Finding The Lion King On Our African Safari

Day 3 of our safari might just have brought us the most amazing wildlife spotting of all.

The most magical moment of safari was spotting a pride of lions, including 6 baby lion cubs hiding amongst the reeds of the river. To date, these are still some of the best travel photos I have ever taken, and an experience that will stay with us for so long.

balule reserve bush walk

Day 3: Balule Game Reserve Bush Walk

There aren’t many days on safari that don’t have an early wake up call, and day 3 of our safari was no different. In fact it was the most brutal of all the wake ups, with a 5am bush walk scheduled.

We were bribed with some early morning coffee and traditional rusks (hard biscuits) before we headed back out to the private reserve at about sunrise. We drove most of the way into the wilderness area of the reserve, before we jumped out to continue on foot.

Whilst everyone else was a bit nervous and hoping we wouldn’t come across any wildlife, I was secretly hoping we would stumble across a big herd of elephants. How incredible would it be to see them on foot!

kruger national park

Our ranger for the morning was Rex and he was extremely knowledgeable about everything to do with Balule Game Reserve, as well as being wildly passionate about it. He told us that he hardly ever goes into Kruger anymore because he just loves Balule so much and would rather spend his time learning every inch of his reserve. What a beautiful thought.

Rex knew absolutely everything about Balule. From the flora and fauna, to the tracks of identifiable animals, droppings from different kinds of animals and even which trees and plants offer natural medicine solutions.

On Safari in Kruger National Park

We walked through the wilderness for about 4 hours, but unfortunately we didn’t come across any animals on this particular morning. It was sunny and hot by the time we got back though, so a dip in the pool was definitely needed before our next safari.

lion cub in krugerkruger national park

Our last game drive in Balule Game Reserve

After our morning of bush walking we loaded into another 4×4 safari vehicle and headed off for our very last game drive in Balule Game Reserve. After a couple of pretty birds and not much else, we finally spotted the holy grail of wildlife.

Sitting under a tree, right alongside the river, right in front of us was a beautiful family of lions. It was magical, I almost fell out of the car trying to get the perfect photo angle because I was so excited.

lions in greater krugerlion in greater kruger

There were three females in the family, as well as one male and six baby cubs! Two of the females were resting in the shade, while the third sat alongside the river with the baby cubs, letting them climb all over her as they played while she kept a look out for potential predators sneaking up on them.

We turned the car off so that there was no noise and just sat there and watched them for a while. The babies were so adorable and very curious about us as we watched them. One even walked right up to the end of the river reeds to get a better look at us. It was hard not to picture him as Simba from the Lion King, they just looked so similar!

Check out all the best places to stay in Kruger National Park

lion cub in greater krugerlion cubs in kruger

The male lion was lying a little way away from the rest of his family. He was a bit mangled, very skinny for an alpha lion, and seemed very tired and sore. It looked like he had recently been in a fight, with grazes all over him.

Experiencing Greater Kruger: Balule Game Reserve

Seeing these baby cubs were definitely the highlight of our safari adventure. It was the first time the cubs had been spotted in the reserve, so everyone at the camp site, including the rangers, were beyond excited.

lions in balulemarcs treehouse camp

Checking in to Marcs Treehouse Camp

When we got back from our game drive it was time to pack up our things and jump in the car again. Our last night of accommodation was going to be at Marcs Treehouse Camp, so we moved across for the night and settled in to this unique accommodation in the South African Wilderness.

If you have the opportunity, everyone should spend a night sleeping in a treehouse somewhere in Africa. It’s such a rustic experience that completely immerses you in the South African bush. It’s also much closer to Kruger National Park, which means less travel time if you still have some game drives left.

marcs treehouse campmarcs treehouse camp

We stayed in an en suite treehouse, which included a private bathroom with a shower and toilet. It was just incredible. You could hear the wildlife in the far off distance. You did need to sleep in a mosquito net, to avoid waking up looking like you’d been eaten alive, but it all just added to the experience!

It was just fantastic.

Both Tremisana Lodge and Marc’s Treehouse Camp offer really lovely family environments, where everyone eats together at one long table and everyone gets to know each other. There were people there from all around the world and it was lovely to hear other peoples stories, what made them come to South Africa and the other experiences they had had on their travels.

We couldn’t speak highly enough of the whole safari experience. From the rangers to the staff to the intricate planning of all the details, this was the perfect first safari experience.

Find out more about our safari: 4 Day Kruger Park Treehouse Safari

marcs treehouse campblyde canyon

Blyde River Canyon

Our last day of safari began with a quick early morning bush walk around the grounds of the camp. We watched the sun rise over Africa for one last time before beginning the 6 hour drive back to Johannesburg.

On the way home we stopped for a minute to check out the views from Blyde River Canyon. It’s actually one of the largest canyons on Earth, with some of the deepest cliffs of any canyon on the planet. They are some pretty incredible stats aren’t they!

A market lined the car park of the canyon, selling all kinds of gifts, art work and hand crafted souvenirs. We stocked up on our last few pieces from South Africa and before we knew it we were back in Johannesburg.

12 Hours in Johannesburg

blyde river canyon

We couldn’t speak more highly of our whole experience with African Budget Safaris. Everything was planned so well and despite being a budget safari, with pricing much more on the conservative side compared to other safari options, we didn’t feel like we missed out on anything or didn’t get to do anything during our visit.

If you have more time to spend in Kruger we would definitely recommend booking something a little longer, to really allow yourself the time to explore everything Kruger has to offer and give yourself the best chance to spot all of the Big Five.

Make sure you check out the other posts from our safari – Experiencing Greater Kruger: Balule Game Reserve and On Safari In Kruger National Park to check out more of our safari experience.

Now we just have to start planning our next trip to Africa!

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Emma is a travel writer, photographer and blogger, chasing the sun around Australia. Travelling in her recently renovated vintage Viscount caravan, along with her husband Thom and daughter Macey, she's sharing the very best experiences from around her beloved sunburnt country.

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