As promised, I am now back for another entry of the Solo Traveler's Journal #8, continuing from our last part cycling through Soweto in Johannesburg.
Today, I will take you on a safari adventure tracking down the big five, feeling the blood rush when a rhino charge towards you out of nowhere, and 4 nights sleeping on a tree house in the South African bushes (Kruger National Park).
For more info on what to do in Soweto: Exploring Soweto On A Bike .
Africa Travel Video
Viva Safari Tour for Kruger National Park
Prior to coming to South Africa, I booked a 4 days Kruger National Park tour with Viva Safaris that includes:
- 3 hours sunset drive on Balule Big 5 Game Reserve
- Dinner in the bush with Braai at Marula Tree Boma
- 4 hours Big 5 bush walk with armed rangers
- 2 hour afternoon game drive on Balule
- Full Day in Kruger on open game viewer jeep
- Blyde Canyon Highlights
Kruger National Park Tour Cost Breakdown
All at the cost of ZAR 6495. Viva Safaris is a great tour operator which has been running its business since 1991. Out of all the safaris companies I have searched through, Viva Safaris provides all that I needed (they provide arranged transportation from Jo'Burg to Kruger National Park and back, and the itinerary includes a bush walk), and at the price I can handle (others are way out of my budget) and since I was traveling alone, and the maximum people on the tour is 12, a few cool companions were a welcome change to my solo travels.
Viva Safari Review
Their services were top notch and I was quite happy with my decision in choosing Viva Safaris not to mention, a lot of awesome friends I met because of the tour. If you are soloing and are looking for a budget tour to Kruger National Park without the hassle of driving there yourself, they are for you. You can see their product listing here: Viva Safaris Pricing
Now, that I have provided all the information for you, lets laid back a bit and enjoy the photo essay of my 4 days in Kruger National Park with Viva Safaris.
Kruger National Park Itinerary
Day 1: Exploring Balule Private Game Reserve at Night
The best part about traveling solo is meeting new awesome people while on the road and I did just that on our first stop half way from Jo'Burg to Kruger National Park. I met a very cool Australian group, an amazing German couple and the wonderful ladies from Bern, Switzerland.
After a 5 hours drive, we arrived at the Tremisana Lodge which is located inside the Balule private game reserve. In minutes after checked in we had to leave for a night game drive.
Our first giraffe sighting right outside the lodge! Man, I remember how ridiculously excited I was when I first saw it, and how the feeling went away and replaced with boredom after like 5 sightings. "I wanna see the leopard!"
My first safari drive ever! I can't remember a time I used my eyesight (without starring at the screen all day) as much as tracking down animals at night. :)
Our driver spotted a group of elephants out and about. We shut down the engine and watched them eat. This is how animals should be observed, not behind a cage.
Day 1 (cont): Dinner in the South African Bush
After a few zebras and giraffes spotting, the guide took us to a dinner in the bush they prepared. I was surprised by how neat the dinner was. Great food (braai) under moonlights right in the middle of the bush. No dinner can beat that!
Our guide grilling our dinner.
How do I know that we really were in the bush? This. We even have to be escorted if we wanna pee. How awesome is that!?
Enjoying my first night in the bush before waking up super early in the morning (4:45 AM) for a highly anticipated 3 hours morning bush walk
Day 2: Morning Bush Walk in Balule Nature Reserve
I was asked to wear a natural clothing, which my bright blue fleece jacket was not qualified for so I ended up freezing my ass off while they drove through the chilling African wind.
Ladies first? Haha. They both were quite adventurous so I let them lead.
One thing for the ladies, do tie your hair because your hair will get tangled by all sort of trees and bushes like what happened to my Swiss friends here. I had to help them untangled a couple of times.
Don't expect a nice paved way for you to walk through. When they said a walk in the bush, it really means we walk IN the bush. Sometimes even through them. My pant was a mess after the walk.
We walked out into the open field heading to the riverbank hoping to see a few wild animals out for a drink.
It was a beautiful morning as for every morning in Africa.
Meet our Australian group, Anthony, his son and Leroy. They were hilarious the whole time! Great knowing all of you! :)
We found a lion's track! Looks like it was here 2 hours earlier hunting for some food at dawn.
