Seven Safari Days in South Africa
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
By Philip, Sienna, Chris & Mummy
Our family have travelled a lot. Living in Asia, we’ve been spoilt for choice, but the bug runs in the greater family too. Our grandmothers have lived abroad, travelled on a shoe-string and our aunts and uncles have pins in most of the world map. Needless to say, it was tough for our ‘mormor’, (mum’s mum), to come up with an experience that would match, let alone beat anything we’d done before when trying to plan a 3 generation trip for her 75th birthday. But then, the suggestion came up: Safari in Africa.
Our parents had always said that it would be a long time before we’d ever get to do a safari. From what we’d heard, you had to be at least 12 years old, which meant another 9 years of waiting if we were to go as a family. But as out of a hat, mormor told us one day: ‘I’ve heard of this Danish company who run a camp on the edge of the Kruger park where you can have little ones too!” And this was necessary, as it wasn’t just us (aged 3, 8 and 9), but also our cousins Caspar and Sophia joining, who are 3 and 5. With some long term organisation, the trip went ahead for our October half term break - two families and mormor coming from Denmark, and our family from Singapore.
We picked the longer straw when it came to transport. Direct flight from Singapore to Johannesburg and a short flight on to Hoedspruit. Our family from Denmark on the other hand, spent 26 hours underway, having to stop in Doha on the way. we were lucky to leave later and arrive earlier but guess we got the short straw with the jetlag though.
As we approached our destination, we quickly got an idea of how much 'in the middle' of nature we were going to be. We arrived to the smallest airport we'd ever seen - Hoedspruit consisted of one house, no controls of any kind and the luggage were handed to us manually.
After an hour drive through a country side that seemed to go on for ever, the camp finally appeared. The Ndzuti bushcamp is owned by Nyati, a Danish company, but run by a South African couple. We had the place more or less to ourselves with a hut each, two bedrooms, a main living area and a top bunk for extra space needed. As we arrived early we had good time to unpack, relax and have some food, before the remaining 9 family members arrived.
I (Sienna), felt at home quickly. And while chilling at the pool, it didn't take long for two giraffes to join us and later a family of monkeys who were up for an evening dip. Incredible to be living…in a real life zoo!
At 4pm, long-awaited, our cousins, uncle, aunts and mormor finally arrived! So amazing to be reunited under the savannah sun with pooltime, drinks, opening of presents and lots and lots of playtime. We’re in for good time here at the Ndzuti camp!
DAy 1 - main camp chillout
It was our first day at the Ndzuti Safari Camp. Yet again, a meal with a view, always looking a different game visiting the lake by our lodge.
This morning the Kudu antilope family joined us for breakfast having sips of water by the lake. Seems like depending on the time of day, the different families of animals have different slots, leaving each other to their own activ.
Today was going to be relaxed. Getting over the jetlag, visiting the main Nyati lodge for pool and exercise time and an afternoon gamedrive. Getting in the open car was amazing - 3 generations together in the middle of the savannah and spotting Pumba (the warthog and one of the main characters from Lion King) was also a good start.
The Nyati Lodge is 40 min. drive away - bigger than our camp and with more extensive facilities. Some of us went for golfing, gym training and did yoga at the simple, but sufficient spot at the side of the entrance. Fun with pooltime and a lovely lunch plus massages for some.
At 4 pm we were ready for our first proper safari trip. A trip that turned out quite fruitful - which we guess is both good and bad in terms of expecations for the rest of the trip!
First there were hippos! Swimming, diving and popping out their head for us, 4 of them enjoyed a little show - and we had a safe distance to the most dangerous animal in this region.
The walkie-talkies were busy, and our open jeep had to shoot off for the next big sighting. Typically... just as we were headed for the animal Chris has been most excited to see, he fell asleep!
By the river 4 elephants were drinking and eating from the trees, one even stood on two legs to reach the tre leaves! We couldn't believe our luck so soon... but more was yet to come, only 10 min. later...
