Lions, elephants, warthogs – the traffic jam you don’t want to avoid

Living on the other side of the world makes it a bit challenging when it comes to keeping in touch with your friends and family.

Even though there are many ways to communicate online today, one cannot fully explain in details the life and atmosphere in Africa, and especially in the case of such a big and diverse country like South Africa.

However, the last two months have been very busy: two groups of friends came over, and each time we spent about a week on safari in Kruger Park.

The second time I even got to practice my ranger skills as we mostly did self-drives and I have to say that it went much better than we expected: we managed to spot all animals from the Big Five (rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo) in one day!

This was the first and only time I saw the Big Five in one day for more than two years of living in Africa!

Yaaayy! Lekker!

Also, it’s also pretty amazing that my cute super low city car survived the whole experience without a single scratch! ( but driving an old pickup truck is the way to go really).

We mainly explored the area around Crocodile Bridge Gate, and this is also the area with the highest density of animals in the park. My friends got a bit confused after we saw the Big Five in their first safari ever and then it got a bit more difficult in the next few days – but each day was very different, and we had many amazing close encounters with different animals.

For a self-drive, the most popular morning safari route is Crocodile Bridge Gate to Lower Sabie – I definitely recommend it because it’s always easy to spot the animals and there is a high likelihood that you would see a whole herd of 30-40-50 elephants as you get to Sabie River, especially around noon.

The cats typically start hunting in the evening, eat until sunrise and then usually go to sleep.

Lions are relatively easy to find as many of them move in prides but leopards are really, really difficult to spot.

A small lion pride feeling lazy before the evening hunt.

Elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and sometimes rhinos like to stay close to the road, and you can even see them walking on the main roads – so it’s very important that you stick to the speed limits. The picture below shows a herd of elephants crossing the road on their way for a mud bath.

Spotted hyenas are also likely to stay close to the road.

This is a very pregnant hyena sunbathing on the road. I don’t know how many puppies she’s expecting but it looks like a big litter:

Staying in a tent is another useful safari tip: there are some very basic ones, as well as really beautiful luxury tented camps, but in both cases the tents have one big advantage: they are bug-proof! Now of course I’m sure a lot of girls would appreciate that, especially since it also keeps the mosquitoes away – pretty important as there are some malaria cases in Kruger Park.

Hearing the animals walking around your tent at night is also pretty exciting , as it is seeing a bunch of monkeys fighting on the roof of the tent. Or simply waking up from the roars of a lion.

The picture below shows a warthog mom looking for her babies. They’re not in my tent lady!

Sleeping in the Desert 

Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.

Four hours of driving and we passed only two very small towns on the way from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, to the Namib Desert. 

We stopped in Solitaire – an interesting place known for its cars drowning in the sand.
I was seventeen when I went to Egypt and saw the desert for the first time: a million stars in the sky and I thought the sand came from another planet. Some nights I still wish I could go back to this moment just to feel it twice.

We don’t have the luxury of going back in time but this was a new and beautiful opportunity to experience something close to it and yet – so different.

Namib was incredible. I felt the same way again – smaller than nothing, standing in front of the old sand dunes.

I never really understood what was so special about the sunsets until I came to Africa – the sky here is just different and the horizon stands much lower.
We slept in a tented lodge and this is definitely one of my most memorable travel experiences ever.

A view through the window of the tent:


It was extremely cold at night and very windy – although it wasn’t supposed to be like that. 

The good thing is that the tent and the nets keep the incests away, so if you don’t want to share a bed with a scorpion, this is a great option (much better than a room but definitely not as comfortable in terms of temperature).


There are a few people living and working in the lodge and they were all very nice. The chef was taking his job seriously – the food was really delicious, the main specialty was Oryx – a type of antelope, huge and with big horns.

We also met Meowie – the local cat hero who fights scorpions and cobras. He was the cutest kitten ever and he had survived several poisonous attacks. He managed to sneak in one night and purr on the bed – I love cats, so that was a great surprise for me.


I believe Namibia could be a very interesting and beautiful honeymoon destination too, especially during the summer season (most of the year).
Don’t miss the sign Tropic of Capricorn on the way to Swakopmund – after all, there are only two tropics in the world 🙂

Namib Desert

I was thinking of the fox in the “Little Prince” as I was leaving the Namib Desert and there he was, right in front of me.He winked at me.

I saw many mirages that day but this wasn’t one of them. It was so surreal that I had to make sure I took enough photos.

