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Trip Report Southern Africa, 2 weeks, 10 passport stamps!!

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This was our fifth visit to Southern Africa. We spent part of it looking for the perfect beach town in northern KZN where we would love to retire.

Our itinerary was as follows:

Marakele National Park - 2 nights Tlopi Tented Camp
Northern Tuli Reserve, Botswana - 2 nights Serolo Safari Camp
Kruger National Park - 1 night each Punda Maria, Letaba, Lower Sabie
Mtunzini - 2 nights Nkawu Cottage
Zululand Rhino Reserve - 3 nights Rhino River Lodge
Johannesburg - 1 night Southern Sun

We left on Friday night, 10 hour layover at LHR, another overnight flight to JNB. Two hour delay, arrived JNB late Sunday morning. First passport stamp. Avis rental car very slow. Finally made our way north to Marakele. We stopped in Thabazimbi for supplies. Unfortunately no liquor is sold on Sundays in S Africa - would have to come back tomorrow :).

We signed in at the Marakele gate, got the map to camp and did the game drive to our tent. Very nice! Beautiful view on a dam with the mountains beyond. The tent was well appointed and spotlessly clean. There is the sleeping/bathroom tent and a kitchen tent all on the same deck. Monkeys are a huge problem here, so the kitchen has been modified to keep them out. We were pretty tired so started the grill, ate dinner, settled in and went to bed. That's when the fun started (no! Not that!). It got very windy and we could hear thunder in the distance. The rain started lightly then got heavier and heavier. We were in the middle of a fierce storm with rain, wind, thunder, lightning and hail! We were in a tent and it was really scary! Fortunately the tent held up just fine and the storm passed. Then an elephant came to drink by the lake - very noisy and a bit unsettling when we couldn't see it. I was too tired and fell asleep. Up at dawn!

Marakele is home to a colony of vultures. We drove the next morning to go see them, but none were flying. Very narrow mountain road. If the park is to become more popular they will need to widen the road or start a shuttle service - two cars can't easily pass. We would come back. The park is divided between the "dangerous game" side (where Tlopi Camp is) and the "safe" side. The tunnel and gate dividing the two sides is effective. Due to the weather and wind, not much to see today so we went back to shop. On our return, many more animals greeted us. When we got to the predator side, we were greeted by elephants and a few other large game. No predators, which was as expected. It was too late to drive up to the vulture colony so we did more game drive and back to the tent to make dinner. Good day.

The next morning we woke at dawn after an uneventful sleep. We drove to the vulture road, but elephants had redecorated and a tree was fallen across the road. Just as well. We had a long drive to northern Tuli today. We enjoyed the game - and a few nice surprises - on our way to the main gate. We drove out, found our way to the main road and headed off.

Up next - the eventful drive to the border post to Botswana!!

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