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South Africa: Where Dreams Come True

OF all my travels, I had the best one last week in South Africa. Africa is officially my favourite continent in the world and I vow to travel parts of it in the years to come. Our trip began with a brief stay at Johannesberg for the night before we were whisked off to Northeast where we stayed three, wonderful nights at a game lodge. It has always been my dream to experience an African safari so the main agenda of this trip was the Kruger National Park. 

What can I say. It has been the most interesting few days of my life among the lives I've only used to read about, watch in documentaries and imagine in my head. Over the days, I've had a frog half the size of my pinky jump out of my hair, suffered various insect bites on my face, avoided bee stings (although I've been stung half a dozen times before), walked about after dark to my room so fearful thinking that I may be in the way of the hippos in the lake outside my room and watched a man shiver right next to me due to a scorpion sting. But I've loved these adventures so much. Much more than jumping off that plane or visiting iconic and historic landmarks around the world. 

Kruger Park was to me a dream come true. Making it much more interesting with live commentary was our guide/ ranger Shoes Mathebula. A Shangaan Tsonga, he was born in Kruger itself. His family has lived in the park from the time Kruger was declared a national heritage in the 1920s. They were the last of people to evacuate Kruger in 1989 when Shoes was 10 years old. While taking us through the park, he showed us the burial site of his late grandfather. Shoes' late father was a ranger too and was instrumental in setting up the Satara camp at Kruger. 

When the family moved, they lived just outside of the park in Orpen where his father had acquired a piece of land. You can say it's in his blood. Shoes' understanding, knowledge and great respect for the nature is astounding. After leaving school, he studied at the Southern Africa Wildlife College, also known as the greater Kruger due to its unique location in the park itself. Kruger wasn't just his playground as he grew up but it was also his practical field when he studied. 

As to how much this man knows his stuff was evident when we passed by a vehicle with a bird-watching couple in it. They've been sitting with their binoculars and bird reference books for a while to figure out a bird. After approaching them, Shoes drove further front, looked up at the creature perched right on top of a tree and got back to them. 

"See page 79 in that book, the second para. It's a Bataleur. A young one, that's why the colour isn't fully developed yet". 

Just like that, the couple was astonished and so were we. That deserved an applause the couple said, and we gave him just that. Turned out, our tent at the Phelwana Game Lodge where we stayed was also called Bataleur. We knew then what Bataleur was all about. 

Shoes has set up our breakfast at the Timbavati picnic spot at the park
Shoes is checking up on these lion spurs. Fresh, adult ones, lion has gone this way.

With Shoes, we were able to experience some of the best the park had to offer. I learnt how to spot the differences between a fresh and a day's old lion spoors. We learnt to wait and watched a large herd of elephant crossing, adult male lions feeding on their prey which was a Cape buffalo, the much poached rhinos, wild dogs which are becoming increasingly rare among many other wonders of savannah (countless giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, impalas, springboks, kudu, baboons, hyenas, jackals and more). I was particularly overwhelmed when we were surrounded by at least 500 Cape buffaloes, left and right in the vast savannah. It was simply surreal. 

Shoes commentary on wildlife behaviour was spot on. It was like he had rehearsed with them before taking us out on the ride. For an example, he was able to narrate the heavy duty that fell on a leading male's shoulders in a herd of female impalas just as we watched the drama unfold before us. He says something and they play it out. Ridiculous! 

A random wildebeest
Female impalas
Elephant crossing

Back at the lodge, we had the Big 5 too except for the elephants. Just outside our private tent were the hippos. During the day, there were giraffes, kudus and wildebeests that made their way to the lake as well while we watched them from our personal pool. During our last night, I was kept awake all night by the hippos. They were growling ( I think), splashing away in the lake and it was just like 15m away from our bed! 

The view from our tent room
Complete with a private pool

I left that part of the holiday with a very heavy heart. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. It was perfectly perfect. 



  1. Wow, seeing all those animals up close has to be awesome. Not a bad spot to relax, well maybe not with the hippos splashing about lol

    1. it was magical, Pat! the hippos were fine, just part of the experience. thrilling :)

  2. I hope Shoes warned you about the hippos - they're more dangerous to humans than any other animal in Africa! The random wildebeest looks very underfed!

    1. the hippos were at the lodge. they're fine as long as we dont cross their path when they're coming out of the lake or going into it. the lodge rangers would get us in their vehicles if we wish come out the same time. when we are in the vehicle, they see us as a single unit.

    2. haha. those the furry stripes on the wildebeest. they look like bones jutting out. this one's quite fat.

  3. I did a safari with my kids on the Serengeti - I, too, was quite taken wit Africa. It was a flat-out amazing experience.

    1. that's awesome. it's amazing, it really is. our next african destination is very likely to be tanzania and if that's the case, serengeti is definitely in!

  4. What a fantastic experience! Even a frog jumping out of your hair! I didn't know hippos growled :) It looks marvellous and I'm envious. Shoes...bless him. Glad you had such a great time.

    1. thank you Jules! lol. they made a sound like that. i don't know if it's growling! it really was. this part was my favourite part of the holidays. i am happy just thinking about it :) Shoes' gifted.


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