Excerpts from my Safari Journal

25th April 2017- This is not a dream

It was 1.30am, just after midnight on 25th April 2017. I must have dozed off from sheer tiredness. Something/ someone /some noise? must have woken me up. I started up in bed, trying to get my bearings, then realisation set in and I slowly smiled to myself in the dark, (not unlike those manic characters in some scary movies). I almost shouted- I am in Kruger! The largest game reserve in South Africa, stretching up to more than 2 million hectares of land!

All those hours spent, glued to the Ipad, pinning and watching the YouTube channel – Safari LIVE! Finally, I am here!

I resolved to stay up the whole night and enjoy these strange yet magical sounds from the bush.

Of course, I could not resist doing a crazy little happy dance 😉, with the orchestra playing in the background – hippos, crickets and bats, splashing, snorting, screeching/ scratching.

Earlier, we checked in Kruger National Park- Phalaborwa Gate and this cool bungalow – Mopani Camp. It was spacious, clean and comfortable.

I discovered a lookout platform in the camp, which showed off a spectacular view of the Pioneer damn. A magnificent game view! Waterbucks, elephants and impalas were busy picnicking near the dam.

25th Apr 2017- Baobab moments, Kruger and all its glory

I was up and ready by 4.00 am, mentally, willing everyone in the bungalow to wake up and get moving. It worked! I believed all that screaming in my head worked. Everyone was ready by 5.30am.

I opened the door eagerly, half expecting a lion sprawling in the balcony. I was a little disappointed though, for all I saw was bat droppings all over the balcony. I wondered, how many bats shared our roof the night before?

I jumped in the Land Cruiser full of energy and much to my Guide’s chagrin, some of my enthusiasm misfired and I banged the car door too strongly. Oops!

The Masterpiece

A short distance away, I found myself staring up to a most beautiful masterpiece. Baobab.  A 1500 years old Baobab stood proudly, in the middle of the camp. Try standing at the bottom of a baobab and look up….. the gnarled branches has its own interpretation of the South African sky, drawing patterns with a Grand Master’s envious skills. 25th April, the year 2017, I had my long-awaited baobab moment and had one item ticked off my bucket list. Not a tree-hugger, mind you, but this baby was just too irresistible!

I had the best seat in the car. Sitting alone in the back seat, swinging my head on a swivel, greedily drinking in the beauty, that vast land of unpredictable, endless wilderness! Land of the Big5, Small 5 …. yet my fingers were stubborn……. Have I lost my motor skills, cowered by all these beauties? While my companions were busy clicking away, on their cameras and handphones, there I was, gaping like a fool, transfixed at the incredible scene that unfolded before me and I simply refused to hide behind those lenses.

That day, the Bush spoiled us endlessly. I ticked off animals not found back home (@Singapore zoo)- Cape Buffalo, Waterbucks, Warthogs, Impalas, African wild dogs, Majestic Kudu and much more.

Back at the bungalow, a feast awaited us. I was pleasantly surprised with the dinner spread. I personally find that there’s nothing sexier than the ability to light the fire in seconds. Well our host, Gerhard Delport, delivered that with a flourish! Impressive! (later, I learnt that the wood is called sickle-bush). Well, I could not help comparing that to what we were used to in Singapore. In Singapore, we use charcoal to light the barbeque pit. A feat that requires patience, perseverance and involving vigorous fanning, babysitting every spark and quite a bit of French.

We had Rooibok fillets/ Impala venison with balsamic and olive oil dip, Lamb chops and roasted vegetables, Baby potatoes, Greek salad and Peppermint Crisp for dessert. I will never forget that first meal at Kruger. We ate game meat that melted in the mouth, right off the grill, under the stars, gleefully knowing there were resentful owls calling just yonder. That was just an introduction to all those amazing meals coming our way throughout our safari. Our host ensured that we get to sample a range of South African dishes during our stay.

In the days that followed, the cheerful chef-on-tow, created dishes, that got me singing repertoire of adjectives describing her food- delectable, appetizing, exquisite, finger licking, heavenly, mouth watering, scrumptious…..I looked forward to all the meals, those well thought after menu.

Dear Chef, if you are reading this, those times after the drives, when I called out – Honey! I’m Home! Well, I meant it. 😊

Some of the dishes we enjoyed were:- The out-of-this-world kudu pie, more game meat, Bobotie and yellow rice with coconut and banana, club steak and chicken wings dipped in Nandos sauce, home-made burgers, jaffles, biltong, bread on the grill ( the South African way), smooth malva pudding and custard, scones … and the list goes on .

A friend once told me that South African steak is as good as Australian. Well, I will have to differ. South African beats Australian steak, hands down.

I love food and cooking and my safari proved to be a wonderful Food-cation as well.

27th April 2017- Tsendze Rustic Campsite

A safari adventure is incomplete without a camping experience. It was back to basics at the Tsendze rustic campsite, our next lodging. No frills, no electricity, generators not allowed, no internet connection, therefore no Instagram or FaceBook. A minimalist experience and I LOVED it! We moved around, cooked and ate by the light of the campfire. Bathed in the open-air showers, under the Southern Cross, the most southerly and brightest star in the constellation. (No, I did not come equipped with that knowledge. Learned that from our host).

We slept in the Land Cruiser camper, one of my many firsts there. The beds were clean, warm and comfortable. We sat around the campfire, in companionable silence, contentedly listening to the beautiful sounds of the bush at night. A beautiful lullaby. Spiritual.

