I’m back! Three weeks of wandering from Johannesburg down to Cape Town left me mesmerized, sun burnt and with a full-on country crush. And out of the abundance of the heart… Because boy, does my heart have stories to tell! But instead of writing a novel-sized blogpost with all of the things I want to share, I’d thought I’d break it down and start by the beginning. The first (and if you ask me: most magical) part of our journey: our days in the South African Bush.
We started our bush adventures the moment we drove through the Polaborwa gate into Kruger National Park (and spotted our very first impalas!). And yes: we were very tourist-cheesy about it, playing The Lion King theme song while doing so. (No shame!) We spent our time in this beautiful Park driving around (in the rented 4×4 we lovingly baptized Feisty Fonz <3), peering out of our car windows and trying to spot animals (with every sighting being accompanied by a big STOP scream and a test of dear Fonz’s breaks). The first night we slept in Olifants Restcamp and the next we laid our heads to rest in Lower Sabie Rest Camp. After these days of DIY animal tracking (guided and coached by our very own ranger Katrien <3), we headed to the beautiful nThambo Tree Camp in Klasserie. We took a little detour through the Blyde River Canyon, to check out the “potholes”, admire the three “rondavels“ and gaze out of “God’s window”.
Plan ahead! Tempted to try your own Kruger experience? Make sure to book it (WAY) in advance! We started planning our trip about a year beforehand (this was the first thing we booked) and even then we snatched some of the last lodges in our preferred rest camps. Do splurge just a little: the bit extra you pay for a lodge with a view is REALLY worth it!
Find your perfect game combo. We found that the combination of the “DIY” stay in Kruger Park and the more “guided” days in nThambo was a perfect cocktail. You have your first “bush discoveries” at your own pace, trying your hand at tracking and spotting the animals yourself, after which your wildlife experience gets kicked into a higher gear with the help of experienced trackers and rangers. And yes: you’re more likely to spot those Big 5 with their guidance :)
The Bush Pub and Inn, where we stayed for a night between Kruger and nThambo. We had some difficulty finding the place (as it is located at the crossing of 3 private parks, so rather deep into the bush) but were delighted with the friendly reception. We originally booked a backpackers room, but they were nice enough to upgrade us to one of the Inn rooms, score! The place has a really chill atmosphere and very cozy rooms.
Bad Baboon Behavior. We had rather comical (but also a tiny bit scary) experience in Lower Sabie, where a Baboon stole our breakfast rusks (South African specialty! Look it up :) ). Smart little bastards…
(Bogus) Ranger stories. In the Bush Pub we ended up having some drinks with 2 rangers, who told us fascinating tales about their days dedicated to wildlife…and about all the bogus stories and nature facts they make particularly annoying tourists believe :) (Oh yes, giraffes’ necks are this long because they sleep with their heads stuck between two high branches…)
Sweet Savannah. NThambo’s domesticated African Wild Cat honored me with her friendship and cuddles one day after morning drive. I was assured “she does not do that with everyone” and felt very privileged!
nThambo Love. To me, our stay in this Tree Camp was nothing short of amazing. Contrary to the rest camps in Kruger, nThambo is not fenced, so you sleep in pile huts smack in the middle of animal kingdom. Granted: I was a tiny bit chicken-shit. But what an experience! On the game drives we got to see the animals from (really!) up close. (Definitely NOT DIY, and only possible when accompanied by a trained ranger). Again: a bit chicken shit. But wow. I mean WOW. I started this trip with an open mind, curious about how the experience would affect me. Witnessing the wildlife in this way (especially all the baby animals we were lucky enough to see): the awe… Oh, and sipping GT’s and watching the sunset in the heart of the bush (while stretching our legs in the middle of a night game drive), wasn’t bad either :)