South African Safari!

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Touring a South African Safari was one of the coolest experiences of my life! I saw giraffes, elephants, and so many other awesome animals up close and personal. Check out the photos I took and the memories I made in South Africa.

A Giraffe Walking Toward a Mountain in Pilanesberg National Park

South African Safari Part 1

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.

A Map of Pilanesberg National Park

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!!

A Red Sign That Reads "Danger: Wild Animals. Stay in Your Vehicle"

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 Patio of the Restaurant Overlooking the Game DriveA Boerewors Sausage in a Bun Next to a Cup of French Fries

The view from the restaurant.

A Buck Walking in the Game Drive Outside the RestaurantAnimals Lounging Around and Drinking Water Near Two Huts

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

A Weather Forecasting Stone Hanging From a Tree Near the Restaurant

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.

The Master Bedroom in Our Lodge Space at Bakubung BushThe Couch, Ottoman and Two Armchairs in Our Hotel RoomA Collage of Two Views of the Bathroom in Our Lodge

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.

The Safari Game Drive Car Parked on the Side of the RoadA Selfie of Lindsay and Ian in the Game Drive Car

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!

A Wild Female Lion Guarding her Cubs in the Grass

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 –

A Stretch of The Road That Runs Through the Safari Park

The big watering hole in the middle of the park –

A Watering Hole in the Middle of Pilanesberg National ParkA Sunrise in the Mountains Over the South African Safari

Ready for our morning game drive –

A Selfie of Lindsay and Ian in Front of the SunriseA Sunrise at Bakubung Bush Lodge in South Africa

Breakfast with the wildebeest the morning we left –

Lindsay and Ian Posing and Smiling with Two Wildebeest in the Background

All The Animals We Saw

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

  • Giraffes

A Giraffe Looking at the Camera From Behind a TreeA Giraffe Next to a Tree in a South African SafariThree Giraffes Chewing on Leaves From the Same TreeA Giraffe Walking Toward a Mountain in Pilanesberg National Park

  • Elephants

The video! They were so close!!

The baby below was nursing. ๐Ÿ™‚

A Family of Elephants with Three Babies in Front of Some Trees

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

The Behinds of Seven Elephants Walking on a Paved RoadA Lone Elephant Walking Through a Patch of Tall South African Grass

  • Buffalo

Apparently buffalo are very hard to see, but we saw a whole big group!

A Water Buffalo Hanging Out in the South African Wilderness

  • Wild Dogs

A Wild Dog Prowling in the Tall, Tan Grass of the African Safari

  • Various Bucks

I can’t remember all of their names.

A Buck With Large Eyes Looking Off Into the DistanceA Buck with Long Horns Gazing Toward the Horizon

One of the smallest buck in the park.

A Small Buck Glancing at the Camera From its Place Beside the River

  • Kudu

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

A Kudu Walking on the Egde of a Paved Road in Pilanesberg National ParkA Kudu's Head Rising Up From Behind a BushA Kudu Standing Next to a Rocky Mountain with TreesA Male Kudu with Big Swirly Horns and Patches of White on its Face

  • 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!

Four Impalas with M Shapes on the Fur of Their BottomsThree Impalas at Pilanesberg National Park with a Fourth's Hind Legs Visible on the Side

  • Warthogs

A Warthog Standing Still in a Clearing at the Park

  • Zebras


  • Wildebeest

Ugly things, but also very prevalent in the park.

A Close-Up Shot of a South African WildebeestA Herd of Wildebeest at Pilanesberg National Park

  • Rhinos

A Rhino's Behind as it Walks Through Tall Grass in the ParkA Rhino Behind a Shrub in the South African SafariThree Rhinos Grazing off in the Distance Near a Bunch of Trees

  • Hippos

A Group of Hippos on a Little Island in the RiverThree Hippopotami Playing in the Water at the Safari

  • Lions

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.

