The Birds and the Bees and the Lions Too

[Alert: Graphic images and explicit language]. Good. I can see I have your full attention.

So how many safaris have we been on with our kids here in Africa? Three? Four? Now we go on the first one WITHOUT kids, and what should we get to see the very first afternoon at Banoka Bush Camp?

Mating lions. In fact, it’s the first time we’ve seen anything mate in the wild. If you don’t count the odd dragon flies over our pool.

How cool would that have been for the kids, I ask you? And, more importantly,
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Apparently Botswana is not in Africa

If our arrival in Maun is anything to go by, our stay in Botswana is going to be out-of-this-world extraordinary.

Although I should mention that we’re travelling without kids for an entire week. I’ve often said that I’d go ANYWHERE without kids. Just imagine – no last minute screaming at the house because Sunshine can’t find Billy. No ghastly realization halfway to the airport that we’ve forgotten the Drammamine. No confiscated scissors at security, or being whisked off to be checked for explosives because we brought a suspicious looking light-up bouncy ball. No having to pretend mid-air that these are someone else’s children when two of them start throwing up because we’ve forgotten the Drammamine. No squabbles over the window seat. No spilled apple juice on your lap. No “I HAVE to go to the bathroom” while we’re waiting at security. No “when do we get there’s” whatsoever.

Even so, our arrival at Maun International Airport – a big word – is exceptionally smooth as African arrivals go. We step into the crowded entrance hall,
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Stalking the Elusive Leopard

At the end of my interview with Donovan and Leanne at Kitara Camp, I promised you an update on whether we finally found our leopard, so here it comes.

We were full of expectations as we set off in the direction of Kruger Park shortly before the New Year. As anyone will tell you, Kruger Park is THE place to see leopards. I’m not sure why this is true. And technically, we weren’t actually going to Kruger Park. Kitara ...  Continue Reading

A Life in the Bush Managing a Game Lodge

Having gone on several safaris since living in Africa, I have always wondered what it would be like to manage a game lodge. Is it exhausting? Do you get lonely? Do you ever tire of the animals?

So when we found ourselves at yet another game lodge over New Year’s, I decided to interview our hosts. We were travelling with my brother and his kids, and the ten of us were the only guests at Kitara Lodge, a lovely place deep in Klaserie Nature Reserve, which abuts Kruger Park on its Western boundary. It is approximately a seven hour’s drive from Johannesburg.

Our hosts at Kitara were Donovan and Lee-Anne Detert. Donovan has lived in the bush for twenty years, and ...  Continue Reading

Jamila Lodge

In my recent post about how to pick a safari, I promised I’d tell you about Jamila Lodge in Welgevonden Game Reserve as soon as I’d seen it, and now I have.
The food at Jamila Lodge was excellent

Midday bliss between game drives

As I’ve said before, you really can’t do much wrong when picking a game lodge, so if you find a fairly decent deal for one, grab it. Jamila was recently renamed (from Martial Heights, which our host told us sounds like a row of flats and therefore didn’t attract a high enough number of guests in the past) and was offering a limited time special to promote its rebirth, so to speak. It has everything you could ask from a luxury lodge. It’s situated on top of a hill with stunning views all around and a cool breeze wafting up from the valley, the service and food are excellent, and we particularly enjoyed the hot tub right on our own private deck. 
Reminds me of the platform to get on an elephant’s back

A special touch is the ramp for easy access to the game drive vehicle and the hot towels and welcome drink upon your return to the lodge. In case you can’t bear to be cut off from the world for a few days, there is WiFi in the main lodge. And Jamila welcomes families travelling with children, even small children, something you won’t find often in Welgevonden, which in general seems to cater more to the honeymoon and luxury safari crowds.
As for the reserve itself: Having been to Madikwe twice, I was eager to see something else. Welgevonden, at least on paper, is a bit closer to Joburg and has the same advantage of being malaria-free and home to the Big Five. In reality however, a series of road construction projects between Modimolle and Vaalwater (“Attention: Road construction for the next 48 km”), where the road becomes a one-laned pot-holed dirt path, makes your drive from Joburg to the West gate a four-hour affair. It’s a bit more hilly than Madikwe and the scenery is much more varied. You could be going up a rocky hill one minute and down into a lush valley with a river meandering through the next. But I have to say missed Madikwe’s packs of wild dogs and the fact that you almost cannot help yourself from stumbling over a pride of lions. I was also worried that the abundance of water in this area might have the effect of spreading out the animals too much, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem – our first game drive yielded a wonderful viewing of elephants wallowing and playing in a mud hole.
It’s not that easy to get such an open shot at elephants
One thing about elephants: In my imagination, before moving to South Africa, I always pictured elephants walking across a wide open plain of dry grass, single file, to be seen from miles and miles away. Well, it’s not quite like that. Elephants, you see, eat trees. So where do they like to be? In between the trees, that’s right! They are usually so quiet and well hidden that you might pass them by at less than ten meters away without having any inkling that they’re there. They usually leave a pretty wide path of destruction so it’s easy to see where they’ve been, but not so easy to actually find them.

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