South Africa & our 1st safari

Wow what a start. Late leaving Sydney at 7.30 pm, we had exit aisle seats which were great but the arm to my screen was loose and kept falling down. After some discussion with the steward including a suggestion that we move, I decided just to hold it for the flight to Perth (better than losing our exit aisle seats)! We had a very short layover in Perth where we transferred from Virgin to South Africa Airlines. All went well & we boarded at 11 pm local time (1am back home..so in fact it was now my birthday). You wouldn’t believe it but the screens where the boys were sitting weren’t working! I swapped with Josh so he could watch something. So figuring I couldn’t watch anything, or listen to anything as there was no music either, I thought I’d read, but no, the overhead light wasn’t working either. At this stage they served dinner! It was pretty much inedible so at that point I decided to sleep. Its about a 11 hour flight so it was a long night !!!

We arrived in Johannesburg at 4.30 am & had a connecting flight to Port Elizabeth at 8 am. We had no issues about missing it, there were no queues and we sailed through immigration, picked up bags, re checked in, had a walk around the few little shops then in no time we were ready to board for our last leg. 3 flights in under 24 hours.. no need to watch the safety lecture.. in fact we could have presented it! A great flight on BA on a half full plane & we were in PE in an hour. I was sitting in a window seat & the view the whole way was amazing. All I could see below was mountains. I was just so amazed that I was flying over the southern part of Africa. 

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We picked up our hire car & were  on the road in no time. All very excited (but tired) & looking for animals! Not a particularly attractive drive out to Amakhala Reserve where we are staying for the next three nights at Hillsnek Safari Camp. PE is, from the main road, just another city. The buildings in the city look quite run down & Josh kept remarking on the use of barbed wire around every home and building. It certainly was very different to anything else we’ve experienced. The landscape though is very similar to home.. very scrubby & quite arid. Big sand dunes along the coastal route with very similar flora to ours at home.. reminded me of the Central Coast.

After about an hours drive we arrived at Amakhala Reserve. We had to enter through 2 gates which we had to make sure closed behind us! And it wasn’t long before we realised why. We entered a parking area & while waiting to be collected saw Rhino and warthogs (on the other side of the fence thank goodness). We were then picked up in a “sick rig” (boy’s lingo not ours) by an attractive South African lass called Megan who advised us she would be our guide for our stay.

On the drive from the carpark to the lodge we saw wildebeest, water buck, zebra and wait for it.. a cheetah! She was lying under a tree not far from our lodge.

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On arrival we were greeted by the staff, a cold drink & homemade cookies. Renzo explained the lay of the land and showed us to our “tents”. Can I just say, if camping was like this, I would have taken it up years ago! The ‘tents’ are enormous & contain a sitting area, bedroom and bathroom. Around the front is a timber deck that looks out onto the most divine view. We unpacked our bags and had the long awaited shower but no ordinary shower .. it was outside. I’ve got to say, getting naked & wet outdoors (totally private of course) while knowing there were wild animals on the other side of the very visible electric fence was something else. Then there is the complimentary mini bar!

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After finishing off our gin & tonic & beer from the mini bar, we met up with the other guests (only 2 other couples) for lunch. I enjoyed a salad of roast beetroot & feta and the boys all had the venison burgers. This was finished off with a speciality of South Africa Melktert (milk tart) which was just lovely. All accompanied by a lovely glass of local rose.

It was then time for our afternoon safari. We were collected in our ‘sick rig’ by Megan and had the most amazing 3 hours. Amakhala Reserve is some 17,000 acres & we whirled and jigged around in search of the cheetah we had seen earlier. We found her & watched her stalking a herd of impala. It was something else! Following, we saw a mongoose, water buffalo, ostriches, elands, and the graceful giraffes. Megan stopped at a beautiful spot for a magnificent sunset and sundowners which were accompanied by some very delicious snacks from the kitchen. I don’t think we will starve!

I’m now writing this from our deck in the lamplight listening to the dassies screaming in the background indicating that the cheetah is nearby. Dinner is in half an hour.. looking forward to it.

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