Here we goooooo!! Flying 10,5 hours to Johannesburg, South-Africa. Ready to start our road trip which will totally last for three weeks. First part; the game drives. Yeah, I am talking about the big five (and many more animals), about nature, and about middle of nowhere places. So are you ready to hear about our amazing, funny experiences and beautiful, breathtaking views?! I hope you are, because you will not regret it. Although, it will take some time to read. I have so much to tell you!
Eight game drives + one bush walk
So, overall, we had eight game drives and one bush walk, which were all around two/three hours. You might think; “wohhh that is much”. Honestly, I thought the same and I must say that I am still very grateful that we had good weather/temperature because otherwise I think it would have been a bit less fun. Gladly, this was not the case and did I change my mind about the amount. Due to fact, that you still need some luck to see the animals, and you just will not have that every day, various game drives in various parks are good!
Sadi Sands Game Reserve
Our first game drives we did in Sadi Sands. A very isolated place from the “real world”.
We stayed at the Umkumbe Safari Lodge for two days and this place was so extremely magical (our lodge had an outside rain shower!! Yeahhh I know, cool right?) and made everything magical that I could not wait for everything that was yet to come.
First point to mention; WiFi. We got a WiFi password per person which we could use from seven in the morning until four in the afternoon. It was 50MB for the whole stay per person, so you can imagine that we were happy if the picture to a friend send and very happy if we could upload something on our socials (with “our” I mean the children haha). Of course, we used the 50MB already the first day, but it was fine by me actually. I like to disappear for some time.
Second point; the animals can walk and fly everywhere and with that I also mean your room. So, we always panicked when we thought that someone forgot to close to door. With that, I by the way do not mean close it with a key, because we did not have one. Because you were with only around 20 people in the middle of nowhere, we could easily play Cluedo to find out if someone stole something (except for the animals of course). We even had a brutal monkey that stole our lunch from the buffet. To be exact, two slices of focaccia and two apples. We had lots of fun watching him, though.
A day at Umkumbe Safari Lodge
Dawn game drive always started at six in the morning. The rangers woke us up at 5:30. They knocked on our door and kept saying “good morning” until we said: “good morning” back (it felt like I was on a school camp haha). During all game drives we stopped in the middle to drink something and stretch our legs (and do some wild peeing, of course everyone laughed their asses off when I needed to go). By the way, the rangers do everything to get you see the animals from close. Lots of trees were down and we actually thought that, that was because of the elephants, but no. The big Land Rover defender car does “mainly” all of that. Really, I have never been so amazed by a car.. You should have seen the trees!
When we came back at nine we had breakfast, although it felt like lunch and we had been already awake for hours. Between the second game drive which starts at four in the afternoon and breakfast, there is lunch at two o’clock and you can relax. There was a gym, a trampoline and a swimming pool. Because of the lack of WiFi, we read books, jumped around 20 times on the trampoline, looked at the gym and instead of working out, took a nap.
Now comes my favorite part, the “sun down game drive” as they called it there. It becomes dark around six and believe it or not within fifteen minutes, it is dark, really really dark. During those drives, we saw the most different kind of animals (where I still don’t know the names of). Sometimes, I even thought to see an animal, but then again it was just a part of a tree or a bush (it was dark, it could have happened to anyone you know. It only every time just happened to me ha ha..).
My favorite, favorite part! Can you guess it already? Something with… darkness, middle of nowhere and stars >> The Milky Way. I know that we were there for the animals, but as a “stargazer” I could not get my eyes off of them. It was insane beautiful, there were so many and we could see Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. I am normally very good in writing down my thoughts and feelings, but this one is difficult. I still cannot find my words and yes, I let some tears falling down my cheeks. Some people will understand why, others not, and that is also fine, too.
Mkhaya Game Reserve – Swaziland
For the other four games drives we stayed at the Stone Camp in Swaziland. I forgot to tell you that we also would leave South-Africa for a few days. “Road trip through South-Africa with bits of Swaziland” maybe better like this haha?
Arriving there was already sort of an experience, because we needed to wait for the ranger to pick us up because all gates were closed. A group of thirteen children came to our car while we stood still and knocked on our windows for food. We gave them chocolate and peppermints. Afterwards, it felt like half of the town came to our car to ask for food and they played football with a handmade ball. We laughed with them, gave high fives, however, on the other hand, it was sort of heart breaking…
Before we arrived at the camp, some rhino’s came running behind us. We (the children) screamed to dad; Drive faster, faster dad!!” Gladly, we entered the gate and they could not come further. It may sounds dramatic or dangerous, but we also laughed a lot (probably because nothing serious happened..). From there on, we had to leave our car, could only take a small bag and went to the camp with the ranger.
The special point about Stone Camp is, that it is totally in the middle of nowhere, much more than Umkumbe. There was no electricity, no service/WiFi, which means that we “disappeared” for three days and saw The Milky Way again. I loved everything of it! Back to basic, but still in a luxury way because all lodges had a toilet and shower (even warm water). As you can see on the picture below the lodge is one with nature. Umkumbe was already something special/new with the animals walking around the park, but this was even a step further than that.
The whole atmosphere was amazing, calm/quiet, and romantic. During the night, there were petroleums on the ground, hanging in the trees, and all around our lodge. Extremely zen!
A day at Stone Camp
At this park the dawn game drive was from 6:15 until 8:00 in the morning. They again woke us up, this time not with “good morning” as like in Umkumbe but with “knock knock”, even though we didn’t even have a proper door (so cute haha). We saw some different animals, the ones we only had actually already seen in Sadi Sands, besides the buffalo, but still beautiful. We had seen four out of five from the big five! Still waiting patiently for the lion.
At 10:30 started the bush walk until 12:30. I was already happy that we could walk around and again stretch my legs. Seeing animals was like a bonus haha! The ranger explained us different things about insects, trees, and we saw a family giraffe and rhino from close again. I have to say that I felt saver in the car than when I was walking, but the experience was still very nice though.
Lunch was at 13:00 and the second game drive started at 15:30. For the first time we saw hippos in the water, even opening their mouths. While we again had spotted some rhinos, giraffes, and a crocodile, we headed back to the camp for dinner.
Our last night there was one which I will never forget. After, we all had finished dinner, the staff (all woman) started to play music with the drum, sang and dance around the campfire. Traditional dance, as she later on told us. They had done three songs and we all stopped with clamming enthusiastic. Some volunteers were able to dance with them. You may already guess/know who the volunteer wanted to be? Yes, you were right (or maybe not), it was me and I took my little sister and mom with me. Not that I wanted it for the attention, but more that I could show my appreciation towards them and dancing makes me very happy.
Eventually, we stood there with also three French people. It was an amazing experience to dance their traditional dance, but we totally failed of course haha. The evening ended with all 20 people from the camp dancing around the campfire. We were so laughing, clapping and enjoying. It was really wonderful!
I went to bed with a big smile, hundreds of stars above my head, and the sound from lots of insects/animals. This incredible place, forever.