Recently we had overseas guests at The Bush House in Madikwe Game Reserve north-west of Johannesburg. This was our first chance to experience the “Hide”which has been constructedright next to the waterhole situated in front of this lodge .
- The Bush House boasts one of the best waterholes in Madikweand now everyone is talking about the fantastic photo opportunities from theHide .
InAfrica ,a “ Hide “ is an enclosed structure where guests can visit to watch animals and birds in their natural habitat . Hides are often constructed near waterholes with a good vantage pointand in such a way that the animals are not disturbed by the guest’s presence.Pilanesberg National Parkhas several Hides where its possible for familiesto get out of their vehicle & walk down a passageway to sit at the Hide which is very exciting for children.
Early in 2012, owners of The Bush House ,Sue and Gordon called in friends & engineers to assist in planning the hide. Below were some of the main points in their brief .
- To prevent thisHide from obstructing the view of the waterhole from the front of the Lodge , accesswould have to be underground.
- Guests would proceed from the Lodge gardens or rock pool via a tunnel to connect with the Hide and they would feel secure in spite ofwild animals drinking at the waterhole .
- The roof of the tunnelwould be reinforced to make it sufficiently strong to withstand the weight of 5 ton elephantswalking across the area !
- The interior of the Hide should be large enough to seat several people & have an opening infront to facilitate photographybut a dropdown grid for security reasons.
Inspite of many challenges & dangers encountered during construction of the Hide , it was finally finsished according to specifications & has become a great attraction for guests at The Bush House plus a unique asset to Madikwe Game Reserve .
The name Medifari was coined by Dr Albie who spends much of his life travelling around the World as an International Health Management Consultant . However he has a deep love for South Africa & obviously a desire to share the beauty of the countryside & culture of the local people . Therefore when SASTM were planning the recent Travel Medicine Conference in Johannesburg ,Dr Albie seized the opportunity to plan a unique safari for his collegues from overseas . He selected our company, Wildlife Safaris to assist with the operation of this Medifari because some years ago as a young tour guide he conducted many safaris to Kruger Park for us.
The itinerary included a visit to Verlorenkloof ( “ Lost Valley “ )which is where Dr Albie & his wife Therese retreat when they need a break from city life .The group of 9 overseas doctors enjoyed a homecooked farm dinner & overnight in the tranquility of this mountain conservancy.On Day 2they travelled east over the scenic Long Tom Pass&down to the Lowveld .One of the highlights for these doctors was a visit toMatikwana Rural Hospital where Dr Lucille gave a most informative talk on tropical diseases in Africa . After that it was safari time & our alert guide Hoppy spotted wild dogs shortly after entering Kruger Park.
We reserved accommodation at Pretoriuskoprestcamp on the western side of Kruger because it has large family cottages ideal for groups & as a perimeter camp it is quieter & more rustic than some other restcamps attracting larger groups of tourists .Although Kruger is one of South Africa’s top destinations for overseas travellers , it is also a haven for local families & the concept of this trip was to show the visiting doctors our traditional camp life as well as the wildlife experience . Dr Albie , Therese & Johan all pitched in to prepare meals instead of using the camp restaurants.Naturally they organised a braai( barbeque )for the first night which is so typical for most families coming from the busy cities . After dinner stargazing in Kruger is excellent because there is virtually no pollution & in September its before the rains begin.
Day 3 started at sunrise with a steaming cup of coffee&Oumas( grandmar’s) rusks . Everyone boarded the open safari vehicle & headed out to look for the Big 5(elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion & the elusive leopard ) .Conditions were favourable for the photographers &the nature guide Gavin supplied lots of info about the animals along the way.After brunch at a picnic spot on the Sabie River they stopped at Skukuza for a lecture from one of the Parkvets.That night they discovered what we mean by potjieskos or a stew traditionally cooked in a cast iron pot over an open fire.
On Day 4 they packed up & travelled down the Voortrekker road which was used by the early traders carrying goods from Mozambique to the inland . Hoppy was very pleased to find several rhino as well as a herd of the rare sable antelope which is Wildlife Safarislogo. The final outdoor breakfast was prepared at Afsaal which is rather busy these days , but still in the bush & unfenced so there is always a sense of adventure &the possibility of a close encounter with a hyena sniffering around the smell of meat cooking on open fires.