You probably remember this part:

“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near –

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”


It made so much sense in the desert – and it happened just as I was leaving Namib. In my previous post I mentioned that Namibia was a magical place.

One doesn’t go to the desert just like that. Most people prefer to go to Paris or Venice or a fly to a tropical island with white sand and turquoise water.

The desert is a special place where you are all by yourself and your inner demons; there you can set them free.

Have you ever felt the same way during some of your travels?

MY NEW LIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA 

It’s been almost a year and a half since I moved to the other side of the world.
Africa.

South Africa.

It’s autumn now, almost winter, while the Northern Hemisphere is expecting the summer. 

The stars are different. 

August brings hot wind and red dust, December – heat waves and rain that does stop for a week. 

There are eleven official languages in South Africa and countless accents. 


Most people go home before sunset; the day starts at 5 in the morning with the shouts of the incredibly loud hadeda birds. People sing while walking on the streets. 

Now I know what is the true meaning of the safaris.

I’m not afraid of lions anymore. I know how to track different animals in the savannah and have no problem sleeping in a cave. 

The Ocean’s waves are huge but that makes them great for surfing. 

I made friends with a few blue cranes and a penguin colony. I learned more in one year that I had learned during my entire 4-year undergraduate degree . I know who are the people that I can trust even when I’m at the end of the world.

 I used to wait for the summer to come, now I’ve come to the summer. Because at the end of the day, the winter in South Africa is like a nice summer day in most countries.


Life is short and precarious and boring, so we must take the opportunity to change this and live it the way we want it to be.
No reason to stay is a good reason to go.

Zebra vs Lion Fight 

The fist animals we met in Kruger were two lions.



It was 5 am and they were having a nice breakfast. We couldn’t see what animal it was because they were hiding it behind a fallen tree, but they stayed there for many hours. We spent about 20 minutes watching them eating before continuing with the safari.

The sun was rising.
A few hundred meters away from the lions, a group of three zebras crossed the road in front of our car. The third one was wounded.


And then we realized it was the stallion that had been fighting with the lions. Their kill was another zebra and he tried to stop them.
Zebras are very social animals and they are quite strong as well. The stallion wasn’t badly wounded but there we could clearly see the scratches from the lion’s claws.

It was the first time we witnessed this aspect of the animal’s life. Most of the time you won’t see a predator hunting.


We asked the ranger if a vet is going to treat the zebra. Apparently they almost never do, the idea is to let the animals live as they would if no vets existed.

So that was the scary side of the safari – you suddenly realize that the animals are not just beautiful and magnificent and happily running around and just enjoying the day – from dusk to down, they fight for survival

IMAGINE DRAGONS – NAMIBIA 

Do you think climbing a sand dune is easy? Would you be fine with sleeping in a tent in the middle of the desert?

I found both of these quite challenging, but then what made me fall in love with the desert?

Yes, it is extremely hot during the day and freezing at night, and not many people would like to live there, but it’s a magical place and even if you don’t believe in magic – once you’re there, you will.
Most of the population is concentrated in the capital city Windhoek. I have to say it’s a very developed and organized city, it felt very safe to walk around and the people are awesome!
Only 20% of the Namibian territory is reachable by road – mostly gravel or sand roads. For the other part you will need to hop on a small plane or walk across the desert.
I like to think that the other 80% belong to the dragons. 
It’s the perfect place for a Dragon Kingdom. If you think it’s just my imagination – it’s not, in fact Namibia is the home of the Dragon’s Breath Cave in which you can find one of the largest underground lakes in the world. The fairy circles are also everywhere. Everything looks like from another world.



Most of the lodges are tented – they do look fancy and keep you safe from the animals and insects but it gets very windy and cold at night. The biggest plus for me was the beautiful bathroom in our lodge – it’s quite romantic 🙂

Climbing the sand dunes and walking to the Dead Valley is not too difficult if you are fit but it could be a challenge if you’re not, so make sure you go early in the morning when it’s not that hot.

The South African Cuisine 

A lot of people have been asking me about the South African cuisine. 

With so many different cultures in the country it’s very difficult to tell what is the authentic food and what is not, so I just decided to pick a few examples.

Enjoy!
1. Braai – the absolute South African number one!

It’s the South African barbecue. The meat is done medium-rare, maximum medium.

2. Pear & white chocolate cream 

3. Mixed Berry Pancakes 

4. Mushroom cream wrapped in cabbage 


5. Oysters – especially around Cape Town. 


6. Freshly squeezed juice.

Together with the 9 months of summer, the unlimited amounts of fresh fruit are one of the best reasons to live here 😀