Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, September 02, 2013

Orienteering (and looking at animals) in South Africa


Mary and I ran a local orienteering event near Johannesburg, South Africa, a few weeks ago.  

I had a clean, but slow, race.  The area sits about 1600 meters above sea level.  That's enough to make climbing hills difficult for someone who lives much lower.  Not being in very good shape doesn't help.

While we planned out trip to include an orienteering event, our main focus was on looking at the animals.  We spent most of our time in Kruger National Park.

We weren't really sure what to expect, but we'd rented a car in Johannesburg and booked nights at some of the camps in the park (Skukuza, Satara, Oliphants and Letaba) and also spent two nights at a lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve next to the park.

A typical day in the park would begin with an early morning drive. The drives involved leaving the camps before dawn and driving to some nearby areas to see animals.  The vehicles were open trucks with room for about 15 passengers.  The morning drives were very nice - you got out to the park before the gates opened and we saw lots of animals.

Our first morning drive included watching some lions.

Rhinos!  We saw plenty of rhinos on the sunrise and sunset drives, but didn't see rhinos when were were driving on our own.

Apparently wild dogs are rare.  We watched a group on our first morning drive.
Continuing our typical day meant returning to the camp and heading out onto the park roads in our rental car.  We'd drive around and see what we could see.  We could see a lot.  I didn't know what to expect.  Would we drive for hours without seeing anything?  Would we see animals, but only in the distance?  It turned out we'd see lots of interesting animals, often quite close.  Turning a corner on a dirt road and coming face-to-face with a giraffe, elephant, zebra, buffalo, kudu,....  Well, it never got old.

The giraffe seems interested in us.
We usually ate lunch on the road.  You're only allowed out of your car in Kruger as the camps or at specific get-out points.  We made sandwiches and ate our lunch sitting in the car or at one of the picnic areas or get-out points.

In the mid or late afternoon we'd return to the camp.  On some days we'd do a sunset drive (which is just like the morning drive but at sunset) and on some days we'd go on a guided walk.  You can't really get out in the terrain on your own, but you can book a walk with a couple of rangers.

Rhino spotted on a sunset drive.
We didn't see many animals on the walks, but the walks were very interesting.  It was a nice break to be moving under your own power rather than sitting in a car.  It was interesting to see the terrain up close.  While we didn't see a lot of animals, we saw lots of signs of animals and the rangers did a good job of showing us different plants, animal tracks, and so on.  The guided walks were limited to about 6-8 people and you were always accompanied by 2 rangers, both armed.

Rangers on one of our afternoon walks.

Hippos came over to us when we sat on the edge of the Letaba river.
We also spent two nights at a private safari lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.  This was the typical safari experience....tea and coffee before dawn, a game drive with a tea and coffee break, a huge breakfast, a short walk, more food, more driving, more food..  You were catered to.  It was nice, but expensive.  We certainly enjoyed the experience and we're glad we had a couple of nights of the safari experience.  But, for my next trip I would stick with the self-drive rental car trip in Kruger.

An advantage of the private lodge and of being outside of the national park was that the guided drives could leave the roads.  That made it easier to get very close to some of the more spectacular animals...like lions, leopoards and cheetahs.  I shot some video with my iphone that will give you a sense of how close that can be.

If you've read this far and you're thinking, "hey, that looks cool, I'd like to go orienteering and traveling in South Africa," then you should check out the Big 5 O' 2013/14.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 3:47 PM


This is really appreciable post. I am feeling glad to see the rare pic and information about the Rhino, giraffe.

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