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Lions, Spirit Birds, and Olifants — OH MY!


One of our prized experiences: driving up right next to lions resting on the cool pavement of the road in the early morning. My camera didn’t have zoom, but this is image I was able to get. That should tell you how close we got.

The folks at IPD warned us explicitly not to overlap blogs about Kruger National Park. And between Iheoma, Emily, and I — it appears that we succeeded a little bit too well. But thankfully, one perk about posting incredibly inexcusably late is that I can choose to fill in the gaps my fellow bloggers didn’t get a chance to talk about. Can’t blame them though. There’s WAY too much to cover over our whole program. Kruger, though, demands to be mentioned.

We spent a glorious week disconnecting from the distractions of technology and had a chance to explore one of the greatest wildernesses on this world. Being lead by the knowledgeable and all-around great human Dr. David Bunn was a blessing in itself, but the whole experience of Kruger is hard to sum up — the serenity of disconnecting, but also reconnecting with the environment and wildlife around us; the realization of the smallness of our existence, but also the massive impact we have as humans on all lives. Because of this, I’ll try to give you a glimpse into an average day of our adventures in Kruger.

4:30 AM (or some other ridiculously early time): Wake up and get ready for a morning bush walk! While a lot of us were under the impression we would have to be roughing it for a week, the accommodation run by the South African National Parks (SANParks) were very nice. (If you ever visit — which you definitely should if you’re able — Olifants camp in Kruger is a must-visit.) Getting out of our comfortable beds this early was more than a little rough, but so worth it.


We were instructed to always walk in a single file through the bush — don’t want to sneak up on animals or they might attack. But always well-protected with our armed rangers. Letters, the ranger picture here, was also enormous which was reassuring.

5:00 AM – 8:00AM: Exploring the bush on foot led by SANParks rangers equipped with guns the size of people. A crazy awesome time to feel like to peek into the habitat of the animals we see on our day-long game drives — also super educational: Katie Lants (we call her Track Queen) became a master at identifying animals by their tracks! And seeing the sunrise while walking through the bush is like nothing else. The things I would do to experience that again…

8:30AM: By this point, we haven’t eaten anything except some crackers and biltong (read Iheoma’s blog for more information) during our bush walk. Regrouping over breakfast (rusks and tea!) with the rest of the Northwestern crew and David and Xolani (who helped out with our program in Kruger and also happens to speak all eleven official languages of South Africa!), we make our lunches and prepare for the day’s travels.


Selfies from the GDV with our animal friends was a must. None of us are sorry about this.

9:00AM – 5:00 PM: Game Drive through Kruger! This year, we made our way through most of the park (one of the largest in the world), starting at the southernmost rest camp and working our way north. During the game drives, this was when we would spot most of the animals featured in our millions of pictures we took. Lots of tears and squealing when we saw baby elephants, competitions between game drive vehicles (affectionately called GDVs) to spot animals, and assigning each other totem birds, which is basically the concept of a spirit animal, but adapted to the birds of Kruger.

5:00 PM – 6:30PM: Settle into our camp for the night, clean ourselves, and listen to a lecture from David before dinner.

6:30PM – 8:00PM: Amazing dinner (and always dessert) from Aggy’s Shadow, our caterers for the trip. Our favorite meals included bobotie, chakalaka, malva pudding, and milk tart — with greek salad making an appearance every night.

8:00PM – 10:00PM: Clean up after dinner and wash dishes. Stargaze (!!). Break out our headlamps to explore the camp at night. Panic when you see a honey badger. Journal and reflect our adventures. Sleep after a long, but fulfilling day and prepare for the next one.


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