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A Safari Story, South Africa

If Africa is pure magic, we clearly fell under its spell of wonder.

This was our first time in the continent and with so many countries and options it was hard to figure out where in Africa to visit. Tom and I narrowed it down to 4 nations that interested us: Namibia for Kolmanskop Ghost Town; Kenya for Maasai Mara National Reserve; Ethiopia for the Rock churches in Lalibela or South Africa for the complicated history, Cape Town and Kruger Park. In the end, we chose South Africa, the southern most nation in the African continent.

It was our first time going to a Safari or as locals call ‘Game drives’ and as huge animal lovers, we were beyond excited for this adventure! After a 14 hour flight from Orlando to Dubai, then another 8 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa was our farthest destination to date! Next morning we were picked up by the safari company and still had another 6 hour drive to the Private Game Reserve.

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Every zebra’s pattern is unique like a fingerprint.

TIP: If you book a drive-in safari, expect some delays as things in South Africa are not always on time and the traffic in Joburg can be heavy. Also, be ready to half way through the drive, switch tour vans. In all the paperwork we received from our safari booking, no where did it mention that since the drive is long (6hrs) we would stop at a small town midway and jump into another van, with a different driver. And they might move all the luggage into a cargo van. Yeah, I was freaking out, thinking the worst, ‘Oh my God are we being kidnapped’? Are they gonna steal our bags? WTF is going on? We made sure we had our backpacks with all documents but I was still uneasy the last 3 hours of the drive. But in the end, that is simply how it works, the Safari company has multiple drivers and switch half way to avoid one driver having a super long shift. No big deal #thisisafrica. We arrived at the safari lodge, checked in and literally 5 minutes later the van with everyone’s luggage arrived too. Sigh… Now with my peace of mind back, we were off to our first Safari sunset drive in a private game reserve!

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SAFARI DAY 1: Sunset Drive & Braai Dinner at Private Game Reserve

That first night at the private game reserve was spectacular. Riding around in a safari jeep, spotting impalas, giraffes, zebras and elephants in the distance; and as the beautiful golden sun made its final decent in the South African horizon, a graceful giraffe walked right in front of our shot for a perfect silhouette photo. #Priceless moment. The evening concluded with an outdoor barbeque dinner in the African bush. As night took over, the temperature dropped significantly but we didn’t care. We were surrounded by stars above, and by a curious group of hyennas; of which we could only see the glow of their eyes and faint body shapes with our flashlights. We had to pinch ourselves, it was so surreal!

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Male Kudu (a type of African Antelope) have such beautiful horns!

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SAFARI DAY 2: Bush Walk at Private Game Reserve

We did a bush walk! The notion of danger only creeped in when we saw our safari guide; Elias, pull out a shot gun for ‘just in case of an emergency’. Sadly we only saw some zebras and elephants in the far distance on this day. But the real highlight of this bush walk was smoking elephant dung. YES. We. Smoked. Elephant. Shit. It surprisingly didn’t smell like it came from an animals butt at all! Don’t judge ‘til you try it. Bush people have smoked it for centuries for its medicinal properties.

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FUN FACT: You can smoke elephant dung like a blunt!

Since an elephants’ diet is all plants, once the coconut-sized poop is completely dry you can smoke it and get all the benefits from the different herbs. It relieves headaches, stomach ailments, allergies and more. Tom had an upset stomach  since we left Orlando 2 days prior, and actually felt better after our smoke session. Check out the video above of our safari group passing around the shit blunt and sniffing it!

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He’s not holding a coconut. It’s elephant dung!
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Mama hippo was not happy that we were close to the water’s edge.
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Pumba! and all his cousins came out to Sunday Brunch

SAFARI DAY 3: Kruger National Park Game Drive

Our full adventure day at Kruger National Park turned out to be much warmer and sunny. We saw the most sightings of elephants and giraffes, along with cape buffalos, kudus, cheetahs and lions (from far) at Kruger National Park. It was also different than the private game reserve because at Kruger the roads are paved and the park is huge. At 7,523 sq. miles, it’s bigger than the Grand Canyon (1,902 sq. m), Yellow Stone (3,471 sq. m) and Yosemite (1,169 sq. m) combined! That’s pretty impressive and it means it has a high density of animal populations, including Africa’s Big Five: Elephants, Cape Buffalos, Lions, Rhino and Leopard. Being around all this nature and having majestic elephants and giraffes literally stop traffic and cross right in front of you is an incredible experience. I urge you to save every penny you got and book a safari. It will be a trip of a lifetime.We didn’t get to see any leopards though, they are the hardest animals to spot because they typically are up in the trees and hide well. We also missed the rhinos, the most endangered of them all. Poaching is still a very big problem. PLEASE don’t EVER buy anything made of rhino horns, it only perpetuates this vicious cycle of killing. Rhino horns have NO medicinal value and it will NOT help with impotency like some cultures believe.

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Just crossing the street, don’t mind me.
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Lions relaxing after mating.
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Cape Buffalo, one of Africa’s Big 5 Games.

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SAFARI DAY 4: Sunrise Drive & Blyde River Canyon

On the last day of our safari adventure, we did one final sunrise game drive and afterwards headed back to the airport. But on the way to Joburg our driver did a 30 minute stop at the Blyde Canyon on the border of the Limpopo/Mpumalanga provinces. He promised us that it was like the Grand Canyon of South Africa, and he wasn’t lying. The views were absolutely breathtaking. We were reminded again of how incredibly blessed and lucky we were to be able to work, save, and have a dream trip set into motion. Standing on the edge of this canyon, we were humbled and awed by nature’s beauty once more.

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Photo: Andre Mercier www.instagram.com/mercier.photography. Check out Andre’s Instagram feed for great drone shots!

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An African Safari was something we grew up watching on the Discovery channel. It was the kind of story we would read about in our National Geographic magazine. We always made excuses, because going to Africa is really far, it’s expensive, and a bit scary because of all the unknown. But we realized one day, that life is to short and “you’ll regret more of the things you didn’t do” so we had been saving for a whole year, and we took the leap. We booked the plane tickets and it was the best the decision of the year. So don’t give up on your dreams, work hard and make it happen. We did, you can too. But of course, now we have to plan other trips to explore more places because one time in Africa just isn’t enough. It was just a taste and glimpse into this amazing continent, and now we are left craving more. I hear the safaris in Botswana are incredible…

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WHAT ABOUT YOU? HAVE YOU EVER DONE A SAFARI? WOULD YOU LIKE TO?

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A pair of young male impalas play fighting

 

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