Up Close with Lions, Elephants, Leopards, Zebras, Wildebeests, Etc.

Day 64, Grand World Voyage

Wednesday, March 8, 2023; Kruger National Park, South Africa.

We weren’t in the park for more than 15 minutes when we saw impalas and then zebras near the road. And then – elephants! To be specific, a BIG elephant that seemed to challenge our much smaller van. Our driver reversed down the road as the elephant slowly approached.

Thus began our introduction to South Africa’s Kruger National Park, at 7,500 square miles one of the largest game reserves in Africa.

South Africa with Kruger National Park in red. We were in the southeast corner.

Seventeen of us left the ship in Maputo, Mozambique, this morning for a three-day, two-night safari organized by our travel agency, Cruise Specialists. Other groups, sponsored by Holland America and independent tour operators, also came to the park and will stay in a variety of lodges. We will fly to Durban, South Africa, on Friday afternoon to rejoin the ship.

Little did we know when that elephant stared us down that within a day or two, we would become somewhat blasé about impalas, zebras and even elephants.

Our destination was Shishangeni Game Lodge on the Crocodile River in the southeast tip of the park. Being a private concession, it is off limits to the public, and our guides are allowed to deviate from the park rule to stay on the roads.

By 4:30 p.m. we left our individual chalets and set off for an afternoon game drive. Almost immediately we saw elephants, giraffes, warthogs, wildebeests and many more impalas.

But the highlight was when we came across a majestic lion relaxing just off the road. He apparently wasn’t too hungry, as he mostly ignored us as we sat watching and snapping photographs.

For almost an hour we followed him through the bush as he lumbered along, eventually leading us to a lioness lounging amid wildflowers on a decaying tree trunk. She ignored the second drive vehicle as it joined us.

We stopped overlooking the river, hippopotamuses and even a few crocodiles. It was a nice place to stretch our legs and enjoy wine or beer and a few snacks (they never stop feeding us).

As twilight fell, our driver got a brief message on his radio and we left the road to discover a leopard in the dark. Not ideal conditions for a photograph, but we just admired the animal as it led us on another excursion through the bush.

Even as we stopped at the lodge gate, an elephant waited as if to say “goodnight” and “see you tomorrow.” Actually, it totally ignored us, as did most of the animals after that first challenging elephant.

By the time dinner was over and I returned to my room, an attendant had closed all the drapes, turned down the sheets and dropped the mosquito netting around the bed. (I never saw a mosquito, but prepared by taking malaria tablets.) I can’t wait for what we will discover tomorrow.