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Trip Report Trip report - three weeks S Africa. Waterberg to KwaZulu Natal

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OK - this is really long. It's three weeks, 8 different camps, three distinct regions. Every one deserved some description. Here goes. June 4 - June 26

Leave Thursday JFK to LHR, arrive Friday. 12 hour layover (yuck) LHR-JNB
Saturday - Arrive JNB in AM, rent car, drive Entabeni
3 nights Entabeni, play golf, game drives. Really there for golf.
Tuesday, miss AM game drive, drive Timbavati, Shindzela 3 nights
Friday, Satara 2 nights – chosen for convenient location near Timbavati
Sunday (second week), drive Lower Sabie. 2 nights, golf Skukuza
Tuesday drive Swaziland, Royal Swazi Spa
Wednesday, Hluhluwe 3 nights Hilltop Camp
Saturday, Zululand Rhino Reserve, stay Rhino River Lodge 3 nights
Tuesday, Tembe Elephant park, 3 nights.
Friday drive back to Johannesburg
Saturday, fly JNB-LHR in evening
Sunday LHR – JFK

I think we had too much fun on this safari. I barely remember any of the glitches – and some were bad! And we didn’t see a lot of eles. We saw more rhino than eles for most of the trip.

We started out well. Took the train to JFK – no problems. Upgraded to Economy Plus at the last minute for just $319 for two. The seats reminded me of how travel was about 20 years ago. Wider, more leg room and the seats reclined more. We had a hellish 12 hour layover in LHR, but luckily we had access to the business lounge. But that’s when things got bad. Our flight was cancelled. Another flight two hours later had no business class seats left, and they weren’t sure we’d even get economy. Well, we were finally put in coach, middle seats, and on our way. It sucked, but we got there. Thankfully, we only had carry-on so our bags were with us.

Our debit cards didn’t work – had to get a cash advance. Really bad. But we had enough money to get us by for a while, so off to Avis. Got a Nissan Qanqian (sp?) mini suv and we were off. Easy driving on the wrong side on the highway. Running very late – can’t miss a game drive! – but had to stop. Wow – flat tire. Added air, and stopped at all the Quickstops (clean bathrooms and safe) on the N2 toll road for air, and we were OK for the rest of the trip. No leak, just low air. Phew.

After about a three-hour easy highway drive, including the final few miles on a gravel road, we arrived at Entabeni Wildside with about a half hour before our game drive. Signed our lives away and took a shower to get the airplane off of me (YUCK!). Our ranger, Munnik, was very nice. Young, enthusiastic and easy to talk to. Since we went to Entabeni for the golf, our expectations for the game drives were pretty low. It is 23,000 hectares (small by Kruger standards, pretty big for private game reserve standards) and fully fenced so we didn’t know what to expect. Well, we had great luck – hippos on land (our first) and 2 sub-adult lions along with all the usual game. Just know that some of the guests are there for the golf, not the game, so it can be quite different from what we are all used to.

The tented accommodations (the only tented option at Entabeni and quite reasonable) at Wildside were perfect for us. Off the ground, good size (not too big!), nice bathroom and the electric blankets were a nice touch – it was -5C on our first morning. If you go to the Waterberg region in the winter, take more warm clothes! The food was surprisingly good, except for the early morning bread/biscuits. And unlimited self-serve coffee. (I appreciate coffee at all times and temps). No fences around camp, so we had a few interesting visitors and required an escort in the dark. Vehicle : open, stadium seating.

Next morning, our ranger took us on a short game drive and then to the golf. We had fun, but without his clubs DH had a very bad round. But then we did the extreme 19th hole – take a helicopter up a mountain, try to hit a ridiculously small green and then take the helicopter back down the mountain. It was such fun!! But the pilot had a bit of trouble getting the power needed for the ride down and after our ride, it was shut down for the rest of the day. Our safari mates (a male foursome) were very unhappy – I don’t blame them. But ultimately were given a free future weekend with their families. The rest of the day was more about fun than game. After an uneventful game drive (I was in the seat next to the ranger and had a great time, ignoring the childish behavior behind me) there was dancing and drinking and general bad behavior in the fire-lit boma. It was a blast. Poor Munnik had to deal with all of the badly behaved adults.

The rest of the game drives were good, with great company – the Dutch kids and the Italian honeymooners. We had a fantastic cheetah sighting and drove under a giraffe eating. Had champagne with the newlyweds on an overlook in the “Upper Escarpment” - a fun ride up the mountain – with a beautiful view. If you want a great view at a camp, Ravineside in Entabeni could be a great option. It overlooks a grassy plain and there were so many animals! Our last night around the fire was excellent, with some of the off-duty rangers joining us for interesting chats. (I guess they heard us all the night before and wanted to join in the debauchery).

We loved Entabeni. It was an entirely different experience than a “normal” camp. It was the only camp that we met any Europeans, which was a bit odd. Not sure if most of you would enjoy it, but we had a lot of fun. Would definitely go back.

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