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Hluhluwe Game Park, Natal, South Africa

"I can only describe my experience as incredible. I had never seen animals like this in the wild. The first of the many animals I saw were the numerous Impala, an antelope-like creature much smaller then I had expected. It was mating season so the male imapala were competing for the females. When they butt heads they make a sound much like what you would expect a pig to make. At first I thought I was hearing Warthogs only to find out the sound was coming from the impala.

As we drove along we came to a group of giraffe grazing along the road side. They are tall majestic looking animals. I caught a picture of one running towards us as we sat quietly in our car. It veered off to the right in order to get closer to the group grazing to the right of us. Unfortunately, I didn't get a good picture of the group because they were fairly well hidden in the brush.

There is something to be said of the diversity of animals that call South Africa home. As compared to the United States, they have so many more Antelope type animals ranging from the -boks to the Nyala, Imapala, and Kudu. They have the big five animals that are amazing to see. The variety is immense. One of the park Rangers told me that he was offered a job in the U.S. making 3 or 4 times what he was making in South Africa only to turn it down because America did not have the diversity that he had there. Indeed it is true.

My whole anticipation on the first trip was to see a rhino up close. When I finally saw a couple my experience was ruined by a grasshopper jumping into the back seat of the car. It wasn't that it was a big grasshopper, it was the fact that this was the third time that one had jumped into the back seat. My mother who sat in the back seat was having a fit that the grasshopper was there. My dad and I were trying to take pictures of the Rhinos when my mother abrubtly exited the car. (You're not supposed to do that). While two big beautiful white rhinos grazed nearby, I quickly exited the front seat in order to get to the back seat and remove the grasshopper causing the above said excitement from my mother. To make things more exciting, after I removed the grasshopper and exited the back seat and got back in the front seat, my father decided to drive forward slowly with the car leaving my mother standing all by herself with nothing between the rhinos and her. Fortunately nothing came of the incident other then me not getting any good pictures of rhinos.

Our next experience was finding a herd of buffalo, zebra, and warthogs all grazing near each other. We turned off the car, rolled down our windows and sat and listened and watched as the animals grazed around us. To the left of us a family of Warthogs grazed nearby. To the right of us a herd of 30 or so buffalo grazed lazily. And to our rear were a family of Zebra grazing and eyeing us suspiciously. It was truly an awesome experience seeing these animals literally "flock" around us.

Having seen a few Rhino, my next desire was to see some elephants or lions. As we drove along we came into a troop of babboons playing near the road. As before we turned the car off and rolled the windows down and listened to the young ones play and dart in and out of trees, jumping and swinging and yelling at each other. The adults were more docile sitting and grooming each other. I was able to take some great pictures of the troop "flocking" around us. To the left of the troop was a male Nyala grazing. This was the first time that I was able to see one up close. It was the most beautiful creature with seemingly artistic lines drawn into it's fur coat. It had brown legs, curly horns, large ears, a white mane running along its back, and two white lines "drawn" between its eyes.

We continued on when the babboon troop moved on. After a while, we came to a part of the road where we could tell that elephants had been. It is easy to tell as they leave a path of destruction wherever they go. They push over trees, knock down branches, and trample the brush to the point where it looks as if a tornado had touched down. We could tell that the elephants had followed the road for quite as ways as the destruction continued along the road for a mile or so. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any.

Nor did I get to see any Lions or Leopards. Leopards are quite rare as they hunt at night. Viewing game in a game park is much this way as you can only see what is available. If you turn one way you may miss something behind you. If you turn another way, you may miss something in the direction you were just looking. If I was to do the whole thing over again, I would go in a vehicle tall enough to view the game above the brush and a guide to drive the vehicle so I can exclusively watch for wildlife and take pictures and ask questions about the wildlife. I would also get a camera with a telephoto lens in order to take close-up pictures of the animals. My experience nonetheless was incredible. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat."

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