In to Africa

For a very, very long time, one of the things that Ive dreamed of doing is to go on safari amidst the huge animal herds and carnivores of the African plains. One such place that you might do that is at Kruger National Park in South Africa.

In 2004, I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Durban, South Africa and I had hoped to make this dream come through. However, as it turned out, a trip to Kruger was a little too costly for my means nor did I have sufficient free time to make the trip.

Instead, I went with some others to one of the many independent and privately owned safari parks. These were essentially large areas of relatively open habitats but which were basically fenced off private property. The animals in these safari parks are ‘managed”, not free ranging and are often bought from other parks.

So really, they are more like open air zoos rather than truly natural habitats. The number of animals are usually quite low and they are often not prime specimens due to excessive in-breeding. So though I am grateful to have had the chance of even visiting a safari park, I still hope to do a real safari experience in Kruger National Park one day.

This is the jeep that we used to make our way around the park.

Most people come to see the big five which are the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape Buffalo. Well, I saw no lions or leopards (often missing from these safari parks as the predators are much harder to manage and costly to feed). Nor did I see any elephants but I did get to see the following; Cape Buffalo and the rhinocerous.

I also saw the giraffe. Now that is a big animal! I wonder why it is not listed as one of the top five.

I also saw a rather scruffy pack of ostriches.

But for me, the real jewel for my visit, was the glimpse of the secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius). This bird was so named because it is said to resemble a pompous British Government Secretary from the late 18th Century. It is a diurnal raptor and is seen on the coat of arms of the Republic of South Africa.

The apparent fading stripes on the rump of this Zebra is a sign of excessive inbreeding within the Zebra herd in this particular safari park.


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