Friday, June 10, 2011

Etali Safari Lodge - Madikwe Game Reserve

Our drive to Etali Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, took us 45 mins driving inside the park and saw us arrive at Etali in time for lunch, whilst sitting on the deck enjoying our lunch, there was some excitement as a herd of elephant came down to drink from the waterhole in front of the lodge, after Lunch we went back to our room to settle in. For the 2 nights we were at Etali Safari Lodge we stayed in 2 different unit types, the first unit was the family unit, these rooms are slightly smaller than the normal suites and are 2 rooms back to back, each with 2 single beds/1 double bed, a fireplace, bath, shower and separate toilet, they also share a large deck & pool. a few Pictures of the Family units are below.

High Tea at Etali is served at 15h00, we departed for our afternoon game drive in Madikwe Game Reserve at 15h30 and arrived back at the lodge at approximately 19h00. Our afternoon drive was quite eventful as we found a large herd of Elephant with so many babies (possibly even the same herd that was drinking in front of the lodge during Lunch & High Tea), Rhino, Giraffe, on the large open plains we saw herds of Zebra, Wildebeest, Impala, Springbok and even a Kori Bustard flying off – the largest flying bird, then as we were driving through some rather dense bush we even spotted an extremely Elusive Leopard! We followed her into the bush as she seemed to be stalking some guinea fowl we could see off in the distance, but unfortunately we soon lost her as the bush became too thick to navigate, we were then back to the lodge for a wonderful boma dinner under the stars.

The next day wake up call was at 06h15 and we departed for our morning game drive with hot water bottles and blankets at 06h45 and were back at the lodge by 09h30/10h00, the morning saw us find a huge herd of Buffalo, the sound of them moving through the bush was amazing, as all you could hear were the branches snapping and the occasional call, also on our sightings list that morning were Rhino, Zebra, Springbok, Warthog etc. it was then back to Etali for a Continental followed by a full English breakfast, after we had eaten our fill we were shown to our new room where our bags were already waiting for us.

Our 2nd Night in Madikwe Game Reservewas spent in the normal Etali Suites which are larger and consist of 2 single beds/1 double bed, a little lounge area with a fireplace, tea & coffee facilities with a minibar, bath, indoor and outdoor showers, separate toilet, a private deck and plunge pool. below are a few Pictures of the Suites:

After our siesta & Lunch it was time for high tea and then back on the vehicle for our Afternoon Game Drive where we saw Zebra, Impala, Waterbuck, Kudu, Buffalo, Rhino, another Kori Bustard, Lion and then when it was dark we even came across a Brown Hyena who we watched for a while till he/she moved off into the thicker bush but the most memorable moment was when we came across the Elephant herd, they were quite relaxed, just munching their way through the bush and there were quite a few babies with the 2 large females we could see, as we drove past the one youngster stuck his ears out to try make himself look bigger, not knowing what to make of us or what to do, we then realised that he was actually trying to protect his younger sibling, the little elephant was so tiny that we hadn't seen her at first and it was so sweet to watch the little one testing out her surroundings as she still didn't have full dexterity of her trunk, eventually her older - although not much bigger - sibling moved her off back towards the safety of mom. It was then back to the lodge for a huge dinner and some sleep.

The Next morning we decided to have breakfast and get on the road early and I'm glad we did as our drive back from Madikwe to Johannesburg Airport took us approximately 5 hours from Camp to Airport as it takes a good 45 mins to reach the Gate from Etali Safari Lodge.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jaci’s Tree Lodge - Madikwe Game Reserve

Our drive from Black Rhino Lodge in the Pilanesberg, to Jaci’s Tree Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, took us approximately 2 hours, on arrival we were met by the staff and shown around the main area of the lodge, we were then shown to our room, all the rooms at Jaci’s Tree Lodge are raised on stilts with board walks connecting all of them together, our room was literally built around one of the huge trees at Jaci’s Tree Lodge as our roof was thatched around one of the branches of the tree, the room itself was very comfortable with a big bed, large bath, toilet and outdoor shower. As it was extremely cold they had all the heaters going and walking into our room was lovely and warm, there were also electric blankets on the bed which made the world of difference as we were kept lovely and toasty all night long.

