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ON SAFARI

at Kwandwe Game Reserve in South Africa

semi-overcast 58 °F
View Bill and Hope 2019 on HopeEakins's travel map.

Church, lunch, and our departure to Kwandwe Game Reserve in a van ... Six of us travelled across a very prosperous looking South Africa for a long four hours. Kwande is VAST, so vast that after our arrival and champagne welcome at the Gatehouse, we went right out on our first game drive without going to our accommodations. Why? Because our “room” at Great Fish River Lodge was a twenty-five minute drive from the reception building. Vast, remember?

So what happens on a game drive? First you climb into a land cruiser, a tough behemoth of a vehicle that can cross any terrain and probably has. Climbing into it isn’t easy. It requires mounting the wheel housings and then throwing your legs over the sides like a Rockette (well, maybe not quite like a Rockette) and a heave-ho into the seats and then hanging on as the vehicle careens up and down the road. We saw two beautiful cheetahs grooming each other, giraffes and zebras grazing, ostriches prancing elegantly, black-backed jackals popping their heads up, nyala and oryx and kudu striding along, and elephants flapping their ears to make themselves look bigger and scare us away. Jono, our guide, gave commentary as he drove, and Ernie, our tracker, looked for spoor and tracks and movement from a metal chair mounted on the hood. The excitement of seeing these beasts in the immense landscape, coupled with charging up and down steep trails, produced lots of adrenaline --- quite welcome because it was COLD (58 degrees and windy).

After three and a half hours we went back to River Lodge, climbed down the 58 steps for drinks by a fire and a fine dinner of springbok, pork, or shrimp. Finally, we were escorted to our “hut;” you’re not allowed to go outside alone after dark because the lion doesn’t always sleep at night. After a 1/3 mile walk traversing two bridges we discovered the luxury of “hut” number two: an entrance hall, bedroom, sitting room, indoor shower, outdoor shower, bathroom, dressing room, terrace, and plunge pool --- and we were too tired and cold to enjoy it yet.

Our wakeup call came at six the next morning. We scrambled to walk the long trek back for a light breakfast and then climbed into the 4WD vehicle for the next game drive at seven. Within minutes Ernie had spotted signs of a lioness. He climbed down from his tracker seat (see it below!) and we set off. Suddenly she was prowling on the road in front of us, and we got instruction to stand our ground if she charged, to make noise so we sounded like an enemy rather than looking like prey. The lioness was hunting for food for her three cubs. The radio crackled: she was walking down the hill beside Lodge #2 (remember where we are staying???). We continued on to see black and white rhinos (the white ones look very silly with teeny little eyes and strange horns), a little yellow mongoose, and baboons. The African buffalo look like dear cows munching on their grass, but are the fiercest of the Big Five species. We stayed away; the lioness was enough.

After a brunch at eleven (a big wow), we walked back to our “hut” for a nap. Tea was at 3:30, then another game drive at four. About six thirty, we turned behind a bush and saw a sundowner party for us in the clearing! Lanterns lit a table with drinks and over the top canapés – and we threw our blankets around us and celebrated, even though ice cold champagne was the last thing on our wish list.

On the third day, we had our final game drive; you can see us silhouetted beneath the giraffes. After another fine brunch, including ostrich meat pie, we left for the airport at Port Elizabeth – and after a two and a half hour drive and a two hour flight, we returned to the Whisper, glad to be back, glad to have had this great adventure.

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Posted by HopeEakins 07:19 Archived in South Africa

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