In 2002 we did a wonderful trip to South Africa with a safari to Ngala Ngala Private Game Reserve on the edge of Kruger Park, then a drive along the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth following the southern coastline covering Plettenburg Bay, Knysna, George, Mossel Bay and then inland to Stellenbosch. During this trip we met up with friends who were also touring the area and did a bungee jump from the Gourits River train bridge and than an amazing freefall skydive with Skydive Cape Town just north of Cape Town.
After flying overnight from Dubai to Johannesburg and then on to Hoedspruit on a small domestic flight we were picked up for our stay at Ngala Ngala private Game Reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park.
The Ngala Ngala resort was an open concept camp with beautiful individual cottages and a large communal dining room. Animals roamed freely through the camp and the local warthogs were there to greet us.
Immediately on arrival we were told that the evening safari was leaving in 10 – 15 minutes. So it was a quick case of drop the bags in the room and grab all my camera gear to join the tour.
There were only six of us in a large open-top LandRover along with our guide (complete with rifle!) plus driver and quickly we headed out into the bush. For the first half of the safari it was still light and for the return drive it was after sunset giving the opportunity to see the night life.
Within a short drive we already spotted our very first animal – a magnificent leopard and a baby leopard in a tree with a recent kill of impala hanging in the adjacent tree.
In the beautiful late evening soft light the leopard was stunning as it lay on a branch yawning. It then got up and jumped over to the next tree to chow down on the impala which had been hung there.
This was an incredible start to our safari. Soon the sun set and it was dark and as we made our way back to the camp at Ngala Ngala we saw numerous animals scurrying around in the evening.
The next day we were up early and left after breakfast for the morning safari drive. We soon drove through a large herd of African buffalo and graciously gave way to them as they crossed our road.
Our guide and driver were excellent and then spotted a couple of rhino in the brush. As this was early Springtime the foliage was sparse allowing us some good views of this elusive animal.
We drove to the edge of a large lake and watering hole where we managed to see a hippopotamus cavorting around in the water.
As we continued our drive we saw a large variety of wildlife including zebra, impala, lion, giraffe, steenbok, monkey and elephant.
Later in the day we again joined the evening safari drive. Driving through some thick bush we startled a large male elephant who charged us so the driver had to very quickly reverse ….. with me madly trying to capture some photos.
The family of 4 who joined us again on this evening safari were celebrating a birthday so the tour organisers had arranged a rather special sundowner. We normally stopped midway during the evening safari drive for some drinks – usually the South African version of Bailey’s – Amarula. However as a special treat for this family they had set up a beautiful long table with candles and a log fire overlooking the river so we had some special champagne and snacks as the sun went down.
The next day we were out again in the morning in the LandRover with the same family of 4.
As usual we saw a lot of impala, zebra, warthogs and some magnificent giraffe.
Suddenly our guide spotted a female lion stalking through the bush. It was surely setting up for a kill.
We soon spotted what had attracted the lioness – a small group of warthogs grazing on the grass.
The lion made its move and the chase was on …….. the warthogs scattered and the lion rapidly shot after one of them.
We lost sight of the warthog and the lion but soon we heard the loud screams of the warthog. When we arrived at the scene the lions were already unzipping their meal.
It was fascinating to see raw nature so closely and a real treat to have witnessed a live kill by lions.
Later that day we went out on a trek through the bush with the ranger guiding us. It was an interesting walk with the guide pointing out where elephants had eaten away the bark on the trees. It was always reassuring to have our guide there with her rifle!
It was always good to return to the Ngala Ngala camp where we always had a great lunch with free flow of drinks whenever we wanted. We usually relaxed there in the afternoon prior to taking the evening safari drive.
Soon it was time again for our evening safari drive and once again we headed out in the LandRover.
At a watering hole we saw a large group of African buffalo and then a couple of small mongoose.
Our room at the Ngala Ngala camp was very comfortable with a beautiful bed complete with mosquito netting. There was always a decanter of port on the table for us to have a drink after dinner. To go to dinner at the main dining room we could not walk there directly – we were advised to call the reception that we were ready for dinner and then an armed guard would escort us to the main building ….. just in case some errant lion, leopard or hippo came through the camp.
On our last morning before departure we did a short safari drive and managed again to spot the mother and baby leopard we had seen on the very first day.
This safari experience was just superb and is something we would plan to do again. It was great to have seen all of The Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, African buffalo)
Passionate Photographer …. Lost in Asia
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