Once the Medifari members returned home , several emails were exchanged & I would like to quote from Faye“The Medifari trip was one of the best group experiences i've had in my life. You are all wonderful people and i couldn't have asked for a warmer and more fun group of people to travel with.As i sorted through the 410 pictures i took on the trip, memories of all of you flashed through my head that i thought i would share . Hoppy -wonderful guide, eagle vision, warm and thoughtful. Albie and Therese - thank you so much for showing me your South Africa.You both did it with such grace and despite knowing that it took months of planning and attention to detail, you both made it look effortless. Your warmth and kindness will never be forgotten and spending time with the both of you also made me want to quit my job and travel more of the world to help others in need “ .
Well done Albie -I am sure you achieved what you set out to do !
The Nerina Trogon is a medium sized bird ( up to 35 cms long ) usually found in forest areas . It is very colouful & both sexes have vivid, gingery green upper plumage. It has a large range in Africa , inhabiting lowland & highland forests from temperate to tropical regions . It is considered a highlight for birdwatchers in Kruger National Park&game reserves further south in KwaZulu Natal . Their diet consists of insects, small rodents & reptiles.
In August , Wildlife Safaris was very pleased to arrange an 8 day guided tour for Quentin & his family from U K .In his first enquiry , Quentin told us that he was coming on safari to South Africa & as a keen birdwatcher , he wanted to see a Nerina Trogon . Their time in Mpumalangawas limited to southern Kruger but they were very excited to spot the Big 5as well as wild dog & cheetah. Our guides searched around the trees near the Sabie River but unfortunately no Nerina Trogon.Since then we have heard of two sightings in the area .
Travelling south past the mining town of Barberton, they by-passed Swaziland & headed for the sugarcane plantations of Zululand .At that point we handed over to guides from Extreme Nature Tours who work in this area . Next day was a cruise on Lake Jozinisurrounded by typical hills & quite a contrast to Kruger Park which is generally flat. They saw zebra, giraffe, nyala, ostrichas well as wild horses. Next stop was Hluhluwe, the oldest game reserve in South Africa & renowned for the conservation of black & white rhino.
On Day 5 , the group enjoyed more game drives in Hluhluwe but still no Nerina Trogon & they drove on to St. Lucia village situated at the southern end of Isamgaliso Wetland Park , a World Heritage site . Wildlife activities here included a boat trip on Lake St. Lucia, a drive up to Cape Vidal & nightexcursions where they found serval, genet, porcupine, bushbabies & even an aardvark.
I am sure by the time Quentin & family boarded the plane at King Shaka Airport , they all had great memories & photos to cherish .We are sorry about the trogon , but if its any consolation we are tracing sightings of these rare birds & one was seen this week near Paul Kruger entrance gate on the banks of the Sabie River.
Earlier in August we were very pleased totake care ofLuca & family of 4 adults plus Gabriele aged 2 yrs Luca spent a lot of time planning this trip & email discussions went on for about 1 month before the final itinerary was settled.
After arriving from Italy , they had a tour of Soweto & then overnight at Waybury Guesthouse so it was very personal service from Day 1 .After a good night’s sleep they travelled to Union Buildings just 1 day beforeNationalWomen’sDaycelebrations when thousands of people gather in the grounds to enjoy music, dance &speeches .Then they proceeded to Kwa Maritane & enjoyed their first encounter with Africa’sanimals in Pilanesberg . Next day back to Sandton to see Mandela Square which was featured in their Lonely Planet guidebook .
Luca requested a 5 day / 4 nightWildlife Safarito Kruger Park& Panorama Route . Little Gabriele was provided with his own car seat pluscot & was the centre of attention for his parents & grandparents . He was very well behaved& loved the animals . Like many other tours in August , they found the Big 5 & had some great photo opportunities .Language was a bit of a problem , but when Clive arranged some spaghettifor dinner at Berg en Dal , everyone smiled&squealed Mama Mia !We all hope they have many happy memoriesof Kruger Park&perhaps when Gabrieleis older , he will come back with his girlfriend !
It was our pleasure Luca !
We feel obliged to explain to our overseas visitors that it is not advisable to book their safaris to Kruger Parkover public holidays, if there is an alternative .
The Park becomes extremely crowded at these times and long queues are experienced even before entering the Park . The maximum numberof overnight visitorsas well as day visitors will be permitted at each entrance gate . Long queues are experienced particularly at the take-away restaurants and there is very little space to sit and eat a meal in peace.
