Wednesday 1 October Swaziland to Kruger National Park

We left the hotel at 8.30am and drove through the Ezulwini Valley in northwest Swaziland. It is also known as “The Valley of Heaven” and is 30 kilometres long and quite picturesque. We had come into Swaziland in the dark last night, so we didn’t get to see much. We drove up through the mountains on some winding roads with great views out over the countryside and we passed through timber forests. We saw the Maguga Dam and the Nkomazi River and, after we passed through Piggs Peak, we crossed the Mulamati River.
After two hours of driving, we arrived at the Jeppes Reef border gate and all got off the bus to go in and present our passports to exit Swaziland. We walked across the border and went into the Matsamo Centre for re-entry to South Africa and then all got back on the bus and headed off – the process took about half an hour.
Not long after we went through the border, we passed over the Ingugwane River and also saw some big roadside markets at the centre where people were collecting their monthly pension/grant and then we stopped at Malelane for lunch at a shopping centre. On our travesl today, we saw sugar cane, citrus groves, banana plantations as well as some spectacular scenery.
Our bus arrived at the Malelane Gate into Kruger National Park at about 1.00pm and then drove along a sealed road for approximately 1.5 hours to where our 4WD vehicles would be waiting to take us to our Lodges. Along the way, we saw Crocodile River, where there were hippopotamus, crocodiles and elephants in the water. Further along, there was a giraffe standing in the middle of the road – only in Africa!!
As we continued our drive, we saw Waterbuck (a type of antelope, which have big white circles on their bums), Kudu (another type of antelope), lots of Impala and Sandy called out when she spotted some Elephants so that we could stop and take photos.
When we arrived at the 4WD pick up point, we were told that we were splitting into two groups as the lodges were not big enough to hold us all but we would get back together again for dinner tomorrow night and we would see each other around the park when we were out on our game drives. There are 16 of us staying at Tinga Lodge and the other 11 and Delia are staying at Narina Lodge.
We were loaded on to our 4WDs and our luggage was loaded onto separate 4WDs and we were taken the short distance on dirt roads to our Lodges. We were met at the door to the Main Lodge building by the staff, with refreshing towels and drinks. Once we were all there, Glenda, the manager, gave us a briefing about the game drive times, wake up calls, meals etc and then we were taken to our rooms.
We are not sure that we can adequately describe how awesome this place is!! Our “room”, measuring 16 metres long by 6 metres wide, consists of a lounge area with a 3 seater lounge and a large armchair, a 3 metre long writing desk, a huge coffee table, a cupboard that is filled with complimentary drinks & nibbles and the biggest bed that we have ever seen that has mosquito net s draped around it. The bathroom area is 7 metres long by 6 metres wide and consist of a huge bath, double vanity units, a circular shower that is 2 metres in diameter. The whole length of the lounge, bedroom, bathroom has floor to ceiling windows overlooking our large deck and splash pool, with pool lounges and a table and chairs, all overlooking the Sabie River and over to the other side to some of the Kruger National Park. Each room/cabin is self-contained and is a fair distance from any other building and constructed in such a way that each has total privacy, although it did feel strange having a shower with an unrestricted view of the bush and the River.
We were surprised and delighted that on the middle of our bed, there was a “Welcome to Tinga Lodge Richard and Sandra” message made from leaves and flower petals.
Immediately after being given an explanatory welcome to our room and its facilities, we had High Tea on the deck of the Main Lodge. We had fruit kebabs, strips of crumbed chicken, little sandwiches and cup cakes, as well as fruit juice and tea/coffee.
At 4.00pm, with two other couples, our driver, Allan and our Tracker, Omega, we headed off for our first game drive at Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, which is adjacent to the Kruger National Park.
Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,633 square kilometres and is located in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumualanga in the north-east of South Africa. The park became South Africa’s first national park in 1926 and has nine main gates that allow entrance to the different camps.
The Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve covers 65,000 hectares. It is situated near to the Kruger Gate and shares a common 50km unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, giving animals the ability to pass unhindered between the reserves. Sabi Sand is the birthplace of sustainable wildlife tourism in southern Africa, and is the oldest of all the private reserves in South Africa. It has only ever been a wilderness area and is home to a vast wildlife population, which includes “The Big Five”, besides a number of endangered species too.
On our drive, we saw Nyala, Kudu, Impala, Giraffe, Baboons, the largest Owl we had ever seen, and then Omega saw some Leopard prints, so we followed them. We found a tree that she had taken an Impala that she had killed and lodged it in a fork high in the tree, but she wasn’t there at the time. We searched through the surrounding bushes and undergrowth in our 4WD, but we still couldn’t see her, so we left the area in the hope that she would come back when it was quiet.
We travelled out of the area, found a clearing and had our Sundowners – beer, wine, soft drink and nibblies, while we chatted excitedly to Allan and Omega about the leopard and the Big Five while we watched the sun go down.
We returned to the tree that we had found the remains of the Impala, using a spotlight to search the trees and undergrowth along the way, and Voila! there she was in the tree eating the Impala. It was very difficult to get a clear photo of her through the surrounding trees and shrubs as she kept hiding behind the main trunk of the tree. Allan moved the 4WD and drove through the bush, pushing over some bushes along the way, to the other side of the tree to try and get a better view. After a while, we left so that our fellow travellers in the other two vehicles could come down to the small are that we were in to get a chance to see the leopard without unnecessarily stressing her by having too many people and spotlights.
We returned to the lodge to have a magnificent three-course dinner on the deck, which was illuminated by lanterns – very nice! After our meal, we were escorted to our room along a boardwalk as there are no real fences here to keep out the animals. The same rules apply here as in Thanda – you do move around at night without an escort. Our room had been prepared for us with the mosquito net sides pulled down, our bed turned down and a message on the blackboard from our housekeeping staff.
This afternoon has been another really memorable event in our African adventure – we have now seen the Big Five: Buffalo, Rhino, Elephant, Lion and Leopard!!!


One Response to “Wednesday 1 October Swaziland to Kruger National Park”

  1. Liana says:

    I have no words! Jealous about all the excellent sightings you had, but VERY happy for you!! 😉 What a nice adventure. And we love your photo’s – excellent. Nice ones of the pyjama donkeys (Zebra) 😉
    Enjoy! x

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