There are no lie-ins in the bush! As someone who loves a lie-in, I totally surprised myself on this holiday… once again I was up before dawn, before the kids in fact, both unheard of in my “city life”! After our 5:30am wake up we were quick to get ourselves and the kids kitted up in our warmest layers. And this time my husband took along the warm jacket I had insisted he packed 😉
After a mug of something warm to drink and a few rusks we all bundled into the safari truck and headed off to watch the dawn break over the bush – a magical time of the morning. We spotted elephant first – a bachelor herd having their breakfast. We tried to track a pack of wild dogs hunting impala but they were too quick for us so we headed back to observe 2 giraffe we had passed previously. Then after some “bundu” bashing we stumbled across a beautiful male kudu crossing the road with a seriously impressive set of horns!
Then it was time for tea – with a huge Marula tree as our backdrop we stopped for another warm drink and some snacks to sustain us during the hard work of game tracking! This was the perfect spot for a little impromptu photo shoot and resulted in a really lovely pic of us all – sometimes as the photographer you forget to stop and step out from behind the lens and I’m so glad we got our new Aussie friends to snap one of our family on safari…
This was to be our Aussie friends last day of their week in the bush and although they had managed to spot the Big 5, they were still on the hunt for a Hippopotamus! After our break our ranger Francois (aka Fa Fa – you’ll have to ask him why!) suddenly sprang into high gear – with a bit of detective work I realised why. The Shangaan name for Hippo had come over the radio and he was on a mission! One wallowing hippo later and he had some very happy guests…
And then it was time to head back to the lodge but not before one more sighting – Pumba and his warthog family! Such funny creatures! After a delicious breakfast it was time to relax…. The kids were given lovely little activity books by the lodge which entertained them for a while and then they had played chess with a ranger, coloured-in and wrote/drew about the animals they had seen in their travel journals. We took a short walk to the Africa on Foot treehouse and when I discovered the serenity it offered – double bed, soft pillows, views for miles I opted for a bit of “time-out” and quickly went to retrieve my book. A very kind and sacrificial husband allowed me some of my favourite memories of our safari trip: a few hours absorbed in my book high up above the African plains listening to the bird calls and breathing in the fresh African air. I reckon it was as close to heaven as I think it possible here on this earth!
The awesome thing about the treehouse is that guests at Africa on Foot can actually opt to spend a night. There is a small ablution at the bottom of the stairs and a mossie net and chandelier add to the romance of night spent in the open air! I totally would have given it a try if I didn’t have the kids with us. Maybe next time!
After a few hours of bliss – reading and napping at leisure – it was time for lunch and then another game drive. This time we were joined by a new group of guests who were all keen to see the Big 5 and so Fa Fa was happy to oblige. Lions from the Ross Pride, who make this area their home, had been sighted earlier in the day so these were to be our goal.
After just a day in the bush Ben was already remembering the Shangaan names for the animals and quickly realised that we were tracking “Ngala”. The kids were amped! But before we got to the lions we came across the most enormous Elephant Bull – a “tusker” of epic proportions who quietly made his way around our vehicle.
And then we found them – 3 Lions of the Ross Pride! We turned off the engine and sat only 10 metres from them in our now rather insignificant looking 4×4 and watched in awe as they groomed themselves just as a domestic cat would – licking their coat and brushing their face with their paws. They were happy to laze around and expend as little energy as possible so they didn’t get up or move about too much, but they were definitely conscience of us sitting there and we were quick to remind the kids to keep quite and stay sitting so as not to draw too much attention to them! (Somehow the wild animals don’t mind humans sitting in vehicles and don’t feel threatened but all that changes if you move too much or get out!) During the time we spent with them we were treated to a few rather scary-looking yawns displaying their powerful teeth. What a special experience to lock eyes with these creatures – the most powerful on the planet.
After this incredible sighting we all needed a drink to calm our adrenalin so after we moved to a safer spot we set up our picnic table and enjoyed our sundowners…
The next morning it was time for me to discover exactly what is meant by “Africa on Foot” – yes I bravely opted for a walk in the bush instead of the usual game drive. I won’t lie, as Enoch our tracker starting expertly explaining what to do should we encounter dangerous animals on foot I very nearly backed out and joined the kids in the car! My heart was thumping as we took our first few steps down the road but after a short while I started to relax knowing I was with the very capable Enoch and Dewald (and their rifles!)
Walking through the bush is such a surreal experience and one I think everyone should try. It’s the details you notice on foot… the tiny termites building their mounds, the spiders web, the interesting plants, the different animal spoor and huge variety of animal dung! Enoch has such a vast knowledge of the bush and is so keen to share it with anyone who asks. On our walk he stopped at various points of interest explaining how to identify which animal had been in the area based on the dung or the direction of their spoor. We stopped to learn about how the different trees are used for medicinal purposes by the local people and after a few “lessons” we were “tested” on our knowledge and observation skills!!
Although we didn’t see any of the dangerous animals on foot we did come across some impala and kudu and for a first-timer like myself I was more than
relieved satisfied with these sightings. And then as a final “test” we had an impala poo spitting competition – my kids were well impressed (or disgusted?) when I told them what I had been up to!
On returning to the lodge I discovered that they too had had an eventful morning – with sightings of buffalo, rhino and even “spotting” a leopard. I must admit I was a bit gutted about the leopard – it’s the one animal I had yet to see in the wild – but I definitely don’t regret my “once in a lifetime experience” of walking through the African bush on foot!
And then all too quickly it was time to say goodbye to the wonderful team at Africa on Foot who had so quickly welcomed us into their family. After a round of goodbyes we were on our way with Enoch driving us to to the nearby nDzuti Safari Camp which was to be our base for the next 2 days. And as luck would have it we were bid farewell by two towering giraffe – my favourite!
What an amazing time we had at Africa on Foot – a truly authentic African safari experience that our entire family enjoyed. It was such a wonderful place to spend a few days, the only negative being that it was a bit too short! It will certainly hold a very special place in our memories for years to come as the place where we first introduced our kids to this wonderful world and where they caught the “bug” of the bush. We are all hopeful of a return visit in the future!
If you missed any of my other diary entries please click the links below to read more about our #KrugerforKids adventures in the low-risk malaria area of the Klaserie:
Images: Kathryn Rossiter