A Large Male Lion with a Black Mane Standing StillA Female Lion Relaxing on the Ground with her Cubs


A Mother Lion Giving One of her Cubs a Bath

A male lion sleeping –

A Male Lion Sleeping in the Grass Next to Other Lions


Two Lions Sleeping in the Grass Next to Each Other

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™‚

A Lazy Lion Cub Lounging on the Ground

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

Lindsay Petting a Lion Cub and Smiling at the CameraA Small Lion Cub Perched on a Rock

  • Cheetahs

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?!

A Cheetah Standing on the Outer Flap of the Trunk of the CarA Cheetah Chilling on the Back of the Game CarA Spotted Cheetah Crouching in the GrassA Cheetah Looking Off to the SideLindsay Looking at a Cheetah with a Collar on it

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

Ian and Linsday Petting a Cheetah With its Tongue Sticking OutA Cheetah Climbing Over a Rock to Reach a Piece of MeatA Cheetah Being Fed a Piece of Meat

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™‚

Lindsay and Ian Crouching Down to Pet a Cheetah

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™‚

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  1. Deeprift Ventours

    This is really a wonderful post! And the pictures are amazing. I operate tours to Pilanesberg and it is really an amazing place. Seems like you had the time of your life!

  2. J.nelly

    So awesome Dub!!!! What an amazing experience and awesome pictures!!! Looking forward to reading part 2 now ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Erin R.

    Oh, gosh, I had to read through this twice to take it all in. Simply amazing. And BRAVO for choosing the wild animal parks instead of the water skiing and arcades. That’s like going on vacation to NYC and eating at Applebees. What was the winter weather like there? It looks awfully pleasant with the t-shirts and sandals you guys were wearing. And I can’t believe you got to touch a lion. Wow. And I love the elephant bums, too.


      The winter weather there is very nice, though it differs based on where you are in the country (even though it’s so small). In Joberg, it was BEAUTIFUL! 70s or 80s everyday, no humidity, not a cloud in the sky. Capetown in the winter though is very different. It’s apparently great in the summer, but it was a little chilly while we were there. More jeans and a light jacket kind of weather. There’s also a good bit of fog (mostly on the mountains) in the winter so even on a beautiful day, you aren’t really able to see Table Mountain.

  4. Alison

    Love, love, love your photos!! And aren’t timeshares wonderful!? My parents have owned a couple for years and I would definitely recommend staying at them to anyone! All of your photos were just beautiful and I loved reading your story. I can’t wait to read more of your next adventure!

  5. jillb

    For the trouble you had getting there, it sure looks like it was well worth it all!!! The pictures are awesome! I shared some one my facebook with a friend that loves giraffes but I put your website down so people would see your awesome site as well! I’m glad you had fun and the hubs got a chance to show you around his stompin’ grounds……..


      Thank you! It was definitely great to see where he came from and see all the things he’s told me about for so long. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. jessica knott (Swanky Recipes)

    What an amazing experience, I really enjoyed reading this! I loved seeing all the big cat animals and giraffes are just my favorite thing ever but I must say, I think i’d go crazy with all the flies if I was a lion. Can’t wait to read more and your pictures are fantastic!

  7. Katelyn @munchie pie

    Oh my gosh! I have never had an interest in going to Africa but all these pictures totally just changed my mind! It looks absolutly beautiful there! It looks like you guys are having a BLAST!


      South Africa (Cape Town specifically and a game drive) should definitely be on your list of places to go. It’s a beautiful place!

  8. Brooke

    This is so awesome! You are totally selling the trip. My mother went on a safari about 20 years ago. They actually stayed in tents in the middle of Africa somewhere. She said it was amazing. I love your pictures!

      1. Brooke

        My mother enjoyed it, but I liked the pictures of you comfy bed better than the idea of tents. LOL

  9. Mir

    Um…you just pet a cheetah. A CHEETAH. That makes you the coolest person ever.
    As a former zoo photographer (weird job, I know), I love looking at animal pics! And yours are amazing. I have no idea why you apologized at the beginning. These are stunning! And your room looks really nice. The whole vacation looks incredible!

About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29