Lions and Leopards and Rhinos, Oh My! - My Family Travels

About 4 years ago, my family took an unforgettable vacation to South Africa where we participated in a three day safari. When my family took this trip, we were living in Madrid, Spain. Our plane tickets cost about $1750 per person, but a ticket from New York City, New York would cost about the same.

Day 1: We flew into Johannesburg, South Africa (after a 15 hour flight!) and then took a small eight-person plane to Kruger National Park.  We stayed at the Djuma Private Game Reserve (which cost about 10,000 South African Rand per night- about $1,100). The accommodations were two-person huts that encircled a communal hut where we had dinner and activities. At night we weren’t allowed to leave our huts in case wild animals were roaming! After dinner, we went on our first safari. The best part was when we encountered a pride of lions that were getting ready to hunt. I was so scared- my knees were shaking! It was pretty amazing, though, to be so close to wild animals. We were in an open jeep, and it was terrifying to think that an animal could just jump in the vehicle.

Day 2: We woke up at 4:30 AM for our first morning safari! Heading out, the first animals that we saw were large herds of impala along with a few zebras. Throughout the day, we saw rhinos, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, lions, and even a leopard! One of the funniest parts of the day was when we were viewing a herd of Cape buffalo, and one of them kept scratching its rear end on some tree branches! When we got back to camp, we rested for a while and then went out on a bush walk. A bush walk is basically like a safari, except that you are walking around without the jeep. Our guide carried a gun in case any wild animals charged us. Later that night, we went on another safari and saw hyenas! We were parked in a pretty precarious area as we were watching and listening to a leopard eat its kill up in a tree, and suddenly we looked behind the jeep and realized that a few hyenas were watching us.

Day 3: Today, we woke up again at 4:30 AM and went for another safari. The early morning safaris were unique in that not only did you see many animals, but you also saw a stunning variety of colorful birds. When we finished up with the safari, our guide took us to visit his local hometown, and we were also able to see all of the children at their school. It was amazing to see such a different way of living and a new culture. Later that night, we went our last safari where we saw a pride of lions sleeping and a family of elephants. On the ride back to camp, the guide let me sit in the tracker seat of the jeep!

The next day, we departed from Kruger National Park, and I was sad to go. I feel so grateful to have had such an amazing opportunity. This trip was such a new experience in that it wasn’t the typical tourist attraction. I’ve seen countless cathedrals and historic buildings, yet this was something completely different. For once I was marveling at Mother Nature and all of its beauty instead of man-made structures. It was truly awe-inspiring and I will never forget it!

(Note: All of the pictures were taken by my family.)

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