Kruger Safari with the Maestro

by Michele John
(Australia)

Every moment provided a highlight – from the glimpse of a baby elephant as we entered the park, the sighting of our first beautiful blue Kingfisher, the search for the elusive rhino, to the concern for the old lioness as she walked by the river all alone.

Safari Operator Performance

I found Bearded Heron Safaris on the web.

Having just completed a PhD, I sought to rejuvenate my spirit with Bearded Heron on a 6 day Kruger safari.

I chose Bearded Heron because of the care and professionalism shown by Neil Heron with my enquiries on where in the Kruger to visit and at what time of the year. He is also able to provide tailor made programs for single travellers.

The trip was marvellous from start to finish. The Kruger is not just a destination – it is a journey in itself and the Maestro of Safari travel is Neil Heron. Without the music of his passion for the wildlife and ecology of the Kruger - this journey would have been just another safari.

The memories presented in this report include a tongue-in-cheek 'Animal Farm' reflection on my wonderful "Classic Safari" journey and the learning's I made...

A Bearded Heron Kruger Safari is a journey that will stay with you forever.

Whilst George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' reminds us of the weakness of the human condition, Neil Heron's Kruger safaris will remind you of the important role we play in both conserving and supporting nature and establishing our own lives on the more sustainable and honourable traditions of the bush.

It will be Neil's pleasure entirely to give you a lesson on life, on how to use your 5 senses to learn from, and to more fully enjoy, the beauty and splendour of not just the African landscape, but the natural world around us.

"Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself." - George Orwell, Animal Farm, Ch. 1

Accommodation

The night before my safari began was spent in the delightful 'Fifth Avenue' Guesthouse with butter knives and floral napkins and chocolates on pillows…a long way from the droll environment of rising Australian mortgage rates, increasing consumer prices and political inaction on climate change…

The tiny Rondavel in the southern Kruger, its simple furniture and environmentally friendly construction were a wonderful introduction to the elegance of the bush and its superb vistas of hippos wallowing in rivers, the sounds of retiring lions bellowing in the distance and the warm September air softening the beauty of the dry African savannah.

The accommodations restraint and functionality, all served to remind me of the beauty of the simple things in life.

"All that year the animals worked like slaves. But they were happy in their work; they grudged no effort or sacrifice, well aware that everything they did was for the benefit of themselves and those of their kind who would come after them, and not for a pack of idle, thieving human beings." - George Orwell, Animal Farm, Ch. 6

Food

Our meals on safari were also sustainable, with warm hospitality, thoughtfulness in planning and ecological conversation further engendering our respect and appreciation for the elegant and appropriate sustenance enjoyed.

Early morning breakfasts of traditional rusks and coffee as the sun rose, packed lunches like those excitedly enjoyed in our happiest school days, the celebratory tipple and salty snacks at the end of the day to mark the sighting of the Big 5 and the delicious evening meal of an African Braai (BBQ) reminding us of the bounty of this beautiful land and its capacity to provide.

"The animals were happy as they had never conceived it possible to be. Every mouthful of food was an acute positive pleasure, now that it was truly their own food, produced by themselves and for themselves, not doled out to them by a grudging master." - George Orwell, Animal Farm, Ch. 3

Wildlife

It is difficult to choose a wildlife highlight from the amazing splendour of the Kruger palette.

From the muted beauty of the antelopes with coats so smooth they reflect the sunset, to the elegance of the giant giraffe gently grazing the leaves off trees, the majesty and command of the regal lion and his collar of gold, to the dusty grey hides of the elephant and their young protectively hidden within the family herd from predators, to the comedic baboons with their masks of drama, pinching wheel caps off unsuspecting cars as they stop to view the landscape.

The Kruger wildlife safari is a very long way from our world dominated by ‘political animals’ and their constant need for economic growth ...it revels in its own pace of life and respect for mother nature.

Each animal playing a unique role in the ecology, none looking to dominate the other, all living within the means of the environment in which they exist.

"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others" - George Orwell, Animal Farm, Ch. 10

Typical Day

The rhythm of modern working life is very different to the beat of the drum that pervades the Kruger.

The rush to work is replaced by the rush to see the dawn break, the first light that reveals the energy and vitality of the new day.

The wildlife's call to the rivers and deltas to drink before the heat of the day starts is a wonderful time to see the animals, as the colours of the sunrise open the pages to the Kruger landscape.

An early morning tour followed by breakfast and reflection and then perhaps another wildlife foray into the mid-morning light.

Then comes lunch and plans for an afternoon or dusk tour to see the animals not revealed earlier in the day.

This is then followed with dinner around the fire or table and stories of the days excitement under the African stars and cool evening breeze. There is no rush – the Kruger breathes a breath that is entirely at ease - it lives for the moment and is guided by a more powerful yet relaxed tempo.

"Only old Benjamin professed to remember every detail of his long life and to know that things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse - hunger, hardship and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of life." - George Orwell, Animal Farm, Ch. 10
Other Activities
Take a 'walk on the wild side' and enjoy being part of the bush on a 'Safari Walk'.

You may just see the leopard hauling its antelope prey into the respite of the Marula tree or stumble across a small group of young male elephants seeking solace in the shade.

You may even cross the path of a group of zebras hiding their young as the black and white stripes of their bodies merge the family herds together.

"If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak." - George Orwell, Animal Farm, Ch. 7

Tips and Advice

Take plenty of battery support for your camera - even a back up camera!

My most useful items in my luggage were my camera and comfortable walking
shoes with thick socks.

Michele's Safari Details:

Rating: 10/10

Safari company used: Bearded Heron Safaris (make a direct enquiry)

Parks visited: Kruger National Park, South Africa

Date of safari: 6 September for 6 days

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