Escapism… Call me sentimental. I can’t help but think that was the perfect platform for relief from unpleasant realities, mundane, arduous, rational /technological rational society. I should know. I am a city girl. 

28th April 2017 -Another amazing day at Kruger Park

My wish for going on the safari was to experience close encounters with lions. I did not see any lions during the first few days, driving in the bush (that happened a few days later). I betrayed my lion kings as I actually enjoyed every moment at the Bush, even without the lion encounters!

How often do you get ambushed by aggressive elephant bulls, trying to cope with hormonal issues? Awesome experience indeed! Now I will pause for that happy dance ……again  😊_

I find giraffes simply hilarious. Awkwardly tall, big boned with a long neck (am I describing myself? Hahaha). They set you back to the fancy 1950s costume parade and the only difference was that they all went to the same tailor.

The first time I set my eyes on a kudu, I was star-struck. (Hey, I have seen perhaps, the antelope’s cousin at the Singapore Zoo, those cute little dwarf deer.) I was not prepared for such a magnificent sight. Tall, dark and handsome. It was love at first sight. Kudu is definitely one of my favourite animals now.

My longings were fulfilled. We saw the cats -lions, cheetahs and a `leopard. I behaved admirably. There were no hooting and jumping up and down in the car as I have pictured myself doing. I respectfully watched and enjoyed the sighting of these wild and beautiful creatures. Yes, you could not help but respect their survival instincts, be it defending their territory or hunting skills. Interesting facts: A lion’s roar can be heard from five miles away. (Yup, I listened to those lectures. Thank you Guide)

I can go on and on with oohs and aahs on all the wild animal sightings but that will require a whole lengthy chapter.

29th April 2017 – Amafu Forest Lodge

Shout out to an amazing lodge!

Amafu Forest Lodge, a luxurious lodge, nestling at the foothills of the Mariepskop Mountain and boasts a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and African sunsets. Our lodge was strategically located on a hill with a part of the Drakensberg mountain range in the backdrop.

Picture Perfect.

30th April 2017 -Crocodile Bridge Safari Camp

We checked in at the Crocodile Bridge Safari Camp. We were shown to our cool safari tent which faced the crocodile river and our guide later advised that it was teeming with nightlife. True enough, we were entertained by resident hippos and hyenas on the other side of the river all night.

That was just GOLD!

1st May 2017- Picnic spots and our last day at Kruger

Picnic spots picked out by our host were spot on! My personal favourite was the Mndlondzi picnic spot. It was a brilliant choice, overlooking the Mlondozi Dam. A beautiful, relaxing spot surrounded by nature, where you can sit and spy on animals at the water’s edge.

I was busy helping my companion, filling up her personal album/aka, taking several pictures of her with different facial expressions and same background. (For the life of me, I cannot understand this very narcissistic sport). Needless to say, we were distracted and did not notice a mischievous monkey sneaking by and stole our bread. We were further entertained with the sight of our angry Guide running after the monkey and failed in rescuing the bread. Trying to keep a straight face after that was torture. Kikikikiki……..

The sightings we had during the morning drive was straight “A”s. We saw Spotted Hyenas, Zebras, Impalas, Mopani Squirrel, Water Bucks, ELEPHANTS, Crocodiles, Cape BUFFALOS, Monkeys, Steenbok, Hippos, Wildebeest, Tortoise, Black Back Jackal, RHINOS, Giraffes, Warthogs, LIONS  and Scorpions. – Yes, dear Guide, I did list down the animals we saw on that day, all 19 animal species spotted! – Notice the Big 4 out of 5, are up there in caps.

Looking back and being a conspiracy theorist at heart, I am convinced that the Bush was giving us a grand farewell party with a blast and a big Bang!

2nd May 2017 -Goodbyes

We said goodbye to Kruger Park, land of the big 5, small 5 and everything else in between, land of baobabs, fever trees, marula, Lala palm, sycamore fig and mopane trees. An open land, so vast and breathtakingly beautiful, that stretches as far as the eyes can see. A land of rainbows (we saw rainbows every other day at Kruger Park), and the clear, living, vibrating canvas of a sky.

We said goodbye to that piece of Heaven.

Sudwala Caves

We explored Sudwala caves, the oldest known caves in the world, located in the Mpumalanga in the dolomite rock of the Mankelekele Mountain Range. We were led to a series of tunnels and chambers formed over 3000 million years ago. It featured beautiful, naturally sculptured stalactites and stalagmites. There was an interesting story about those caves and I brought home to memory a piece of History. Enchanting

3rd May 2017- Cape Town

A visit to South Africa will be incomplete without paying homage to Cape Town.

We visited the famous landmarks at Cape Town- Cape of Good Hope, Hout Bay and The world famous Table Mountain.

I always have a soft spot for mountains. Sufficed to say, I enjoyed the mountain experience tremendously. At the top of the mountains, I stopped to ponder on how it was formed millions of years ago, movement of mighty ice sheets, continents split apart due to built-up pressure in the earth’s crust, forcing an outlet, producing magnificent structures. These are art pieces shaped to perfection.

I lost myself in the beauty of it all and the peaceful silence. The only sounds I could hear were that of the wind, birds and the rhythm of my breathing. It was a humbling experience.

It was a humbling experience.

Come, pay a visit and make your own discovery.

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