Day 4 (Finally Feels Like Africa)
Today we had to say goodbye to Cape Town, because we relocated to Hoedspruit (Pronounced like oo-d-sprite), South Africa to stay on the Kapama Game Reserve. We packed up our belongings and met up with our driver LeLe one last time. The airport he took us to was quite small and didn’t exactly have the same regulations as an American airport. We didn’t have to take off our shoes, my dad carried a full bottle of water with him through the xray scanners, and there was only a metal detector we had to walk through, which didn’t even go off when my mom with two metal knees passed through…I feel super safe.
Once we got all checked in we rode an airport shuttle to what had to have been the tiniest airplane I have ever seen. We walked off of the bus onto the runway where we were greeted by flight attendants who were taking our carry-ons away from us to be stored with the other luggage because apparently even our carry-ons were too big to fit in the over head bins of this miniature plane.
Luckily the flight only took about 2 hours. Once we landed, the plane literally had to do a u-turn on the runway because this “airport,” which is in the middle of the Reserve, only has one take-off/ landing strip.
Once we were at a complete stop they shuffled us off the plane onto the runway and directed us towards this two room hut looking building where we could wait for our luggage. They called us outside once the suitcases were being unloaded. They kind of just dumped all the luggage on the sidewalk for everyone to find. It reminded me of people throwing fish food into a pond. Once it hit the surface it was a mad house trying to weave through the crowd to get your belongings.
Our personal game driver came over and met us, and then showed us to the vehicle we would be taking to the reserve. It was this huge open jeep with no doors and no roof, with three levels of seating…so basically just moving seats on wheels.
This is the vehicle that we get driven everywhere in. It’s awesome…except when you do your hair for cute photos and then it turns into a knotted bush by the time you get there.That’s fine. So after we loaded up we were off to the Lodges in the middle of the reserve. We maybe drove for about two minutes before passing a watering hole where two huge giraffes were grazing. Because I’m an idiot, I of course stood up and started squealing at the top of my lungs. Apparently giraffes do not like such high-pitched screeches, and the driver had to tell me to sit down and contain my enthusiasm if I didn’t want them fleeing the scene.
After we gawked for about five minutes we continued down the road where we also saw these antelope looking creatures called Nyala. We saw tons of Mongoose, birds (but who cares about those), and monkeys running across the road. This was all just on the drive to where we are staying. I was literally crying I was so happy, I am indeed THAT person.
Once we arrived at what they call “the Lodge,” we were greeted by a man holding warm vanilla hand towels to wipe our faces off with, which was definitely a step up from the clorox wipes mom was handing out.
After we were done smelling each other’s vanilla scented faces, a greeter showed us around the Lodge. The Lodge is basically made up of a large fenced-off piece of safari, probably half a football field in length and width, with various buildings placed all around. There is a library which is the only place wi-fi is available, there is a dining room, a gift shop, a bar, a pool, a high-tea room, and a bunch of private cabins. Every building except the cabins is basically two walls and a roof. They all have this type of structure so that the air can flow in and out, especially in the summer when it’s blazing. Here is a picture of the front entrance/reception area, so you can kind of get an idea of what all the buildings look like. This is also where the gift shop is located and where we are picked up every day for our game drives.
So basically I expected to be staying in tiny cabins with nice bathrooms….NOPE. My mom got us the nicest rooms you can imagine, with huge vaulted ceilings, free standing bathtubs, and an outdoor and indoor rain shower. Each cabin has its own pool…because obviously we don’t like to share with the plebeians. It is literally insane. The only bad part is there is no wi-fi. Hence, why I’m super behind on blog posts. Here is what the rooms look like:
There are also animals running around everywhere in the Lodge area. They told us when we were being shown around that we can not sleep with our doors open or leave any items hanging outside to dry because the monkeys will steal things and run away. I personally wanted to make it my goal to lure one into the room so I could have a friend, but my sister told me I’d probably get HIV and die. She ruins all of my hopes and dreams.
The monkeys were literally jumping from tree to tree above us as we were being shown to our cabins. My dad had to remind everyone to keep their mouths shut when watching them. Also, the monkeys have learned what times the meals are served and will all kind of gather on the trees outside the eating area, and every ten minutes or so the staff send a person outside to clap at them. Honestly, if I had known this job was available I don’t think I would have gone to college. Emily Ballsack: Professional Monkey Scarer.
There are also deer and Tragelaphus (pictured below) literally lounging everywhere. I must have stood about two feet away from one and it literally could not give a shit. And apparently when my dad went to the dining area to grab some cookies, one of these guys was standing just outside the wall so my dad leaned over and stuck out his hand and the thing licked it. I personally would not let something flea and tick infested groom my appendages but my dad seems to have different standards.
