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Weekend Safari at Tangala Safari Camp

PHOTO: Arrival fruit drink at Tangala Safari Camp (c) Sery Kim

Located in Kruger National Park, the 3 million hectare (2.5 acres for every hectare), about a 3 hours flight from Johannesburg, is Tangala Safari Camp ("Tangala"). Not to be confused with the Tangala Safari Camp with a subset of luxury lodges at Thornybush Private Game Reserve (link here:, this is yet another game reserve which is known to be budget-friendly.

As a luxury travel writer, I've never really stayed at anything even remotely "budget-friendly" in my 20 months as a full-time food-and-travel writer. Even in this instance, I wasn't told this would be a budget trip until after landing so a gentle heads-up from this different travel perspective from me.

Tangala has several cute tents which were recently added to the property after their recent re-opening. (The camp was closed for two years because the management company could not find anyone to manage it.) Tents are fully enclosed, without any form of central air or heating, and the bathrooms are all powered by solar-generation. Please note there are no hairdryers or any form or electrical outlet in the bathrooms. Consider the high-maintenance American woman to be shelved for this safari life -- unlike at my other safari experience at the ultra-luxury Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi where everything is super gorgeous and super comfortable.

PHOTO: My tent at Tangala (c) Sery Kim

PHOTO: Inside of my tent at Tangala (c) Sery Kim

The twin beds are comfortable if not plush. Since it's winter here, the friendly staff will put hot pads in your bed to help warm you up in the cold, cold nights. I pulled my twin beds together, took the comforter off one, added it to mine, and rolled myself up into a comforter burrito in order to make myself warm. It was perfect and, through the night, I in fact became too warm so there you go.

PHOTO: Sunset game drive on Saturday (c) Sery Kim

We got lucky when we headed out for our safari game drive yesterday afternoon. Often times, guests will come and visit to see the "Big Five" yet fail to see all of them. Coined by African hunters when referencing the five most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot, the Big Five are comprised of (1) lion, (2) African elephant, (3) Cape buffalo, (4) leopard, and (5) rhinoceros. In one three hour drive, we saw four of the five, only missing the elephant.

The photo above is a family of white rhinos surrounded by buffalo. Since Kruger National Park has endure two drought summers, where they received a mere 20% of the waterfall they are supposed to receive, the land for the animals is depressingly stark. But for photographic juxtaposition, what a majestic sight.

PHOTO: Lion and lunch? (c) Sery Kim

PHOTO: Lioness (c) Sery Kim

Our sighting of the lion and his lioness was particularly fascinating. To see the fat lions, who have been gorging on the drought-stricken "lesser" animals, lounging around so close at hand was compelling. I particularly like my photo of the lion viewing the other safari car. Apparently, the noise doesn't bother the animals. They just see the totality of the car (the humans inside, the noise, etc.) as one "being." It's when you jump out -- which you are obviously not supposed to do -- which makes the animals pounce.

PHOTO: Paparazzi leopard shot at sunset (c) Sery Kim

And when we least expected it, as we were just driving down the main road, we happened upon a leopard sitting on the road. Our Tangala camp manager said she had spent three years looking for a leopard and never saw one. We went out and two hour into our safari ride we came upon one -- sorry Gina!

Then we headed back to camp for food. The food, again, not being luxurious or anything was instead hearty and filling. Just basic comfort food. Nothing fancy and no bread baskets. It's steaks, pork chops, mixed vegetables and an easy dessert. Plenty of alcohol and Coke Zero though. And, of course, a fire.

Here's to the good life ... here's to a life well traveled!! Cheers!

PHOTO: My wine at sundown by the fire (c) Sery Kim

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