The jungle drums were all over the walkie talkies, and we weren't the only ones who wanted a piece of this special family. Only two cars are allowed at one sight at one time, so we had to queue for a little while. This was the only time, we really felt it wasn't just us in the camp - but of course if Mufasa, Simba and mum decides to say hello, so does all of us out there!
We were all pretty stoked with the results, and ready for a sunset downer! We met up with the other car (our family was split into two cars) for wine and snacks - all while the sun set and the moon came up.
With our luck, we thought we might be able to push it that night - perhaps we could get lucky a 4th time? Our cousin was certain she saw a leopard with her torch - and the guide pretty sure too. However, it wasn't confirmed - and it was ok to save some goodies for the other days anyway!
We were tired after all the impressions. A quick dinner and all were in bed by 9, ready for the jungle drums at 5am and our 5:30 morning drive.
DAY 2 - home alone
Today we split up inot the 'young' and 'old' group. Mormor, dad, uncle Chris and auntie Iben did a full day trip to experience some of SA's nature out in Drakensberg. The rest of us went for the usual routine: morning safari, afternoon safari and a long lovely break in between!
6am start, a little later than usual for this trip, and all kids, all ages were onboard!
Giraffes seemed to be the theme of the day. We started off with 3 and were amazed when we found out how long the giraffe tongue was compared to ours. They were huge and what was also was quite cool was that I (Philip) asked the guide how you can tell if it is a male ore a female and we found out males usually don't have fluffy tops on their head and females do.
Before we came to Johannesburg, dad had bought us a safari book that I (Philip) enjoyed reading a lot and I read about an animal called a 'blue wildebeest'. I found out that 5 minutes after they are born they can already run and a day after they are born they can run as fast as the adults. We saw a lot of them and we found out the blue wildebeest wasn't the only animal who could do that,. some others could do it to but in a longer period of time like a leopard or a lion can do it in about 7 minutes and catch up with the parents in about 2 days.
Later on we saw a giraffe again - this time it bent down to drink from our little pond and soon after zebras also arrived for us to see.
The break inbetween safaris was nice and needed with the jetlag. We played boardgames, swam and chatted, and as it turned out, the four family members who did take the long trip to Drakensberg, said it was beautiful but would have been too long for the kids. And for the teenage cousins/nephew-nieces, getting some sleep in was also appreciated.
Day3 - the rarest of the big five
Today was going to be another relaxing day with a morning and afternoon game trip and just hanging out with the family at Ndzuti lodge. Other than kudus and and impala’s, our morning trip didn’t prove too successful to begin with, but with Gidi as our guide, we were shown tracks and told lots of interesting information on the habits of the elephants, rhinos and leopards. And just as we were about to head back, there was a call on the radio that lions had been spotted.
It was way inside the bush, so it took a good half hour off road driving, before we saw the family of 4 hidden well inside the bushes. A nice surprise end to our pre breakfast trip though.
As it turned out ,we wouldn’t be short of animal sightings. Alhough they don't always appear when you come to them, you can be lucky that they come to you! After breakfast, one by one game arrived to our lodge: impalas, 5 giraffes, 4 zebras and a family of warthogs. Again, it was like watching David Attenborough IRL!
We had a lot of fun together today. Swimming, diving, playing scrabble, building with toys with our cousins and parents, who also relaxed, read and had a drink or two.
Our afternoon game trip was a long search once again, but with one amazing surprise at the end. After our ususal midtime drink and snack, the sun set and we were almost home. And then Gidi did a last check with his flashlight by the nearby lake.....and there it was...a RHINO!
They are so rare now, bordering to extinct, so rhinos are one of the hardest of the big 5 to get in the book! We managed to get a short video of the big bouncy 2000 kg. daddy, before he quickly whisked off. We were excited, but not half as excited as our guide Gidi! He gets emotional when talking about rhinos, he said. He said it's because he can’t bear that the hunt for the horns as it might mean there won’t be any rhinos for our kids to see. Honestly, we can understand why this makes him sad.
We had a great dinner, and fun play with the torches. Early night, tomorrow was going to be the earliest rise on our trip - 4:30, going inside the Kruger park.
