I think I found God.
You have to rise earlier than you probably ever have in your life. You get to reflect on the scenery you saw the night before. The drive to Kruger National Park from Johannesburg was an all day adventure. The scenery, the hills, the amazingly untouched and unspoiled trees were the greenest trees I’d ever seen in my life. I’m not an outdoorsy kind of girl but I was absolutely smitten by what my eyes were seeing. I was convinced that somewhere under those trees was where God must live.
The day begins at sundown with some hot coffee and a mild breakfast snack. The clothes are light, airy, yet covering most of your body parts. A hat is recommended with sunglasses to shield you from the height of the sun as it melts you. But there’s a morning breeze. There is faint lighting from some of the jeeps and a couple of reflectors leading to an outhouse bathroom stall.
You board a jeep with a handful of people. The morning starts off slow. What they don’t tell you is that you are riding around for hours across a park that is the size of North Carolina and South Carolina combined. Right out of the gate we saw wild dogs. Then we saw impalas, which were amazing to see. Next we saw a rhino crossing the road. It was calm and appeared as if it didn’t even notice the amount of people starring at it. The sun began to rise. Slow and steady after hours of watching giraffes and zebras run after smaller animals, I began to understand distinctly how this safari adventure was vastly different than the zoo.
After about two hours in, our tour guide received a radio signal that there was a lion lying deep in the bush taking a nap under a tree. It was something out of a movie. She was incredibly large and deeply unbothered. We were just feet away from her yet it was if were not even there.
I began to fall asleep in the peaceful hours of watching all these animals; many of whom I didn’t know existed crossed our paths. And then, we saw a baby elephant cross the road. I remember thinking How do we know she’s a baby? She looked large to me and definitely like all the elephants I’d seen at the zoo. She didn’t seem dangerous at all and although we were very close to her, I was not scared. Until. Someone in our jeep pointed out the seven elephants that were creeping up on our jeep from the rear. We heard a loud moan. Startled, our tour guide/driver told us not to make sudden moves and to whisper. There were no camera lights to be flashed. Apparently they were protecting the baby elephant. They were huge. They were overwhelming. They smelled like something I’d never smelled before yet I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them. I just kept thinking of the genius of life.
After such an incredible experience, after seeing all the monkeys, the buffalo and the many more giraffe, someone in on the jeep shouted “A leopard!” And there it was, the fastest thing in the entire park. It’s sleek and smooth and so full of life. I just sat there and took it all in. I was in awe.
I recommend Kruger National Park not only because the tour guides are interested in helping you find the “Big Five” but because it is a life changing experience. There is no place that can compare to being on a safari all day and all night. It is both terrifying and magnificent all at the same time. It is really a journey of a lifetime.