En route to Krüger National Park
The morning of the 8th April 2022 we departed from Cape Town airport to Johannesburg. Our Kulula flight was cancelled the day before so we were put on a British Airways flight instead.After landing in Johannesburg we went straight to the car rental to take over the car we had pre-booked.To our great surprise we were given a brand new Toyota RAV4 (automatic) which turned out to be a very comfortable and easy driving car.
So we set off to our 7 day adventure: our first destination was Misty Mountain lodge near the so called Panorama route which we had planned to explore the next day.
The drive to the lodge over the Long Tom Pass turned out to be a challenge as the weather had got worth and rain and fog had set in. It actually got so bad I could nearly see only about 2m in front of the car. From the pass you could literally see not much at all and oncoming traffic was driving with warning lights on. At that point I thought, I know why the lodge got to its name;)
Misty Mountain is set in a unique location in the mountains 1700m above sea level and overlooking the escarpment of the Lowveld. Perfect for a one night stopover.
The next morning we drove on to explore the famous “Panorama Route” featuring some magnificent natural heritage sites, like famous waterfalls, God’s window, The Pinnacle etc. Our first stop were the “MacMac Falls”.
We had visited the area about 8 years ago when the children were still little – which Lena could remember but Lucas only recognised the location name by the South African Monopoly game;). Here it was also the first time we got the big cameras out to play around with some shots.We were just in time to get a good view of the falls before the mist pulled in and they disappeared.
It started raining again and more fog appeared as we drove on. At “Gods Window” we didn’t even get out of the car. It was pouring by then and the view had disappeared in the heavy fog. We decided to still continue the route in the hope the weather would improve. Instead it got worse so we opted for a lunch stop at famous Harries Pancakes in Graskop and then moved on to our next destination: Kingfisher Creek.
Ivory Wilderness River Rock Lodge
Kingfisher Creek is a beautiful tented lodge in the in Guernsey Private Nature Reserve. The owner/ manager Annie was extremely welcoming and assisting. The weather was on and off with rain so we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the camp. The next morning we had planned a boat cruise on the Blyde River which again fell through due to the wet weather. We couldn’t take the midday cruise because we still had a few hour drive ahead of us to Klaserie Reserve for our first safari experience of this trip.
The road from the gate of Klaserie Reserve to Ivory Wilderness River Rock Lodge was already an adventure. We stopped often to watch the game and take pictures so the manageress Orla already asked if we were alright as they were expecting us already – I think we had taken a little detour because it took us a good half an hour longer than the standard expected travel time;)
We were very warm welcomed at Ivory Wilderness Lodge by the staff and then later by the manager team Orla and Warren. To our surprise we were the only guests for the duration of our 2 night stay. So we were lucky to get all the attention.
Ivory Wilderness River Rock Lodge is a beautiful iconic small camp at the banks of the Klaserie River with a beautiful lush garden. It only has a few rondavels which are very tastefully decorated in safari style ambience.
First Guided Game Drive
After our lunch we were ready to go on our first game drive with Warren our personal guide and manager of the lodge. Luckily the weather was improving – still a bit fresh but at least dry and the clouds were breaking up.
We spotted a young elephant not far from the camp that moved along fairly quickly. Warren explained us a lot of things about the bush and the wildlife as well as the small animals like birds and chameleons which was very interesting. I found that with a bit more background information I was also paying much more attention to details along the drive.
The fascinating part was that Warren explained us very well how to identify and read tracks properly. We were following the tracks of a lion who must have passed the area a few hours ago.
It’s not only called a game drive because you are to view game but because you actually play a kind of game of hide and seek with the wildlife. And when you read and follow your tracks properly and with a little bit of luck you will be rewarded with an amazing encounter.
Being Part of the Pride
After about 2 hours on the open vehicle we suddenly discovered two male lions sleeping on the side of the road. The sun was to set soon and the lions started waking up. When one of them got up, stretched and came towards our vehicle we realised how big they actually are. He went around the car and then lay down in the middle of the road right in front of us.
We were sitting still just taking in the scene. Then, as the lion got up and disappeared behind a bush we realised the there must be more lions around. And yes, there were another two young male lions and three lioness. As they were waking up and started moving – they sniffed around the car, then lay down only a few metres from us.