So, we asked one of the staff here how these animals got in, since the Lodge area is fenced all the way around. They told us that they hop the 10ft fence. Now let me tell you, at night I decided during dinner that I wanted to head back to the room early, so of course I had to walk back in the pitch black by myself. There are little solar lights illuminating the pathways, but it is still like advanced darkness. I also thought there would be staff stationed along the way…nope. Just me.
So anyone who knows me knows I’m a little chicken shit. I legit make the 7 year old I nanny walk down into the basement first, so if there are any monsters they attack him before me. So walking back in the dead of night, by myself, in the middle of the safari, with the thought in my head that animals can jump the fence, was terrifying. Everytime I heard a crack or shuffle in the blackness I figured it was a lion and those were going to be my last moments. At one point there was a huge snap on what I’m only assuming was a fallen branch, and by then I had gotten myself so worked up that I burst into a full out sprint back to the room. Well, in the midst of my sprint I actually ran right past two housekeepers, but it didn’t register that they were standing there until a few seconds later. So I’m sure they just saw this chubby white girl darting past them gasping for air with a panicked look in her eyes.
That was fun.
Anyway, once we got settled into our rooms it was time for lunch. So apparently we have the same waiter everyday. His name is Sam and he is adorable. Every meal is buffet style so I was wondering what exactly his duties were…well let me tell you. He pulls out our chairs, re-folds our napkins for us every time we leave the table to get food, he constantly hovers like three feet from us and as soon as the last bite of food goes in our mouths he is already taking away the dirty plate. It’s REAL fancy.
After lunch we went back to the rooms to relax until high-tea in the afternoon. Apparently they are very used to fat American tourist coming to their resort because all we do all day, every day, is eat. Even when we are driving around the reserve, they stop half way through to give us snacks…even though we had just finished eating an hour ago. And I’m really really okay with this.
After high-tea we met our game driver in the reception area and headed out for our evening drive. Apparently the animals are super inactive during the day time and are most interesting at dawn and dusk, which is why all we do during the day is sit around and eat.
After loading up, we headed off. Basically how the drive works is the have a guide driving the jeep and then they have a tracker sitting on the hood of the jeep in this lifted lifeguard looking seat, who looks for tracks and poop and other tracky things. Our tracker’s name is Kenny, which is super easy to remember because of Kenny from South Park. We figure if something attacks the jeep he is the first one to go. We decided if a lion grabs him off the hood we are all shouting, “OH MY GOD, YOU KILLED KENNY!” before trying to recover his remains and flee for safety.
The drive took about three hours, two hours of daylight and an hour of night-time driving. During the daylight we saw an adult and baby hippo swimming in a pond.
And we saw the African Buffalo (which they call the black death since they are so aggressive and have black fur).
Such fright. Much intimidating. Very terror. Wow.
We saw many vultures huddled in a tree. We saw a group of adolescent monkeys literally hitting each other in a tree kind of like…
We saw a little group of warthogs, which made my dad extremely happy. I’m not sure why but he is obsessed with them. We visited a zoo in Florida one time where they had an enclosure of warthogs and you could view them from the open top. He grabbed my sister’s feet and was about to dangle her over the side so she could get a better look but then he got caught…This is why we can’t have nice things.
Once the sun started setting, they pulled over the jeep and set up a sunset picnic in the middle of this patch of grass. We saw lots of fruit bats and even heard hyenas calling for each other. And the next morning we saw their tracks, which consisted of several hyena footprints and dirt flattened out by something they were dragging. And when we were almost back to the camp we saw three hippos out of the water. One of them was a baby hippo and I about died. Apparently it is super rare to see them out of water and Kenny told us in his five years of working as a tracker he as only seen that twice!
After dark, because there are no lights in the actual game drive you can see the Milky Way. It was amazing and literally one of the coolest parts of the trip so far. We also saw the Southern Cross, a huge orange moon rise, and a ton of shooting stars. Only bad part about the night time is the temperature drops from about 70 degrees down to about 50 degrees in the matter of minutes. Thankfully they had blankets for us, but it was still freezing because you are moving pretty fast in the jeep and the wind is blowing.
Once we returned we met at a special place for dinner which has tables circled around a huge bonfire. We over heard some people talking and they were saying that most nights the guests are joined by a wild porcupine named Elvis, who likes to pick up the scraps. I didn’t get to see him because I was too busy fleeing from the lion but there is always tomorrow night.
This was probably the best and always will be the best day of my life (sorry Jordan and future babies). The scenery was incredible, the animals were just feet away, and I got to live out my dream of riding through the safari. We get to do it again tomorrow and hopefully spot elephants, rhinos, and leopards. We are also going to this elephant sanctuary where we get to fondle the majestic beasts and I’m literally squealing just thinking about it. FONDLE!