African Safari in South Africa: my best photos and memories.
The four-wheel-drive bounds along the dirt path, dodging potholes and boulders along the way. We all jolt around in our seats, but the crisp winter air blowing through the windowless vehicle keeps us cool and calm.
Suddenly, the driver slows down the car and comes to a stop. There is no sound except the rustle of branches as we all wait in anticipation to see what our guide is seeing. The long, checkered neck of a giraffe sways gracefully between trees as we all whisper excitedly and snap our cameras.
15 minutes later the same scenario happens, only this time we’re watching a herd of zebra graze in a field.
Next, we’re staring at a glassy pond, waiting for the tiny ears of a massive hippo to break the surface.
Then, we’re observing a charismatic bull elephant lumber around the car, coming scarily close a few times.
The thrill of being on an African safari is hard to describe.
When you see these magnificent creatures up close, you sit like a statue and make minimal noise to avoid startling them even though your mind is screaming with joy and your heart is about to explode out of your chest.
It is truly surreal to go on a game drive out in the African wilderness. It’s a humbling experience I think everyone should have.
Nothing intensifies your respect for nature and minimizes your worry about your own meager human problems like watching buffalo, lions, and rhinos live their simplistic yet fascinating lives.
My African Safari Experiences
I’d like to briefly describe the safaris I did in South Africa so you guys can maybe consider doing the same ones in your travels.
For a much more detailed article about the specifics of booking a safari, check out How To Do An African Safari On A Budget. For any budget travelers who think safaris are only for the rich and famous, think again!!
Both safaris I did were day trips that cost under $200, and both were SO WORTH IT.
Safari from Cape Town: Aquila Game Reserve
The first safari I did was at Aquila Game Reserve, and you can find the exact tour I booked here.
I was picked up in a private van from my hostel in Cape Town and driven to the game reserve, located about 2 hours from Cape Town in the Karoo Region of the Western Cape.
Animals I Saw
Within the first few minutes of the game drive, we saw the stationary bodies of a few massive hippos in a lake, which I initially thought were rocks.
Our guide told us that hippos’ jaws can open to almost 180 degrees and that hippos kill more humans than any other wild animal (except mosquitoes).
I loved seeing lots of black rhinos, including a baby. He looked like he hadn’t learned what to do with that little horn thing growing on his face yet.
We also caught a glimpse of a pride of lions lazing away in the afternoon sun. They were kept in a separate enclosure so they didn’t eat everything else in the area.
Other animals in the park that we saw include ostriches, giraffes, zebras, springboks, and elands which are the largest species of antelope.
Elands are majestic creatures known for their horns that twist at the base.
Paintings of Elands are common in the Drakensberg Mountains as part of the ancient rock art of the San People. They inhabited South African lands roughly 4,000 years ago.
Overall experience: 4/5
The game drive lasted for about 3 hours before we were driven back to Cape Town. The only downside was that our car was big and crowded, so sometimes it was hard to see the animals through all the people in the car.
But I still recommend this day trip to anyone staying in Cape Town who doesn’t have their own transport.
It’s a great way to escape the city and see lots of incredible animals. Aquila Game Reserve takes conservation, anti-poaching, and animal rehabilitation very seriously. Read more about their conservation efforts here.
Safari from Port Elizabeth: Schotia Safaris
The second safari I did was a day trip from Port Elizabeth. We were actually staying in Jeffrey’s Bay, and Schotia was one of the closest game reserves in the area. Here is the link to the safari we booked.
We paid in cash to get a discount, then enjoyed tea, coffee, and cookies before the start of the game drive.
There were only 6 people in our car, so it was a much less crowded experience than the Aquila safari.
Animals We Saw
Schotia is the oldest game reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, and their experience showed.
Antelopes, buffalo, warthogs, wildebeest, giraffes, and exotic-looking birds all graced our presence, and we got pretty close to an absolutely terrifying Nile Crocodile with emerald green eyes.
This game drive was longer than the other one, so we could sit and watch animals for more time which was amazing.
We followed two black rhinos around for a bit and watched them roll in the mud.
We saw a baby buffalo scratching his belly on a log, and we watched an elephant gorge himself on leaves from an Acacia tree.
The highlight of the game drive was visiting the lions, a young male and female couple, and an old, weathered but wise-looking male.
They were pretty lazy, just lying around and occasionally walking around and licking each other.
But their lack of movement allowed me to zoom in with my camera and take some stunning portraits of these giant cats.
Overall experience: 5/5
We had dinner in a massive lapa (traditional South African building with a thatched roof) and drove back to the reception in the dark. It was spooky but super cool to see some animals in the dark.
I honestly think these African safaris will be some of my favorite travel memories for the rest of my life.
Quick Travel Tips for an African Safari:
- Get good travel insurance, just in case. I recommend Squaremouth Insurance; I had a very positive experience using them for my trip to South Africa.
- Visit iVisa.com to check if you need a visa for South Africa.
To read about my other South African adventures, check out:
Nduli Farm Life: East London, South Africa
How To Visit The Drakensberg On A Budget
Volunteering In The Wild Coast
Learning Permaculture in the South African Forest
Budget Travel Guide to Cape Town, South Africa
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