A funny thing happened on my last holiday… but I’m getting ahead of myself. This is how it began, with me crying: “no, I can’t go! I’m terrified even watching lions on the television.”
Yet, here I am with my husband and a group of travellers, piled into two vans which will take us to Madikwe Game Reserve –the fifth largest game park in South Africa situated on the border to Botswana.
I spy an elephant
Excitement reaches new heights as the vans reach the gates and we are ushered into the game park for our short drive to the Lodge. Squeals emanate from the girls in the back of the van as we spy elephants, giraffes, zebra and impala and we’re not even on safari yet!
Arriving at the palatial Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge, the luggage is whisked away and there are drinks and a friendly welcome for the weary travellers. We are shown to our five-star accommodation: the rooms are spacious and luxurious boasting indoor/outdoor showers, a deck with a plunge pool, free standing bath, free fully stocked mini-bar and a romantic four poster canopied bed. True luxury!
There were watering holes dotted around the perimeter of the Lodge and our group was treated to a show by a herd of elephants cooling off in the water whilst we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch feast.
Our first safari … scary!
In the afternoon was our first safari and we were warned that we were only in danger if we got out of the truck, so with quickening pulses we were finally off.
Everyone was excited to see so many types of antelopes, steenboks, kudu and gnu… such a variety of species with different markings, horns and sizes.
Timing is everything
I soon realised that we had picked the perfect time of year—February—as all of the creatures had babies. We drove close to zebras and the gentle giraffes and these animals were not at all fazed by the truck.
I calmed down rapidly until we came around a corner and straight into the path of a young male elephant; young males at this stage in their lives are quite ornery so he stamped and puffed out his ears as though about to charge. The rangers were alert but backed up a bit to show we were not a threat. The elephant put on a bit of a blustery show before letting us creep past. Cue deep breath from me.
There were enormous Cape Buffalo grazing in herds and the guides were quite cautious with these big fellas. They told us they were one of the most dangerous animals. The most feared by all hunters, as their huge horns could overturn the truck and maul a human easily. Gulp!
We then found a watering hole where a massive white rhino was marking his territory—the enormity of his bulk and the sheer size of that horn was mesmerising. I forgot to be scared as the encounter was so engaging.
The king or in this case, the queen of the jungle
At the end of the day we heard of a lion sighting near the border to Botswana—two females and their cubs. We zoomed back and joined the queue of vehicles waiting for a peek.
Once again I noticed that our truck seemed to be much closer than any others had been, but the lions were so contented after a meal that they just looked like rather big, sleepy house cats.
It was quite unnerving when the sleek lioness lifted her head and stared right at us with her cool, amber eyes. We all laughed as I told our guide that was quite close enough for me and of course he went closer.
Falling in love again
On the way back we were treated to a magnificent African sunset and as the sun went down we turned on the spotlights.
I looked at my husband with tears in my eyes. I was falling in love again… with my wonderful husband for sharing such a magical experience with me and with the marvellous Madikwe.