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Entries about kwa mbili

Lion King


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Sunday, February 3, 2019

I am currently sitting by the pool with the little lizards during our Sunday morning break. Brenda is off napping and I think lunch will be served soon. But I’m hoping to get at least some stuff typed up about this morning’s exciting game drive and bush walk.

So as I mentioned yesterday, wake up around here is 5am. I had asked Tyrone when the sunrise was cause I want to see the red African sky. He said it would be a little before that and he could get us up in time. But wouldn’t ya know, this morning was overcast so no red sky 😢 Good thing I’ve got a few more mornings to get it 🤩 By 5:30 we're all at the Jeep and ready for the morning game drive. With it overcast, it was a little cooler than anticipated, so I’m glad I grabbed my long sleeves.

Early morning is when a lot of the animals are more active. They had actually been tracking a pride of lions yesterday before we got here, but by the time they found them they were already lying there napping and looking half dead. So that was this morning’s mission...to get a good lion sighting.

With no animals to look at, I was focused on the sky. It started to clear and get a little colorful, but we were heading in the other direction. Tom told me to just ask Tyrone to stop anytime and he would. He spun us around and I nailed it! Still hoping to do better, but this is a good start 😍

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Onward toward the lions we went when Tom spotted a leopard hiding in the trees. We were able to stop and not scare her away. Make that our number 4 of the big 5. And pretty impressive since leopards are good at hiding and there aren’t many black rhinos (we did also see white rhinos yesterday too. I have pics of both, but I’m not sure if I can actually tell them apart 🤦🏽‍♀️).

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By markings and paw prints they could tell there had been quite the gathering of cats overnight. Surprisingly, no one in our camp had heard them (they did the night before). We have an actual enclosed “chalet” with air con and a patio and a cement block bathroom, although still no actual door on the bathroom. But the other couples are staying out in the thatched roof tents. There is also a hide or observation platform that overlooks a small watering hole. Brenda & I haven’t seen anything the two times we went up there. But we did see two nyalas in camp that had wandered in to munch on the grass.

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Anyhoo, back to the big cats and our lion search. We spotted a female standing up in the distance. We had to go a little out and around to get by her, and there was the big old male just laying there minding his own business. Tyrone said that since the females and the cubs were up and moving, it was only a matter of time before the male got up and followed them too. And sure enough, there he went; first needing to spray and mark his territory, which I actually captured (score!!). Tyrone positioned our Jeep so that we could get the male walking right toward us, and at one point it looked like he was going to walk right up onto Tipple’s lap. It’s a pride of nine: 2 females (probabaly sisters), the male, and 6 cubs (3 from each female) all about 4.5 months old. We sat there a bit watching the cubs play a little. And then of course they had to go bother mom. Brenda got a great video where you can actually hear them purring...just before they walked around the car and started sharpening their claws on the tree by me. Just incredible stuff. It was time to get going when they looked to be sizing up a warthog for breakfast. But then one of the cubs mucked it up and scared him off anyway. Later on we saw the same pride in a little different spot just sprawled out sleeping. The life of a cat doesn’t change much regardless of the size 😝

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Somewhere in there we also had a little coffee stop, make that hot chocolate for us. And they had these delightful lemon poppyseed muffins to snack on. And by shortly after 9:00 we were back to the lodge and ready for our proper breakfast. We skipped the chef’s special flapjacks and just went with eggs and bacon, served with the usual mushrooms and tomatoes on the side.

Tanks refilled and not too hot out yet, we were off on a bush walk. Tyrone drove us near one of the damns and then we got out of the car to go get a better look around the water. Or that was the plan at least since you never know who or what you’ll find and how they will react to you. Rules for a walk: stay behind the rifle, keep it quiet (snap or slap your leg if you need his attention), walk in a single file line, only take pics when he says it’s safe, and do NOT run! Yeah, what can go wrong there?! 😳

He had spotted a hippo, so that’s what we were headed toward. Problem is you can’t come at them where they have a chance to run straight at you - cause that’s not a battle you’re going to win. Once the hippo picked us up, he kept moving in the water to make sure he would always know where we were. He’d go under, then ploop, he’d pop up and there were his beedy little eyes on us. So in the process of trying to get closer to the hippo (who seemed to be a mama and baby combo), we ended up coming upon a pair of cape buffaloes. Yet another animal you don’t want to tick off. And when Tyrone was like “let’s back up and just give them more space,” I think we all got a little nervous. I heard Annabel say something about her heart pounding, and I was feeling the same. He then elaborated and said if they charge, he’d have to shoot and hit just right and even then sometimes it takes 2 rifles (which we did not have). We did get to a place where he let us snap some photos. Being directionally challenged in a place that appears to look exactly the same everywhere I turn, I was looking at my watch wondering how long it was gonna take us to get back. Thankfully we were actually mere feet from the Jeep, everyone having survived!! As Tyrone pointed out, we were stalked by a hippo and avoided a Cape buffalo, so not a bad morning walk.

