“Your discomfort with where you are must be greater than your discomfort to go where you want to be for meaningful and sustainable change to occur.” – Wen
Last night we “glamped” at a lodge on a private reserve in permanent tents with comfortable cots and a common bath house. The lodge offered a small but inviting pool which we regretfully missed enjoying after a humid afternoon.
I awoke at 2:00 am to a soothing symphony of short squawks and chirps; long-winded, high-pitched cicadas; rhythmic cricket songs; warbles; and an occasional yip. The night was alive, layered over a background of absolute silence. An hour later I heard hyenas very close by…like I expected them to appear from the shadows any second, talking to each other, cat-like and dog-like yips and whoops, that blood-chilling laughter. But they never came. The lodge has what locals call electrified “big 5 fencing” but hyenas and wild dogs somehow get through. Despite the sounds, I was never uncomfortable, just fascinated.
We were on the road again at 7am after a hearty breakfast of eggs and fruits by Chef Ricardo. The landscape morph as we closed in on Kruger.
Kruger National Park totals 2.2 million hectares and runs from northeast South Africa to Mozambique. I won’t take up space here with its history but it’s worth a read. It is fenced in to protect the animals (and probably nearby people and farms too).
We traveled from Bundox Safari Lodge to Letana, all within the park, doing a “game drive” throughout, watching for the wild ones.
Ours was a slow drive down a paved road, slow enough that if we saw something we could stop quickly. Sometimes you can go hours or days and see nothing but we were gifted more sightings than I could have imagined! A hyena walked into the road as soon as we came in the gate (they do have a cruel and intimidating look- Lion King wasn’t wrong). Throughout the day we found wildebeest (or wild-a-beest as the locals call them), ostriches (did you know female are gray, males black?), more hyena, a cheetah eating an impala in the grass, baboons, tortoise, waterbok, secretary birds, warthogs (and adorable babies! And they really do bounce when they trot- again, Lion King wasn’t wrong with Pumba 😆), Martial eagle, Fish eagle, hippos, ground hornbill, dozens of elephants, springbok, thousands of impalas (“fast food”), water buffalo, and more!
While exhilarating, training hyper-focused attention for hours was a bit exhausting, especially after little sleep last night.
We lunched and stretched our legs at Olifants Lodge because seven hours is a long time to sit every day. I’m enthralled by the birds here, not just the various species but their songs. One of the bonuses when visiting my parents in Florida is getting to hear those tropical bird songs. I love them. Raise your hand if you know what I mean. If you’ve gotten to mid-life and suddenly notice you’re more curious than ever about birds, you’re not alone. It’s a phenom I hear regularly these days. As we age we are tending to notice and appreciate birds, perhaps for the first time, perhaps in a more intentional and devoted understanding way. There’s a magic between birds and humans that I’m just coming into awareness of now. Hmmm
We camped inside Kruger tonight at a lodge called Letaba. As soon as we arrived and the crew pitched tents, I crashed for a nap in anticipation of tonight’s game drive.
Once revived, I set off to join my fellow safari-ers Imartji and Jamie but, having stopped under some wild date palms to watch monkeys, detoured to the pool where I met a jolly woman from Germany whose whole face lit up when she smiled. We shared stories about our lives and she was so easy to be with, like a friend I’d known for years. I love this about traveling – you’re bound to meet people with different energies, perspectives, experiences, ideas, opinions, levels of friendliness, and filters than when you. They expand your world.
Because of infrastructure challenges, SA does a lot of “energy shedding” by cutting power off to save electricity. I saw this with traffic lights in Joburg the night I arrived. This lodge shuts off power between 5-7pm. I went to the shop for supplies and had to shop by headlamp. They switch to cash-only purchases and hand-written receipts. We are definitely on Africa time for such things.
Our game drive was scheduled for 8-10pm so we had dinner at 7 while listening to lions calling one another from opposite fence lines around the property. They were close but we never saw them, even on the game drive.
Mother Nature smiled on us with a full moon for tonight’s drive. Sixteen strong, guests piled into an open air truck (the kind you’ve probably seen in pictures or videos where an elephant could reach in with its trunk and smell you), the guests in the front and rear corner seats were given powerful spotlights, and off we went!
We found scrub hares, pickney (?) birds, cicadas (aka Christmas beetle found only in mopani trees), several hippos in the river (the most dangerous animal in Africa – it’s known to tear in half an unsuspecting human gathering water or doing laundry at the river), Spring hare (“Krugerroo” with the face of a rabbit, body of a kangaroo), jackals, Pearl Spotted Owl, bats (living under a bridge you smell their acrid scent before you get to the bridge), and a fantastically impressive pack of young wild dogs playing next to our truck! (Be sure to watch that video!)
I think I had a few beetles in my hair when we returned but “hacuna matata”: no worries!
Back at camp, I was snuggled in my tent in the dark typing up yesterday’s blog post listening to the lions calling from the camp fence, the monkeys squawking, and cicadas sharing their shrill fax-like song.
Today was everything I could have hoped…and more.
Please like, follow, comment, and share if it feels right in your heart. I’m so glad to have you along.
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