So, I was happily blogging away en route in South Africa, and suddenly…
No more Wi-Fi.
This brought a sudden end to my otherwise dutifully followed habit of posting numerous pictures and stories during our trips and holidays. Somehow, I feel tempted to apologise for that, but in the short amount of time we’ve been to South Africa I’ve learned the following:
Maybe we’ll be lucky the next trip and Wi-Fi will be more readily available wherever we travel. Or not. 😉
Either way, I’ll definately be posting some of the boatloads of pictures we’ve taken in the National Parks in SA, so that’s a little bit of making up after me being disconnected. 😉
After a short night sleep at Satara Rest Camp we left the Kruger NP but are on our way to more safari: a private game reserve called Sabi Sand. It is most well known for the vast amount of sightings of leopard and features quite a few fully catered lodges with an extensive program of game drives and bush walks.
One basically drives to a lodge, parks their car and indulges in the luxury and wildlife.
Our lodge is called Elephant Plains and looks over a dry riverbed and an adjacent clearing where the elephants like to frolic around when the time is right. Unfortunately, it started raining the moment we arrived at the lodge and as such we were not very lucky.
Both the morning and the evening drive are done in an open topped 4×4 and all occupants are fully exposed to whatever nature throws at it. This includes weather, branches, mud and everything else one can imagine.
A full day starts with a knock on your door at 5AM after which your truck departs at 5:30. You’ll be in the bushveld for about three hours and breakfast is served from 8:30 to 9:30. At 9:45 an optional bush walk departs while lunch is served at 14:00. Then, at 16:00 the evening drive commences which last for about 3.5 hours which is followed by dinner at 8PM. After dinner there is the social part of life at a lodge (at the bar) but we tend to go to bed as the knock on the door will inevitably be at 5AM!
We stayed at this lodge for 2 nights and have seen a lot of leopard. Every single drive had at least one sighting! We are so very lucky to see this!
Driving from Swaziland back to South Africa was supposed to be quite a hassle again, but as with our trip into Swaziland everything went really smooth and quick. The entire process with immigration and customs on both sides of the border took us approximately 30 minutes, and afterwards we were off to the Kruger NP!
The Kruger is accessible via gates and we were to enter through Malelane gate which is the southernmost gate of the park. After getting in we are stationed for the night at Skukuza Rest Camp. This is a really big camp which is always busy and bustling with activity.
That day was quite slow in the beginning animalwise but got really good as our afternoon was filled to the brim with Elephants and Giraffes as we encountered big groups of both species. Also, Buffalo and many Antelope species were abundantly available for sightings. But still no good sightings of Lions or the elusive Leopard!
After waking up we had to drive from Skukuza to Satara Rest Camp. This camp is in the middle region of Kruger as opposed to Skukuza which is in the south. The landscape is totally different in both regions which makes for an interesting drive and a lot of possibilities to encounter animals who like to be in either of the regions.
I can tell a long story here, or a short one: but here it is. We saw all the animals of the big 5 in one go.
We decided to take the long way around and were immediately successful. A sleeping Lion and a wee bit further up the road a triplet of Hyena.
And later on a lot of Elephants and a few Rhinos. And, around 2 PM: we finally found our new friend: the leopard. It was lying on a branch on the other side of the river sleeping under the canopy waiting for the day to pass. We had excellent views of it but the downside was that it was at quite a distance. But it was unmistakably a leopard!
Our holiday seems to consist of arriving and leaving, and today is no difference.
We are leaving Hluhlue-iMfolozi NP and taking a tour through and out of the country: to Swaziland!
As it is a kingdom of its own, they have full fletched borders with nomansland in between. It should also be a real hassle to travel between Swaziland and South Africa as the waiting times at the border can be quite long and there is a lot of paperwork to be done for one crossing.
Fortunately for us, getting out of South Africa and getting in to Swaziland has been a breeze. Two stamp richer, 50 rand poorer and after about 20 minutes we are done. And now the big travel in the second country of this trip can commence!
We ate going to Mlilwane, Swazilands first conserved park. Founded in the sixties they are quite late to the party but we are happy they arrived nonetheless. Compared to other parks we’ve seen it is tiny and ill prepared. The entrance can be found after traveling through a few kilometers of village and miscellaneous back country where I have to be after the sun sets.
