Timeless Travels: My First (& Only) Safari Experience

A while back I entered a competition whereby I shared My First (& Only) Safari which I thought I would share with you here…

As a child growing up in South Africa you would think that an intimate knowledge of the African bush would be second nature, and it should be…. except that sometimes it isn’t! My first, and might I add, only, trip to the “bush” came at the age of 19 when myself and my sister (age 16) experienced a whirlwind 2-night trip to Kapama Private Game Reserve bordering the Kruger National Park. But that was all it took to set me up with the most magnificent memories, epic experiences and a deep yearning to return!

My safari experience came about almost 15 years ago when I entered a radio competition and happened to win (yes, I’ve always been quite a fan of competitions!) The prize was a trip for two to a game reserve and as I was single at the time of booking the trip I decided to take along my younger sister for company. As luck would have it when the trip finally came around I actually had a boyfriend, but, as it was only two weeks into the relationship my folks weren’t too keen on him accompanying me!*

So, there we were, two teenagers, bunking school and college for the day and heading off on our first unaccompanied flight in a very tiny plane across the country. I recall my dad gave us some money at the airport to treat us, but little did we know that almost all of it would be spent on airport taxes upon arrival and we’d be left with VERY LIMITED funds for the rest of our trip and no access to a credit card in sight!

Upon arrival at Hoedspruit airport our game ranger’s eyes nearly fell out of his head when the two “Miss Long’s” he was anticipating picking up turned out to be not two middle-aged spinster sisters, but two teenage city girls who’d never traveled further from Cape Town than the Garden Route! Nevertheless I think he was OK with the change of plan!

Our adventure started with our first trip in an open top safari vehicle – the novelty still hasn’t worn off – we cruised through the bush taking in all the smells and sounds of nature and immediately our senses were on alert for the first hint of a wild animal. Our introduction was a family of warthogs crossing the road, followed by a ground hornbill…. the transfer from the airport was probably the most basic of game drives, but we were hooked!

Arriving in reception at the opulent lodge was a real eyeopener… this was our first experience of a luxury hotel and everything was a treat – from the welcome drink to the king sized bed. We lapped it all up!

After our first taste of searching for game we were desperate for another trip out into the “veld” and wanted to do as many game drives as possible after that… fortunately our game ranger and tracker were happy to oblige and we headed out almost immediately and then again every morning at 5am (probably the only time I willingly have jumped out of bed that early) and in the early evening…

The game drives were nothing short of spectacular – the excitement, anticipation, adventure all add up to be one of those experiences that are forever etched in your memory. During our two short days in the bush we learnt how to speak a few words of the local language, Shangaan, from our tracker as well as how to track animals and we tried in vain to locate the most elusive of the big 5 – the leopard. We came across a huge herd of elephant during our off-road night ride, listening to them eating while their bodies were so close to our vehicle you could almost touch them. We stumbled across a recent lion kill and then found the predator a few meters down the road recovering from his meal under a tree. We observed my favourites, the giraffes, feeding and drinking and galloping in an ungainly fashion! We drank our morning tea huddled round the vehicle in the freezing cold while watching the sun rise and enjoyed a picnic lunch packed specially for us by the chef for our private midday game drive. We even saw rhino – a real privilege considering the current situation in South Africa. We experienced so much, and yet it was really only a taste of Africa – a tiny little “amuse-bouche” for the real thing!

To be honest I can’t really tell you more about our time at the game lodge because we didn’t really spend too much time there – we were all about the animals and the bush… the facilities and location of the lodge were top class, I recall a sparkling pool with a stunning view over a huge waterhole but we didn’t even sit down to soak it in… one of my few regrets, but then again I might have missed out on one of the other spectacular experiences so I can’t look back now! I do recall that the food was amazing, that we only ordered water to save our money and we had a wonderful fireside supper one evening, but we couldn’t keep our eyes open for too long and retired to our bed far earlier than most! And at the end of our stay I do recall that we were given a very surprised look from the receptionist when our bill for the entire stay came to R20 for two appletizers we’d treated ourselves to! Our water-drinking budgeting had paid off and we were able to cover it, but if I’m honest I am quite looking forward to redeeming that part of my stay! On my next visit to a game lodge I very much plan to be found ordering an Amarula Cream on the rocks while watching the elephants at the watering hole as the sun sets (only after enjoying a day filled with animal viewing of course!)

*The irony is that said boyfriend is actually now my husband of 12 years and if he plays his cards right (and I win, of course) I’m hoping to redeem that missed opportunity and share the experience of the African bush with him this time!! And of course, I’m desperate to right the wrongs of my own childhood and introduce my kids, aged 7 and 4, to the amazing African bush too!

 

And now I get to experience the wonders of the wild all over again – except this time it’s with my husband (who missed out the first time) and my 2 kids

Yes, next week will be a very exciting one in our family – our first family holiday to the bush! We will be heading up to the incredible Kruger for 4 days and I am too excited for words! It will be the very first time my kids will be seeing the “real” Africa – animals living and interacting in their natural habitat and I just can’t wait to see their faces!

No more stuffed museum displays or circus acts or DisneyNature movies for them…. Actual animals! This is going to BLOW THEIR MINDS!!!

We will be staying at two awesome private lodges located in the Klaserie area of the Kruger Park. The Klaserie Private Nature Reserve shares unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park and the Timbavati Game Reserve! In anticipation we have been browsing the online galleries of the two lodges where will be staying and these pics have got us super excited…

Africa on Foot is a rustic, traditional bush camp located and as the name suggests the camp is unique for offering proper walking safaris led by experienced and professional game rangers through a wildlife area rich in game. We will be staying in one of their family chalets but they also have an awesome treehouse!

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nDzuti Safari Camp offers an authentic, affordable safari experience with a focus on exceptional hospitality. The lookout area at the camp offers views of nDzuti’s waterhole which attracts herds of elephant, a plethora of small mammals and large predators.

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They both also offer more traditional game drives and night drives which we are sure to be taking advantage of.

 

What are we most looking forward to:

Brad – Revisiting an area I spent a lot of time at as a child

Kath – Sipping hot chocolate as the sun rises and Amarula as the sun sets all while soaking up the sights and sounds of the bush!

Ben – Going on early morning game drives to see wild animals

Abi – Seeing the animals – Lion, Cheetah, Leopard that’s all. I like Leopard the most in the whole wild world.

 

What animal do we most want to see:

Brad – Wild dogs

Kath – Giraffe (my fave)

Ben – Cheetah

Abi – Lion

So much to look forward to in the next few days, including my kids first flight, I better get packing!!

Images: Sun Destinations

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for almost 6 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

3 Comments
  1. Kath – Africa on Foot is one of my fav camps. It’s rustic and incredible ! nThambo and Ndzuti are also amazing.

    The problem I have with a number of safari lodges is the fact that they are commercial hotels in the bush. This is real, authentic and you learn so so so much. All 3 of theseplaces have that relaxed, family vibe…!

    ..the rangers there are also awesome.

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