After a 17 hour direct flight from Atlanta, we had arrived in Johannesburg (or Joburg as the locals call it)!  We had decided not to spend too much time in Joburg and used it as a transfer point to Kruger National Park.  Our flight arrived at 8:20pm, and since we had to get up early to drive to our safari lodge, we decided to stay at a hotel close to the airport.  We chose Protea Hotel OR Tambo.

For our purposes, the hotel’s location was ideal and they had a free airport shuttle which was very useful.   Additionally, the bar and restaurant stayed open late for weary travelers, like ourselves, in need of sustenance and wine.  Upon our arrival, we plopped into a poolside cabana where we ordered dinner and drinks.

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Despite being exhausted, Protea OR Tambo provided us with a comfortable and relaxing dining experience.

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The hotel is modeled after an airplane hanger… very clever for an airport hotel!

After dinner and a couple of drinks in the lobby bar, we headed to sleep. The rooms themselves were modern and comfortable.

We woke up early, grabbed our rental car and started our adventurous drive to Kruger National Park.  The drive to the Orpen Gate was approximately 5.5 hours, however, we took a detour to see the Three Rondavels!

DSC00020Unfortunately, my pictures don’t do this gorgeous site justice.  It was foggy outside, and we literally only stopped for a few minutes since we were running late and didn’t want to miss our evening safari. (We may have gotten lost once or twice on the way to the park…).

We eventually made it to Kruger.  Once inside the park grounds, it was a 45 minute drive to our lodge, Hamilton’s Tented Camp.   What we didn’t anticipate is that the drive to the camp was actually a self guided safari… and we encountered a tad more action than we were prepared for!

I was in awe of all the wildlife we spotted as we drove through the park making our way to our lodge.  At one point, we had to stop our car while a cheetah passed directly in front of us!

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Notice the elephant in the background?! I’ll get to that momentarily…

Unfortunately, my SLR was in our car’s trunk (admittedly, not a wise place for it while driving through Kruger).  Despite my pleas, my husband thought it unwise for me to get out of the vehicle to get my camera with the world’s fastest (carnivorous) animal just a few feet from us, so I had to settle for a picture with my point and shoot.   At this time, we didn’t realize just how lucky we were to see a cheetah, as they are pretty difficult to catch a glimpse of.

Just moments after our meet and greet with the cheetah, we had a rather interesting elephant encounter… Elephants are my favorite animal, and after spending time with them (and on them) in Asia, I wouldn’t typically consider them as aggressive.  What I didn’t know was that it was elephant mating season, and that the male elephants were musthing.  We learned the hard way that musthing elephants are quite irritable and aggressive.

The above picture was taken just seconds before the elephant charged full speed straight into our rental car.  Luckily, my husband has quick reflexes and threw our rental car into reverse just in the nick of time.  As you can see, this beauty’s tusks are a force to be reckoned with!  Although we narrowly avoided his tusks making contact with the car, the elephant was still blocking the road to our lodge.  After several minutes of a tense game of chicken, we were finally able to maneuver the car around him and make it safely to our safari lodge.

Disclaimer – All of the above events are from my own perspective.  My husband may or may not recall this encounter being slightly less life threatening than I do.

 This post is part of a series on South Africa.  Click here to read more about my time on safari, what to do in Cape Town, my time in the Winelands and to find out whether I enjoyed whale watching and diving with great white sharks!

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