PRONKING AND SPITTING!
It’s called a “springbok”!! Sitting in a peaceful boma setting, the fire crackling in the centre, a ceiling of stars sparkling on our shoulders, kudu steaks washed down with an excellent Pinotage, animal noises rumbling in the silence and Wayne decides it’s too quiet. We are all lined up, hands on heads, with 2 fingers up as horns....we, of all shapes and sizes, must “pronk “ to the table from about 2 metres, bend down and without using our hands drink the shot placed on the edge of the table. Can you imagine the hilarity!! This is one of the many bizarre things we learnt on our “famil” to South Africa last month.....the shot is a crème de menthe base topped with the local Amarula licquer. Amarula is produced from the yellow fruit of the indigenous marula tree made famous by “Beautiful People” the movie where all the animals get drunk on the fallen fermented fruit!!! Still grinning after a few “springboks” we are escorted to our tents ....hoots of laughter as someone falls over.....it’s the uneven path.....! Wake up call is 4.30... for the early morning drive. Wow!!
We arrive earlier, in Jo’burg, from where we will make the four hour trip through some pleasant farming land to Hazeyview and our first night. 'Casterbridge Hollow' is the name of our very agreeable accommodation which is set amongst the sweet mango trees of an old farm. Its sister hotel 'Hippo Hollow' is more traditionally African thatched and down the road. Both are a great stop to experience the area before heading into Kruger National Park.
We are taken into the park for a game drive that evening as we will be staying in a concession next to Kruger rather than in the park itself. Our first sighting is of nine white rhino all huddled together on a huge granite rock. Our guide tells us we are extremely lucky, he’s worked there for 11 years and never seen that many together before. Our next sighting is of two endangered African wild dogs. Often called “painted dogs” because of their unique tan and black blotches. They are on the road, obviously in hunting mode as they are anxiously awaiting the rest of their pack which is somewhere in the bush. They listen, they twitter, they run up and then back, sit for a while...it’s too late for us to watch for long as we must return to the gate before sundown.
The following morning we experience a wonderful hour or two at “Elephant Whispers”. This is elephant interaction where one can touch the elephant skin, feel the big veins on its ears, look down its throat, feel the hairs on its tail and learn all about their habits. These elephants were saved as babies from a planned elephant cull. They have been hand reared in the most loving way, the elephant handlers are well trained and have a lot of respect and love for their majestic beasts. This is a very good program for first timers to Africa as it gives a wonderful insight into elephant behaviour. They also run an excellent volunteer program of up to 2 months, “hands on” working with the animals and local rural communities. Please phone me for any more information on these programmes.
Next spot was definitely my favourite. This is where one learns to re-live a true early 1900s rustic African safari at its best. Our homes are tented canvas with teak floorboards, old fashioned mosquito nets and large french doors that open out onto a balcony that overlooks the Ngwenyeni dam. The slipper bath is tempting with its magnificent view over the dry river bed and the outside shower makes for an interesting night shower when sharing with elephants walking by just 10 meters away. The tents are joined to the main lodge by raised timber walkways. The opulent open lounge, perched amongst the jackaberry trees is perfect for a gin and tonic and tales of safari exploits before partaking in lavish meals surrounded by white linen and l’objet de art 1900’s style, whilst animals of varying sizes amble past on the dry river bed. The nights are filled with baboon screeches as the lion wander through the area. The lion sounds reverberate and make your body tremble ....they’re so close! A destructive young bull elephant rips part of our walkway during the night!
It is in this concession that we come across two male lions that have just brought down a large buffalo. The buffalo breathes its last sighs as we arrive and both lion rip into the huge beast. Wonderful photos as we are so close to these magnificent creatures. An hour is spent clicking and talking to “Ocker” our guide, who is happy to answer all our questions.
We move through Kruger after a few days to our new accommodation, Chisomo Safari Camp which is situated on the banks of the Makhutsi River in the Karongwe Private reserve. It is here that we follow a huge pride of lion. The younger ones entertain us playing rough and tumble on the road , whilst the big black maned king of the jungle mates with the lioness just meters away. Minutes later we are walking through the bush to watch a couple of semi-habituated cheetah on the hunt. It’s amazing to be so close!
A coffee break, one is allowed to alight and we are watching a dung beetle rolling some elephant manure to its haven. It is here that the ‘famous’ impala poo-spitting competition starts. One must find the largest dry impala poo and stand behind the drawn line, pop it in your mouth and spit as hard as possible, and the winner gets an extra drink on the evening safari!!! We had the tracker Johannes and the Rifos the driver/ ranger vying for a place but Sue outshone us all with her magnificent length!!!
A short flight and we are in Pilansburg. The topography here differs hugely from the Limpopo and Kruger and we see huge herds of elephants, many healthy looking white rhino, wildebeest, red hartebeest and blesbok. We also see the famous pronking springbok! Black Rhino Lodge is set amongst an old Tamboti forest at the foot of an ancient volcanic crater. This is luxury personified, our villas just meters from the ha-ha and the bush, which we hope keeps out predators. The food here is exquisite and we all agree that for a quick “stop-over” in South Africa this and malaria free Madikwe would have to be the place. One can add a night at Sun City which is literally down the road back to Jo’burg.
Viv was a guest of The Africa Safari Co. Please phone Viv for anything to do with Africa. She was brought up in its wilds and would love others to experience it.