Also, the staff at the park do not seem to be happy with their jobs and treat us nearing rudely. That is just a shame. As the place itself is lovely and the scenery very photogenic.
We have been staying here for two nights before traveling further north towards the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Off to see a lot more!
A full day of driving on tarred and unmarried lay in front if us as we set out after a rowdy night for the hyenas which kept us awake trough the right. We have slept a little, but barking/howling hyenas next to your tent tend to make me nervous and not fall asleep.
As yesterday was such a success, animal wise, we were hoping for the best for today. And we got more than we bargained for!
We arranged a night drive for today when checking in but did not pay for it yet, so we told the staff we would be at the reception this morning to make that payment. Which meant we would have to drive in the park before opening of the reception and go back somewhere in the morning. Which we fully intended to, but were hindered in when driving back.
We went to Hluhlue this morning to get a quick view of what was happening over there and were on our way back when we encountered our very first Elephant!
It stood right next to the road and was quite invisible to oncoming traffic, as the first two cars just drove by without spotting it.
We turned around to get to a respectable distance and about some pictures.
The elephant was quite gentle at first, but as the crowd grew, so did the temper of the animal. When the time arrived that we wanted to leave, a ranger passing by tried to get by the elephant. Not to its liking.
It turned around, got on the road and started flapping its ears at the white van. We think it was not amused.
So, we stood there for some time, until the elephant decided to move forward and go eat tree nearby. And started moving in our direction. Still flapping its ears and making moves at the rangers car.
The traffic had built up quite extensively behind us, and now a dozen car were forced to reverse about 30 meters. That was quite arguably the scariest moment so far. Below is a picture of the elephant in action…
We did survive however, as the ranger eventually scared off the animal by revving his car and making quite a noise leaving just enough room in the road for the cars to pass.
Continue reading “A full day at the park”
Leaving St Lucia means leaving the luxury of the guesthouse where all breakfasts are served with a smile, your car us washed by the gardener daily and all drinks are apparently courtesy when you finally pay your bills.
It was a long drive from St Lucia to Mpila Camp. This camp is located in the southern part of the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Game Reserve, which is called iMfolozi Game Reserve. It took us the better part of the morning to drive a small distance as our car is a very unsteady ride and African highways are a tad different from the ones we are familiar with.
We arrived at the camp around noon which left us plenty of time to make our first rounds in the reserve and to see everything the park has to offer.
Thus very first day, we had a pretty nice record in finding animals, as we encountered 4 out of the big 5 within the first hour at the park!
Yes, the lions were quite a distance away, and we still had to find the Leopard, but it is still quite a good score for the first hour!
After checking in we found that the staff seemed to be quite unhappy about their job as they were not very helpful and bordering rude. This is the very first time for us to see staff this unfriendly towards paying customers…
The Mpila Rest Camp offers a variety of accommodations and we were booked in a safari tent. Consisting of a wooden floor with a tent built on top, it is quite something else to have hyenas howling a few meters away from your bed and all kinds of unrecognizable animals scurrying around the tent in the midst of the night. We did survive, however I found out that it was quite unnerving the first night.
Tomorrow a full day at the park, so we will see what it has in store for us!
Continue reading “Going to iMfolozi”
We woke up on Tuesday to a foggy, hazy day with the smell of bushfire strong in the air. We woke up really early as we wanted to be at the gate of iSimangaliso park when it opened. At 6AM.
We were hoping to see some animals still on our wishlist, like the Elephant and the Leopard. Starting early might just give us the edge we need.
Luckily for us, the fire seemed to be on the dumpster and controlled, while the haze and fog lifted soon after the sun rose high enough to burn it away.
It turned out to be a fantastic day, with lots of animals seen, but without the elusive two missing species.
We booked a tour on a boat to go see the Crocodiles and Hippos at 3PM, which meant we also saw the sun setting whilst on the water, being surrounded by Hippos. What more to wish for?
At nighttime though, we were back in the park to try and find the nocturnal animals. We did see a lot! Including the endemic Chameleon and lots of Night Jars and bucks. The most special moment was when we encountered a pair of Rhino and the guide decided it was a good time to enjoy a hot beverage just meters away from two giant animals. Ultimately, we thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend a similar tour to anyone in this neighbourhood.
Tomorrow, we are going to Hluwhluwe Imfolozi park. Again, we are sad to leave our current place, but we must go on as there is lots more to see!
