If admiring the majesty of wildlife is where your heart is, you can do a little better than to travel to perhaps the one place on earth that has everything, the water buffalo, cheetah, rhino, hippo, leopards, penguins, all magnificently wild and natural in over 500 national parks and wilderness reserves – South Africa. Think of it this way, if it weren’t for South Africa, National Geographic would probably have nowhere to go. As thousands travel to South Africa this World Cup season, there will be plenty of opportunity for many people to come face-to-face with what their whole lives was only a deeply moving image on the television.
The greatest game reserve in South Africa, and perhaps in all of the world, is the Kruger National Park; if you need to place the name, it’s right outside Nelspruit, the city in the north of the country that has a couple of important World Cup matches slated. Kruger is famous for its untamable wildness, for the fact that it is a single national park that is about as big as an average US state, and also for how with a size that large, and a wildlife population of hundreds of elephants, rhino and big cats it can somehow still seem to have too many people. If there is one game reserve you are to take in when you travel to South Africa, it should be this one.
However, Kruger does demand a lot of your wallet; if you have be to be on a tight budget, you don’t have to worry about having the best sights being out of your reach. The thing about this country is that the wildlife is actually wild. If what you need is a way to get at the sights of Kruger without the high price of entry, how about going on a drive from Cape Town to Cape Point? The whole region is a massive wildlife habitat, and you’ll probably see most of the animals you are after, walking along the highway. There is a happy middle ground there though; why not try one of the less well-known wildlife parks when you travel to South Africa? Right next to Johannesburg and Pretoria is one of the smaller national parks – Pilanesburg. “Smaller” in South Africa would be about 10,000 animals, all the large ones included, spread over about 150,000 acres. They have affordable options at this Park, in dormitories and camping grounds too – at their Golden Leopard Resorts site.
The middle of the year is the best possible time to travel to South Africa; it’s winter here around this time, it doesn’t rain, and the vegetation is kind of sparse to let you get a better view of all the animals. Make sure that you pack a little light winter clothing; temperatures can really fall after the sun sets. The best thing about Pilanesburg is how you don’t need to make any bookings to go out on a safari. You just need to get in your car, and hit the road all by yourself. Everything is all clearly marked out so that you don’t even need a guide. There’s nothing like the feeling of driving yourself closer to a couple of wild rhinos or leopards you see a couple of hundred yards away.
There’s are great day trips to be had visiting the Rhino and Lion Reserve a half hour’s drive away from the north of Johannesburg. Entry will only cost you about $15, and you can drive yourself here too. You’ll see zebra, herds of them, surly looking rhinos, curious ostrich and lazy buffalo wandering about, and not really scared of you either. Make sure you go at high noon in time for the feeding. It’s the best time to visit. Make sure you go to the animal nursery where you can pet the lion cubs and the baby rhinos (how can those armor plated giants get so small?) for a modest price.
Wherever you travel on your safari, make sure you keep in touch with other visitors around you for where to head for the best animal sightings. The animals keep moving around, and you need to know where to find them. When you finally make contact, you’ll know why we are all part of the same animal kingdom. You’ll know why you absolutely have to travel to South Africa for an experience of this stature.