When it comes to game viewing, if there is an interesting sighting, such as lions, the area becomes very congested ,tempers flared and road rage may be evident, as many visitors become selfish and tend to stay longer at the sighting than they should.
Another reason is that traffic volumes on the roads increase to such an extent that the animals decide to move away from the roadsinto quieter areas .Another problem we see is that visitors get out of their vehicles when they are not allowed to,which usually chases any animal in the vicinity.
All these occurances very seldom happen during normal game viewing times, so my advice is to avoid the long weekends .
WELCOME TO SUNNY SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is blessed with lots and lots of sunshine. Come summer, come winter, the sun shines almost every day. Therefore, visitors to this country can enjoy plenty of sunshine- more so than most other countries across the world.
I will describe the climate in the Kruger National Park, as that is Wildlife Safaris major tour destination.
During summer the Park gates open at 4.30 am and close at 18.30 pm- a sum total of 14 hours of game viewing, if one so wishes. The early mornings can be slightly chilly, especially if one is driving in an open vehicle. As the sun rises in the sky, it can get extremely hot and humid, but later on it becomes more comfortable.
During winter, the Park gates open at 6.00 am and close at 17.30 pm- a sum total of 11 hours of game viewing. The early mornings can be very cold, but as the day progresses the temperature increases above 20 deg C which is very comfortable until sunset, when it becomes colder again.
Rain in the Kruger occurs mainly in the summer months between October and March. During winter it sometimes rains when a cold front comes in from the Indian Ocean. The Kruger Park stays open all year round and I am often asked what the best time to visit Kruger is. My answer is always this - you can see the animals all year round, but it is a little more difficult during the summer months due to thicker vegetation. If one feels the heat of summer, it may be advisable to visit the Park during winter when it is not so hot.
Until next time -Clive
OPEN SAFARI VEHICLES VS MINI BUS COMBIS
Wildlife Safaris uses a combination of open safari vehicles and mini bus combis on guided tours to the Kruger National Park.As a guide I feel it is my duty to list the advantages and disadvantages of both these vehicles.
ADVANTAGES – MINI BUS COMBIS
·Comfortable- air-conditioned – high enough for good game viewing.
·Protection from adverse weather conditions such as rain, and very cold early morning drives.
·Not very easy to take photographs.
ADVANTAGES – OPEN SAFARI VEHICLES
1.The standard open safari vehicle offers an elevated, unobstructed seating position for game viewing and photographing the animals.
2. It introduces a spirit of adventure to the guests and will certainly be a memorable experience.
3. One feels a lot closer to the animals.
1.The biggest disadvantage is being subject to the weather conditions, e.g., rain cold early morning drives and sweltering hot summer conditions.
2.The guide, who is normally the most experienced game viewer on the vehicle, is much lower than the people on top and may miss some sightings
These notes have been compiled by safari guides who have experienced both open vehicles and minibus combis under many different conditions. Please note that very few websites discuss weather conditions but in reality it is a most important factor whilst on safari.
Bye for now
On one of my recenttrips to Kruger , I was confronted by a huge elephant who decided that he was going to have some fun with me. We had just arrived in the Park and were driving along one of the dirt roads traversing the Crocodile river when we spotted this bull elephant heading in our direction. I had two Australian ladies with me in the bus at the time and I said to them that I would reverse to a point where he would cross right in front of the bus on his way down to the river.He came onto the road right in front of the bus, but instead ofcrossing the road, he decided to investigate the bus. He came up to the bus and I realised that he was not going to stop. I started to reverse and he just kept on coming towards the bus. I then decided to increase speed, but he just increased his speed. I went faster in order to get distance between us. I reversed around a bend in the road until we could not see him and then waited to see if he would follow us. He did.When he saw us again he picked up speed and came lumbering after us again. Of course I started reversing again, keeping a healthy distance between us. We again went around another bend in the road and could not see him. We stopped and waited to see what he would do. Sure enough he came around the bend, saw us and started to chase us again.This happened a few more times until I had reversed about four kilometres down the road. Eventually he decided he had had enough fun with us and wandered off to the river.In the meantime the ladies were videoing the whole episode and thoroughly enjoying this experience. They have promised to send their video to me. If they do, I will try and put it on our blog.
