Cold, cold early morning, steaming mieliepap (traditional South African maize porridge) and rusks set us up nicely for the first game drive of the day.
5.30 am is not a normal time to rise, especially if you’re on holiday, but I’m in Kruger National Park in South Africa, land of bountiful adventure, clipped accents and khaki shorts, and the bush is just waking up and beckoning.
Rugged up in beanies, gloves and scarves, we pile into the Land Rover where hot water bottles wrapped in blankets are waiting in our seats.
Suitably toasty - and now wide awake - we’re off. The sun is just coming up and the light is perfect as we clutch our long lensed cameras competitively, ready to capture the magic of safari.
Rhino get the ball rolling, followed by a very rare and exciting sighting of a cheetah (one of only 200 in the park) that poses artfully on top of a road sign.
Elephant, giraffe, warthog, wild dogs and of course the ubiquitous impala and springbok bounce around keeping us amused in between ‘big five’ sightings. Birdlife is prolific with various eagle species and my personal favourite the lilac crested roller.
Thus the first game drive of the day concludes and we return to Jock Safari Lodge where we pounce on a huge and hearty cooked breakfast… the just entitlement of any 5am riser.
At 4pm it’s time for our second bush outing and for me the afternoon/early evening is even more special. The intense African sunset coupled with the excitement of the evening bush cabaret ahead is one of nature’s dramatic spectacles. The sense of anticipation in the jeep is palpable and after more rhino and elephant sightings we alight the vehicle for my absolute favourite part of the day. Sundowners! Drinks and snacks are set up expertly by Jacob who triples as safari guide, rally driver and bartender. Beers, wines, G&T’s, olives, chips and salty biltong are dispensed along with cracking stories of lion chases, elephant ambushes and bush lore. As the bevvies and sun sink simultaneously we prepare for our night safari.
Our senses and lenses are on full alert as we bump and weave in and out of overgrown tracks in the darkness with Jacob shining his night lamp as we go. Then the radio crackles into life and we hear that “the lions have made a kill.”
Whooshka, we are on the trail.
Cameras are at the ready as the nightlight reveals three lions feasting on the carcass of a freshly killed and extremely odorous buffalo. The sight and smell are overwhelming, not to mention the sound of chewing sinew and crunching bone. The trio is completely oblivious of us night stalkers and feast greedily on the dead buffalo, filling their already engorged stomachs and licking their bloodied lips in satisfied contentment. We watch and snap happily for over half an hour as I pinch myself and marvel at my good fortune yet again of experiencing the magic of safari in wild Africa.
We return to the lodge where we are greeted with hot towels and amarula-laced hot chocolate. Amarula is the South African equivalent of Baileys and the perfect après safari tipple. After a candlelit claw-footed bath, I make my way to the boma dinner round the campfire. Watching those lions feast has made me hungry. Bring me a buffalo…. and a nice glass of pinotage to wash it down, please.
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