Liesl, one of African Safari Consultants top Safari Gurus, recently took her young family for their first safari to Honeyguide Khoka Moya. What follows are her diary entries documenting the big adventure…
Sunday 24 June
We’d been counting down the sleeps for weeks, and they had finally reached zero. The kids were running around like wild horses – encouraging my husband and I to “hurry up!” – so keen were they to leave (pity they can’t be this enthusiastict when it’s time to go to school!). When we were all ready, we were in the car and off to the airport well in time for the short Airlink flight from Cape Town to Nelspruit.
Arriving at a beautifully thatched Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport building, we collected our bags and headed to the Avis counter to collect our chariot. After making the necessary vehicle checks, we were off for my children’s’ (four and six) very first safari experience! Excitement in our small VW Polo quickly turned to countless ” are we there yets!?” and, after a minor detour, we finally arrived just before 4pm. Brett, our host, showed us our tents to a collective “Wow!” from the kids.
The kids each had their own bed on either side of the room with their own private mosquito nets. Dad and I got the extra large King bed with mosquito barrier – bliss! We quickly settled in, after the excitement had settled to a more manageable level.
We freshened up and made our way down to reception for our evening game drive but, before we could even get to our vehicle, Brett stopped us because of a large male elephant in camp. I think I heard the kid’s hearts skip a beat, but Ruby was ready to run up to the elephant and make friends! I tried to explain to her, a four year old, that elephant bulls didn’t make good friends for small children but this was met with some scepticism. After the gentle giant had wandered off, we were finally off on our game drive – which proved very fruitful indeed. We saw (more) elephant; zebra; warthog; a small spotted gennet; a side stripped jackal; wildebeest and a giraffe.
The kids were ecstatic with the day’s viewing and we toasted the greatest African sunset with sundowners, after a fantastic afternoon in the Manyeleti reserve!
Drinks around the camp fire followed sundowners before dinner was served, complete with backing drumbeat! We were both exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Dinner was a fabulously sumptuous affair! Greek salad with a twist; lamb shank and roast veggies; and sticky toffee pudding all combined to knock our respective socks off.
Getting the kids to shut down for bed is a story for another day, but eventually we all crashed soundly in the fresh African air around 10pm.
Monday 25 June
Fast asleep until 6 am, when the sounds of the drumbeat gently woke us up, the Matthews family was ready for Day 2! Fanuel knocked at the door with a tray of hot chocolate and coffee – paradise! Layering up took some time but with the wind chill factor on game drives in winter you need all the layers you can come up with.
We met up with Fanuel and our tracker Douglas for our morning drive. It was cold! But like seriously cold. My cheeks felt like they might freeze and fall off but it was so worth it because we ended up with a morning of great sightings including elephant; zebra; water buck; impala; duiker; wildebeest; rhino; warthog; buffalo and the prettiest of them all – a leopard. We were also fortunate enough to hear the magical sound of Africa – the call of the fish eagle – so we were truly content.
Our guides looked tirelessly for the elusive lions, but alas we didnt get to see them. Four out of (the big) five ain’t too bad for our morning drive though! We got back late because of all the action, but waiting for us back at the lodge was a huge breakfast feast. After a great breakfast, we headed back to out to our tent for a well deserved shower and rest which extended all the way through to midday. Lunch and dinner were equally good and it dawned on me that this really was the way to live. The kids agree!
By: Liesl Matthews