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Kruger Safari30th November '16  |  - 7 Comments

I have to admit I was hesitant in trying out some of the lodges in Kruger.  Previous experiences have been with me being stuck in a convoy of vehicles, on a tarred road, all trying to see some lion sitting in the shade on the roadside. I really could have been in Longleat Adventure Park!  But I have heard many good things about people’s experiences in Kruger and I thought I needed to check them out for myself, I know, my job is awful. I had been advised to make sure I visited private concession areas rather than where the general public drive, so as they say in Africa, I made a plan.

With the idea of offering add-ons to my guests who are visiting Swaziland I decided to check out the southern section of Kruger National Park and visited the Shishangeni concession area, which is only an hour’s drive from the Swaziland border and very easy to get to.  Having said this I did take a wrong turn and ended up at the Mozambique border and had to do a U-turn and got stopped by the police as they wondered what on earth I was up to, but that is another story. Being stopped by the police is becoming a habit of mine. In my defence, the border was only 5 mins in the wrong direction, it was not as if I had driven miles…

I eventually got to the gates of Kruger National Park, paid my entrance fees and found myself in the beautiful surroundings of South Africa’s most famous national park.  I had arrived in the heat of the day so I wasn’t expecting to see much so I pootled along in my (very small)  car along the tar road.  However it wasn’t long before I turned onto the private concession area and found myself driving along dirt roads into the vast African bush. As soon as I have turned off the tar road there were noticeably fewer cars, in fact I only saw one other, which certainly increased my optimism about the experience I was going to have. The first animal I saw were a couple of giraffes by the side of the road browsing on acacia and then immediately after I spotted a herd of elephants in the distance.

Shishangeni is about an hours drive from Komatipoort and there are three different styles of lodges on the reserve.  I only had two nights there, which I now seriously regret, and I stayed at two of the three lodges.  I have to say that the highlight of my trip was whilst I was staying in Camp Shawu, the more luxurious and exclusive lodge with a genuine wilderness feel about it.  The camp has only 5 tents which really should not be classified as tents at all, they are more like divine canvas rooms.  Each room is pretty enormous, the phrase ‘you could swing a cat in it’ should really be upgraded ‘swing a lion in it, they are vast.  Inside there was an enormous double bed surrounded by mosquito netting, a couple of comfy leather armchairs, a clawfoot bath, a toilet cleverly screened off in the far corner and all the old-fashioned adornments that you would expect.

And then outside each tent there is a shower for washing under the stars and in front of the bed there are doors leading out onto decking which overlooks the massive waterhole in front of the lodge.  I could hardly contain my excitement when I got there, that real genuine ‘Out of Africa’ feeling. This is what a safari to Africa should be all about.

After lunch I spent a couple of hours simply sitting on the decking are watching animals coming to drink.  I was armed with binoculars, bird books, my camera and a cup of tea, all precariously balanced on the small table next to my sun lounger.  I have to admit it took me a few minutes to realise that right directly in front of me there was a pod of about 30 hippo, but in my defence they were all lying in the mud playing musical statues to a tune no one else could not hear.  It was only when I heard one of them snort that I realised that these smooth ‘rocks’ were actually hippo.

The first visitor to the waterhole was a lone white rhino bull which slowly sauntered down to drink. He was closely followed by a couple of elephants which were then joined by three more and they gracefully ambled around the far edge stopping to drink on the way.  The sound of the African bush resonated in the background and I was truly in heaven.

However, my peaceful quiet time was going to be disturbed,  and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  Whilst I had my binoculars glued to my eyes looking at the far side of the water hole I had failed to check the nearside of the waterhole, which was only 20 m away.  A massive rumbling interrupted my searching and three majestic bull elephants materialised on the right-hand side, binos not needed!  They stopped right front of me to drink and to wallow in the mud and the smell was a serious assault on my nasal cavities.  Little did I know that these guys were the scouting party because 15 mins later a massive herd of elephants paraded past.  I was simply lost for words.  My camera was working on overdrive.  Thank goodness for digitalisation…

The elephants were in no rush and so after the initial panic of trying to capture the ideal photo I could simply put my camera down and enjoy the spectacle in front of me.  Elephants waded into the mud and I could hear the slurping sound from the suction of them pulling their feet out of it, youngsters over exuberant about the water and adult mothers sedately keeping everything in check, it was a beautiful sight to behold.  What a privilege.

Our game drive left a little bit late, well, watching those elephants was truly spectacular and we could not leave until they had left.  However we did get out and the excitement didn’t stop them. Within half an hour a black rhino and her calf had been spotted out in the open, a very rare sight.  You don’t often see black rhino let alone with a calf and even more unlikely out in the open. Surprisingly, she didn’t really seem that bothered, she just carried along with life, feeding off the scrub bushes nearby whilst we drove up with our vehicle and promptly sat about 30 m away just watching the spectacle for over half an hour.

img_3364-copyWhat I loved about it was that once we had seen the mother and calf there was no rush to try and tick off other wildlife, we had the joy of spending time watching these animals simply going about life. Why rush through life?

The rest of the game drive included more elephant, a herd of very old buffalo and giraffe. There was also the compulsory sundowners of beer with chilli biltong. Biltong is rather addictive and I was thankful that only two of us actually liked the stuff – I wasn’t going to try and change anyone’s opinion on it either. As we drank our beer a fish eagle took off from the river as the sun set in front of us and we watched a couple of hippo plodding out of the water and onto land to feed as it grew dark.  It was time to get back to camp for supper under the stars.

That night I went to sleep to the sound of snorting and honking hippos who generously provided me with a rather interrupted sleep, however I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.  Every time they woke me up I smiled like the cat thats got the cream, rolled over and went back to sleep again.  I could have sworn I heard lion roaring as well in the middle of the night, but we never saw them. That is the nature of being on safari.

But what a really wonderful night.

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Responses

  1. Lena says:

    November 30th, 2016 at 6:48 pm (#)

    Wow amaZing Jenny your making me jealous! Sounds incredible, I still hear the sounds of Swaziland and have dreams that I’m back there!

  2. senseafrica says:

    December 8th, 2016 at 11:28 am (#)

    Thank you Lena, really pleased you are still ‘sensing’ Africa, even if it is in your dreams!!! x

  3. Michela says:

    November 30th, 2016 at 8:11 pm (#)

    Gosh this sounds wonderful Jenny. If ever you need a stand in do let me know!

  4. senseafrica says:

    December 8th, 2016 at 11:26 am (#)

    Ah yes, a stand in, of course! But there is a long queue…! x

  5. phil says:

    November 30th, 2016 at 8:41 pm (#)

    love reading your adventures as always Jen x

  6. senseafrica says:

    December 8th, 2016 at 11:25 am (#)

    Thank you Phil x.

  7. Lari says:

    December 15th, 2016 at 9:15 am (#)

    Hi Jenny,
    I have to say, I’ve been to Kruger quite a few times and have had great experiences there, as long as you’re patient, though it does depend a lot on luck and being in the right place at the right time. We’ve had a leopard sighting all to ourselves on one of the unpaved road, due to my husband’s eagle eye. Just the flick of an ear, and we stopped to witness this beautiful creature get up and saunter towards us, walk in front of the car to mark it, before wandering off across the road. We followed him at a safe distance as he walked just off the road before he disappeared further into the bush. One of the best sightings, but not the only one! It is possible to find quieter areas, and it helps to avoid peak South African holiday time.

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