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Walk over we drove back to camp for our midday break. And that’s how I’ve been able to get this all typed 💃🏽😎 The couple from the Netherlands left and another one showed up (he’s French and she’s Dutch and that’s where they live). Lunch was served: a barbecued beef sandwich with carmelized onions and a coleslaw type salad. Now we’re all sitting in the outdoor living room waiting to hop aboard the Jeep. Hopefully my request for giraffes and elephants will be fulfilled 🤞🏽 But considering how quickly we were able to see all of the big five, I can’t complain. 😊

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Turns out we were waiting for another pair of Germans to show up, a mother and son. So this afternoon game drive was a little cozier with 8 guests on board the Jeep. The first place we headed was back toward the lions. The heat of the day upon us, they were all lounging under trees just trying to nap. Next thing we knew, we were back in the middle of a herd of elephants. Those are some very large vegans right there!! Then there were trees to photograph (for me at least; that’s my go to when there aren’t any animals to look at). Yet more elephant sightings...this time shaking the amarula tree to grab some tasty fruits. A stop for some sundowner drinks and snacks, and then we were heading back to get ready for dinner. Wow!! Such a crazy exciting day.

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We got back to camp and were in the boma for dinner around 8:00. The fire was stoked and going strong and the staff was ready to dazzle us. It was just 6 for dinner though as the German couple were off dining alone. The meal tonight was even better than last night (Neil and Ian weren’t kidding about the abundance of food we were in for on safari). So first up was some kind of flat bread with avocado, bacon, tomato and a sauce on top. That’s a two thumbs up right there. Then the main course was yet another fresh, summery salad. This accompanied roast chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese alongside some basmati rice. And what’s an amazing meal without a delctible dessert?! That consisted of a meringue base topped with fruit and a berry sauce. After such a successful game drive, it was only right that we washed it all down with the local Savanna cider. Everyone was feeling relaxed and chatty so we hung out in the boma for a while. But finally they needed to clean up and we needed to get to bed in order to do it all over again tomorrow. How is this my life right now?! 😝😍

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 12:49 Archived in South Africa Tagged safari krueger kwa_mbili big_5 Comments (2)

Hakuna Matata


View Africa 2019 on JackiesJourneys's travel map.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

6:20 wake up call this morning so we could grab some breakfast and get to the lobby in time. Sadly they didn’t get the sausage out there quick enough, but I think I’ll survive anyway 🙈 By 7:30 we were all ready to get loaded up in Ian’s minibus and head for the airport (Which we arrived at faster than anticipated, and where I’m currently sitting and typing this as we have 2 hours till our flight. Oh yes, and not to mention security is nowhere near what we endure in the states. You wanna just walk in the airport with a full bottle of wine in your carryon?! Go right ahead, the plane is that way...no worries 😀).

Right away we mentioned to Ian that a friend on FB thought he was William Shatner. He just laughed...but now that she mentioned it, I gotta agree there is a resemblance 😀 Along the way, he continued to give us the full touring treatment. For any Netflix viewers, we drove by this giant ship sitting kinda just along the highway. I guess there’s some show called “Black Sails” that is set in the Caribbean, but actually filmed right here in Cape Town. Just gotta be sure to keep that pesky Table Mountain out of any background footage 🤷🏽‍♀️

I also finally learned what ANC stands for...African National Congress 🤦🏽‍♀️ Guess I should’ve just asked or googled days ago when I first started hearing it. Oops...my bad. Anyhoo, driving into Cape Town we began to see all these metal shacks and dilapidated little buildings, as well as people actually running and exercising right along the motorway. This shackland houses people from all over Africa that poured into the area thinking they would get housing and jobs. Instead they ended up here, and hopefully one day qualify for the government housing in the townships they border. But it’s pretty unreal to see these structures go on for miles and miles. Sadly this is probably more of what the average American pictures the whole of Africa to look like.

Currently the Western Cape is ruled by the opposition party, and it sounds like they are better off for it. The next election is coming up in May and yet again the ANC is promising jobs, but at what cost?! It might be the first time I ever think to scope out an African election...so thanks yet again to Ian. It also explains the “Register to Vote” signs I photographed yesterday in Stellenbosch. Which reminds me about the language thing I never mentioned. South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans (which comes from what used to be “kitchen Dutch”), English, and 9 tribal languages. For convenience, signs are generally only in English, but I think most people do speak Afrikaans as well. All these interesting little things I had no idea about. But just imagine: 11 official languages and that’s just in one small area of Africa 😳

Pulling into the airport, we discovered just how nice of a place it is. Turns out it underwent some major renovations for the 2010 World Cup. And then it was time to unload and say our goodbyes to Ian 😢 Thanks for all the tips and info and laughs. You helped make our stay in Cape Town and Stellenbosch an unforgettable one 😊

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But I suppose, I’ve already said/typed far more than I planned to this morning 🙊 So I’ll be off and check back in later from our safari camp!

