But the zebra, she took it to another level.
Thanks to some South African friends, we had the inside scoop on how to do safaris on the cheap long before we got here. Skipping the 10k package deals, we rented a car and headed to Hluhluwe/iMoflozi National park, where for about $20 each we got admission to the park where we could self-drive to our heart’s content. And that night we stayed in traditional rondavels in Hilltop camp for less than $100 (including breakfast).
Our first animal came less than 10 minutes into our drive. A young bull elephant was using the road we were traveling north on, to head south. In elephant vs car Rules of the Road this meant we drove in reverse until the elephant found another path. We later learned the elephant was on the move in search of water. This part of South Africa is three years into a major drought—a sobering detail that was to come up again and again as we explored the parks.
In part, thanks to the drought, the animals were exceptionally visible during our two-day visit. All the water holes were dried up (except for an area where they were trucking in water for the elephants) so the animals were on the move—constantly foraging for leafy greens. And while the park had a good number of visitors, most of the time it was only us with them.
After two full days in Hluhluwe/iMoflozi (we had hoped for a second night but it was booked out) we headed to St Lucia to see hippos. Hippos! Staying in the cute town we enjoyed the sensation of being tourists, and then went on a wonderful boat cruise. Once again for less than $20 we were able to enter a national park and get an up close and personal view of some of South Africa’s animals.