At 8:00 am we leave! The first ten kilometers are of unsealed road, within the protected area and we meet everything: rhino, zebras, monkeys … We continue for almost 600 km between forests of tall trees and firs: it seemed to be in Switzerland! We turn around outside Swaziland passing from the Mpumalanga region to KwaZulu-Natal. In the late afternoon we arrive in St. Lucia. We chose this small town to visit three interesting parks: iSimangaliso and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. The hotel, the Serene Estate is beautiful, modern, and welcoming, the owner lady makes us sit down to manage with us the activities we will do on the three days of stay and she will arrange to book. Let’s see the sunset on the beach and stop to watch the full moon that is an incredible red !!! A large sign at the entrance to the beach, initially ignored by us, warns that it is dangerous to walk around at night, because hippos and crocodiles can be met along the roads. Panic absolute, then we run into the car. The streets of the small town are invaded by signs indicating the possibility of encountering hippos, rather dangerous animals, in fact in South Africa they are the leading cause of death.
Wake up before dawn to have a cup of coffee and a scone before leaving for the morning safari. We climb the jeep led by our Simeon and at 06:20 we leave for the usual three hours tour of safari. We go around the long and the wide but we do not see much, nyala or nkudu are our recurring photographic subjects, some are also very beautiful, but we do not see predators of any kind. We go back slowly towards the resort but at a certain point our driver leaves the road and climbs up a path that leads to a large clearing where we discover with amazement that the resort have set up the tables and all the necessary structure for the main breakfast. A waiter welcomes us with a huge bowl of hot water, soap and a towel to make us wash our hands. There are tables with fruit, cereals, there is a counter that makes only toasted bread while another is dedicated to eggs and bacon made express. We sit together with other guests to have breakfast in front of an impressive natural spectacle.
After a hearty breakfast, we go back to the Range Rover and return to the resort to rest, waiting for lunch and the second safari around 15:30. Elisa decides not to rest and strolls through the internal streets, meeting: impala, monkeys… that circulate quietly among the bungalows. We are surrounded by security men who, I must say very discreetly, monitor the surrounding area, to prevent those who stay in the resort from being confronted by some dangerous animal, since there is no fence. Plentiful lunch and … away, it starts again !!! This time the most fascinating meeting was with the black rhinos! We arrived when it was already night, thanks to the intuition of Simeon who heard them from a distance. What a thrill to see them so close in their habitat !!! We return to our “apartment” and it is almost time for dinner.
We leave early from the beautiful Ndzuti to reach our next destination, the Bongani Mountain Resort . After about three hours of driving we arrive in a village, small and poor and the TomTom tells us, at some point, that we have to turn right … But where we should turn there is almost nothing but a small and narrow strip of sand that goes up a slope. We decide to investigate better but it seems that once again TomTom is right … We climb along a road that define an unsealed road would be like giving a 5-star Michelin guide to a pizza / kebab shop near home. After a few kilometers we find an iron gate knocked down to the side and a shady figure emerges from a cage and asks us info on where we are going. After confabulating for a while on the radio, he shows us a little road and tells us that after about 7 – 8 km we will arrive at the Resort. We climb between bumps, rocks, bends, climbs and descents that seem to never end, only when TomTom says that we are missing 500 meters we begin to glimpse something of the structure, thatched roofs and wooden structures, the resort is so well integrated into nature that it can only be seen when walking along the paths that connect the individual chalets.
After a quiet and reserved welcome, they take us to our bungalow with a triple bed (ideal for sleeping with your grandchild in the middle …) indoor and outdoor shower and bathtub next to the bed. Let’s go eat because at three o’clock in the afternoon our first safari will leave. We relax a little and then down to the parking lot where a Toyota with 9 beautiful high places awaits us and our companion. Our driver and guide Simeon, a true force of nature as we will discover later.
We start walking along the uneven paths that extend into the huge park that surrounds the resort. Three hours of absolute tossing in search of animals that ends with Simeon that leaves the road (so to speak) and takes a field where breaking down bushes and trees leads us to meet a herd of elephants eating while eating they were moving along a canyon .
We return to have a shower and for dinner and discover that after sunset it is forbidden to move alone inside the resort because it is not protected by any protective fence and consequently the animals wander undisturbed. Therefore we call the reception to make us come and get dinner.
It is almost 7 am when we are woken up by Justin, soft breakfast and after half an hour we leave for the safari. It is very cold, but there is a clear sky that allows us to see the mountains to the east.
This morning the animals do not want to show! Justin tries to follow the tracks left by the lions, but we wander for an hour to no avail! We stop next to the pond where three hippos are dozing in the water and many impalas are drinking. Warthogs also arrive.
After a coffee and a piece of cake, we return to the camp to have breakfast. This morning the chef is preparing char-grilled chops and mushrooms, to be added to eggs, beans, fruit, etc. etc..