It was such an electric scene – our vehicle / us in the middle of the pride as they literally lay down around and in front of us.
In-between a lioness got up and came towards the car. Her eyes starred at me – at least that was my feeling. I wasn’t sure where to look but thought it will be better to slightly look away from her. Eventually as she came closer her head was so close to the car we could have just stroked her forehead. We sat dead still as she decided to lay down by our back tyre.
It was already dawn and the light too dark to take a decent picture but we were also just moveless as our breath was away!
We didn’t want to make a lot of move on the vehicle so we only got a few snap shots with our cellphones.
It was an incredible experience – being literally accepted as part of the pride !
It was truly our most remarkable sighting of the whole trip and although we don’t have a decent photograph it was one of those sightings that stay in your mind and heart forever.
Meeting up Lioness gathering to hunt
It was just amazing to be back in the bush, far away from the day to day tasks and the world’s problems seem to be just non existent. I realised one more time how calming this is for my soul. Waking up to a lion’s roar is so special that I didn’t even need an alarm to get up at 5am in the morning!
I loved coming out in the morning looking left and right of my rondavel with my torch to make sure that I don’t stumble upon a wild animal (the lodge is not fenced in ). Then this first cup of coffee with a freshly baked muffin before you get up on the open safari vehicle and drive out. Taking in all the different smells and noises of the morning and witnessing the sun rising while the morning breeze is still cooling your skin.
The next afternoon we were eagerly following some leopard tracks as the leopard had been witness in the morning by some other guests in the reserve. Unfortunately we were not rewarded this time. But that’s also what’s important to realise about safari: You can’t force it and sometimes you just don’t have the luck or you have chosen the “wrong” path that day or your timing wasn’t right. A sighting is dependent on many factors and in the end it is nature and not the zoo.
Before we left to Krüger National Park the following morning we were lucky to meet up with a group of lioness who were possibly still looking to hunt. They were actually walking in front of our safari vehicle, stopping, walking, then sitting down. Unfortunately for a great picture the grass was very high and due to vegetation being high left and right of the path we could not get a good position for taking pictures. But it was just beautiful to take in the scene and to somehow feel the connection to these cats in this beautiful light of the morning.
Self-Drive Safari at Krüger National Park
In the Krüger National Park (we entered by Orphan Gate) we were on a self-drive safari via Satara and Sabie towards Marloth Park.
To drive in Krüger National Park is fairly easy as all the roads are well marked and wide and either tar or gravel road. But you need a map!
In the park we had opted for more basic accommodation and self-catering. We still got up early so we could be with the first lot exiting the rest camp at 6am in the mornings. It was good to have a car that is a bit higher. Still, the grass was quite high this time of the year and in some areas was quite thick vegetation too, so it was not always easy to spot the wildlife or when you spotted it, it disappeared easily.
However, we had seemed to be very lucky by encountering lots of elephants on numerous occasions, sometimes single ones really up close to our car (which made me a bit nervous at times;) and then whole herds of more than 30-40 animals whith the cutest small elephants in between.
It was a great pleasure to experience Lena and Lucas being very enthusiastic with taking pictures. Sometimes we even got into a competition who had now shot which photo and who gets the camera first.
But it was also wonderful to witness that they were also paying attention to the small wildlife which often seems a bit in the background – I remember Lena calling very thrilled that she had filmed how the small water gecko had dived into the river !
After our very rainy weather at the beginning of our trip we were experiencing very hot and dry days towards the end of our trip. On the last day it was around 36 degrees Celsius when we were driving around the south of the park, near Malalene gate we hardly saw any wildlife. The elephant groups we found were resting close together in the shade under a tree, flapping their ears to cool off. Rhinos were resting near a water pond so we almost oversaw them as they were lying down in the shade of a tree next to the hideout.
Just in time before more heavy rains were about to fall in the area we made our way back to Johannesburg and flying home to Cape Town.
It was beautiful to have all these experiences and we all three noticed often how present Klaus was while we were out there. We talked a lot about him and shared some great mutual memories throughout the days; especially from our last safari together in Kenya in 2018.
I was once more reminded that taking the kids to Kenya and making the film “Safari of my Life” had been one of the best decisions ever! I could see that out there is that special connection for them to the wildlife, to nature and to Klaus. This is just beautiful!
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