After spending an incredible few days in Cape Town, South Africa, it was time to move on to the next leg of the journey. We were headed to Kapama Lodge just outside of Kruger National Park. The lodge is located in Hoedspruit, South Africa.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, WHAT WAS EXPECTED AND WHAT WASN'T
Landing in Hoedspruit was like no other airport I had ever been to! The first surprise was being delayed on the runway, unable to reach the gate. Why? Well, if you have traveled, these delays are not unusual, right? The nature of this delay, however, was because there were monkeys the airport staff was working hard to run off the runway so we could approach the gate!
The next surprise was seeing the control tower and the baggage crew vehicles. My initial feeling was that I was lucky to be alive but then the thought came over me;" This is the charm of Africa. THIS is why I'm here!"
Heading to the lodge, groups of us boarded multi-passenger jeeps and our luggage was loaded in separate vehicles.
Arriving at the lodge was like heaven in the middle of nowhere. I knew that our accommodations were to be 5-star but the lodge and the suites were much more than I expected!
THE ITINERARY FOR THE NEXT 3 WEEKS:
After getting settled into our suites there was a meeting in the common area to explain our upcoming adventure into the wild. The days would be long with little sleep but this was a trip of a lifetime!
- 4 a.m. coffee, juice, tea, and croissants would be available before getting into your assigned jeep for the morning safari.
- 8 a.m. return to the lodge for a full breakfast made to order with a selection that was incredible
- 11 a.m. a bush walk or free time with lunch or snacks. free time offered a guest the opportunity to relax at the pool, get a massage or other spa services, nap, etc.
- 4 p.m. the nocturnal safari
- 730 p.m.'s return to the lodge for an elaborate dinner
- repeat daily
Yes, my friends there were rules. The rules were in place for everyone's safety, including the animals. They made sense.
- sit, don't stand in the jeeps when out in the wild. The animals are used to the shape of the jeeps and people but anything out of the ordinary could cause them to get upset
- don't throw food or objects out of the jeep
- if the spotter, driver, or guide asked for silence, please observe that request.
- on nighttime safaris, no flash on your camera. the staff had spotlights for photography
- there was no guarantee that we would get the opportunity to see "The Big Five" which included Rhinos, Elephants, Lions, Cape Buffalo, and the ever-elusive Leopard.
THE FIRST NOCTURNAL GAME DRIVE- KRUGER NATIONAL PARK :
The first day saw us going on our first nocturnal safari. Wow, Wow, Wow! The wildlife was incredible, the sunset was amazing and the surprise happy hour in the wild was unbelievable! ( On the morning drive, happy hour is replaced with a coffee break!) On the very first game drive, we were lucky enough to see a leopard and even luckier to watch him enjoy his dinner, a warthog! We were told that many people visit but it's rare to see the Leopard. Another big WOW!
There are two game drives each day because as it was explained, some animals are daytime and others are nocturnal. So, in order to have the best chance to see as many animals as possible, it was recommended to participate in both morning and afternoon drives.
Returning to the Lodge there was time to freshen up before dinner. What an exciting first day and to think, it was only the first day- there were 3 more weeks to this adventure In Kruger National Park!
Dinner found all of us starving, full of stories but, exhausted. You know, that exhaustion that brings total satisfaction! That's the kind of exhaustion I'm talking about!
Off to bed with the perceived excitement of what the next day would bring. Yes, 3 a.m. was going to come early to get on the jeep by 4 a.m. for the first-morning game drive!
THE FIRST MORNING GAME DRIVE:
Grabbing a coffee and croissant, grab a spot on the jeep, and off we went. What's interesting is that there are 3 or 4 jeeps, depending on how many people are at the lodge. Each Jeep has a driver, a spotter, and a guide and takes off in a different direction communicating by radio. If one spotter is on to something, he/she radios the GPS location, and everyone joins in the "find". The staff, of course, are not novices, they have been doing this for a long time. That being said, they pretty much know what animals hang out where, but of course, there are surprises.
The early mornings, like the evenings, are quite chilly, so blankets are provided in the jeeps. After an hour so in the jeep, the blankets go by the wayside.
THE LATE MORNING BUSH WALK!
Honestly, the Bush Walk seemed a bit much for me. When you are advised to wear calf-high boots that are designed to protect you from snake bites, I have to say, that's a bit out of my comfort range. So, on the first day, I opted out and headed to the spa for a massage.
My traveling companion, upon return, convinced me it wasn't scary and that I should at least give it a try the next day. I was assured that the group was protected by a spotter carrying an Elephant Gun at the front of the group and a second staff member at the rear of the group who also carried an Elephant Gun. If you are an avid reader of my posts, you know that I am an adventure seeker, so with newfound courage, I agreed to go the next day! Perhaps, I wasn't thinking straight after an incredible massage?
I ALMOST GOT US ALL KILLED!:
Wearing long pants and my special boots, I joined the Bush Walk the next day. The Spotter was definitely on to something as he led us through the Bush of Kruger National Park. What was it? A morbid curiosity came over me until the group was stopped and given instructions. The Spotter had found the Rhino, the deadliest creature in Kruger. We were told to stay silent and watch where we walked so as to not disturb branches or sticks. If for some reason, the Rhino charged, we were told to get up a tree as fast as we could! What? I had never climbed a tree in my life! My thought was to run and hope someone was slower than me!
GET UP A TREE AS FAST AS YOU CAN:
With the three Rhino in view, I felt paralyzed. We were about 300 yards away. I knew from prior research that a Rhino, depending on the species runs about 50 km/hour. Have you ever said something and the words left your mouth much louder than you intended? Well, friends, that's what happened! The words that left my mouth, in somewhat of a panicked loud voice were " Can we just go back now?" Friends, this got the attention of the Rhino!
The three turned to us, gave us the warning stare, the scream! Holy Crap, we were all going to die and it would be my fault! Why did I agree to this afternoon stroll through the bush? Oh, God, I don't want to die in Africa! Long story, short, we didn't die, the Rhino decided we were no threat and now I have a lifetime memory as the other guests who were on the walk do too!
MISCELLANEOUS SIGHTINGS AND FINAL INSIGHTS- KRUGER NATIONAL PARK:
Three weeks on Safari seems like a long time, but the time flew by. On the first day seeing a Nyala was amazing but they are a very common sight. By the end of the trip, I found myself saying, "Oh, it's just another Nyala!" I saw termite mounds that are taller than I am. On the last game drive, we got the rare privilege of seeing a pack of African Wild Dogs, which impressed even the game staff. Birds and Monkeys were everywhere. I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity. It was a hard trip. The hours were long, I was on constant sensory overload, and sleep was short. Would, I do it again? You betcha! I encourage all of you, that if Africa is your dream, do it! Do it now!
THE LAST LEG OF THE TRIP:
After leaving Kruger National Park, we were headed to Zambia and Zimbabwe for some relaxation and to see Victoria Falls. Come back and visit my site to read about the last leg of my trip to Africa!
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