Me again, this time from midair. We took off on time and were afforded some phenomenal views of Table Mountain, with the tablecloth (clouds) partially set. Now we’re just about ready to get our complimentary lunch service on a flight that isn’t even 2.5 hours long 🤔 Aaaaaand the flight attendants just keep walking right on in to the cockpit 😳 Oh yeah, definitely not in the states. We may even be in a time warp 😆

Lunch consisted of boxed lunches with potato salad, chicken (or roast beef) and some chocolate mousse. Not too shabby. Then a quick cleanup and we were making our decent into Hoedspruit airport. As we taxied around, the “terminal” came into view...basically a thatched roof hut with an outdoor waiting room. Then there were the warthogs standing off to the side next to the fuel truck. And finally a tractor rolled a cart around with luggage in and just kinda parked it on the curb 😀 The trickiest thing was navigating the queue for the toilets.

We were met by Jimmy, the water chemist by trade who now runs airport transfers as a side gig so he can live close to his grandchildren. He had us grab our cameras cause ya just never know when you’ll encounter something. Then we were off down the sand road (“African back massager” as he referred to it) on our way to our safari lodge. We did end up seeing impalas (the African version of our deer), a Cape buffalo at a watering hole, monkeys crossing the road, and who knows what else that I missed. But it was too fast and bumpy for any photos.

Pulling into Kwa Mbili Game Lodge, we were greeted by a bunch of the staff. The guys quickly tackled our luggage, and we followed Shayna to the reception area to hear some rules, sign releases, and be handed a sundowner drink before being shown to our room. Rule of the room is shut the doors at all times as they don’t want and snakes, spiders, monkeys, or anything else wandering in. If anything does show up, inside or on our patio, we actually have an air horn to blow to summon help 😳 And they recently had a leopard on a patio and in the kitchen, so it’s not out of the ordinary. Oh yeah, the camp is a private reserve located in Thorny Bush, which is a region of the Krueger National Park. There are no fences (aside from a high wire to keep out elephants and giraffes), so the animals are the ones in charge around here.

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They were just starting lunch, so we made our way to dining hut area and met the other 4 guests...Thomas & Caroline from Germany and Tom & Annabel from the Netherlands. We had chicken Caesar salad and this tomato pie thing, both of which were delicious. Then it was time to get ready for the afternoon game drive. It was a very hot, sunny afternoon, well in the 90s I believe, and we're basically cruising around in an open air tank. And by cruising I really mean bumping along as we drive over trees and through bushes and in and out of holes. I quickly realized how Thorny Bush got its name when I didn’t duck and almost lost a clump of hair to the branches we were driving through. Note to self: pay better attention!!

My first question was how on earth do I get into that Jeep?! Luckily there are steps built around the tires, so it wasn’t as tricky as I had imagined. Our ranger, the guy who drives the car, is Tyrone and the tracker, the guy sitting precariously in a seat on the hood of the car, is Tipple. It’s just incredible watching and listening to them communicate. They both have ear pieces in as well, listening to reports from other rangers on animal sightings. And there’s the giant hedge clippers to clear paths and the rifle on the dashboard. And the instruction to never stand up in the vehicle and never get out unless they tell you to.

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In Africa, they have the Big Five for animals: lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalo and rhinos (more specifically black rhinos). Since the other four people had been there already, the goal was to finish up their big five sightings while we would be starting ours. So for instance we got to one watering hole and there was an elephant splashing around in it, but then we quickly high tailed it out of there. I was like what the heck, I barely got to see him. But turns out there was a rare black rhino sighting and we had to move quick to catch it. Tyrone said we can pretty easily find more elephants, but if that rhino is seen today, he may disappear for the next couple days. When we got to the spot, there were 2 black rhinos just munching on dinner. Unreal!!

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The other thing about being on safari is it’s a lot of driving around chasing after things and hoping to find them...sometimes ya do and sometimes ya don’t. But I am really enjoying just sitting back and taking in all the random sights and sounds along the way.

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I am trying to remember what we all saw on that first drive, as it’s pretty much a blur. I was still trying to figure out my sister’s camera, trying not to continue oohing and ahing at every turn, all while the Lion King soundtrack is playing on loop in my head 🙈🙊 Not to mention I am typing this after we already did our Sunday morning drive, so that one is fresher in my memory. It was wonderful, amazing, picturesque, awe inspiring and any other superlative you can think of. Between Brenda on video duty and me pretending I’m a National Geographic wildlife photographer, I think we are getting a lot of very cool videos and photos. But with how large the photo files are, I don’t know if I can get many actually loaded so I may have to leave you in suspense.

During the game drive, we also take a refreshments break. Last night it was cocktail time in the bush 🍹 The other couple nice thing about these private reserves is they like to have no more than 2 vehicles near the animals at any one time and we are able to stay out a little later passed sundown. Upon arrival, we're met by someone with a basket of wash cloths to wipe the road dust and dirt off.

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When we got back last night we had a braai (bbq) dinner in the boma, round open air enclosure where there was a bit of a camp fire going. There were lamb chops and chicken and salads and chocolate mousse. Not a bad way to end a long day. We were off to bed around 10:00 as the morning wake up call (someone beating on your wall) happens around 5:00.

Posted by JackiesJourneys 02:30 Archived in South Africa Tagged safari krueger kwa_mbili thorny_bush Comments (0)

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