South Africa trip journal: an open vehicle game drive

My first game drive day actually had two very different drives: one in Kruger National Park (over 2 million hectares) and a second one in a substantially smaller park in an open vehicle.

There’s no best way to go on a game drive, which I why I really relished the opportunity to try the different styles. I like the careful movements in a secure vehicle, especially when the potential to encounter lions exists. At the same time, in an open vehicle, for better or for worse, nature is right in front of you.

The excitement of our drive began before we got inside of the reserve, when we encountered some runaway buffalo strolling along on the side of the road.

South Africa private game drive African buffalo

The proximity to the animals gave us new perspectives. For example, when you look head-on at this blue wildebeest, it looks like its eyes are where the ears are.

South Africa private game drive blue wildebeest

We stopped to let some zebras cross, and, at first glance, this guy looked lonely.

South Africa private game drive zebras

When I got home and started going through the images, I noticed there was quite a bit more going on. Some sort of zebra fight, or frolic.

South Africa private game drive zebras

The zebras slayed me. They have no idea how painfully visible they are to the human eye, especially when they think they’re being particularly stealthy.

South Africa private game drive zebras

The zebras weren’t the only ones having difficulty hiding.

South Africa private game drive giraffe

Since the reserve I visited for the night drive was in the same general area, many of the animals we encountered were the same. However, since the reserve was much smaller, the experience felt more … condensed than in the larger park. Within the reserve, there weren’t any paved roads, so we felt every bump and dip, but also got us up close and personal with may of the animals, like this kudu.

South Africa private game drive kudu

The small water hole meant the hippos were close by. Luckily, we had some trees to provide a bit of a barrier between us and the rather mean creatures.

South Africa private game drive hippos

We were lucky to find ourselves right next to some white rhinos having dinner. Then, we got a tip from another vehicle that a very rare black rhino was nearby, so we set out to see if we could find him.

South Africa private game drive white rhinoceros

Sure enough, we found him. The black rhino is the official rhino representative in the Big 5 because they are extremely aggressive and can be unpredictable. This guy happily munched on grass, but we kept our distance anyway, in case his mood turned.

Rhinos of all kinds are a very endangered species and targeted by poachers for their horns, so it was a rare opportunity to see both species in a relatively safe habitat for them.

South Africa private game drive black rhinoceros

Caught up in the excitement of seeing the black rhino, we almost drove right past this fairly young crocodile. He was only about a metre long, practically a lizard compared to some of the large, scary creatures we would see in the days to come.

South Africa private game drive crocodile

As the sun started to set, we stopped to stretch our legs and take in the sunset. This small herd of zebras were almost more curious about us.

South Africa private game drive zebras

Then, a spectacular burst of colour as the sun set. As darkness set in, we hopped back in the Land Rover for the night show.South Africa private game drive sunset

At night, our tracker shone a light ahead of the vehicle to catch any animal movements. When we found something, our guide would slow down and we’d try to get a closer look.

South Africa private game drive night

Night drives are great for seeing animals, but less than ideal for taking pictures. Still, it was nice to see this white rhino mother and calf enjoying a late-night meal.

South Africa private game drive night white rhinos

If you have the good fortune to go out on some game drives, try different kinds of drives if you can. The experience is not to be missed and you never know what you’re going to see!




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