Previous. South-Africa: KwaZulu Natal – Part 1

20-12-2014 — 02-01-2015

Part 1: Thanda Private Game Reserve

On December the 20th 2014 we had a few flights on the planning: Amsterdam – Paris – Johannesburg – Richardsbay. When we finally arrived at Richardsbay a transfer from the lodge picked us up and brought us to the Thanda Private Game Reserve. Something special was waiting for us: We were going on a safari!

Day 1. 

For the ones who never had a safari holiday before: this is not a relaxing holiday. The first morning our alarm was freakin’ early. On a normal working day I would be cranky and snooze for 20 more minutes. But when the alarms goes off in magical Africa (just to mention this alarm was at 5 o’clock in the morning) I jumped out of my bed and was totally ready for this amazing day in this amazing country. After a cup of tea the Jeep was ready for us and of course we we’re equipped all with camera’s and binoculars.

After a 10 minute drive in the Jeep I realized how it felt like being in Africa. The smell, the nature, the animals, the noises.. It is actually everything we don’t have in the Netherlands. The first day we were lucky: we saw a group of Elephants, a white rhino, a lot of birds and two lionesses who were chilling in the sun after a heavy meal.

At the end of the day it was time for a siesta in the sun and a swim in the pool. `

Day 2 

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We started the day the same as the day before. The alarm was ringing crazy early and we did another morning safari in the jeep. The day started lovely by seeing 5 cubs. A bit further daddy lion was chilling and sleeping in the sun. While we were next to him, he decided to wake up, jawn a bit and stand up to go for a walk.

While we were driving we also saw some elephants, a leopard and another white rhino.

Our guide had this brilliant idea and told us that it would be fun to make a canoe safari over the hippo river. Surprisingly everybody was excited about this plan, except from me. Anyhow, they guaranteed me I would be sorry if I didn’t come and it wouldn’t be as dangerous as it sounds. Allright, I was in – oh men I’m too easy to persuade. The guide we had during this canoe safari was another guide then we had the rest of the week – he was strong and big and I felt pretty safe with him. The guide we had this time was small, I didn’t understand a word he said and he laughed about everything he said. As soon as we arrived at the hippo river it was time to get in the boats. Mister guide went first and told us there are also a hundreds of crocodiles in the water – I already felt super safe, I felt even more safe because of knowing this – can anybody tell me why this was fun?

I still think it was super sweet of Kas to go in a canoe with me– because I didn’t trust myself at all in a boat like this, in a f….. hippo-crocodile river. While we were ‘happily’ canoeing through the water, I saw the hippo’s bathing and swimming. I would have liked that view if I wasn’t that scared – I was literally shivering.

The guide decided it was time for a break and we followed him to a small ‘beach’. I have to say there were times I felt more relaxing on a beach. The guide told us hippo’s can’t swim, but they can run over the bottom super fast. That is the danger of this animal. Because you can’t see the hippo’s they can surprise you by popping up next to your boat to say hi. Did I tell you we still had to go back?

We went back to the lodge to take a shower and make ourselves ready for the sundowner. We did have the sundowner next to the hippo river, something our guide – luckily it was the big and strong one this time – didn’t tell us. Of course it was super special, but I couldn’t get my eyes off those big killers while enjoying my wine.

Day 3 

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The fact days could be even more exciting then the day before… I didn’t expect that. But it happened. Today.

We started the day full of energy and the same as the days before. On our way we saw a big group of elephants and it was amazing – they were all walking up a mountain and I heard the Lion King songs playing in my head.

Our guide really loves some adventure and drove off road. And voila: there we saw the black rhino. The guide told us in the beginning of the week the black rhino is much more aggressive then the white rhino. This one is aggressive when she is on her own, but this giant animal is even more aggressive when she is out for a walk with her babies.

This one was grazing with her two babies and the guide told us it was super important to keep some distance. Otherwise she would be scared – and we could have a problem. Unfortunately for us, the wind was blowing our smell right in the nose of this sweet rhino. It took a few minutes before the rhino realized she had company. And she didn’t like it – at all. She came closer and closer – the baby’s running behind her – until she was standing next to me.

If their mother didn’t look so angry I could have loved the moment, but unfortunately she did have this look. Our guide started talking to her and told her to leave and explained we didn’t want to hurt her. I think she didn’t understand any South-African and she came a bit closer. I felt her breath. My body told me to run out of the car, to hop in a tree and scream. As if the guide was able to read my mind he told us on the exact same moment: “Whatever happens. You stay where you are. Don’t move. Don’t talk. Don’t scream.” Jup – roger that.

The mother turned around and ran away, together with her babies. I could finally breath. Untill…. I saw her leg moving, like she was preparing a big and fast run. And then she started. She was so, so fast. She stopped right next to me and started blowing. I felt every move she made – every breath she took. The guide wasn’t so sure about this situation and started slamming the wooden stick at the door. I can tell you I already was quite scared, I was even more when I saw the fear of the guide. The mother did this trick again, and again… And then she ran away with her kids. Holy shit.

We decided to go for a little drive – so we were sure the black rhino didn’t smell or see us anymore – and went out of the car for a drink. We all needed this. When it got dark we drove home and we crossed an Elephant. Because it was just a one way street we parked the car on the side, put off the lights of the car and were waiting till Mr. Elephant walked by. This was the biggest Elephant I have ever seen and – thankgod – he walked by. Without even looking at us. Normally I wouldn’t like this – when people don’t even look at me – but I was thankful that mister Elephant didn’t do this. It was enough excitement for today.

Day 4. 

Crazy when you realize it’s Christmas evening. This year we don’t have any Christmas tree, no cold or snow but elephants, sun and a jungle. I can get used to this.

Today we had a good sleep and didn’t wake up for the morning safari. We had another program for this morning.. We put on our walking shoes, ready for the walking safari! With a bit of shaking knees because of the day before, but with a lot of excitement we walked into the sanctuary of the animals. A strange feeling to walk here while a lion could be very close.

After a walking safari of 2 hours it was time for some rest, because at three o’clock our guide was picking us up again. We did another safari in the jeep and when it became dark we were driving back to the lodge – or at least we thought so. It took the guide a long time to drive us back and the guide told us he was a bit lost, but he thought he found the way. After a few minutes we all smelled fire and we were shocked. The guide drove to the fire and as soon as we came closer, we knew our guide was making jokes. What we saw was amazing. In the middle of the jungle they made us a real Christmas dinner. Including campfires, wines and lovely food. It was such a big surprise and it was a great and lovely special evening.

After the dinner it was time to go back to the lodge – the animals did smell the food and it was a better to go home safely. On our way back we had another, last surprise: we saw a hyena.

This safari experience was great and although we were a bit sad leaving– we knew our holiday didn’t end yet: Thonga Beach Lodge we’re on our way!