after a good night sleep (since it was boredom being ‘locked’ within the hotel premises), we had breakfast! it was simple but i love all the colours and the watermelons were almost pink in shade. it is amazing that i actually can wolf down my breakfast at 6.30am in the morning. we checked out right after the breakfast and got picked up by our guide, Eugene Basson for our journey for the next 4 days.

the unique bit about this south africa tour is that it is semi-guided. some days we had the guide, other days we didn’t. For the whole safari adventure, he stuck with us for 4 days and i wasn’t quite used to the fact that i had the guide stuck to me for so many days.. he was a nice fatherly figure but i was too tired to entertain some times when i just wanted to be left alone. does not help that he likes to talk to me ALOT. -_-”

our guide and us, excited to be getting on our adventure!

it was a long ride, and we departed from Johannesburg and journeyed from the highveld to the lowveld region of the Mpumalanga province before we reach Manyatta Rock Camp, Kwa Madwala private game reserve.

the confusing part about south africa for me when i first started on my research is that there is this bit abut private game reserve and national park. the main difference are that the private game reserve is a huge plot of land that is being fenced up. the animals are kept within and free to roam and it is privately owned.. though you couldn’t really tell at all unless you happen to reach the borders of the game reserve, which is not often. national park are parks owned by the government and the animals are free to roam (and they get to migrate between the various lands at different seasons). its pretty much the same experience because you cannot really tell.. but the national park animal numbers are a lot more when you look at the herds of buffalos. the other difference is that in the national park, you are not allowed to step out of your vehicle, while with the private ones, the rangers usually allow it to let you experience a closer to nature experience, at your own risk.

arriving at kwa madwala.. love how rustic everything is, even the letter addressed to me!

see the background in the picture where i was making a monkey face? that is the vastness of the entire game reserve, it stretches through the horizons and the animals are all roaming all around.

the dining area and the only communal area in the entire game reserve, where most guest will chill at if they are not at their rooms or using the other facilities like swimming pool, spa/massages.

this is how our rooms look like, each room is a private little resort, with its own balcony and get this – OUTDOOR SHOWER! i am actually out in the reserve on animals’ territory, risking my life taking this picture..

our room/bed with accompanying sofa, the bathroom, and the outdoor shower.

the bathtub and the cactus plant by the window sill. lovely, rustic touches to everything.

the view from within the room, looking out at my balcony and the safari beyond. we spotted a few impalas and smaller animals around, but mostly, i kept the sliding doors to the balcony shut TIGHT. x.silly found basking in the sunset and soaking in the nature surrounding him.

its an amazing experience, but it is NOT without risk. everyone has to sign an indemnity form to indemnify the organizers or the owners of the game reserves from any injury or death, simply because the animals are all wild and are free to roam…. i suggest buying loads of travel insurance just to be on the safe side.. though i didnt hear of any accidents thus far.

communal toilets just beside the communal area. check out it’s view…

we rested in the rooms a bit and did our first sundowner game drive on an open 4×4 safari vehicle (think of a huge jeep with the vehicle’s top off) with a professional game ranger to drive us through and soak in south africa’s abundant wildlife..

it was an adrenaline rush knowing that we are going so close to nature! roaring to go!

to guide you on, the famous fives or the big fives animals that one would likely see in south africa is (1) lion, (2) leopard, (3) rhinoceros, (4) elephant and lastly (5) buffalo. if you do not see these 5 types of animals, its like your trip to africa is wasted!

For trivial sake, there are also the small fives which are (1) ant lion, (2) leopard tortoise (i saw this!!), (3) rhinoceros beetles, (4) elephant shrew and (5) red billed buffalo weaver and the ugly fives – hyena, vulture, wildebeest, warthog and maribu stork. managed to view 4 of the ugly fives throughout my trip which i’ll share in the days to come.

meanwhile, it was a really bumpy ride through the safari since there were no official roads. we caught the most majestic animal lazing on top of a rock.. at that moment, it feels like i was in one of the scenes in lion king, where simba was perched on a rock.

it feels unreal and it’s like watching national geographic channel, except that i am in real close proximity with these animals and zilch protection at all. we drove past a lake of some sort and stopped to observe a family of hippopotamus and i managed to snap a picture of it showing its anger, baring its teeth and snapping in the water. check out those long fangs, i cannot imagine them ripping through my body. they are usually herbivorous, eating plants and grasses but you do not want to provoke them because they are rather aggressive and would kill when provoked.

there were zebras, giraffes, impalas (medium sized african antelopes), elephants and loads of another animals, which are pretty common but i will only show pictures of these from taken in the national park because those contain a whole lot more awesomeness because they are usually in huge groups, as compared to the smaller groups on the private reserve. here’s an animated gif of the impalas that i created from a chain of pictures i snapped while the vehicle was driving through and them, scampering away in a flash.

we stopped by a waterhole (an area where the animals would gather round to take a drink) and weren’t lucky enough to see any animals there. the thing about safari is that, nothing is predictable.. you cannot dictate what you want to see, and when or where to see them.. some days, you are lucky and see interesting things.. other times, you circle round for hours and cannot find the animals you wanna see. since there weren’t any animals loitering around, we stopped and got down for a short rest. wahh.. major adrenaline rush the moment my feet touched the ground. its like.. i dunno when an animal will rush out and attack me!

of cos that didnt happened, else i wouldn’t be blogging about this.

the air smelt of dung, the ground soft and muddy, with occasional piles of dungs in different sizes, and flies hovering around them.. the surroundings emit a weird serene feeling, yet it is filled with sounds of the insects, and it feels like danger is lurking out there, somewhere. our ranger disappeared behind some bushes and moments later, he excited ran back (ok, i thought he was being chased the instant he ran out) and rounded up all of us to follow him. QUIETLY.

he found some fresh rhino prints on the ground and we are going to track it down on foot. some families with kids decided not to take the risk and opt to stay behind, near the vehicle. me? i grabbed my nikon dslr enthusiastically and follow right behind the guide. what balls i had then right? don’t ask me what got into me.

what followed was damn exciting.. resulting in everyone RETREATING except my uncles, the guide and me (i was hiding behind a small bush and my lens).. and my aunt a distance behind. everyone else disappeared… turns out, we got really close to 2 rhinos and they were fighting and kicking up a sand storm.. so much so.. the vision is pretty much blurred, and everyone was in fear and unsure if any of it would charge in our direction. the guide actually told me to back immediately if the rhino got any nearer.

the animal was massive and probably weigh a ton or two. i was fixated onto the ground in awe and trying to get as many shots i could of the giant.

here’s one i got, staring right in my direction.. could you see the twigs that i was trying to camouflage behind? the thing is, i actually didnt know everyone was GONE because i was concentrating on the scene in front of me.. it was only when i turned back together with the guide and realised.. everyone’s gone. my aunt told me they fled the moment the fight started..

it was getting dark when we headed back to the vehicle.. and visibility was really low..

that’s my uncle climbing back into the 4×4 vehicle. the sun has set, and it was starting to get chilly.

we drove around a bit more, caught random animals in the dark and headed back to see if we could see “simba” in a clearer position. the rangers had huge spot lights with them, with cables tapping on the car battery to shine at the lions.. interestingly, the lions weren’t a tad bothered by the lights and after a while, we headed back to camp. i did managed to capture one other animal in the dark with the help of a spotlight.

a hare!

we ended the night with dinner by the fireplace when i promptly headed back to the room and crashed into bed after washing up.

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