01 Oct. It is definitely recommended to arrive the day before in Johannesburg you start the safari so that you can rest as the next few days will involve early wake up calls. The tour I went on was a group of 13 agents on an educational with the newly merged company Bundu Intrepid.
As we got off our flight from Cape Town we were met at OR Tambo airport by the transfer company who transferred us to our pre-tour accommodation less than an hour from the airport, Amadwala Lodge. The owner is a friendly lady who, along with her staff saw us paired off and settled into our rooms.
Our wake-up call was done with the beating of a drum at 05:00am.
On the first day of our trip, we receive little goodie bags with breakfast snacks and juice for the 5-6 hours drive to the Kruger. Driving time always depends on traffic, and whether there are accidents along the way. It took about and hour to get out of Johannesburg as there was an accident that morning on one of the highways. The driver therefore took a few detours; there is also a lot of road works taking place and mostly in preparation for the Soccer World Cup in 2010.
We had a few quick stops to stretch our legs and to have bathroom breaks, about 20 of us in total including the owners of the safari company and their employees. After midday, we could feel the rise in temperature. It is always a good idea to have some bottled water to keep one hydrated along the way.
We changed vehicles in Mpumalanga at Perry’s Bridge, where we got into two game drive vehicles. Each vehicle can seat up to 9 people. As we drove through Hazyview, we saw lots of the locals sitting along side the roads as well as other safari companies driving their game drives vehicles to and from the Kruger.
We entered the Kruger Park at the Paul Kruger Gate, where we stopped and had lunch. The temperature could have been around 35 Degrees Celsius. We had a game drive on way to our first campsite. The first night was spent at Skukuza Camp Site. It was school holidays, so there were lots of families on holiday and school groups camping out with their tents and caravans. The public campsite was very clean and the ablution facilities well maintained.
Our campsite was already set up when we arrived and this was a non-participation trip. This evening we were welcomed by our chef, Lizzy who had prepared a great local South African meal – a Braai (Barbeque), pap (traditional dish made of corn) and lots of salads, followed by a delicious dessert of warm custard and chocolate pudding.
As everyone was exhausted from the long days drive and heat, we headed to the showers and then off to bed. Though some took a quick walk around the campsite.
Another early morning start, wake up being at 05:00am again so that we could start our early morning game drive.
Afterwards returning to camp for breakfast – we had cereals, muesli, yoghurt, bread, cheeses, fruit salads and juice to indulge in. With all our luggage and sleeping bags packed, we head off to our next campsite with game drives en-route.
Around lunch time, we stopped at a picnic site where we ordered the most delicious cheeseburger and Kudu steak burgers. Tables were set under some trees, so it was nice and cool. There were some Vervet monkeys hanging around hopeful to get some leftovers – but the security guards keep a watchful eye on them!
Late afternoon we met up with SANPARKS to start our night game drive which leaves about 16:30pm. The SANPARKS guide/driver stops and explains each animal we see. We were told before we left on the drive that there are a few spotlights on the inside of the vehicle as well so the guests have a chance to try and spot some animals when it gets dark. The drive lasted about four hours – we saw plenty of Impala, Zebras, Elephants, Rhino and smaller wild cats.
Camp for the second night was at Satara. Just as we got off the vehicles to make our way to our tents, we were welcomed by a Hyena patrolling the fence of the campsite. They informed us that this particular Hyena always walks around this site . perhaps hoping to get a bite to eat!
Our chef this time was Godsave, who prepared two types of Potjiekos (a stew cooked over the fire in a metal pot): chicken and beef along with some fresh salads. The food is always delicious. As another day came to an end, we are informed of what the itinerary for the next day is and we then head for the showers and off to bed.
The last day on the safari was to be spent at Thornhill Safari Lodge. We departed Kruger through the Orpen Gate and it was a couple of hours drive to the lodge. After arriving at the lodge, we had some lunch and time to freshen up before our night game drive which would be on open game drive vehicles. It was the most exhilarating feeling that most of us on the vehicle had ever experienced. Making our way through the reserve, we came across a huge herd of elephants. Before they approached us, we stopped in the middle of the gravel road and the driver backed up a bit to give them their space and not to let them think we were going to do them any harm. One male started making some scary noises but they passed us on both sides of the vehicle. They were extremely close – we all just froze and could not get quick photos as we were so scared and our hands would not stop shaking (but all was well!).
The sunsets in Kruger are really spectacular; one can never take too many photos. As the guides/drivers of the different vehicles communicate via radio, we were informed that a there was a lion and lioness a few kilometers away. When we came across them they were just relaxing under some trees and between some bushes. Still trying to get over the shock and almost having heart-failure with having so many elephants near us, just to add to our excitement/adrenalin, we then have a close encounter with the lion!
These animals are so calm and relaxed and pretend they do not see us. This is the closest I have ever been to wild animals. It was such a great experience – a trip to Kruger is definitely recommended.
Just to add to our excitement, we saw a female cheetah with her three cubs. They were so adorable; as we were a lot of females on the vehicle – we just wanted to go and pick them up (I don’t think that would have been a good idea … especially with Mommy Cheetah around!) We then stopped for some sundowners before going back to the lodge.
Our last evening was spent having another delicious meal in the Boma area of the lodge. We had a chance to reminisce about how our last few days were spent. We also had to pre-pack as we were leaving to Johannesburg the next day.
Everyone had the choice of doing an early morning guided walk to track some smaller animals, insects, birds and so on. After returning to the lodge, breakfast was all ready. The last hour was spent taking photos and greeting the guides and staff and we were then off back to the city life.
After a good few hours on the road, we stopped to buy some food for lunch and we arrived back in Johannesburg around 18:00pm. We had some nice sundowners at Amadwala Lodge as this was our post-tour accommodation before our final supper. Gathering around the dinner table, speeches were made to thank everyone for partaking in this adventure.
Our flight to Cape Town was at 06:00am the next day, so we were up at about 04:00am to get the transfer to the airport…and then goodbyes were said. All in all, it was a great trip and one I would highly recommend to visitors.
By Nerissa Lategan