It was my first time in South Africa! Having the experience of a game drive actually changed my outlook on travel and wildlife. As quoted by Henry Miller “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things” and hence would like to share my “Lekker” experiences with you all through my first blog .
We decided to hire a car from Johannesburg and drive to Masodini Game Lodge in Balule Nature Reserve which forms a part of the Greater Kruger National Park. The drive was approximately around 5 hours long and you know, with Google Maps – Getting anywhere just can’t get easier.
We had to enter the Balule Olifants West gate to get to Masodini game lodge. Upon entering Balule Nature Reserve and having paid the Conservation fee, the security guard directed us to Masodini. It was approximately a 5 km drive and while we were driving, we had our first sight of the zebras. I was so thrilled seeing them but it is then, that we actually realised we were already spotting animals roaming freely in the bushveld. A little further and we spot an elephant right in front of us and Arjun panicked a little and took a steep left and stopped the car. Oblivious to the fact that they could be harmful, I was super excited and Arjun (who had watched multiple videos that go round the internet) just asked me to stay calm for a while and I silently watched this beautiful wild tusker walk away.
And a little while further, we had Victoria ( aka Vic ) from Masodini waiting for us outside the gate waving at us. Only when we got there, we realised Masodini offered great views of their own waterhole where we were greeted by an Elephant , exceptional viewing decks, lovely bush chalets, a well-stocked bar and we were also accompanied by the adorable bush babies that Vic and team take care of.
We relaxed that evening with our pre-dinner drinks, watching the lovely sunset from the deck area while chatting away with Vic on the wildlife adventures that she has had and the efforts that the people take to preserve the wildlife. We enjoyed the dinner near the fireplace ( boma ) under a star filled sky – which offered us a great taste of the African bush feeling. The dinner was a three course menu with South African and international delicacies such as beetroot soup, Braai, Miliepap (maize) with home made Sheeba (tomoto sauce) and a lemon merengue for the dessert. Talking about the food, I still can’t get over the camemberts during my breakfast and lunch .
At around 5:15 am the next morning, we met Chris (our ranger) at the breakfast area following which Bert (our guide) arrived at 5:30 am for our first game drive.
For our surprise, it was just the two of us for the game drive that morning There was cold breeze, was just about time for sunrise and I was all set to spot the animals in the magnificient lowveld.
My first sighting was that of Imapals and this was set against the breathtaking background of sunrise. And then we traversed through the reserve trying to spot the staggered wildlife. We spotted water bucks, steenbok (smallest antelope ), wart hogs and couple of birds – yellow billed horn bill, woodland kingfisher and so on. And then we had an enthralling sight of two elephants moving across, a herd of cape buffaloes , white rhino and critically endangered, highly sought after black rhinos! And the best was when Bert took us so close to a pride of Lions resting in the growing heat. This was the first time that I actually saw a pride of lions so close and enjoyed the sighting every bit. Wow ! What an experience !
View During Sunrise & the lovely zebras !
The Wild spotted on our first game drive
King cheetah ( with the stripes just on the back ) is very rare and apparently there are only 70 in the world !At the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre
And then the next game drive was at 4:30 PM, with all the guests at Masodini and we spotted giraffes, zebras, and yet again a herd of elephants, buffaloes and spotted a reptile by name Pangolin which is quite a rare sight. Even for the ranger who looks for animals everyday in the bushveld, this site was quite fascinating. Our ranger had spotted it only twice in his entire experience.
And then a vantage point was chosen for Sundowners where Bert shared his tales of the bush and a glimpse of what this unique wilderness had to offer while being entranced by the ever changing colours of the sky as the sun slipped into the timeslot of tomorrow, ofcourse with some lovely snacks and drinks.
Sundowners in the middle of the bushveld
By the time we were back, Vic had our dinner ready with various barbeque options and we spent the dinner time sharing the experiences of the wild with fellow guests and yeah, we had the company of lions roar just around 5kms radius from the lodge and I was already excited and set for the next morning’s game drive.
Just when we got out of the lodge for the morning’s drive, Chris started tracing the lions pug marks right from the gate ( that meant the entire pride had passed our lodge the previous night ) and we moved around tracing these steps. At first, it looked like a picture coming into focus, but then I was actually gazing at a lion ( Tin Tin is what they call him ) sitting right on the middle of the road . And when we just looked around, there was a pride resting on our left side and the lion in front of us. While I was so excited and nervous , Bert then slowly moved with the engine off so as not to alert them of our presence, and assured us of safety and asked us not to panic. This was the best sight and the best experience, just between a pride and a lion, this was “THE” moment for me.
The pride on our left and TinTin right in front of us. This was my favourite and the BEST MOMENT !
Moving through the veld enjoying vistas of unsurpassed beauty and discovering one’s place in the cycle of nature was one of my life’s best experiences so far .