South African Safari! {Part 1 of our trip}

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I’m so excited to share today’s post with you! I will go ahead and apologize ahead of time for all the photos, but how can I resist sharing all the pictures of the cute cuddly animals?

Obviously I couldn’t. And yet, this is maybe half of the photos I actually took. #imaddictedtophotos There’s also a video! Yay!

This part of our trip was definitely one of the best parts. It was actually right in the middle of our trip, despite sharing it with you first. We’d stayed with family in Johannesburg and then rented a car and drove out to Pilanesberg National Park. Most people think of Kruger National Park when they think of safaris in South Africa, but that park was twice as far away.


I have to say, we drove around the park ourselves, as well as doing official game drives (which is what they call the safaris) and it was still huge. Some of the roads felt like they went on forever. And there was no lack of animals.

We stayed at Bakubung Bush Lodge, which is right on the southern edge of the park. The location was awesome. It was easy to get to and it was about 5 minutes from Sun City, in case you want to check that out too.

We went over and walked around Sun City for a bit and had lunch the day we left. It is a BIG complex with all kinds of activities. There were plenty of restaurants, several hotels, a casino, an arcade, a wave pool, a big lake where you can do water sports, a big maze – and more. But I have to say, given that we were in Africa, it just didn’t appeal to us. We were so much more interested in doing more Africa-specific activities. All of those things are things we can do in the U.S. So we hung out with the animals. ๐Ÿ™‚

The lodge we stayed in was great. You drove into the actual park to get to the hotel, so the first thing you see is this warning sign. Cool!!


One thing about South Africa is the weather is fairly mild. It never really gets crazy hot or cold, so there’s no heating or air conditioning in the main areas. There’s air in the rooms, but everything else was open, with thatched roofing. The restaurant overlooked the game drive, with only some electric fencing between you and the animals. It’s a gorgeous view and great place to eat. Our first lunch was Boerewors, a VERY popular South Africa sausage that I’ve only heard the hubs talk about like 1 million times. ๐Ÿ™‚


The view from the restaurant.


The sign below was right by the restaurant and I thought it was hilarious. ๐Ÿ™‚


The rooms were beautiful inside too. I’d totally recommend staying here to anyone and I’d definitely go back. Not a surprise to me, considering the hubs’ grandparents have had a timeshare there since he was kid.


We got there mid day and went on our first game drive that afternoon. Our lodge did game drives in the morning at about 8am and in the afternoon at 3pm, which went until the evening when the park closed.


We got lucky and saw lots of animals. As we drove into the main part of the park, we immediately saw Kudu, Zebra, Impala and Wildebeest. It was awesome! On our first game drive alone, we saw 4 of the big 5. The big 5 consist of elephant, buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard. Leopard ended up being the only one we didn’t see. They are nocturnal, so they are harder to see. They also hang out up in trees. There is apparently a joke that you don’t see the leopard, but the leopard sees you. Sneaky little (big) things.

We went on one afternoon game drive and one morning game drive. After that, we drove ourselves one afternoon and one morning. We decided to go out on our own right after our morning game drive. One the morning trip, our game ranger (who drives the car) took us to a place where lion had been sighted. Sadly when we got there they were all sleeping (3 female lions and a bunch of cubs), so they were laying down and hidden by the grass and bushes.

Because we knew that it’d be several hours before the afternoon game drive, we decided to drive back out there ourselves right when we got back and see if we could see the lions before they moved and were gone again. We pulled up to the area and there were a couple other cars sitting and waiting too. Our timing was perfect! Not two minutes after we got there, they were up and on the move! You can see one of the females below, but the cubs were so small and short, they didn’t show up in the photos. We could see them in person though. So cool!


I have to say – seeing a real lion in the wild – a totally wild lion – was so cool. And exciting! I loved it!

But although we got lucky in seeing those lion white driving on our own, we definitely saw more animals while on the official game drives. It was nice to have the experience of driving around a little on our own, but the game drives were totally worth it. The rangers all radio to each other about where the animals are so you see much more.