Once settled into our room at Jaci's we went through to high tea and then we were off on our afternoon game drive in Madikwe, the afternoon was a little slow as we headed to the south of the park in search of the Wild Dogs, which we unfortunately didn't find, but we did see Elephant, Zebra and Wildebeest, it was then back to Jaci's lodge for a scrumptious dinner under the stars with blankets and fires to keep us warm.

The next morning our wake up call was at 06h00 with the game drive departing at 06h30 and we were back just before 10h00. Jaci’s Tree Lodge had moved onto their winter schedule, so we would have Brunch, High Tea and dinner, the early morning start meant that we were served muffins and porridge with tea & coffee and juice before heading out on our morning drive in Madikwe Game Reserve. Waiting for us on the vehicles were blankets and hot water bottles to keep us warm on the morning drive. This morning we were in luck as we had a lovely sighting of 2 lionesses just as the sun was rising, and then as we were leaving this sighting the call came in – the Wild Dogs had been spotted! We drove off to where they were last seen, we didn't need to go too far, where we came across them in the main road, they were of course hunting and so were moving very fast, unfortunately I wasn't quick enough with my camera, but still we had seen them and were soon following after them, traveling as fast as we could to keep up, they actually ran straight past the 2 lionesses who were still sleeping. After we had lost them in the thick bush we ended up driving back past the lionesses who were now looking very alert at all the commotion. Besides those 2 spectacular sightings we saw the usual line up including White Rhino and even a Fish Eagle.

Brunch was a huge affair with a buffet of fresh fruit, a stunning lamb curry with couscous, cold meats, cheeses etc. all followed by a hot English breakfast and the best toast I have ever tasted – made from their home made bread. With our tummies full we dropped our things off in our room as we had decided to take a walk across to Jaci’s Safari Lodge to have a look at the rooms and that lodge, the walk is a lovely amble through the trees along the river. Jaci’s Safari Lodge chalets are quite different to Tree Lodge as the units are thatched Tents with solid walls, canvas Door and a thatched roof.  Jaci’s Safari Lodge also has a different layout & feel and caters best for children with their very own indoor play room, Jaci’s Tree Lodge guests are also able to utilize the play room as well as the gym which are both situated at Jaci's Safari Lodge.

After our lovely walk and a shortcut back through the staff village we had our afternoon siesta, then it was time for high tea and the afternoon game drive which saw us heading north in Madikwe where we found Lion. This time 1 adult female with a sub-adult male and 2 cubs, they were all looking very fat and lazy as they had made a kill that morning. We also saw 6 Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Kudu, Impala, Black backed jackal, Zebra etc.

The next morning saw us up again at 06h00 and off on our game drive after some hot oats and drinks. This morning was a little quieter but we still saw Elephant, Giraffe, Impala, Mongoose and we even managed to see the back end of a brown hyena! We were then back to the lodge for another huge brunch and to pack as we were off to Etali Safari Lodge also in the Madikwe Game Reserve. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Black Rhino Lodge - Pilanesberg

Our drive from Clifftop Lodge in Welgevonden, in the Waterberg to Black Rhino Lodge in Pilanesberg, took us approximately 4 hours from lodge to lodge, on our arrival we were shown to our room which comprised of twin beds which could be made into a king sized bed, a lounge area, huge bath and both indoor and outdoor showers. Our unit shared a pool and lounge area with another room, so it was not quite private but for 2 couples traveling together it would be great. As Black Rhino Lodge wasn’t full there was no one else in the other unit so we had the whole area for ourselves.

After a quick lunch we were ready for our afternoon game drive in Pilanesberg where we saw the usual such as impala, Blue Wildebeest, warthog, banded mongoose as well as a very brief sighting of a meerkat, we then found a herd of elephant, well at least the stragglers of the heard, it was a mother with a baby but then on closer inspection we saw she actually had 2 babies, the second baby was so small you could only just see the top of its head and ears over the long grass, such a cutie, unfortunately they moved off into the bush. We tried to circle around on another road to see if they would come out again but alas the stayed where they were, we then stopped for sun-downers and enjoyed a beautiful sun set. On the night drive back to Black Rhino Lodge we come across a herd of Elephant but couldn't find the lion we were searching for, so it was back to the lodge for dinner to warm us up.

