April 6th
written by Alonna

When we added South Africa to our RTW itinerary, I imagined going on a safari in an open jeep on rough dirt roads, with lions and tigers roaming around the car and the guide holding a riffle, just in case. But it turns out that in South Africa, going on Safari is like spending the weekend at Yellowstone, just with different animals and scenery.

Self-drive Safari

Self-drive Safari

How it works

Animal viewing from the car

Animal viewing from the car

We visited Kruger National Park, a huge game reserve east of Johannesburg. You could call this a “self-drive safari” because visitors simply drive their own cars around all day looking for animals. The animals are anywhere and everywhere, and most of the time we spotted them crossing the road, or near a river or water hole. You’re not allowed to get out of your car except in a few designated areas, but with all the animals around you wouldn’t want to anyway.

So Ben and I rented a car and stayed 3 nights inside of the park in a private bungalow with a small kitchen and grill. Each day we would head out, armed with cameras and binoculars, in search of wild animals…


During four days of driving around Kruger, we saw almost every animal imaginable. The most common sightings were impala (a type of antelope), elephants, and giraffe. We also saw plenty of zebra, wildebeest, warthogs, baboons, vervet monkeys, hippos, rhino, water buffalo, and kudu. And finally, we were lucky to see some of the more rare animals: a pride of lions sleeping on the road (sunrise drive), a leopard hanging out in a tree, three cheetah (barely visible through our binoculars), some ostrich, and a hyena nursing a pup.

Interesting Encounters

Here’s some of our memorable experiences at Kruger:

  • Driving on a dirt road, we came across a pack of about 20 water buffalo. They were slowly grazing and making their way from one side of the road to the other. With nowhere to go but forward, we inched our way towards the heard, eventually becoming surrounded by buffalo. Most of them didn’t seem to mind, but we got a few very intimidating stares. In particular, one buffalo stood in the middle of the road directly in front of us. She was protecting her calf, and glared at us without budging. Luckily, after a few minutes she shooed her calf off the road and let us pass.

    Face-off with a water buffalo

    Face-off with a water buffalo

  • My favorite animals at Kruger were elephants. We saw plenty of them, and I enjoyed each and every encounter. We usually found them crossing the road in groups of 10 or more, with at least a few adorable baby elephants in tow. They’re huge animals, and look so funny as they use their trunk to pull leaves off the trees and put it in their mouths.
  • Ben’s favorite animals were rhinos. They remind me of dinosaurs with their tough skin and horns. On one of our guided drives, we came across a group of three white rhinos. Apparently intimidated by us, they would trot about 20 feet away, and then stop and form a defensive stance. They stood with their back-ends together and facing outward.

    Rhinos on the defense

    Rhinos on the defense


Of our hundreds of photos, here’s some of the better ones… enjoy!



  1. Sandra

    wow, excellent pictures – the elephants were amazing, the baboon, rhino, lion, and the rest of the photos are great and the kudu doesn’t even look like a real creature! Nice finish with that sunset photo!

  2. Lori

    wow! i can’t believe you can drive through on your own. i would imagine exactly what you did. why don’t they worry about animals going after cars? i would think a rhino could roll one and crumple it easily! very cool pics!

  3. 04/06/2010

    Of all the things you have done this is the most impressive. I like these animals in the zoo. But to be in the real live, cool!

    See you in June

  4. 04/06/2010

    Lori – I don’t know, apparently they must not have too many incidents with animals attacking people/cars. We had no problems… I’ve heard that elephants often mock-charge at cars, and that hippo are really dangerous. But otherwise, I guess the animals just don’t see us as a threat.

  5. mom A.

    What can I say? That was so much fun to read and the pictures were wonderful!!! Thank you for including us all in your trip! Keep having fun.

  6. Clay

    Nice pictures! The video didn’t work for me for whatever reason. it kept buffering over and over. Take Care!