DAY 4 - KRUGER - GAME GALORE
We had high expectations for today. NdZuti and Nyati is in the Maseke reserve, an area that was opened up to Kruger Park 3 years ago, which means that any game that in the big park can enter Maseke too. That said, being the dry season and Kruger known for being more rainy, just means more of everything in the famous reserve at this time.
Kruger is a 2 hour drive from NdZuti and most of us slept on the way, reserving energy for the long day ahead.
Kruger didn't dissapoint. 2 min. into the park we were greeted by an elephant at the side of the road.
5 min. later, a lion couple appeared, attracting a hoard of cars. but quickly we went off road, and with our two guides growing up in Kruger, they knew how to navigate the grounds the size of Denmark.
We ticked off our 4th BIG FIVE game, the bufall, and being all excited about one or two of the amazing animals, we continuted to get more spoiled as the day went ahead.
We passed groups of 10-15 elephants, 20 sebras (incl. a newborn), 20 buffalos, more lions and of course giraffes just to name a few.
As the day turned into afternoon, the rain and the clouds also went, and the light was incredibe. A lot of driving, but all agreed - worth every kilometer.
We managed to see a rare cheetah! Still short of 1 BIG FIVE though, the leopard, but we still had 2 more days to go, and our guide, Gidi, was determined to find his favourite game for us before our departure.
DAY 5 - BUSH WALK & B-DAY CELEBRATIONS
Today was different in many ways. The morning was no-kids-allowed, as you have to be 12+ to do a safari walk outside of the car. We stayed home with dad and uncle Michael, while the others went bush walking... as in walking where the game have their home!
Gidi gave us some stern instructions. The most important one was to stand absolutely still in case of an elephant or lion would be near us. Only 5 min. later, we saw two cars in great speed passing, and when Gidi asked them why the sense of urgency, he discovered we were standing only 50 m. from a family of lions! Back into the car, quick drive, but no sighting unfortunately. The news of nearby lions made some in the group somewhat nervous, but there were no sign of any game on the walk, however we had some good learnings about tracks and behavioural patterns.
Those of us who slept in instead of walking, met up with the bushwalkers for a bush breakfast! Eating eggs, bacon and scones open air, on the savannah was pretty special.
As mentioned, the reason we went to South Africawas because of our mormor turning 75, in fact she's invited us all on this trip on her ownexpense! So of course celebrations were in order, and we chose today to mark her January birthday.
For the lunch the kids had written letters and made presents and the afternoon game drive transformed into another outside meal, this time under the stars!
We couldn't believe it when we arrived, the setup was so beautiful with Danish flags and amasingly laid tables with candles. Incredible food and of course, cake and song by the staff - in two languages! Our mormor was touched to say the least, what a day!
...still no leopard though...
DAY 6 - QUAD BIKES AND AFRICAN DANCING
Our last full day in NdZuti. We skipped the morning safari today after getting up early every morning. We missed out on a couple of elephants, but there were still no leopards. Today didn't care too much about animals though, it was about adrenalin and quad biking through the savannah!
Security didn't seem to be the highests priority here, we were only told where to speed and where to break, and only kids wore helmest. But maaan, it was fun! Only the giraffes weren't completely scared off by our quad motors, it was a fun way to get around, having spent so many days in the cars.
Today we were determined to get the leopard in the BIG FIVE book. We left early for our last drive to a new spot by the lakes and it was as if we were gettin the highlights of the week in one evening. All animals were showing off as we were The Lion King film crew filming the grand finale on the top of mountain. It did feel like a movie, when once again, we were served wine and experiences the best sunset so far.
However, the night wasn't finished. We joined a big 3 course communial dinner at the main Nyati lodge followed by African dance! And the trip back, all torches were out for that last chance to get a full hand of the rare game. And just then...5 min. before we reached our camp, on our very last game drive
, it casually strolled in front of the headlights of the car:
The perfect finale to a perfect trip.
Day 7 - goodbye
Today was all travel. A tough goodbye with our amazing guide Gidi + our 4 cousins, aunts and uncles and mormor, that we wouldn't be seeing for a good while. But what a way to spend a holiday together, 3 generations exploring South Africa on safari.
5 stars for sure!