The next morning we were off for a full days drive in the Pilanesberg National Park so breakfast was at 08h00 and we set off for the day at 09h00, we only got back to the lodge at 15h00 our full day game viewing in the Pilanesberg Park was quite good. We saw plenty of giraffe, zebra, springbok, Blue Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, impala, warthog, waterbuck, Elephant, plenty of hippo, all out of the water sunning themselves – it really was a cold day – banded mongoose, a Kori bustard which is the largest flying bird and to top it all off we spotted our very first black rhino! Unfortunately the rhino was a fair distance off in the bush but through the binoculars you could definitely see it was a black rhino! We stopped at a view site for a drink and to soak in the beautiful view. This also the main center for something warm to drink and to stretch our legs, we made it back to the lodge a little later than expected so had lunch at 15h00 instead of the normal 14h00, also as there were new guests in camp we were back on the vehicle at 16h00 for the afternoon game drive! It literally was a full day of game driving.

The afternoon drive was just as eventful as we managed to find the herd of Buffalo along with Elephant, Kudu, impala and a mother white Rhino with a small calf nicknamed ‘peanut’ who was so very cute running around his mum and in the road in front of us, unfortunately it was just too dark to take a picture but it was so sweet to see him bounding around, eventually his mum decided that was enough excitement and moved him off into the bushes.

On our final morning at Black Rhino Lodge we were up super early and on the vehicle by 06h00 as we decided to go to the view point to watch the sun rise over a cup of hot chocolate, all I can say is I was pretty much frozen the entire drive to the view point! I have never been so cold on all my game drives and this was through my thick ski jacket, boots, gloves, a scarf and a beanie! But it was most definitely worth it as the sun rise was spectacular and although pictures never do it justice I have included one below. Once we had all warmed up a little we were off again spotting Elephant, Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala and Black Backed Jackal, we were back at the lodge by 08h30 and breakfast was waiting for us, after breakfast and packing we left Pilanesberg National Park and were off to our next lodge – Jaci’s Tree Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Clifftop Lodge – Welgevonden

Our drive from Marataba to Clifftop Lodge in the Welgavonden Game Reserve, Waterberg, was a short drive and only took us 1 ½ hours as we were only driving to the other side of Marakele National Park, I did find out from some other guests staying at Clifftop Lodge that their drive from Johannesburg took them 3 ½ hours as there were some road works along the way. On our arrival at the Eastern Gate to Welgevonden we were directed to the car park where we were required to park and leave our vehicle - and for good reasons too - we were then welcomed by our ranger with a glass of bubbly and some snacks, after the luggage was loaded and the snacks were consumed, we hopped on the Game Vehicle and set off for Clifftop lodge, the first part of the roads were normal dirt roads and quite flat but as soon as we took the Right turn to the lodge the road pretty much went up at a 90 degree angle and became pretty bad from then until we reached the lodge – although a small feat for the Game Vehicles I would shudder to try and take a normal vehicle up and over that road! Well all the steep roads and hairpin turns are most definitely worth it as the view from Clifftop Lodge is spectacular, built on the side of the cliff looking down at the river it really is a stunning view.

We were met by the lodge manager Wiets and shown around Clifftop and to our suite which has all the amenities one could ask for – air-conditioned room with a large king sized bed, en suite bathroom consisting of a large bath, his & hers basins, indoor and outdoor showers, a hairdryer, telephone, mini bar and tea & coffee facilities all this together with a private deck with thatched sala and our own private plunge pool.

After settling into our suite we had Lunch and then we were off on the afternoon Game Drive, we saw all the usual suspects (Rhino included) but the stand out was actually on our way back to the lodge whilst using the spot light, we come across 2 male lion who were walking in the road, so we carried on following them as they were pretty much leading us back to the lodge, they suddenly started stalking and you could see the tactical maneuvers they were making, we knew from earlier in the day that there were some Blue Wildebeest on the open plain ahead of us so we started to get excited to see if they would follow through with the hunt! The younger of the 2 lion moved off to the side whilst the older lion continued to walk forward in the road, the next thing you could hear stampeding hooves and the herd was running directly at the younger lion who sprang up and managed to snag a young wildebeest, one cry and then it was over – the herd however was still in chaos and another little wildebeest had gotten separated from them, the older lion went after the little one but it managed to escape and rejoin its mother, it was truly an amazing and very rare thing to see. I have seen quite a few lions stalking but they either never follow through with it or they give a half attempt and end up missing. What an exciting Game drive!

