Checking a Safari off the Bucket List

Going on a safari was hands down the coolest experience we had in South Africa and probably thus far, so I’ll make this short, sweet and filled with wildlife pictures.  An African safari is probably on a lot of people’s bucket lists, and rightfully so, as it is pure magic when you see those animal beauties roaming in the wild. A few months before we left for our trip we made the decision to invest in a safari at the end of our South Africa leg, because how many times would we really be in Africa again? Carpe diem. Through numbing amounts of research, we found there are safaris of all calibres depending on what type of ‘comfort’ you want on a trip. There is a modest self-driving day trip on the cheap all the way up to luxury resort lodges with infinity pools. Our particular 4-day excursion was right in the middle, comfortable with a touch of camping charm. We booked with Wild Planet Safari, a smaller more boutique safari company that seemed to care about their client’s experience above all else. Instead of being with 8 others in a crowded vehicle, our trip was a very personal experience with it only including Adam, myself, our guide and a cook/guide in training.


Kruger is a huge (7,500 square miles) and very well known wildlife game reserve in northeast South Africa boarding Mozambique, where the “Big 5” live abundantly; elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and water buffalo.  During our 4 days/3 nights, we were fortunate enough to see 4 of the 5 excluding the elusive white rhino. The white African rhino has very sadly been a frequent victim of poachers in search of their highly valuable ivory horn, and we were wondering if their natural movement patterns may have shifted because of that. So although we didn’t see a rhino, we definitely saw a gaggle of other animals that made up for it.

Eh hem: zebra, water buffalo, giraffe, leopard, wild dog, kudu, springbok, waterbuck, impala, elephant (SO MANY), lion, warthog, steenbok, porcupine, hyena, hippo, mongoose, nyala, genet, crocodile, baboon, monkey, wildebeest, jackal, African wild cat, guinea fowl, and too many beautiful exotic birds to count.

On safari day 1, our phenomenal guide Gibson picked us up in a 4×4 at our Johannesburg hotel bright and early and we were off on the 5-hour journey to Kruger National Park. During our trip, we stayed at two different rest camps in Kruger, Skukuza (1 night) and Satara (2 nights). Both camps were similar in accommodations with simple circular chalets with charming thatch roofs and grills that we put to good use. Most amenities were equal between the camps, however, Satara may have a slight edge because we were able to see animals roaming from the fence during the day. The safari itself basically consisted of the schedule below for 4 days:

5:30am – coffee and rusks (similar to a biscotti)
6am – 2-hour game drive
9am – homemade breakfast by our wondrous cook Benjamin
10:30am – afternoon game drive
2pm (depending on how long we stalk animals) – homemade lunch
4pm – evening game drive
7pm – DELICIOUS homemade dinner and South African wine

Every day was honestly so refreshing and exciting because we never knew what we were going to see and Gibson and Ben were ninjas at spotting and naming animals along with listing every detail about their species and tendencies. Our very own in-car living and breathing Google.

Our guide Gibson busy spotting animals hiding in the bush.

On our very last game of the trip, we were blessed with SUCH an awesome close-up spotting of a sleepy lion pride. At first, we came across a cute young lion sunbathing in a grassy area, so we parked with our excitement peaked and binoculars raised although we were only 35 yards away! Then as we panned across the tall grass, we spotted 5 additional lions lounging. We were ecstatic. We sat there for a while in awe and then saw two wildebeest galloping uphill toward the pride. Well… the sleepy lions heard this too. One by one each lion poked it’s head up as the unassuming prey came closer. This had to be the most exciting moment of the entire safari, as we thought we were going to see a hunt! All the lions stood up, even revealing a 6th, fixated on the wildebeest. We watched for probably an hour with anticipation but apparently, the lions got hot and tired of waiting for their would-be lunch to come closer and laid back down. Since it was our last game drive and time wasn’t on our side, we had to head out but both Adam and I could have staked out there all day waiting for the lions to pounce… or move or purr or do anything.

What an awesome 4 days. Thanks for reading, enjoy los animales 🙂
Chels and Adam

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We're semi-newlyweds living in the great city of Cincinnati, except for this year as different parts of the world will be our home. Although different in our own ways, we both share common loves of cooking, the outdoors, volleyball, skiing, delicious food scenes, travel (obviously) and our awesome dog Bentley. Adam works as a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams focusing on and passionate about investment properties. When he's not making calls, renovating homes around the city or building his local Key Property Partners team, you can find him on one of Cincinnati's many sand volleyball courts, year-round. In fact, he tried to bring THREE volleyballs on this 10-month trip (luggage limitations got him down to 2... I'll keep you posted on how he survives). Adam is also a foodie and loves ordering the strangest thing on every menu. If I had to sum him up in 4 words it would be: determined, practical, thoughtful and curious. I, the likely frequent author of this blog, am an environmental graphic designer for m+a architects. What that mostly means if you aren't familiar, is that I design environments that communicate information, a brand or a feeling. Installations, signage, wall graphics, custom art, and so on and so forth. It's pretty awesome work. When I'm not working, I'm usually putting my creative juices to good use and DIY'ing something around our newly renovated home or sending Adam pictures of adoptable dogs. I love otters, wine tastings, a good charcuterie board and keeping an active lifestyle. Adam's summary of me in four words is: enthusiastic, determined, adventurous, and athletic (finally, he admitted it!)

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