Driving through the park –


The big watering hole in the middle of the park –


Ready for our morning game drive –


Breakfast with the wildebeest the morning we left –


And here are all the animals we saw:

(And don’t leave yet, we also went to The Lion Park. More on that below ๐Ÿ™‚ )


giraffe4 giraffe3 giraffe2 giraffe


The video! They were so close!!

The baby below was nursing. ๐Ÿ™‚


I was obsessed with the animal butts. Weird, I know, but they’re so cute!!

elephant-butts elephant2

Buffalo – Apparently very hard to see, but we saw a whole big group!


Wild Dog


Various Buck – I can’t remember all of their names

big-eyes other-buck

One of the smallest buck in the park.


Kudu – I love their big ears! And the older males have the most beautiful horns!

kudu1 kudu4 kudu3 kudu2

Impala – VERY prevalent in the park. I also loved their butts. ๐Ÿ™‚ They apparently are called the McDonalds of the park because the black lines on their butt look like an M. So pretty!

impala2 impala




zebra3 zebra2 zebra1

Wildebeest – ugly things, but also very prevalent in the park.

wildebeest2 wildebeest1


rhino2 rhino1 3-rhinos


hippo2 hippo1

So like I said, we also went to The Lion Park on our way back to Johannesburg. The Lion Park is sort of zoo-ish, but with a lot more space for the animals. The buck and zebras are in a large enclosure and then are are several other enclosures for lions and chetahs. You can opt to have the people there drive you through, or you can drive your own car, which is what we did. It can be tempting to roll down your window, but there are signs all over the place to not do that. It can be easy to forget that they are basically wild animals. You don’t know how they may react.

I have to say, driving through the enclosures, particularly of the buck, was kind of sad. Not as bad as a zoo, but still. The buck in the wild (game park) have so much room and they are constantly roaming – they were so beautiful to watch. I felt bad for the ones enclosed at the park. Plus, there’s something so gratifying about finding them in the wild.

That said, the lions were really cool to see up close. They are so much harder to see in the wild. And the big male was beautiful. I loved his mane.

big-male-lion female-lion



A male lion sleeping –




We also were able to go and see a couple lion cubs, although I think this one guy was getting a bit old to be called a cub. He made me a bit nervous. ๐Ÿ™‚


I was surprised – the cubs were not soft. I had totally expected their fur to be nice and cuddly, but it was coarse. #funfact

petting-lion-cub smaller-lion-cub

After that, we did “A Walk With A Cheetah”. We hadn’t been able to see any chetah in the wild (at the game park), so it was great to see them here. We weren’t really sure what to expect on our “walk” but it ended up really great.

They take a group of around 10 people out to an enclosed field and bring out the cheetah and you literally walk around with him and take pictures. I surprised by how beautiful he was. The most beautiful coloring and coolest eyes. So focused.

The woman out there with us told us that cheetahs can see for miles – and you could totally tell he was seeing right past you. Not interested in us at all. She also said that the reason they have the black lines under their eyes is for the sun. They hunt during the day and the black helps reduce the glare of the sun. How interesting is that?!

chetah-in-car chetah-in-car2 chetah2 chetah me-chetah

We got to pet the cheetah and take some pictures and #funfact number 2 – cheetahs are soft. Lion cubs = coarse. Cheetahs = soft. Who knew?


To get the cheetah to walk around, stand on rocks, pose for pictures, etc. they had big hunks of raw meat. Kind of awkward, but effective. In the picture below, you can actually see the meat being thrown to the cheetah to keep him in place while we take a picture with him. It totally landed right at the hubs’ feet. Fortunately, he still has all his toes. ๐Ÿ™‚


So there you have it! The exciting wildlife we saw on this part of our trip. It was awesome! I love love animals, so I totally dug the whole experience. I would recommend it for anyone traveling to South Africa.

Next up will be Cape Town – coming soon! ๐Ÿ™‚