On a private concession inside Kruger National Park….
Rhino Walking Safaris have, in my opinion, got it right. They have a variety of safari experiences in their three accommodation options; Rhino Post Lodge, Plains Camp and Platforms – a multi-level large wooden sleepout platform in the middle of nowhere, where you can spend a night in the branches overlooking a little waterhole.
Rhino Post Camp, their solid-walled safari lodge on the banks of a dry riverbed, combines rustic and luxury (if that is possible) with innovative design features like dry packed stone walls held in check by wire casings. From here they give the option of walks or 4×4 drives – the night drive is fascinating, when bushbabies leap from tree to tree and owls stare into the spotlight.
Then I spent a couple of nights at their traditional ‘Out of Africa’ style tented safari camp called Plains Camp. Don’t go thinking this is anything like camping – it’s far more luxurious than that but still has the feeling of a 19th century explorer camp, with everything under canvas including the kitchen and mess tent.
Here you do bush walks and however many I do, I still expect to come across lions sleeping in long grass, but never have. I think I will wet my pants the day it happens, and it probably will. One guide in Botswana told me that he didn’t’ consider lions a problem, it was elephants that scared him more.
At Plains camp I donned a little backpack for a gentle walk to the overnight platforms. Platforms camp is like a giant multi-level wooden climbing frame amongst trees and foliage, with stairs leading from one level to another and wooden walkways directing you to individual sleeping platforms about eight metres above ground. On each of the four sleeping platforms is a large chest, which hides two decently thick folded mattresses, zip-out sleeping bags, sheets and comfortable pillows. They seem to have thought of everything, even torches and paraffin lanterns for an atmospheric night-time camping safari feel.
I erected my tent-shaped fly screen and the rain cover against the autumn morning dew, both ingeniously suspended by poles and hooks. Meanwhile, the safari rangers prepared a braai (barbecue) on the wooden dining deck below. They lit a fire and typical South African braai food started sizzling on the grate. Borewors – thick farm sausage and lamb chops are a pre-requisite. It’s always men who lord over the fire (cooking seems to be macho if it’s outside) and I have noticed that the guys that blacken the meat until its almost inedible, never eat it themselves. In this instance, the borewors was good and the chops overdone – sigh! You can’t really go too wrong with a Greek salad (what’s to ruin in lettuce, tomato, onion, olives and fetta?). It’s not fancy, but being cooked outdoors under the stars makes it taste great and is perfect for this safari camp setting. Wine and beer appeared and everyone sat around the picnic table in a spirit of camaraderie, that you don’t find in more formal surroundings.
Noises of the African night seem louder and closer when there are no walls, but the hyenas cackling and lions grunting did not disturb my sleep more than once or twice. I was happy to be woken by such sounds, as it only added atmosphere to the unusual circumstances. Morning sunlight filtered through the African bush to reveal the tracks of a leopard that had stopped at the little waterhole beneath us
during the night. Some buck had drunk there too and it is unlikely that the two had met or we would have heard some action.
Many South Africans start the day with rusks. These are hunks of slow-cooked bread and raisins dried for storage (by the 18th and 19th century trekkers) and dunked in tea or coffee. At first I wondered what these stale things were, but I’ve become used to them and even eat them sometimes. By 7am we had set off for a 2½ game walk back to Plains Camp, where a much more satisfying brunch awaited.
I flew on a charter aircraft of Johannesburg International right into Skukuza airstrip inside Kruger National Park. The camps are only 20 minutes drive into the bush from this airstrip and I was collected right on time. It was so convenient and hassle free that I would highly recommend Nelair Aviation. They also operate charter flights from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA). At Johannesburg (O R Thambo International) they have an executive lounge, which made the experience much more pleasurable .
|Safari Satisfaction Index (SSI)|
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