William, Gitte, Peter and Annemarie joined us yet again for another guided safari. They had a memorable experience, visiting Thendele Camp in the Drakensberg, Ithala Game Reserve, Mkuze Game Reserve, St. Lucia, Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park and the Kruger National Park.
The tour started in Johannesburg where we met our guests at O.R Tambo International Airport. We spent the evening at the Safari Club, enjoying a few glasses of Amarula and discussing what our plans were for the next few weeks. Our guests were very excited and couldn’t wait to get on the road!
Arriving later in the afternoon at Thendele Camp, our guests were able to sit in front of the lodge and enjoyed cold beers and wine as we spotted Eland feeding on the mountain slopes and birds calling as the sun started setting.
The next day we embarked on a walk along a trail to Gudu Falls and the Cascades. The walk was relaxing and we focused on smaller things like insects and birds as we entered patches of forest. Peter and Annemarie were amazed at the beauty of Gudu falls and took many photographs to remember this magnificent water fall.
Next stop was Ithala Game Reserve! Renowned for its landscape, mountains and grasslands our guests were eager to see what we could find here. Ithala Game Reserve didn’t disappoint!
As we drove in we spotted Black-backed Jackals running from a kill, Secretarybirds chasing each other, White-bellied Korhaan, herds of Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Zebra, Eland, Giraffe, three Black Rhinos and a flock of Southern Bald Ibises. To celebrate our entrance we yet again had a “proost” on the deck of the lodge overlooking the incredible landscape!
The next two day we did the loop roads finding Elephants, another Black Rhino, more Secretarybirds, had an Elephant bull join us at our coffee stop and stood at viewpoints that overlook the extraordinary Pongola River.
En route to Mkuze Game Reserve in a blistering heat wave, we stopped off at the luxurious Ghost Mountain Inn to enjoy a cold beverage. We stayed in the tented camp for three days, where they enjoyed a braai every evening and listened to the bush after the wind died down. We were visited by Bushbabies in the trees, heard lions close by, saw that Elephants had walked past our camp and even saw a newly born Nyala calf!
The bird hides also gave our guest great opportunity for photographs as waves of Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Nyala, Greater Kudu and Buffalo came to drink.
St. Lucia once again served its role in providing our guests with comfortable accommodation (with WIFI to catch up with family and friends), restaurants to choose from, a night drive and day trip through the Isimagaliso Wetland Park and a boat cruise on the estuary. The beach was lovely but our guests loved their sushi for lunch whilst Banded Mongoose and Syke’s and Vervet Monkeys surrounded us!
We headed into KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest national park with our guests hoping that this is where we would find our first large cats! Entering the gate we headed to where other vehicles were looking at something. In a horizontal branch of a Marula tree, 250 meters from the road was a Lion sleeping and every now and then looking at all the vehicles stopping to look at him!
We stopped at a picnic site, I walked around to check the areas where cats could be sleeping, wandered down a trail to inspect the dry riverbed, and this is where I discovered a pride of thirteen Lions sleeping in the cool river sand. Guest hurried to my calling and we quietly watched the Lions from our safe distance. Great find and a stroke of luck for other guests that were not even part of our group!
Other highlights included braaing outside and having Spotted Hyenas visit our camp site in search of food. Peter and William entertained us with their use of two way radios to find one another and added to the airiness of wild animals being very close!
We had another wonderful stay over at the Ubizane Tree Lodge before making our way up to the Kruger National Park. The rooms are elevated on stilts that look into a Fever Tree Forest, food, drinks amazing and our guests rated this highly!
We also stopped over in Piet Retief to rest before entering the Kruger National Park. William and Annemarie enjoyed some local flavour in the Sundowners Bar as we supported the Springboks who sadly lost their opening match to Japan!
Kruger National Park-Berg en Dal Camp
Finally we were in the Kruger National Park and the level of excitement was high, especially for me being a first timer to this unbelievably large and diverse wilderness area!
Making our way to Berg en Dal Camp from the Malelane Gate we encountered White Rhinos, Elephants, Dwarf Mongoose, Hawk Eagles and Magpie Shrikes very close to the road. We quickly off loaded our bags and jumped back into the bus to see what we could find before driving times ended.
Not even 15 minutes into our drive we found a Black Rhino bull slowly making his way towards our vehicle. The inquisitive behaviour of this very rare Black Rhino that we found in the Kruger National Park, suddenly came charging out of the bush, stopped, turned around and walked back into the bushveld! Wow, amazing, a brief sighting but a very special sighting regarding the current rate at which these incredible beasts are being poached!
We also then found a large herd of Elephants feeding and youngsters playing, Wild dogs on the road on the hunt! To top off this drive we then found a Leopard in a tree, relaxed as ever, looking around scoping what its next meal might be. The Leopard then came down from the tree, crossed the road and went into the thicket, where we later found out that it was looking at a small herd of Impala.
The road to Lower Sabie Camp was very quiet in the morning but sightings of Saddle-billed Storks, Waterbuck, Elephant’s, Cheetahs and Black Rhino with a calf made the drive interesting! We stopped at Crocodile Bridge where our guest enjoyed a cup of coffee and stretched their legs before we carried on with our journey.
Arriving at Lower Sabie, our guest opted to hop on the sun downer game drive which would allow them to get a chance to see animals like Leopard, African Civet and Lions. William, Gitte, Annemarie and Peter did then get the chance to watch a Leopard up in a tree with a kill!
Travelling through the Kruger to make our way into the Timbavati, we stopped for a coffee break. This is where I made the vital error of leaving a bag with rusks on the table where I was preparing the coffee. This presented a chance for a cunning Baboon to sneak down from a roof, he jumped on the table and grabbed the bag! I was alright to let him take it when he showed me the size of his canines and let his friends rather harass him for what he had stolen!
We arrived at Shindzela tented camp and soon enjoyed lunch on an open deck from where we could see a waterhole, dry riverbed and the sheer openness of the camp. Our first game drive allowed us to get very close to a pride of lions which had been chased off their zebra kill by an older male.
We were yet again fortunate to also see Secretarybird, Pearl spotted Owlet, Purple Roller, Elephants drinking at the waterhole in front of the camp, an African Wild Cat and the mating display of the Red-crested Korhaan as they fly up into the air and then plummet to the ground.
Last stop, Tamboti Camp! We arrived in the blistering heat of the day to sit and relax on the decks of the tented camp and watched baboons as they jumped the fence and crossed the dry riverbed of the Timbavati. Our guest enjoyed another braai before we went on a night drive. On the drive we saw a Spotted Hyena, Black-backed Jackal and Lesser Bushbabies.
Our tent rubbish bins were visited by resident Honey Badgers foraging for left overs. They were noisy and fast but we were able to get some photographs of them!
We drove up to Satara Camp, en-route we had a birthday coffee stop for Gitte, where we enjoyed chocolate cake and watched Elephants feeding on the other side of the river. We spotted a Cheetah getting mobbed by an African Fish Eagle and saw three Ground Hornbills feeding next to the road.
Great trip and definitely created memories our guest and I will never forget!