From lions, to rhinos, giraffes and cute little baby animals, the South Africa safari has everything!!
In December, I went on a tour with Chan Brothers Travel, and they brought us to a private game lodge outside of Johannesburg called Mabula Lodge. We stayed there for a night, and did 2 game drives in total, one in early in the day and one in the evening. The game drives are usually early in the morning or right before sunset because that is when the animals are the most active and they are out chilling, grazing, etc.
Safari is one crazy interesting experience, but its not as animal filled and lion king like as it seems. Here's the truth.
Being able to see as much as you want on a safari game drive depends on so many factors, here are some truths to the whole experience.
The park is MASSIVE. And you never know where the animals are.
Going on the evening drive, we saw way more animals than in the morning drive the next day. Also, there are tons of Kudus, Elands, Monkeys, Warthogs, Wildebeests and Zebras you can spot - as they move in herds, but when it comes to the Big 5s (elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and buffalo) it really depends on your luck.
The 2nd morning, we drove for about an hour without seeing any animals, it felt like we were driving for ages and then, we spotted a lion!
We got up so close to a male lion just lying in the middle of the road, whilst another vehicle, saw 3 female lions but they were far away in the bushes.
These baby animals are BEYOND CUTE! Seeing the animals graze and run freely is one of the most refreshing experiences i've had!
2 // You Can't Interfere with the Animals
I get the questions "Can you touch them?" quite a lot. I never expected to be able to touch wild animals, so, no. You don't touch the animals in the wild. They are WILD. The vehicles aren't suppose to go too near to them either (you might scare the animals). The whole environment is maintained such that this animals are able to live, hunt, and graze freely without the interference of human forces. It's their world and we're just visiting.
3 // The Rangers MEMORISE the Park and Communicate With Each Other
There were a total of 6-7 vehicles driving around the park, and there aren't any signs/directions at all. If a big 5 was sighted, the ranger would inform other rangers and leave so as to give others could see the animals (not a case where you have 5 cars around an animal). The park ranger I was with saw an elephant, turned off the engine, let us take pictures, before informing the others and then driving away to direct them to where the last sighting was.
Unfortunately, one of the rangers spotted a leopard but somehow scared it away, and so the rest of us lost that opportunity to see an african leopard.
Watch an elephant walk towards us this video!
4 // It depends on how skilled your ranger is
Our ranger could spot the rhinos from the other end of the plain and she drove to a spot so we could and get an extremely close up view of the rhinos without disturbing them! When she first said "look over there, rhinos!" I was just like "wait what?! where??" It takes so much skill to spot the animals through the trees and shrubs - which makes sense because thats how they camouflage.
Having a skilled ranger depends on your luck (point 1) but the native africans and older rangers are usually the ones with more experience!
Even though its not animals left, right, and centre everywhere you go, the safari drives were so much fun, i'd do them again and again. If anyone is considering a trip to South Africa, GO ON A SAFARI DRIVE!
The drives can at times be slightly disappointing, especially when you don't see much for over an hour. But, when you get to see a glimpse of a lion, rhino or any animal up close, ah, IT IS SO SO SO WORTH IT. My mum loved the experience so much, she said she wanted to be a south african safari ranger, she was hilarious!
26 March 2017 South Africa
When people think Vegas, they think of glitzy hotels and the glamorous Las Vegas strip. Cool performances, gambling, champagne, getting hitched randomly after all that champagne, you get the drift.
Even though I wanted to experience and see Vegas, I'm not into clubbing (don't do well in crowds), neither do I have cash to splash out in the casinos. So, instead of spending full days in Vegas, we took the mornings to explore nature sights around vegas, caught a few sunsets, and then headed back during the night to enjoy the pretty lights in Las Vegas city.
The Red Rock Canyon was one of our first day trip destinations. The Grand Canyon was a place I wanted to visit but it was just too far a drive out.
Red Rock Canyon was only a 2-3 hour drive from where we stayed and visiting early in the morning meant that we got to explore the area without having to deal with lots of tourists. Although, i'm not sure if such large nature areas ever get crowded...
I loved that I got to see cacti growing naturally and how they add a spark of life to the otherwise completely red and brown landscape. These cacti is not the type of plant we don't get to see in tropical Singapore, which made the plant lover in me way happy!
Check out my youtube video of my time in Vegas and exploring around Nevada!
Being able to catch the sunset at Zabriskie Point and kicking it in the sand at the Death Valley was also another great experience.
The undulating landscape of the Death Valley is just impressive. It makes me wonder how sand ended up forming in that way, and if it actually ever stays the same with the winds blowing all the time. It's cool to know that this landscape could be ever changing!
The last nature sight we went to was the Valley of Fire State Park. I think bag parks like Yosemite and other national parks get so much love from Americans and tourists, but people often overlook smaller state parks.
The Valley of Fire State Park is such a beautiful plot with routes one could drive through to explore. Different parts of the park had different rock formations and my favourite was called the Beehive. It is made of red rocks with massive perforations making them look like huge beehives. Perfect of interesting photography shots!
My time in Vegas wasn't typical. No doubt, I did get to watch a Cirque Du Soleil performance, visit a casino, walk down the las vegas strip, admired the night lights, stayed in a lovely hotel and eat at an amazing restaurant. But, what stood out most during my time there was the little day trips I took to these nature sights, and chasing sunsets around Nevada.
These trips out of the main city area just reminded me that all we need is to take a little step out of our typical path, and our entire view could change.
A Life lesson, and traveling lesson all in one!
15 March 2017 Las Vegas, NV, USA
I'm not someone who deals very well in the snow. I don't deal well with the heat either to be quite honest.
But, I DO enjoy the cold. By cold, I mean anything from 0 to 15 degrees. I'm great. I probably don't need more than 2 layers. But when snow starts falling, well that's it.
Subzero temperatures are fine with me when nothing falls from the sky. Snow on the ground, sure its all good. Snow falling from the sky, my body goes - NOPE! I'm perfectly alright until it starts snowing or pouring rain. When that happens, I somehow ceases to function.
Unfortunately it was raining batshitcrazy the entire time I was in Tahoe, so I guess i didn't get the typical Tahoe experience; where people go skiing or snowboarding, since there was no way I could have done it in the massive rains with me being sick and all the flooding/ road closures :(
Still, it was an experience and a different sight from the rest of California in the winter.
I guess there's always a next time for snow activities. Although to be quite honest, I don't actually feel like i miss out because im so much more of a sunshine girl. Ignorance is indeed a bliss here heh!
27 February 2017 Lake Tahoe, United States
It has been said, Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places in California. Having visited the national park this past winter, I can say, I absolutely agree.
Even though so many of the roads were closed, and it wasn't advisable to hike (judging from my previous mountain climbing experience, I don't think I would survive a hike in the winter), it was still amazing to get to witness the iconic El Capitan in real life, the snow covered Yosemite Valley, and the best of all, actually seeing a perfect reflection of the picturesque surroundings at the Mirror Lake.
I must say, I had my doubts after seeing images online, but the lake is honestly just like a mirror. It looks exactly the same in real life!
When I saw the wintery landscape of Yosemite I was pretty sure such natural beauty inspired many of the water colour paintings one would see in museums. I finally understood how some artists can come up with such incredible art pieces. They don't imagine. Instead, they just have to reflect reality.
Not to mention, the colours of the sunset in the winter is so unlike typical summery sunsets i'm used to seeing in Singapore! It was one of the best sights whilst driving along the winding routes.
I'd hope to one day have a visit to Yosemite in the summer. Im pretty sure it would be another experience in itself!