We’re going on safari and it should be exactly like the Lion King right?

We’re going on safari!

A trip to South Africa is not complete without a safari through the famous Kruger National Park.

When you picture an African Safari you think you will see animals everywhere like the opening scene of the Lion King. Elephants greeting you as you enter,  buffalos around the water hole, and lion cubs playing along the cliffs.

On the contrary, there were no animals greeting me. Kruger is the size of Israel, so it takes a while to stumble upon Timon and Pumbaa.

Kruger is a massive park and you will see lots of trees, grass, and plant life versus animals. Most people spend a few days doing “game drive” aka safari drive.  You will probably only see about 1% of the park and you’ll be lucky to see the Big 5. The only animal I can guarantee you will see regularly is the impala. Impalas are everywhere.

Getting in the Park

The park opens at 6 AM and closes at 5 PM. The only option to see animals at night is doing a night safari tour.

Plan on leaving at about 5 AM. When you get to the park the ranger will pay the fees and do the paperwork, then you will wait until the park opens.

The best chances of seeing the cheetah, lions and leopards are in the early morning. As the day moves on and it gets hotter,  these animals literally take cat naps in the shade so it is very difficult to see them.

You can go to the park 3 ways:

  • Tour by car
  • Tour by foot (Not recommended)
  • Self-drive

I prefer the drive with a guide. They know all the major spots to see certain animals and you are in a jeep, so you have a better view. The rangers also have radios, so they share sightings with each other.

The guides also have eyes like a hawk. They can spot things so quickly, it will amaze you. Another advantage is the amount of knowledge they have.

If you do a walking tour, you will not be able to cover as much ground. This gives you a close encounter, but one of our guides did say the other day he had to have his guests hide from a rhino coming after them.

Driving by yourself is hard. First off, the car is not tall so you have less visibility.  You are just driving around blindly hoping to run into something.  Many of the animals camouflage very well and are extremely difficult to spot.

The Animals

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The BIG, Little and UGLY 5

You will hear the term BIG 5, these are 5 most dangerous animals for hunters.



There is also Little 5

  • Elephant screw
  • Ant lion
  • Rhino Beetle
  • Buffalo weaver
  • Leopard tortoise

And Ugly 5




Marabou stock

Laughing hyena

Other random facts

Rhino poaching is still a huge issue. There are about 600 to 800 rhinos killed a year for their horns. Killing the rhino is cruel because the horns do grow back, but they want to be fast so they kill them.

Elephants poachers are far less because the tusks are not worth as much.  It also takes a few hours to saw them off versus 30 minutes to saw off a Rhino horn.

After the last drought almost 50% of the hippo population died.

Random Fact: If you are being chased by a rhino or hippo, run as fast as you can in a straight line and hide behind something or climb a tree.  If you see a ant hill or fallen down tree that works because neither of them can jump over things. Their short legs makes it hard.

Rhinos have extremely bad vision, who knew?

Elephants will only charge you if they feel like they are being attacked. Before the elephant attacks they will pull back their ears. To avoid the attack just slowly back up indicating that you are giving space to them.

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