Reluctant Traveler Eugene Levy Says One National Park Had An Indescribable Impact On Him

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, famous actor and host of "The Reluctant Traveler" Eugene Levy observed that traveling to exotic and stunningly beautiful places around the world — where he often finds himself way outside of his comfort zone — has been pretty good for him. The show has taken him to places he would never choose to visit on his own: Finland, Costa Rica, and South Africa, for example. While he ultimately found things he liked about all of those places, one location in particular left him rather speechless. That place was South Africa's Kruger National Park. "I fell in love with the landscape," he said. "There was something peaceful and ... The words escape me right now."

Levy, a comedic actor and writer, doesn't necessarily come across as the kind of guy who's often at a loss for words. This must mean he had a pretty special experience at Kruger National Park. Maybe it was because it was the first time he had ever been on safari. This, for many, is a life-changing experience. It's one thing to watch lions and elephants in a movie or TV show, or at a zoo. It's quite another to watch them in the wild, playing with their young, hunting, or even watching you just as you're watching them. Sentient beings!

The mind-boggling nature of a safari experience

Safaris anywhere in Africa can be a transformative experience, but those at Kruger National Park are especially powerful due to the park's enormous size and the number and diversity of the wildlife species: 336 species of trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and 147 mammals. The park also offers a range of ways to see wildlife, from thrilling self-drive safaris to classic safari tours in a 4x4 vehicle and overnight stays in a safari lodge in the heart of the park, which allow you to watch animals grazing and interacting from the comfort of your own room. Levy described staying in one such place at the Kruger Shalati, where he "sat gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the marshy rivulets of the Sabie River below, watching an elephant and a hippo grazing in the distance," per Condé Naste Traveler

Levy also reported encountering more dangerous animals, including a horrifyingly huge crocodile swimming around in one of the rivers. But this experience seemed to move him the most. He noted, "There was something about the beauty of the landscape and the danger within it — that combo that made me think, Okay, you know what, I get it now." This is the magic of experiencing an African safari. Immersion in the African landscape exposes you firsthand to the powerful yet beautiful forces of nature, and violence is an inextricable part of that. Yet somehow, these forces comes together the way they're supposed to, and the end result is strangely beautiful. 

Walking safaris in Kruger National Park

During the South Africa episode of "The Reluctant Traveler," Levy also helped draw blood from a sleeping elephant. He told Condé Naste Traveler that "feeling [the elephant's] pulse through a giant vein in its ear is an experience I won't soon forget." Now, examining elephant veins is not an experience that most of us would be able to have (or even want to have) on safari. But a happy medium has to exist between this super-close encounter (maybe too close) and viewing animals from super far away in the safety and sterility of a truck. That happy medium is a walking safari. Fortunately, these are also available in Kruger National Park. 

On a four-day walking safari, guests venture off into the bush with a trained and armed guide, who leads them through areas of the park where animals are likely to be present. This allows visitors to experience the animals and their habitats with all of their senses, providing a much more thrilling and realistic experience than what they'd get in a vehicle. At night, walkers stay in lodges or tented camps, enjoying meals under the stars before retiring to their private luxury accommodations. This type of walking tour would be the ultimate safari experience, especially in Kruger National Park. Check out our guide on how to choose the African safari that's best for you.