As the tourism industry prepares to reopen leisure accommodation for the domestic market, mom and I headed in to the Kruger National Park to meet up with a film crew at Imbali Safari Lodge and Hamiltons Tented Camp for the night, in preparation of the lodge’s reopening’s.
Let the adventure begin…
I was terribly excited to be spending a night in Kruger, which we haven’t been able to do since lockdown began on March 26th.
We woke up bright and early, with a delicious flask of coffee, and entered at Phabeni Gate. It was a Monday morning, and the gate was quiet with only one other car there.
We came across a massive herd of buffalo at Nyamundwa dam, which must’ve been about 200 strong. We watched as a giant crocodile slipped off in to the water, and caused a huge commotion, as the buffalo stampeded out of the water, snorting and bellowing in total disgust as they went.
We were chatting about how we don’t see huge herds of buffalo like this in the south very often anymore, and that usually when there are large herds like this, lion’s aren’t far off. When we came across a second huge herd of buffalo, and as luck would have it, two enormous male lions that were waiting on the edge of the embankment not far off. They were beautiful.
From there, we made our way to Skukuza camp, which was eerily quiet, and actually just wonderful. I have never seen Skukuza like that in my life before. A troop of vervet monkeys played along the balustrades, with the iconic old Selati railway bridge in the background. Perhaps one of the last times we will see the bridge like this, before the new Kruger Shalati accommodation train is put on to it.
We continued north on our journey towards Tshokwane. The three sisters, Imbali Safari Lodge, Hamiltons Tented Camp and Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge, lie on the magnificent Mluwati Concession, tucked away in central Kruger, off the S36.
On our drive from Skukuza to Imbali we only saw one other car, which happened to be the section ranger’s wife. It was such a special drive for mom and I, as we said, this would probably be the only time in our lifetime that Kruger would be so quiet.
We passed the Orpen Rocks, and Kruger Tablets, and marveled at the beautiful wintery colour’s of the bush. Bronzes, auburns and golds adorned the landscape, creating a most picturesque scene.
We came across three majestic elephant bulls, which casually strolled across the road, as well as an array of plains game. The bush is actually not too dry, for this time of year, and still has some water. We were blessed with the late rain.
We arrived at Imbali Safari Lodge in time for a scrumptious lunch, and a delicious cup of coffee. We had some giraffes and ellies come down to the watering hole to visit.
We unpacked, as this is where we would spend the night, and then we headed over to Hamiltons Tented Camp where the film crew would be joining us this afternoon.
The seasonal N’waswitsontso river in front of Hamiltons still has water, and I watched a waterbuck family grazing on the river bank. The resident baboon family, sat on the sandbanks enjoying the winter sun, and I watched as the alpha male disciplined the juveniles who were clowning around (they are rather strict), and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the poor little souls, although they were rather mischievous.
A squirrel couple bounded about in the canopy of jackalberry trees above Hamiltons Tented Camp, before scurrying on to the timber walkways.
A bushbuck family was grazing right next to the deck of the main area, whilst I sipped on a G&T.
Hamiltons is a wilderness Eden.
As we sat there in bushveld paradise, surrounded by wildlife, I couldn’t hear any traffic, or see any existence of human life at all. A blissful peace and tranquility filled the air, and the sweet sounds of Kruger were music to my ears. The baboons were chatting away, as were the spur fowls in the distance.
Beautiful golden light lit up the “out of Africa” tented deck area of Hamiltons, the antiques glistened in the warm light, as well as the blades of grass below.
The waterbuck family crossed the river on to our side, and came to graze right below the deck.
The candyfloss sky turned to pretty pinks and soft orange hues, and the waning moon, although just a sliver, shone brightly.
The filming was complete, and we headed back along the dirt road of the Mluwati concession to Imbali Safari Lodge. Springhares and nightjars, as well as the most beautiful owl, sat on the road as we drove along, and we saw some hyenas and zebras in the road too.
We arrived back as the darkness of the bush had well and truly sunk in, and all we could see was the outline of a huge ellie having a drink opposite the lodge.
We were spoilt with a delicious three-course meal of butternut soup, fillet mignon and decadent chocolate tart.
It had been a wonderful, and productive day, and as we walked back to our room, the nighly bush choir began, with the hyenas at the center of the production. One would howl just behind the lodge loudly, and then another would join in from the other side of the riverbed. The lions also roared all through the night.
As morning broke, and the warm African sun began to rise over the dry riverbed in front of Imbali Safari Lodge, I drew a hot bath and sipped on a delicious cup of coffee.
While packing the car, the head game ranger came over and showed me where a male leopard had walked, just in front of my car, a few hours prior.
We drove out of the lodge’s entrance, and were bid farewell by a large herd of zebras.
We stopped a little ways on at a ‘view point’, for one last look of the enchanting Mluwati concession, the mist was slowly rising above the tree line, and we watched a herd of wildebeest grazing in the distance, and two hyenas slinking through the savanna grass. I was enjoying the warm sun upon my face, and the sweet fragrance of a crisp, wintery morning in Kruger.
But this wasn’t the end of our adventure or our spoils, for we were treated to a beautiful pride of lions in the road, enjoying the morning sun, a little while later. Lions we had all to ourselves!
We had joked about seeing a leopard, and minutes later watched a beautiful male leopard cross the road right in front of us, which then walked on to the rocks in the riverine below. We saw the big five within 3 hours.
Although it was a brief little business trip, it was also special time to spend with my mom, and we both felt rejuvenated.
Kruger seems to have that wonderful, magic effect. What an absolute treasure and privilege it is, to have this incredible wilderness place to escape too, and of course to be able to share it with the ones we love.