Bye for now Clive
Recently we had guests from USA booked on our4 day Kruger Park & Panorama Tour . After discussions with the guide , we decided to change our route in order to give the overseas visitors game drives in the open plains of central Kruger as well as the bushveldin southern Kruger. So the route wentfrom Jo’burgvia Blyde River Canyonon the panorama- Orpen Restcampfor 1 night-Satara – Skukuzafor 2 nights& then down to Malelane Exit Gate .
Orpen Restcamp was named in honour of Eileen Orpen who donated severalfarms towardsthe earlydevelopment of Kruger National Park. This small & friendly camp has been upgraded & the BD2chalets are certainly comparable to the largercamps . They are equipped with air-con,shower/ toilet, kitchenette &braaifacilities .There is also a pool , a shop&the whole atmosphere is more like a private camp .Pictures courtesySANParksCopyright © SANParks.org 2004 - 2007
Game viewing results were most successful with a breeding herd of elephant just before checking into camp& next morningthe Orpen road paid off with sightings of lion , rhino & a beautifulherd of buffalo. Travelling south they passed Tshokwane picnic site built on the banks of the NwaswitsontoRiverwhich was devastated by floods in February . Heading down towards Skukuza the bush becomes thicker with more trees & increasedbrowsers such as kudu.After a full day game viewing around the Sabie River region , they set off still in search of the elusive leopard on the4th day . The road to Malelane has a number ofrocky outcrops for leopards& we have a lot more sightings these days compared tomy early guiding days during the 1980’s&90’s .
The tour finished with a memorable breakfast on the deck of the PestanaHotellooking acrossthe Crocodile River .Wish I had been there!
‘Bye for now-Chris
Once again picked up from one of the many guest houses in the Melville area and headed straight down to Kruger.The road was nice and quite,the calm before the storm of the easter weekend.We where able to arrive in time for lunch in Kruger and stopped over at the Pretoriuskop camp where we had a light meal.
I had 2 guests from America ,both just qualified as Doctors.The drive to our overnight stop was great seeing lots of general animals ie. zebra,kudu etc.
Dinner was in the main dinning room,then early to bed for a 6.00am drive down south to Lower Sabie for breakfast.All of the Big 5 by now where seen so bacon and eggs went down well
The Drive back to Skukuza for a lunch break was full of elephants and the odd buffalo in the river bed.
They departed on the sunset drive at 16.30 while i did a Braai for them.The drive got back at 19.30 and the meat was ready,
The next morning we once again left for a game drive and saw a beautiful leopard cross the road,i was very excited it was a young one so it hung around for quite a while.
The route home was done on Good Friday so not much traffic, great people and amazing sightings
INTRODUCTIONFROM THE OFFICE
HelloEveryonearound the World!My
name is Christine& I’d like to tell you more about booking a
Wildlife Safaristries to offer a personalised service from the office as well as “ on safari “& we welcome your reviews after you have travelled with us . There is a guestbook on the website or for Lonely Planet readers , please go to-
Hope to hear from you soon ! Christine
A fantastic experience was had at the private lodge on our first game drive of the trip. We came
MSL 2 rhinos crossing
MSL departure of game drive
It is high time that the Kruger parks longest surviving safari tour starts to blow it own trumpet.We have been hiding our light under a bushel for far too long and the time has come to join the rest of the safari businesses in publishing their highlights.
We have been in business since 1971 and still going strong. Our guides are extremely professional and have many, many years of experience in negotiating the roads of the Kruger. Our motto is ”NOBODY KNOWS KURGER PARK LIKE WE DO”
Our credibility in this business is the fact that we havebeen named for many years as one of the most reliable safari companies operating in the Kruger park by LONELY PLANET- a Formidable tourist guide manual.Our guides have been with wildlife safaris for many years.
Nik Duxbury, the senior guide, has been with the company all his working life.
Clive Alborough has been with Wildlife since 2001.
Anthony [HOPPY] Hawell joined the company in 2006.
All three have had my years of Kruger park experience and are very well versed in regularly locating the “BIG FIVE” for their clients.Our most recent trips to the Kruger have been mind boggling to say the least. The Kruger park has major flooding and many brides have been damaged and most dirt roads are closed to the public.From now one this blog will be a regular feature and hopefully we will have many exciting stories to tell.
Nik left & group at Tintswalo
Anthony with Swedish guests