Hi, I'm Lu!

A PhD Student at University of Chicago who loves discovering the world and trying new eats! Hope you enjoy!

Safari in South Africa

Safari in South Africa

IMG_1607 Lioness
IMG_1607 Lioness

Today is World Wildlife Day, and in honor of it, I want to share an experience I checked off from the very top of my bucket list: going on safari in South Africa. Watching all of these animals up close in their natural habitats really had an impact on how I view zoos, trophy hunting, development and all the other human practices that remove these wild animals from their homes. I honestly cannot understand why anyone who has a conscience would want to harm these beauties.

South Africa has some of the most heavily poached and trafficked animals in the world. Thankfully, Kruger National Park and many private game reserves are doing their best to protect the wildlife through the employment of anti-poaching units. But still, many poachers get away with murdering these magnificent animals for their horns, tusks, skins, and more.

IMG_1680-2 Elephant
IMG_1680-2 Elephant
P1200082 Dung beetle
P1200082 Dung beetle

You probably wouldn't believe it, but it's pretty spectacular to watch dung beetles work. Anytime there is poop around, these guys will be hard at work, rolling it into balls of dung.

IMG_1756 Giraffe drinking
IMG_1756 Giraffe drinking

The luxury safari lodge we stayed at had a direct view of a watering hole from their infinity pool. One day, as I was just lounging poolside, a herd of giraffes came up for a drink. I absolutely love how they bend over for a refreshing drink!

IMG_1714-2 Black rhino
IMG_1714-2 Black rhino

We were so lucky to have seen a black rhino, who had just been rolling in the mud! It looked so cute just standing there staring at us. These guys are not actually black - our guide told us that someone had gotten confused with "beak" and "black". So the black rhinos have the beak, and white rhinos do not.

IMG_2341 Bird
IMG_2341 Bird
IMG_1503 Wildebeest calves
IMG_1503 Wildebeest calves

We went on safari in December, and there were so many babies! From wildebeest to elephants to zebra, we were in awe of all these mothers protecting their newborns. Plus, they were all adorable!!!

IMG_1523 Vervet monkey
IMG_1523 Vervet monkey

We were just driving along when all of a sudden we had to stop because there were buffalo in the road. And for some strange reason, they were all looking in the same direction! We strained our necks trying to figure out what they were so interested in, but no such luck.

IMG_1444 Buffalo
IMG_1444 Buffalo
IMG_1337 White rhino
IMG_1337 White rhino
IMG_2766 Zebra butt
IMG_2766 Zebra butt

One of the scariest moments during our entire time out there was actually when I came face to face with a black mamba. I was sitting about three or four feet up in the safari vehicle, which did not have a roof, and all of a sudden the head of a snake was next to me, staring straight at me. I am afraid of snakes, so I screamed, at which time the ranger turned around, looked at the snake, and immediately shouted at me to move as far away from it as I could. Thankfully, the black mamba had no interest and slithered away from us, still holding up its body off the ground, and into a tree. My heart must have been pounding as if I had just ran a marathon...

IMG_1472 Hippos and Ducks
IMG_1472 Hippos and Ducks
IMG_2045 Snail
IMG_2045 Snail

The snails there were huge! There were a bunch in the roads just crawling along...

IMG_2699 South Africa
IMG_2699 South Africa
IMG_2528 Baboon
IMG_2528 Baboon
IMG_1428 Grey foam-nest tree frogs
IMG_1428 Grey foam-nest tree frogs

These foam-nest tree frogs were some of the coolest things we saw! The females will lay their eggs, and the males will come along to release their sperm, which gets whipped into this giant foamy ball. It was crazy when we saw this specific nest because it was swaying above our heads on a flimsy branch, as the males fertilized the eggs...

P1200075 Millipede
P1200075 Millipede
IMG_2997-2 Cheetahs
IMG_2997-2 Cheetahs
IMG_2080 Warthog
IMG_2080 Warthog
IMG_2059 Female impala
IMG_2059 Female impala

On our final day, we saw the cheetah brothers! What a treat! One of them clearly had a large meal, while the other definitely had an empty stomach... When we first came upon one of the brothers, I thought someone had let their little purse dog loose in the game reserve because that is exactly what a cheetah's "bark" sounds like!

IMG_2327 Giraffe
IMG_2327 Giraffe

There were impala EVERYWHERE! Herds of them run rampant through the game reserves, the "M"'s on their butts bouncing up and down with every hop. The juvenile ones were very inquisitive of the giant four-wheeled vehicles we drove!

Giraffe crossings and kudu stares are so common that we stopped gawking after our second day there. I soon realized that there is something about rarity that we pursue. But don't get me wrong - I still snapped a million photos of these guys every time we saw them!

IMG_2358 Kudu and bird
IMG_2358 Kudu and bird
IMG_1705-2 Tortoise
IMG_1705-2 Tortoise
IMG_2641 Lion
IMG_2641 Lion

It was really a treat to see a majestic male lion in the wild, looking intently at us. He and his pride of females were just hunting down a herd of wildebeest and needed to take a break in the shade.

IMG_2761 Black-backed jackal
IMG_2761 Black-backed jackal
IMG_2304 Male waterbuck
IMG_2304 Male waterbuck

The future of wildlife is in our hands. Check out how you can help/participate.

Tips:

  1. Be ready to wake up EARLY. It's probably best if you go on Safari right when you arrive (from the US) since your jet lag will help you wake up at 4 or 5 am with no problem.
  2. If you are planning to go to Kruger National Park, I would highly suggest staying at a private game reserve nearby, and a ranger will be able to take you on a ride through Kruger (which is really helpful since they have superb tracking skills).
  3. Get yourself a decent camera for the game drives!
  4. Remember, these animals are all wild, so by no means should you get out of the vehicle you are in!
Roister

Roister

Bluefin Tuna at Tsukiji Market

Bluefin Tuna at Tsukiji Market