Christmas 2013 spotting wild elephants and zebras all over a reserve in Africa, I would have just smiled and thanked you for the nice daydream. Definitely, this is one of the most coolest ways I’ve spent the holidays ever.

Antelopes and zebras in Kruger

I’ve always thought that I would have to pull off a bank heist before I could ever afford a safari. Staying at the rest camps in Kruger National Park was amazingly affordable; plus, the view & surroundings were hard to beat.

Minutes after landing in the Nelspruit (KMIA) airport, we jumped into our rental car and made haste to the Paul Kruger gate to make it before nightfall. After a long drive, we finally made it onto Skukuza camp, and the hearty dinner (plus a bottle of Castle, of course) in the camp’s restaurant made all of the weariness go away. The smiles from the cheery staff were telltale signs that you were staying somewhere that was hard not to love. On our first night in Kruger, we took advantage of the stunning clear sky by stargazing right outside our hut.

We finally got to see Kruger in the sunshine, as we drove from Skukuza to the Lower Sabie camp the next day. Just after a few minutes of cruising and we were already gushing over our first wild sighting — a family of antelopes! Later on, we would realize that antelopes were everywhere in Kruger; their graceful gait and sharp eyes would still catch your gaze though every now and then.

Look closer and you'll see who the real boss in this part of the wild.
Look closer and you’ll see who the real boss in this part of the wild.

The safaris on TV made it look so easy though; there were long drives where all you could spot were trees and grass, and you had to hold on to your patience before the next sighting. If you’re going to try your luck on a self-drive, I’d recommend for you to prepare a fun playlist or to stock up on good jokes and stories for the ride. Don’t worry — when you do spot the wildlife, when you have to stop for the occasional elephant family crossing the road, when you panic a bit when the baboons get too close, it’ll be all worth it.

Elephants!

Hail the mighty king.

Look, we found grandpa!

We spent the rest of our stay in tents at the Lower Sabie camp. Talk about a gorgeous view -- if you're lucky enough to get a perimeter tent, you'll be greeted at sunrise by the hippos, buffaloes, and elephants grazing by the river next to your tent. The camp also offers a boardwalk along the river, so that you can watch the wildlife for once while not inside a vehicle.
We spent the rest of our stay in tents at the Lower Sabie camp. Talk about a gorgeous view — if you’re lucky enough to get a perimeter tent, you’ll be greeted at sunrise by the hippos, buffaloes, and elephants grazing by the river next to your tent. The camp also offers a boardwalk along the river, so that you can watch the wildlife for once while not inside a vehicle.
We were on our way for another day of self-drive safari, and we stopped for a look at Sunset Lake right outside Lower Sabie. We almost missed this towering stunner, hiding behind the trees! We pulled over closer for a look, and the calm giant continued to contently chew on his breakfast.
We were on our way for another day of self-drive safari, and we stopped for a look at Sunset Lake right outside Lower Sabie. We almost missed this towering stunner, hiding behind the trees! We pulled over closer, and the calm giant continued to contently chew on his breakfast.

Sunset

Baby black rhino trying to find the rest of its herd.
Baby black rhino trying to find the rest of its herd.
I couldn't figure out at first why I was almost hypnotized at the sight of this lone elephant grazing in the open plain. Only when it was pointed out that the elephant only had one tusk did I understand.
We came across this lone elephant grazing in the open plain. I couldn’t figure out at first why I was almost hypnotized at its sight; only when it was pointed out that the elephant only had one tusk did I understand.
Fancy pony in pajamas.
Fancy pony in pajamas.

Kudu!

On our last day in the reserve, in the last few minutes when we were just about to leave through Crocodile Gate, we spotted quite a number of zebras, antelopes and giraffes, all just grazing together. Remembering that all of these animals are wild, and that you’re simply a visitor in their kingdom, can be a bit overwhelming. The world is out there, simply waiting to stun you.

It's been wild, Kruger!



Casualty Assessment:

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