ISimangaliso Wetland Park – by boat
We woke up at 5AM in order to meet our guide in his open Jeep and to drive with him towards my first EVER safari experience. ISimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa’s third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, and made up of around 3,280 km2 of natural ecosystems, managed by the iSimangaliso Authority and is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. The word isimangaliso means “a miracle” or “something wondrous” in Zulu. The name came as a result of Shaka’s subject having been sent to the land of the Tsonga. When he came back he described the beauty that he saw as a miracle.
The park was proclaimed a world heritage site because of the rich biodiversity, unique ecosystems and natural beauty occurring in a relatively small area. The reason for this is the great variety of different ecosystems on the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannas, and wetlands. Animals occurring on the park include elephant, leopard, black and southern white rhino, Cape buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles.
The park is also home to 1,200 crocodiles and 800 hippos which were the ones we were going for that day, as we hopped on a flat bottom boat and sailed through this natural wonderland.
And what a day! First of all we encountered the talented yellow weaver bird and his insanely well built nests supposed to empress the female. Then, we took some speed and arrive where a group of hippos was napping in the water after feeding themsleves grass all night. With binoculars, we managed to spot some great birds and far away crocodiles. What a morning!
ISimangaliso Wetland Park – by bike
Yes, you red correctly, I biked through a Natural Reserve in South Africa and still cant believe it’s true!
Our local guide took us through small path where we spotted Zebras, gazelles, wild pigs and all of those in their elements, peacefully living their lives. It was breathtaking, and very humbling.
Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park
This park is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa. It consists of 960 km² of hilly topography and where you can find all the Big 5 as well as the largest White Rhino consentration in the world or a lot of special species making it a paradise for respectful safaris.
What attracted me there was, again, how respectful the safaris and lodges were to the animals. It’s not a tourist trap where hundreads of polluting and noisy cars follow each other to spot unimpressed lions, it’s a preserved reserve where animal are free to live and where you can be lucky enough to spot animals. It’s a gorgeous landscape in which we stayed for three amazing days in th Rhino Ridge Safari lodge (check this here) which organizes safaris experiences twice a day as well as real walks in the bush.
Simply driving to the hotel gave us the chance to see bufalos and wild pigs in their elements.
After checking in at the hotel, we hopped in the open safari car for our first safari of this stay, and I could never forget it, as I saw my first ever wild elephant, just peacefully crossing our road. I teared up, that’s how much I was amazed. We headed to the hill to enjoy some beverages in the sunset before heading back to the hotel and seeing three white rhino on our way.
The next morning I woke up at 5AM for my second safari. The sun was shinning on the zebras as we drove passed them, warming up the buffalos bathing in the pond. In the afternoon, I went back with my guide for a safari under the rain! The word spred that lions have been spotted so we rushed there but remained out of luck. Though we admired another elephant and rhinos on our way back.
The next morning was one of the craziest experience in my life: a walk in the bush at 5 in the morning. I met my barefoot guide and his riffle and we followed silently the footprints and sounds of the wildlife. It was so impressive to feel so small and defenseless. We encountered a male rhino who wasn’t so happy to see us. After he almost charged us, and our guide protected us our adrenaline level was up high and what a nice surprise to see a group of giraffes peafcully eating next to some zebras and buffalos. This was my last safari experience and I strongly recommend it!