I’ve just returned from a fantastic 17 day trip to South Africa and, as always, my first priority – to the chagrin of my long-suffering boyfriend, who would rather I was emptying my suitcase or helping to clean the flat – has been to edit down my several hundred photos. Here, I present to you: Part I. Yes, that means there will be more to follow.
The trip started with four days on safari in the Mthethomusha game reserve, just outside Kruger National Park. We stayed in Bongani Mountain Lodge, perched high above the valley and enjoying breathtaking views across to the Drakensberg mountain range. Impala and baboons were frequent visitors around the lodge, elephants roamed the hills, and from the lookout you could often see zebra and wildebeest drinking from the watering hole. We even saw two male giraffes fighting whilst relaxing one day by the pool – David Attenborough eat your heart out!
Our regular guide was Johnson, a big, serious guy, who insisted on running through umpteen safety procedures before each drive and yet had no qualms about taking himself off on foot into the bush in search of lions. He was an excellent tracker and got us up close to rhino, buffalo, kudu, giraffe, nyala and a whole host of other animals, as well as spotting much smaller creatures…such as the tiny chameleon he clocked on a tree branch from a fast-moving jeep one evening, after the sun had already set! Yeah, he was impressive. The drives themselves, all off-road on bumpy, dusty tracks at dawn and dusk each day, were fantastic. I never want to forget how it felt to climb to the highest point in the area to stop and stretch our legs, taking in the incredible views and listening to the stillness as the sun rose.
The lions eluded Johnson though, to his frustration. It wasn’t until our trip into Kruger itself that we managed to see them up close: three males and a sleeping female. Seeing them in the wild is actually a little scarier than I was expecting; you realise how exposed you are in a topless jeep! Kruger was mind-blowing. Bigger than Wales (why is it always Wales?), the flat landscape stretching into infinity in all directions and the undergrowth teeming with animals. In addition to what we’d already encountered in Mthethomusha, we saw elands, hyenas, hippos, warthogs, bushbucks, vultures, tortoises, purple starlings, lizards and vervet monkeys. It was such an exciting and memorable experience. And that evening we returned to the lodge for a braai (Afrikaans for ‘barbecue’) in the boma, a large circular eating space with open fire. Perfect!
So, four out of the ‘Big Five’ ain’t bad. Here are a small selection from my ridiculous number of photos…