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"You walked next to a cheetah?!"

Yes blog friends, I have been MIA on the blogging (apologies!) because I was busy walking with cheetahs. I have essentially been out of Israel for about a month traveling. The first destination, and focus of the triumphant return to blogging (which will remain steady from now on!) is South Africa. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to go on a safari, and I can finally say, it was as amazing as I ever dreamed it would be!

Alon and I booked a National Geographic Tour because we figured if were going to do a safari, we have to do it right (and who knows better than NatGeo?!). For those considering a safari, I 100% recommend Nat Geo. (I will have a blog post coming with a full review of the National Geographic Safari, but below is my personal experience!) We had to save up for a while to make it happen, but it was totally worth it. We started our adventure in Johannesburg, drove to Kruger National Park, then Karangwe Game Reserve. We ended our trip by traveling solo to Cape Town. We were in South Africa for 10 days, which is the absolute minimum I would advise spending in the country (I could safari all day everyday and never get tired of it).

We arrived in Johannesburg and were taken to our first guest house. We were just there for the night before heading on the (very long 10 hour) drive to Kruger National Park. We stopped on the way to see the Three Rondavels and Bourke’s Luck Potholes before arriving at Muluwa Lodge.

Muluwa Lodge was the definition of “glamping”. We stayed in a tent…but when I say tent, picture a 5-star hotel room just with canvas instead of walls. It was fully equipped with electricity, AC, a king bed and spa like bathroom. The only parts that remotely resembled camping were the lack of wifi and that walking outside put you squarely in the woods (complete with monkeys!). So really…it was the best of both worlds. I was most excited for the “luxury tent” the entire trip and it most certainly did not disappoint. Apart from the glamping, the authentic South African food was amazing (they even made special vegetarian meals just for me!) and the entire property was it’s own little safari. I took some time to walk the grounds, and I saw wildebeests, zebras, kudus, and antelope! They are all free roaming, so they can walk anywhere and sometimes even end up right at the lodge. Definitely an amazing pre-safari safari!

We then went on our first safari at Kruger Park. We had a 4am wakeup call…and I wouldnt wake up at 4am for much…but a safari definitely tops the list. We spent six hours on a safari jeep where we saw elephants, kudus, giraffes, zebras, warthogs and more!

We then traveled to a smaller park, Karangwe Game Reserve, for our next five safari drives. We did one each evening (from 4-7) and one each morning (from 5-9). Since its currently summer in South Africa, the days are HOT. The animals find shade and nap during the afternoon hours, so it’s not an ideal safari time. But…is is an ideal swimming, exploring, and massage time! Anyways, we stayed at Beck’s Safari Lodge, which is actually in the middle of the reserve (amazing!). I thought the accommodations at Muluwa Lodge were lavish…these were on another level. We each got our own little villa overlooking the reserve. The villa was larger than the actual apartment I live in, fully equipped with an outdoor shower, a big bathtub, a sitting area, an outside deck, a king size bed and AC.  It was absolutely stunning. We were yet again surrounded by animals…I even saw Pumba right outside my room!! (Or a warthog that sure looked like Pumba!).

Our safaris here were absolutely the most amazing experience I have ever had. We were given a guide and a tracker in our jeep. The tracker was responsible for finding and ‘tracking’ the animals. Our tracker has just graduated from tracking school and was absolutely phenomenal. It was like magic (or a lot of training, school and knowledge) the way he could find the animals. He could see a poop on the ground, know what animal it belonged to, how long ago they were in the area, what direction they were going…even if they were hungry or not! It was unbelievable. Our evening safaris ended in the dark, and he would hold a small flashlight looking for more animals. One evening, he spotted a tiny green chameleon…in a green tree, from a moving vehicle, in the dark. It was by far one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. Between him and our safari guide, every question you could possibly have about every animal could be answered. They knew everything…and now, I know everything!! (Well…at least more than before I went…).

We saw the entire Big 5 (Buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant, rhino) and the entire Ugly 5 (hyena, wildebeest, vulture, warthog and stork). Now…I personally think the Ugly 5 gets a bad rap because I think theyre adorable and was super excited to see them. *The Big 5 is the original term with the tourism industry adding newer terms into the mix (including Little 5, Big 7, Ugly 5 etc.) to categorize the animals tourists might be interested in seeing.*  Inner beauty is more important anyway, right?!

Apart from the above animals, one of my favorite parts of the safari was seeing the cheetahs. We met with someone from the Endangered Wildlife Trust who spoke to us about cheetah conservation and all the complications that accompany that. It was really amazing to learn so much about the beautiful creatures and then be able to see them up close…really close! We actually got out of the jeep and walked next to the cheetahs. The first time, the cheetahs were on their way to find water, so we got to watch them at the watering hole. The second time, they were going on a hunt. (Yes, walking next to a hungry cheetah is mildly terrifying and also super exciting). To my relief, we didnt see them kill anything…but still an amazingly cool experience. We also saw hippos, alligators, kudus, nyalas, and even a rabbit (Fig’s ancestor!)

After all of the excitement of safari life, we traveled solo to Cape Town to relax. The first day we arrived we got a 90 minute couples massage at our 5-star hotel and it was the best, most relaxing thing ever. I wanted 90 more minutes…everyday…forever. The next day was a little less relaxing and little more adventurous. We woke up bright and early (a pattern on this trip) and headed to Table Mountain to hike. It’s 3,560 ft high and a fairly strenuous hike. By strenuous, I mean we had to use both hands and feet to climb rocks in order to get to the top. We also decided to take the more scenic route, which ended up taking five hours. Five hours! But…it was one of the most stunningly beautiful scenes, the entire way up. So very worth it. We also took time to go to the Watershed, a local artisan market, and the food market. Both were absolutely incredible and we ended up taking home much fuller suitcases than we arrived with. We also saw seals sunbathing, so it’s like the safari never ended!

So all in all, South Africa was the trip of a lifetime. I got to experience nature in a way I have never known, visit a whole new continent, all with the person I love the most.

For more videos and pictures, check out my Instagram highlight of South Africa! Until next time blog friends!

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