How great was our lodge? So great that they gave us a bonus excursion. Since our flight wasn’t leaving until after lunch our guide decided to take us out for an additional morning game drive.
Since we had already been able to see all of the big 5, this was just “gravy”. I took advantage of this time to focus on the landscape and plant life. In an environment as harsh and generally unspoiled by man as this area, there were some truly amazing specimens. There were certain areas and plants that reminded me of scenes from the post apolyptic “Fallout” video game series.
While we were driving around, we saw more of some of the same animals we had seen previously. But unlike previous sightings we were able to get better and closer views of the Marabou storks, Water buffalo, warthogs, and Kudo. It was a nice way to cap off the safari or so I thought.
As we were enjoying these additional sightings, I noticed that our driver seemed to be doubling back, at first I thought this was to get us an even better view of the water buffalo we had just seen. But our guide Jeffrey had other plans.
We got up close and personal with a leopard. For some reason being this close to the leopard made me more nervous than being that close to an entire pride of lions. Lions may be the king of the jungle, but this leopard seemed like it didn’t care and was willing to challenge that notion. After we got some beautiful shots and were driving away, we saw another leopard. Jeffery let us know that this was most likely a pair of siblings.
So now that we had truly seen all the big 5 and have some great pictures as proof it was time to head back. The game reserve was literally across the street from the tiny airport, so they provided us with a shuttle to the Hoedspruit airport, and gave us one last opportunity to see some wildlife. The airport itself is pretty small, which in its own way added to the experience. The airline we flew is pretty standard and the flight attendants were a bit rude, but thankfully it was a short flight to Cape Town.
If you are planning a trip to South Africa and want to do a Safari, I cannot recommend Safari.com and the Kapama private game reserve enough. I would gladly go again and repeat this experience hopefully with our same guide. I asked our guide what the best time to visit is and he said August, September, and October. July tends to still be a bit cold, but it is ok. Once you get into November it starts to get hot, and shortly after that, it’s the rainy season.
The 3rd day of the safari began a bit chilly. But our guide had again provided us with hot water bottles and fleece parkas. Once we were situated we headed out. Off the bat, we saw more zebras. While we were driving around our guide noticed a pride of lions on the move. Our guide commented that these lions weren’t as healthy as the pride we had seen earlier. To our untrained eyes, it appeared that they had mange. After we watched them for a bit we moved a bit down the trail and saw some giraffes and a herd of wildebeests. The pride of lions must have picked up the scent because they moved into the area and started to look like me at a seafood buffet. Unlike me, they exhibited some patience and watched what they hoped was their next meal. We left the area before they decided it was time to eat. On the way back to the lodge our guide located the reserve’s most famous lion. He had just taken down a warthog and was relaxing after his breakfast.
Breakfast was again delicious and the time to relax before lunch was welcome. We took advantage of the rest time to relax on our deck and watch the Antelopes that were grazing below. After the antelopes made their way to other parts, we headed to the bar for a quick pre-lunch cocktail (gotta keep the malaria away). After lunch, we went back to our room for a bit, but came early for tea and enjoyed talking to the other guests.
We were happy to get on the trail again and hoped that we’d be able to see the only one of the Big 5 we hadn’t seen yet. But first, we checked on the lion with the fresh kill, he was still guarding his meal, and not overly active. Before we could get bored our guide decided to take us into leopard country. On the way, we saw waterboks, rhinos, and another solo lion with a freshly killed giraffe. The leopard area was a bit more rugged and provided ample hiding spots for the leopards. We eventually saw a leopard hiding in very dense shrubbery.
Now that we had officially seen all the big 5 it was time to head back to the lodge for dinner. This night our guide dinned with us. This was truly a great way to the end the safari as our guide opened us to us more about his experience under apartheid and answered our questions on the history of this area of South Africa.
The second day of our safari adventure got off to an early start with a 5 am wake-up call. Thankfully the room had a coffee pod machine, so I could caffeinate before seeing people. We then had a quick breakfast. This was to essentially get your blood flowing for the 6 am game drive.
It was a bit chilly, so we appreciated the fleece ponchos that had been placed in our seats along with hot water bottles. I tried to scoff at the need for the poncho or the hot water bottle, but riding along in an open land cruiser at 20-30 mph for three hours can get cold.
As we were driving along on the unpaved roads our driver pointed out hippos, Marabou storks and Zebra. All of the sudden our driver picked up the pace and I thought we were either running to something or from something. As luck would have it we were driving to a pack of African wild dogs. According to our guide it is rare to see them and he had gone multiple years without seeing them. The dogs were running around and yipping at a hippo that they clearly wanted to vacate the area. Eventually the hippo got annoyed and lumbered into a shady spot and the dogs calmed down.
After this, we drove around a bit more and saw some dazzles of zebra. Returning to the lodge at 9 am we had “big breakfast”. While quite delicious there weren’t any adventurous options. After breakfast, everyone returned to their rooms for a nap or to clean up. Lunch was then served around noon and afternoon tea at 3 pm. Being good folks from Wisconsin we decided we should have a gin and tonic, strictly to keep the malaria away.
The afternoon drive started at 4pm and our driver and tracker team were determined to locate some lions for us. About an hour into the drive he located a small pride of lions. shortly after we arrived another car from the lodge pulled up and the guides started talking shop. At this point the lions and cubs decided they wanted to cross to the other side of the road. As they got closer and closer to our truck a few us nervously said “Jeffrey, Jeffrey, and finally JEFFREY!” he told us to remain calm and keep our hands inside the truck and we’d be fine. We got some great shots of the lions. Truly an amazing experience to be that close to a wild predator.
After the high point of the lions, we drove around a bit more to look for more game, but I was enjoying the diversity of the landscape and sunset. We enentually made our way back to the lodge. For dinner, I opted to be adventures again and had wildebeests. We were happy to go back to our room to wind down and prepare for the exciting day that awaited us. Those 5 am wake-up calls come early after all.