We early stop with a taste, but the family of Cape Town that is with us eats abundantly of everything. If I think that in three hours we have lunch …
Unforgettable afternoon with the routine safari led by Bruce in search of animals that do not want to show.
We manage to saw a distant rhino. We return to the camp accompanied by Bruce and Judy, Mama Seena the handyman chef has prepared the dinner we consume around the crackling fire chatting with the couple of Cape Town. The bitter cold wins over the desire to stay out and talk, so we come back for a last coffee before going to bed. Tomorrow we leave for the south towards Nelspruit where we will reach our next destination, the Bongani mountain lodge.
Another early morning safari with the boys (daughter and boyfriend of the camp managers)
They decided to change route to try to meet the elephants.
We almost immediately encounter a beautiful owl, motionless on a branch, we photograph it and slowly leave again. An impala group crosses the road quickly and stops on the other side to observe us. We glimpse a couple of giraffes intent on eating, then we reach a small lake where three hippos are immersed. A few hundred meters later here is a lone gnu that stops, turns and stays there a few moments, the time to be photographed. Stop to have a coffee and eat a little cake prepared by a very good black chef. We continue the journey, but not even the shadow of elephants, only some of their excrement. A myriad of buffaloes go up a hill and we stop for a while to let them pass. It is almost 10:00, it is late and we must return for breakfast, but also because the Dutch family that shares the same structure with us, must leave. Breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, corn and chicken balls, fried and fried fish triangles, fruit salad … in short, for us a lunch !!! In reality the real lunch will be served around 15:00. We salute the gentlemen who leave and we go to rest. In the meantime, other guests arrived in the camp.
A couple of young South Africans with two children aged 7 and 4.
We go out again for the evening safari, accompanied by the guys Justine and Saber, looking for other animals to photograph. We return to darkness without having seen much
We have dinner in front of the fire.
Wake up at 6:45, soft breakfast and off for the first safari of the day with Bruce. The sky is gray and it is quite cold. Along the narrow streets of the bush we look to the right and left to catch a glimpse of some early morning animals. Along the river a herd of big buffaloes are drinking and we approach it to take them up close. We continue the path and immediately afterwards we realize the presence of a magnificent and solitary rhino that moves away with incredible agility.
Among the dry grass we notice a couple of lion cubs, but soon after a buffalo carcass is surrounded by other small and adult lions. An imposing lioness observes us at a short distance, while the others continue to eat. We watch them for a while, then we continue to return to the field where we expect the real breakfast !!!
At 11:30 Jude, offers us a new bush excursion and we obviously are happy, also because the field is so small that you really do not know what to do to pass the time.
It starts again and this time with her driving the Range Rover. Along the way we meet the buffaloes returning from the river: they are really so many !!! We also note some small, well protected by adults. After passing a small tented camp, we return to observe the lions and we find them all there around to make banquet with the poor buffalo. This time we notice the presence of two huge male lions that have been added to the others: they are truly the kings of the savannah! A few vultures a short distance await their turn next to a puddle of mud. We do other laps following the fresh traces of other animals, but without success. On the way back we come across a small family of warthogs who move away after watching us for a few moments. We are back at the camp, it is almost 13:00 and at 3:00 pm we have lunch.
We have time to take a nap!
in the late afternoon we return to have the lions met in the morning, a further big male has been added to the group and the little ones are scattered around, legs in the air, with an improbably full belly. We also feel the need to fill our stomachs and return to the camp for dinner.
We left the hotel immediately after breakfast to reach our next destination located in a private reserve La Klaserie. Almost 50 kilometers of unpaved road, with the last 10 almost impassable, to reach the Ndzuti Safari Camp. The resort is enclosed in an electrified fence, with a common room equipped with every necessary comfort and four bedrooms with bathroom and double shower (in the sense that is so large that a queen bed can fit in).
We wander in the garden waiting for lunch, surrounded by leaping Impala. After a delicious lunch with chicken, grilled vegetables, baked potatoes and a fresh salad, our guide Bruce takes us on an open 4×4 car equipped with nine seats, to bring us to the first photo safari.
We walked a long time between bushes and cliffs, meeting a nice group of Impala, then along the banks of a stream, check the brown head of a lioness, we stop to take some pictures, then Bruce decides to cross the river to see the feline better. Along the way we cross three male giraffes walking around the bush who pose for a nice photo shoot. When we are on the other side of the river, after a few hundred meters, on the sandy shore there appear three lions (the lioness with two puppies). We also shoot a fair number of photographs here and then we move along the bank of the river, where we stop to drink something (wine from the Stellenbosh region rather than a tonic with Gin or a soda) that our guide had brought with himself. After having admired the sunset, we resume our journey back to the hotel along paths and searching for the last animals with a powerful torch brandished saber-like by our guide.
Returning to the hotel, after a freshening up and a chat we arrive at dinner always accompanied by some animal (two hyenas and a jackal)