As we walked along the river bank, we heard a cracking sound from the bushes on our left. The guide thought it was an elephant so he went in and observed. Turns out it was this Hippo charging out of the bush right at us toward to river. The guides were panicking and asked us to stick together (I didn't even have time to take a photo of when it was charging). Fortunately, it continued down to the river without looking back. That was the first time I felt a rush of the African safari. The danger is very real.
Day 2 (cont): An Afternoon Game Drive in Balule Nature Reserve
After a 3 hours bush walk, we went back to the lodge to wash up, had lunch and headed out for an afternoon game drive with our guide Chris, who looks somewhat like Orlando Bloom from the Pirates of the Caribbean. The Swiss girls didn't think so. :D
A giraffe greeted us with its long ass neck over all the trees that surrounded it.
Zazu from Lion King!
For the first time in my life, I saw a living, walking but old as hell wildebeest.
The impala, not knowing that we were observing from out jeep.
As we drove by, Sabrina (from a German couple I met) saw a lone water buffalo, one of the big five. We tried out best to get closer to get a picture of this lone water buffalo but the engine sound scared it away. We thought all hope was lost until we accidentally stumbled upon a whole herd of buffalos nearby. That awesome feeling when you spent a whole day tracking down an animal, and you found a whole herd of it was fascinating.
After an awesome afternoon drive, we grab our things from the Tremisana Lodge, said goodbye to these monkeys and departed to our treehouse near the Kruger National Park entrance.
Welcome to Marc's Treehouse Lodge, the incredible way to sleep in the bush.
As the sun set, we gathered around an old school campfire enjoying our dinner, exchanging stories of our lives back home. Nothing beats the good old storytelling around a campfire like this.
Day 3: Tracking Down the Big 5 in Kruger National Park
It was a great morning as always until problem struck. There were 2 german couples, the one I befriended with (Sabrina and Thomas) was awesome, but there's this other uptight couple who insisted that they sit together.
Since I was the only one traveling alone on this tour, I was asked to move to another truck. Of course, I was pissed, but at that time, I didn't know that the German couple was the root cause, so I complied as I didn't want to delay anymore of our time.
As I walked, pissed and all, the Swiss ladies (Katarina and Stephanie) were also kicked out because even when my seat was available, the German was unable to be seated together, so the guide made a crappy decision to kick three of us to another car whereas forcing the German couple to move to the other car would have solved everything. We combined force and complained to the guide that they are the one that should move, not us three. In the end, the German couple realized we were complaining so they were forced to move instead. Thank god it didn't turn out in their favors.
Right inside the gate, we spotted our first rhino from across the river. This was the moment I wish I had that crazy zoom camera (the one that looks like a canon).
To celebrate our victory me and the swiss ladies exchanged a couple of shots with the elephants. It's good to have friends to help take photos of you when you've been traveling alone for so long.
Like on big family.
Either it's their mother or father watching out for the children.
Meet Stephanie and Katarina. One of my favorite people I met during the African trip.
Our first stop, after the fight with the bad german couple. They didn't look happy at all, but I decided to just enjoy the place. After all, it wasn't our false.
Baobab or the Adansonia is the largest tree in Africa .
Zebras in their habitat.
A Kudu, an antelope that can jump higher than the jeep or the fences the protects them from the road. One giant magnificent animal, if you ask me.
Bathing myself with African sun. Enjoying everything the bushes gotta offer.
As it's getting darker and darker and we only saw 3 out of the big five, I thought all hope was lost, until we spotted a whole herd of female lions sharpening their claws readying for a hunt at night. Mission accomplished!
Seeing the lions. That's all I came here for. We went back to the treehouse, enjoying Castle beers around a camp fire, while exchanging more stories. I can never get enough of this. Imagine, instead of people going clubbing all the time, they set up a campfire and enjoy each others companies. :)
Day 4: A Morning Bush Walk and Visiting Blyde River Canyon
Our last day in the bush, we began with a 1 hour morning bush walk around the lodge (the lodge is inside a private reserve).
The golden orb spiders that spread across this region.
The sunlight and the spiders makes an awesome photo opportunities.
After a morning bush walks, we headed back to our rooms, packed and departed for the Blyde River Canyon which we will continue in the next entry of our Solo's Traveler's Journal #8 so stay tuned for some doozy, mind-blowingly, living-on-the-edge kind of photos. Trust me, the photo I took at the Blyde River Canyon will blow your mind. It is one of my best, and I fear it might be the best for a long time to come. Stay tuned.
Continue to the next part: Visiting Blyde River Canyon, South Africa.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.