Continue reading “Boats and automobiles”
After the day of yesterday, the weather has changed dramatically again. Today is full of lovely blue skies and a lot of sun with 25 degrees Celsius. Not too shabby I must say.
It is a great day to explore iSimangaliso Wetland Park, also known as St Lucia Wetlands. We start off at the town of St Lucia and drive north towards the gate. After that, it is just straight through and follow the signs.
The road is only 34 kms long and therefore enough to keep us busy for an entire day.
And what a day it is!
Here is a small list of animals we found: Impala, Kudu, Waterbuck, Zebra, Warthog, Red Duiker, Hippo, Crocodile, Monkey, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Rhino. And quite a few birds, among which only a few I can name. Of those one stands out: Kingfisher.
We missed out on two animals here: Elephant and Leopard. Maybe tomorrow?
Continue reading “Safari in the Wetlands”
Sunday we started off with the last of our fantastic breakfasts at Nxala Ranch. With our stomachs filled to the brim we headed out on what would be a long trip east. Towards St Lucia!
The weather took a turn for the worse overnight, it was sunny with temperatures up to the low 30s on the day before, but today we woke up to a grey sky and cold weather.
During the trip it even got colder, culminating in a drive through a cloud…
Needless to say that the otherwise spectacular trip through KwaZulu Natal with its plentiful peaks went largely unseen as the clouds and moisture were both in the way. That was really pitiful!
After about 5 hours we arrived at St Lucia after seeing some really dramatic changes in the landscape. We left Nxala with its rolling hills and dry grass to go to the lush vegetation of the wetlands at St Lucia. And the Indian Ocean!
We found the B&B pretty quick and got some really good tips from the owners. Which meant we almost directly after arriving went for a two hour walk around town to go see the wild animals living outside of the village. These include Hippo and Monkey, so we would have to stay vigilant for us not to get harmed.
The walk was lovely, and we encountered a bunch of hippo and other animals. A true succes and with warm weather quite enjoyable too.
After eating a pizza downtown we hurried back in our car to the B&B; normally we would walk the distance but we have been warned that the hippos get out of the water at night and graze the front lawns of the residents of the town. And we do not like to encounter hippo on foot at night!
Continue reading “Back at sea”
Yesterday we were very sad to leave Montusi as we felt it was the pure holiday feeling that made it all worth wile.
We set out to Dundee, and then on gravel roads towards Nxala Ranch.
Nxala is Zulu and stands for Mountain Reedbuck. The place is a working farm which breeds breeding bulls, and also has a small 4 bedroom guesthouse run by the couple who also run the cattle farm. The ranch is named after the animal, and has next to about 1000 head cattle also got a small zoo of indigenous ungulates. Amongst which are of course Nxala.
All our dinners and breakfasts ate home cooked by Dora, husband to Frans. The latter is most likely the most outlandish waiter we have ever encountered. Think farmer. Think outdoor man. Think about Frans serving you a bowl of buttersquash soup. 🙂
On Saturday evening, we got to ride with Frans in his Landrover T5 Diesel on the property. About 1600 hectares of land are dedicated to the African animals on the the farm. They can roam it all freely and are basically left to fend for themselves. With the absence of large predators, life is a little bit easier for them, but still dangerous as there are other predators like Jackals who do make quite a lot of kills.
The drive was great, and with the sun setting it also made for some very scenic views.
Right before that, we went out on our own little adventure from the ranch to a place called Rorke’s Drift. This is of historic value as it is the location of a hospital where about 100 English soldiers fought off an army of approximately 2000 Zulu warriors for about 11 hours. Given the fact that the same warriors defeated about 1400 Englishmen a few hours prior, defending the hospital was quite a feat. The Anglo-Zulu war took place late 1870’s a mm d early 1880’s and cost both sides a lot of lives.
The memory of these times are still vivid in South Africa!
Unfortunately for us, the drive took us through some very rough unpaved roads, and the 40km took us much longer than we anticipated. Also, it seemed to be quite a burden for our car, but it survived well. Arriving at Rorke’s Drift we found the wind had picked up considerably and made life tough. We were verily being sandblasted!
After all this, we’ll be sad to leave Nxala. Life is also good here!
Continue reading “Ranchlife in Zulu land”