A Safari was not on my bucket list, but having had the opportunity recently, I would definitely recommend this as a top travel experience.
A short flight from Johannesburg to Durban and then a 3 hour drive, we arrived at the Phinda Private Game Reserve situated in northern KwaZulu-Natal. A quick stop at security we still had a further 12km before we reached the Mountain Lodge, where we were staying for just one night. On the way we started to see wildlife including zebras and giraffes, a snake slithered out in front of the car and we stopped and observed as birds screeched warnings to each other, we realised that this was untamed nature.
We were greeted at the lodge with cold towels and drinks and then escorted to our 5* accommodation with fabulous views from the balcony over the reserve. A bath big enough for two, outside shower and private decking with plunge pool. It was surreal to sunbath with the sounds of monkeys in the trees around us and some cheeky ones actually venturing onto our decking!
The evening game drive was at 4pm, we met in reception for drinks and canapes and met our driver, who had over 20 years experience and was extremely knowledgeable about the reserve. He knew where and when we would have the best chances of observing the wild animals and asked us what we wanted to see, which was the ‘Big 5’ including my favourite, the rhinoceros!! We left with another couple our excitement mounting…
Exploring the bush we came across many weird and wonderful creatures normally only seen in a zoo, it was amazing to see them in their natural habitat. We saw several lone male giraffes and then a troop of female giraffes, enormous yet still graceful. We saw families of warthogs and discovered that the babies run with their tails held high, so their mothers can locate them in the bush! Groups of zebras, hardly camouflaged with their snazzy black and white coats, in fabulous condition. Baboons and several species of birds, including a flock of vultures and the rare fish eagle, sitting high and proud in a tall tree overlooking the lake waiting for dinner. We tracked cheetahs through the bush and came across one guarding its kill…
Later, as dusk fell, we were told we were going to find some fire flies. In the semi darkness, our eyes deceiving us, we weren’t sure what we were seeing – hundreds of flickering lights before us, but as we got closer we realised they were candles illuminating the way to a huge camp fire. We were greeted with glasses of champagne and sat in front of the fire, still trying to absorb all we had seen. Dinner was served here, in the bush, tables had been set and we were served locally caught fish, vegetables and fresh salads. At one point we heard an animal approaching, but it was only a hyena obviously hoping for some scraps!
We were escorted back to our lodge, where we found lit candles and a warm bath, chocolates and more champagne waiting for us – a fitting end to a fabulous day.
The 6am game drive began with juice and coffee and then, as the sun was rising, we set off again. This time we managed to find my favourite animal – in fact a herd, or crash of rhinoceros larger than life and awesome in their magnificence! Not only that but we also managed to see lions, squabbling over food and also mating lions which, we were told, was very rare to see!
Although only a short stay, we felt we were extremely lucky to have seen so much wildlife in its natural habitat and I would definitely recommend you put the safari experience on your bucket list!