Monday, October 31, 2011

Johannesburg, South Africa Part 2- Kruger National Park Safari, Farm life in South Africa and Hiking in the Magaliesberg Mountains

I am a little late getting this post finished but I am determined to get it done within the next week. The problem is that I came home from South Africa on a Tuesday and left for China on Friday. So I am way behind.

I am not sure what my favorite part of this trip was. It was just all so different. Staying with locals both in the city and out on a farm was definitely a treat, but I have to say that a Kruger National Park Safari is a must do. It was just amazing!

There are different ways to do a Safari. In my case I booked one online. We stayed at a nice hotel outside the park, but the first day they picked us up in Johannesburg and drove us out to the park (about 4 hours) and then the first thing we did was an afternoon safari drive. The second day was sight seeing and the third day we did an early morning drive in the park and then we checked out of the hotel and they drove us back to Johannesburg.

There are other Safari's where you can actually stay in the park and hike with armed guards or you can get special permits to hunt.

The first thing we saw was an Elephant, there is nothing like seeing it in the wild. I am ruined for Zoo's forever

This big hippo was sunning with some rare bird by it but I can't remember the name

Hippo's and birds


It was fun to get pictures of two different animals at once. This is an Impala with an Elephant in the background

Giraffes were awe inspiring

An Elephant watering 

We got a rare sighting of a leopard. They are nocturnal animals and so most people never see them. Our tour guide who was from Germany got all excited to see this leopard 

He walked right in front of the truck and looked right at me. The guide cautioned us not to hang anything outside the truck


Do you see Mr. Crocodile?

We saw some beautiful birds. This one is a Glossy Starling


And at the end of that day we were treated to the most beautiful South African Sunset!

We stayed at The Casa Del Sol hotel. It was very nice and gated with armed guards so even though I was on my own I felt quite safe

They had some nice suites

I bought some snacks for the trip. I couldn't resist trying the ostrich jerky which was the toughest I have ever had and the Guava fruit leather. Delicious!

The hotel had it's own built in lawn mower

I met Olga on this tour and we immediately became friends. She is a Dentist from NYC. Her story was quite amazing. She is originally from Romania and when the communists took over she escaped in a car. Her French husband was an engineer and had built an area for her to hide where the gas tank should have been. She divorced her not very nice husband after they emigrated to the U.S. and she got her education and raised her two daughters by herself there in New York. Remarkable Lady!

South Africa has some amazing flowers and plants I have never seen

Enjoying my own little patio

The blossoms from this tree kind of remind me of Valentines Day

On the second day of the Safari our guide picked us up and took us out for a day of sight seeing. Apparently you don't have to be in a game reserve in Africa to see animals.

We passed through an area of Eucalyptus tree harvesting

We stopped at God's Window where you can just about see to the end of the world if its not cloudy and hazy

Most of the roads are two lane but that doesn't stop people from driving fast. Everyone moves over to the shoulder so you can pass. What nice drivers! 

We stopped at the Blyde River Canyon Overlook. This is the beginning of the Drakensburg Mountain range and I read in a book that J.R. Tolkien was from South Africa and it is thought that he got his inspiration for the terrain of "Lord of the Rings" from these mountains.

This is a Skink Lizzard

Always shopping at these tourist areas. Love it

This is called a Pom Pom tree and is very rare. And I got to see it in bloom!

We stopped at the Pot Holes and these were cool. There were 3 bridges you could cross over exploring

Then we got to see a Lisbon Waterfalls

And my favorite- a Hippo crossing sign. I asked the driver about it and he said that there was water back in there and that there were often Hippos in it but we couldn't see it for the foliage

After sightseeing, we had a few hours at the pool

We had the place to ourselves since the tourist season is just starting. There was a conference at the hotel but we never saw anyone

Then we saw some Monkeys in the trees by the pool. This was cool because I never got any shots on the safari's

After swimming, I talked Olga into going to the Elephant Sanctuary that was right next door

They had some interesting plants

This is Casper. He is about 25 years old and very big

They made me feel his tongue and he even gave me a kiss. It was more like a suction hose than a kiss

I got to feel his feet and ears etc.

I even got to lead him around by the nostrils but he kept pulling his trunk away to swat flies and flipped stuff all over me!

Then we got to ride the elephants. Olga was not intending to ride but she was very brave and did anyway

The last day we got up early for a Safari drive back into Kruger. It is early spring here and the rains haven't come yet so it's still pretty brown

We saw lots of Giraffes this time. It was awesome

An Impala which is by far the most populated animal in Kruger

This poor Giraffe was old and had arthritis

We stopped at a high point and everywhere we looked we could only see the park. The guide made sure there were no lions around and then let us get out of the truck. I know the pink is a bit much but I forgot my warm sweater for the airplane and this was all they had at the airport

This is Kruger as far as you can see

A Yellow Billed Hornbill

This guy looks tough


We saw the Hippos again. We also saw Rhinos but they were so deep in the grass I couldn't get good pictures
The South African Rand has the "Big Five" on it. The only one missing is the Leopard. They are called the Big Five because they are considered the most dangerous animals to hunt. 

On the way home we stopped at a memorial to the Boer War

For lunch I had Barbecue Chicken and Banana Pizza. It was delicious!

On the last day I went with my sister and her family to a private 20,000 acre game reserve that had the "Big Five" It was awesome for me because I got good pictures of animals that I didn't get at Kruger. Lions, Crocodiles and Rhinos. We saw Rhino's at Kruger but they were mostly covered by grass. These private reserves are all over South Africa and convenient. 

Lion marks

We saw three female lions but no males. It was an amazing experience

She did this just for me!

We saw a full sized Crocodile 

And we saw two fantastic Rhinos. I've always had a fascination with Rhinos and so this was quite an experience for me

They have a park with the Big Five in Krugersdorp where we were staying that you could drive through in your own car and see lots of animals but last year they lost their one Rhino. A helicopter came in in the middle of the night, killed it quickly, took the tusk and left. They can't stop that kind of poaching

They have these thorn bushes all over that are awe-inspiring to say the least

Farm Life and Hiking in the Magaliesberg Mountains

We stayed with Oma and Opa out on their farm property about an hour out of Johannesburg. It was a lot of fun. The kids rode horses, I took pictures of birds and we all went hiking

Oma's sister lives just next door


Norman, Doug's other brother lives with his family near the farm too and his kids love horses. This horse is named Utah

They even do tricks

A typical South African Breakfast

Emily and Lloyd (their English names) are from Malawi and they live and work on the farm as well. They were very nice people 

Emily showed us her house

This is the garden they tend

We saw this flower field on the way to some shopping

There is some pretty cool stuff in Africa

My reflection shot

I bought some earrings from this nice lady

Doug had as much fun bargaining as David did in China

I tried on a traditional African outfit

Hiking in the Magaliesberg Mountains

Apparently everyone ignores signs in South Africa even stop signs!

These mountains have the largest population of leopards in Africa. We didn't see any but they have hiked and camped here a lot and they have seen some giraffes and other animals but no leopards

There is evidence of them though. This was a sheep from a farm down below that got dragged up here by a leopard.

On the right is actually a massive British grave from the Anglo Boer War. The Boers knew these mountains pretty well and so even though they lost the war eventually they didn't lose it here in these mountains

My Shadow picture for the day

There were some lovely places to rest 

We hiked in some pretty tight places 

Norman and his son Joshom both jumped off. It must have been close to 70 feet high

The hike back was fun too. Right Oma?

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