The next morning wake up call was at 06h00 and we had a quick cup of tea/coffee and then were off on the morning game drive at 06h30, the Game Drive was not quite as eventful as the night before but we had the very rare sighting of a Roan Antelope. Apparently there is only 1 in the Welgevonden and we saw him walking along, unfortunately the sun was not in the best position for a picture, we also spotted zebra, Duiker, black backed Jackal, Rhino etc. then on our return to Clifftop Lodge we enjoyed a hearty breakfast of fruit, cold meat, cheese, muffin & croissant followed by a hot English breakfast, the afternoon was spent relaxing in our room reading and having a little afternoon siesta. Unfortunately it was a little too cold to make use of our pool, then it was time for Lunch and then onto the Safari Vehicle for our afternoon drive where we had a lovely close sighting of Giraffe as well as a young cheeky Elephant bull who charged our vehicle. I guess he was not to happy with us interrupting his afternoon snack. It was then back to the lodge for dinner and some sleep, the next morning we were off early as we had a long drive to Black Rhino Lodge in the Pilanesberg.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Marataba - Waterberg

After a short flight from Durban to Johannesburg we picked up our hire car and set off for Marataba. Located next to Marakele National Park in the Waterberg the drive took us approximately 4 hours to reach the camp itself, on arrival at Marataba we were welcomed with a cool drink and were shown around the main area of the lodge then once all the forms were signed we were escorted to our room which comprised of a deck looking out over the bush, Twin beds, twin basins, a big bath, indoor and outdoor showers and a separate toilet the units even have under floor heating for the cold winter mornings. Whilst Justin settled into the room – but only after I had finished taking all my pictures – I decided to walk outside to take a few pictures of the outside our room in its surroundings, I had barely walked onto the main path when I heard a crunching in the bushes a few meters from where I was standing, turning around I spotted a large male elephant in the bushes! I slowly went back into the room to call Justin to have a look and I decided my photos could wait until he had moved on, we left him in peace so that we could finish unpacking.

After a lovely high tea we were off on our Afternoon Game drive, the bush was quite thick for May but this was due to the late rains we had in April so there was still plenty of water and grass for the animals, this made spotting them a little difficult but we still managed to find Rhino, Waterbuck, Giraffe and the usual Impala, Kudu, Warthog, Blue Wildebeest etc. so overall a good game drive, when the sun had gone down and the temperature with it we did a short night drive on our way back to camp but unfortunately no cats were spotted. Dinner that night I must say was amazing the food was simply delicious! With a hot starter of cauliflower & almond soup with Truffle oil, a palate cleanser of Kiwi sorbet, Mains was a Gemsbok loin with Risotto and vegetables and to round it all off was a berry panna cotta. After that amount of food combined with a very long day we were off to bed which welcomed us with a hot water bottle.

At Marataba their winter schedule is a little different so the next morning our wake up call was at 06h30, followed by Breakfast at 07h30 which was a combination of cold meats, cheeses, fruits, yoghurts etc. then followed by a hot breakfast of bacon & eggs or my favorite – the French toast with bacon and banana covered with a home made maple syrup - what a way to start the day! and then of course departing for our morning game drive at 08h30. The morning drive was much more eventful and we saw all the usual suspects such as a large herd of Rhino, Impala, Kudu, Warthog, Blue Wildebeest etc. but a very special sighting was the 2 honey badgers unfortunately they did move off quickly and I didn’t manage to get a picture of them, but they are an animal that is rarely seen and one that we had never seen before. We also made our way to the large open plains where we spotted Foxes, Black Backed Jackal, Eland, Steenbok, Vultures and even the last 4 Ostrich left on the reserve.

It was then back to the lodge for a little rest, Lunch with the most beautiful views of the mountains, an afternoon siesta, high tea with more treats and then back on the Game Vehicle for our afternoon drive, this drive was special as besides all the usual game, I am now including Rhino in the usual game category as we did see them on every drive! We also saw Lion and once the sun had gone down we saw Elephants, Genet and Serval by spot light. Dinner was again a scrumptious and hearty meal.

Breakfast the next morning was the same and of course I had to have the French toast, we then sadly packed our bags and said goodbye as we were off to Clifftop Lodge in the Welgevonden.