Kruger National Park – Self-drive vs. Open jeep safari

African elephant, Kruger Park

Whether to drive on your own or book a safari is perhaps the biggest question people ask when going on their very first african safari.

We actually did not hesitate in booking a safari on our recent, first visit ever to Kruger National Park in South Africa. We booked with Africa Spears and it turned out to be a great choice. Here are 10 reasons why we think a guided open jeep safari is a good idea:

  1. We landed in Johannesburg and from there, Kruger Park is a good 400 km. As we needed to get to Kruger the same day we were glad they had arranged a pick-up for us
  2. We did not have to make bookings inside the park rest camp ourselves. It was all done by them
  3. The guide knew his way around in the jungle for things like where to stop for breakfast/lunch or a loo break
  4. We were in an open jeep at a slight elevation rather than inside a low closed vehicle. An open jeep is far more exciting than a regular car and it’s easier to spot animals
  5. It’s not easy to spot animals in the park, esp when it’s your first time. Our guide was very good in spotting animals otherwise easily missed by the untrained eye
  6. The guide also shares information on animal behavior, bird and plant species and so on. It’s quite educational this way
  7. The guide knows what to do in case of an animal attack (at least you would hope so ;-))
  8. They will also drop you off at the airport
  9. Often you won’t find a network inside the park while your guide will have his radio
  10. There is someone to take your pictures 😀

White Rhino, Kruger Park

Quick tip: After exiting Kruger, we took a flight out to Cape Town from Nelspruit in place of Johannesburg. And it saved us from an unnecessary long drive and a good few hours. Do note that there are no daily flights from Nelspruit though, so plan accordingly.

Our experience in Kruger you ask? Watching our vlogs below might just inspire you to book that ticket to Africa! Tell us what you you spot at 3:50 mins in part 1.

For more videos, you can hop-on to YouTube here.

Happy spotting the Big 5 folks!!! Waka waka! 🙂

 

 

Bangalore to Coorg

Peppers at Coorg
The restless Travel Bug in me was set free, yet again as we embarked on our journey to Coorg. This was an extended weekend and we decided to visit Coorg only a week before. As we started calling the various resorts, cottages and homestays, we realized we were a tad too late. Everything that had good ratings on Trip Advisor was booked! But, what came to our rescue was a referral by a resort to this particular homestay. So we spoke to the owner, looked at the pictures on their website. Satisfied enough, we transferred a certain amount to the owner’s bank account and we had our booking done. This was the ‘Coorg Bamboo Grove’.
 
Where we stayed: Homestays are very common in south, particularly hill destinations. Many are not the authentic homestays though. Several cottages/rooms built on a tea/coffee estate and run commercially are also termed homestays these days. However, we stayed at a proper homestay in the Ammathi, Vontiangadi area of Coorg. We were with the owner’s family in their house; having meals with them and sharing their personal space. Of course we had a room to ourselves with an awesome balcony. The experience is akin to visiting some distant uncle’s house. It’s a bit weird in the beginning but you get used to it as Coorgis are really friendly, open and a hospitable lot.
How we travelled: We set out from Bangalore at 6:00 am in our car and reached the stay at 12:00-12:30pm (distance of approx. 260 km). The drive wasn’t much though. The road condition is pretty pathetic in some stretches. Some patches are so bad it’ll make everything you’ve had since morning squished and churned into a frothy foam.

What we did: This March, it was really hot during the day, so mostly it was morning walks amid-st the coffee estates, lazing around in the homestay balcony or verandah. A visit to the Cauvery river nearby in the evenings and driving around on narrow roads surrounded by green. We did drive down to Madikeri with plans to check out the various tourist spots (Abbi Falls, Raja Seat, Dubare, Bhagamandala etc.) But after our visit to Abbi Falls and Dubare, we realized they were nothing out of the ordinary. Things we can easily skip without remorse. And with the heat killing us, we did a U-turn to our cool homestay retreat.
 
Cauvery River

Tips: According to our homestay owner and several coorgi colleagues, the best time to visit is, in the monsoon months; June to August. Just laze around on a hammock, chill in the breeze or sit by a sparkling bonfire; its really what one does at Coorg. And the more, the merrier it’ll be!

Chilllax-ing and Eat-ing is what you can do best at Coorg. Pandicurry anyone???

The Changing Hues

Bengaluru is a city anyone will love for its weather. It’s called an air-conditioned city for a reason. The mornings are pleasant and sometimes so chilly that I need hot water for my bath. 
And the evenings many a times are enchanting spreading dramatic hues in the sky and absolutely stunning vistas. Once such evening I couldn’t resist bounding up to my terrace camera in hand, almost missing a step and tripping over, lest it turns too dark for some pictures. Here are a few captures … 

Awesome! Aren’t they???

