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The self-drive African safari


Photos and text by Bonny Makarewicz

While many prefer to fly between African countries, our group decided a self-drive safari would not only be more affordable but flexible for four self-confessed control freaks

First stop -Kruger National Park. Established in 1898 it is one of the Africa's largest parks and one of seven game parks we will visit over a five-week self-drive tour through South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

If you are not a morning person, you may want to rehash the African safari, especially if you want to see or photograph wildlife.

We leave the gates daily at 6 a.m. ready for lions, and more and oh my Kruger doesn't disappoint! In our first two days we bag the Big Five - on digital cameras that is. That's, a phrase coined by white hunters to refer to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. It includes the African Elephant, Rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, lion and the leopard.

We encounter our first leopard sighting shortly after diverting around a 15-foot crocodile sunning on the road near Sabi Camp.

In the African safari world a leopard or predator sighting is akin to a 40 cm powder day in Whistler. Like skiers nudging their ski tips ever closer in the lift line, jeeps and trucks jostle for position, protecting every inch of real estate to provide clients with the best and closest vantage point.

For the self-driver who is deprived of radios, elevated open air safari vehicles and history one must rely on good eye-sight for spotting, a driver/friend that doesn't mind being instructed by several back seat drivers and other self-drivers who often stop you to reveal predator sightings.

From Kruger we drive 1,000 km to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park bordering South Africa, Botswana and Namibia in the Kalahari Desert. Famous for its black-maned lions and the small mammal the meerkat, made famous by Animal Planet's Meerkat Manor, our three-day stay brings a close viewing of large male lion, our only Cheetah sighting and a night stay at the Kalahari tent camp where laughing Hyenas serenade us to sleep.

Entering Namibia we head for the famous sand dunes of Sossusvlei, however, our dreams of cobalt skies contrasted with red earth are dashed as high winds and milky skies greet us instead. Despite the winds we hike the dunes, test our trusty Tucson through the '4x4 only' sand roads and marvel at the ghostly expanse of Deadvlei, a large area of dried white clay punctuated by the skeletons of ancient Camelthorn trees.

At around the 5,000 kilometre mark the air conditioning disappears on the Tucson. To simulate travelling through Etosha National Park without A/C just imagine holding a blowdryer up to your face for several hours. Heat aside; Etosha became one of my favorite spots for its abundance of wildlife and great accommodation.

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