Safari! King’s Camp

Safari!

This was  the highlight of the trip and all we’d hoped for and more!

We flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg to Nelspruit Kruger Airport. The last leg was in a small Cessna 206 which seated the pilot and left room for just three passengers! It was awesome fun to be in such a small plane. The landing strip nearest to King’s Camp was so small and remote that the pilot had forewarned us that he’d be doing a mock landing without touching down before the proper landing – to scare any wild animals off the runway! King’s Camp is a privately owned safari lodge in the Timbavati region of Kruger National Park, South Africa. We loved every minute we spent there!

A guide was waiting for us to arrive in a jeep beside the runway, from there we packed our luggage and made the quick and exciting drive to King’s Camp. On arrival, there were several staff members waiting to personally greet us with fruit cocktails. Whenever we passed lodge staff they greeted us by name and checked that everything was just right! It made the experience truly memorable and heartfelt. One night after a drive in the cold we even came home to our bath filled with warm water and bath salts. It was the many, little extras that the staff did that was truly wonderful.

Typical days involved two game drives, one in the morning and one in the evening. The excitement began with a 5:30am wake up call for hot chocolate, coffee, tea and muffins before a 6am set off. Each day we drove along different paths, and excitingly, off lots of paths in the hunt for wild African animals. After the morning drives we had a choice of a menu of lovely hot breakfasts and a continental breakfast buffet. We’d then relax until lunch as the impala, elephants, springboks, warthogs, squirrels, monkeys birds and other animals cruised by (and within) the campground. The evening game drives set off at 3:30pm. As it got dark after a couple of hours we relied on our great guide Dean and tracker, Selby, to use a spotlight to find nocturnal animals. When the beautiful African sun set, we’d stop for some afternoon sundowner drinks and nibbles and a stretch, hopefully where there were no lions or leopards! The “lava-tree” (lavatory) was also very much utilised during the stop in the cold with the bumpy drives.

Some of the animals we saw we ticked off in our “Animal Spotting Book” and they included: leopards, lions, warthogs, squirrels, rare wild dogs, hyenas, an elusive honey badger, giraffes, hippos, zebra, impala, bush bucks, geckos, springboks, steenboks, kudu, cape buffalos, rhinos, vultures, eagles, Zazu from the Lion King (a horn bill), ant lions and chameleons. We took photos of everything except the honey badger – he was way too quick for us!

As we drove on and off the tracks, pushing trees over where necessary to follow animals, one can imagine the wear and tear on the tyres. Even though they were 14 ply thick, something got through when we were looking at two female lions and a cub. We drove away a little towards safety, but then along came a hyaena. It was hilarious to see the hyena cruising along, oblivious to the fact that there were three lions within 20 metres. Then he got sight of them and “did a runner” as quietly as possible. Our guide drove another hundred metres on the rim but saw hippos nearby, making finding a quiet place for a quick change difficult. We couldn’t drive too far with the tyre but also couldn’t find a spot that was enticing for a tyre change in the dark that involved everyone hopping out of the vehicle. This added to the excitement of that particular drive, so did surviving.

Other memorable safari experiences were seeing a whole herd of elephants (including their cute little babies) drink at a waterhole with no one else around us, watching a leopard mother oversee her son eating an impala she’d caught and hauled into a tree, watching a young leopard unsuccessfully stalk impala (the leopard crawl is amazing), seeing the different shifts of animals that came along to feed on a giraffe that had died of old age (so says the leopard that was first on the scene), having a rhino briefly charge our jeep, watching a large male lion charge someone else’s and sitting in silence as a herd of elephants surrounded us, demolished some trees for breakfast then waltzed on (the baby elephants were so cute as  they drank from their mothers and played, learning how to use their trunks).

Back at King’s Camp they varied the locations for us to eat dinner on alternate nights, introducing us to a bit of African culture and cuisine through a boma one night, braai (apparently different) another night and the dining rom the others. We thought the food was delicious and would recommend it to anyone.

The staff were very helpful and looked after everyone brilliantly. Benjamin the night guard even walked us to and from our room each morning and night as there was a leopard that had been spotted having a lounge on one of the outdoor couches and in the bushes prior to our arrival-  so exciting!

The experience for us was wonderful overall, the people, food, game drives, guides and trackers,  atmosphere, rooms (everyone got their own cool hut) and other guests we met during our stay.

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