Trip to Wayanad: Part II

Day 3: The last and final day we planned to visit the Meen Mutty waterfalls. Meenmutty is located 29 km from Kalpetta. It is a three-tiered waterfall with a height of 300 metres. It is the largest and most spectacular waterfall in the Wayanad District. It needs is a 2 km hike though the jungle from the main Ooty Road. It is Kerala’s second largest waterfall and the one most unspoiled in its natural setting. Each of its three tiers requires a separate hike through a moist, deciduous forest. The path is quiet dangerous and tiresome but, the waterfalls is worth it. We set out towards the start on foot where a guide from the forest department was to join us. Walking through the tea and coffee plantations was pleasant. It wasn’t raining and it was a beautiful morning. The guide joined us and we began the descent into the depth of the valley through the jungle. The path grew narrower and narrower till there was no path left to tread on. It was just rocks, edges and ropes. I had no idea, this was such a treacherous path.
I was reluctant to go on initially. But, then again the same thing happened, the excitement got to me and I decided to give in all I had on this final escapade of ours. We were climbing down and down into the valley and now I was having a great time. After a while we could hear the sound of water flowing. Came across a small waterfall, crossed through the fall and moved on. Now the sound of water grew louder, the more we descended the louder it grew. A point came … we got a glimpse of the falls but, we had to move further … we moved … the frenzy got to us and then … there were the falls … raging and furious. It was awesome!! The whole trek seemed worth it. The Sun came out and formed a beautiful rainbow at the falls. What I call … Nature at its best. Now we had to get back to where we had started. This was a climb up the hill. Certainly not my favorite part of an adventure! We started back once again. I huffed and puffed and huffed and puffed and managed to reached back on top … another victorious moment … another sense of achievement that comes through stretching to the limit.
Now, we settled back in our traveler and headed back to Bangalore. A great trip indeed!! Cheers to us!!

Behold the rainbow @ Meen Mutty


Trip to Wayanad: Part I

On way down the Chembra Peak

Late on Wednesday night suddenly my cell phone rang. Now who could be calling at this time?? Well it was my colleague Arpita. She asked me if I would like to join her and seven other people for trip to Wayanad. I gave it a thought and said … hey why not …

Wayanad is a beautiful little district in North East Kerala. It is apprx. 300 km from Bangalore, takes around 6 hours to get there by road. The place is mostly inhabited by tribals whose numbers are now dwindling. We set out for the trip at 12:00 am on Thursday. The guys had booked a Tempo Traveller and the journey was fun.

Day 1: After quickly changing and a not so good lunch we set out towards Edakkal Caves. This location is three kilometers from Ambalavayal which is 25 kms from Kalpetta. We walked till the entrance of the caves and then after awaiting our turn, entered through the caves through a small opening (approx 5X4 feet). Inside we walked between the huge rocks and the damp floors. The cave has two levels and we climbed on the second level at the end of which was a big chamber with carvings by the tribals of Wayanad. These carvings have interested several historians and archaeologists to study Kerala’s history and tribes. The climb up and down was tricky as the path was narrow and the floor damp with all the rain. This actually made it all the more interesting. Exhausted from the journey and Edakkal we retreated to our hotel for a good rest.

Day 2: The next day we were to trek to Chembra Peak. It is the highest hill in Wayanad, located near Meppady town. After Edakkal I wasn’t very sure I could do the trek. But, as we got ready and travelled to the starting point the enthusiasm got to me and I grew only too excited to go for it. As we were about to set out the rain god lashed at us. For those who had wind sheeters things weren’t too bad but for the boys with only an umbrella to shield them, things dint look very inviting. I was well protected in a T-shirt and jeans folded upto the knees, windsheeter and a cap. We started off. Things were good till we reached the foot of the mountain. From here began the ascent, the real trek, with the threat of leeches and snakes to go with it. The climb was taking a toll on me initially, the steep climb was bearing down on me and I was like … what have I got into. But, after certain while something happened I dunno how but I just got into the groove and kept goin and actually began to enjoy this activity. We reached midway and then the wind caught us unawares. It was blowing like crazy on the mountain with nothing to break it. But, there at the top we witnessed the most awesome sight, the Heart Lake on the mountain. We stood at the side of the lake but the rain showed us no mercy. Our guide advised not to go any further as it was risky with the rain water flowing down the slope. Everyone was freezing, I was too … but strangely…I dint mind. I was euphoric!! I was enjoying every bit of it!!
Now we began our descent. I was going pretty slowly at first. Then it so happened that I started following Mitesh and Belli. I realized that climbing down the hill came more easily to me. We climbed down a while with me concentrating on each step I took. I slipped here and there but, kept goin. We reached a point and I took a moment and gazed at the beautiful view around me. The lush green valley, the breathtaking mountains, the blue sky, the breeze blowing through my hair and the waterfalls in the distance (the rain had abated somewhat). It was awesome!! We kept going and going and going and finally … we were where we started. It was a moment of victory for me and I was like … boy I have some stamina. The three of us then walked to a small waterfall and waited for the others to join us. By the time everyone had changed and settled in the traveler my legs had gone weird and I had trouble moving and walking. I felt like my knees joints had rusted: p. We had a good meal after this (we needed it) and called it a day.

Related Posts:
Trip to Wayanad: Part II