The Carrea family from Brazil arrived in South Africa early in the morning on 27 Dec 2011 for their first ever visit to the country. Meeting them at OR Tambo international airport it was clear that this is a long-awaited dream, especially for little Gabriel. He absolutely loves animals!
Their journey to Pestana Lodge in Malelane, lying south of the Kruger National Park, was underway. Our guests kept their tummies filled with all the edibles in their "Padkos" welcome-packs. On the way to the lodge we decided to rather drive through the Park and enter at Phabeni gate on the south-western side, while making our way down south to Maleleane, maximising their African experience as much as possible.
We had a warm welcome in the park. First by some impala, followed by a total of five Rhino sightings and a herd of elephant. It was quite a hot day in the Lowveld and many of the animals were looking for shelter away from the hot African sun. It was a great first drive through the park with many other smaller animals on the way and a happy family in the vehicle.
On day two we had a very early start to benefit from the cooler morning temperatures as this is ideal for game-viewing. The bonus for today was driving in an open safari vehicle! This allows for perfect sightings because the vehicles are much higher then ordinary ones and you can hear and smell so much more!
Everyone had some coffee and rusks before our departure at 5:30am whereafter a full-day game drive was waiting. Nearly 5 min into the park we had our first Rhino sighting for the day. This old male was covered in mud and very relaxed as he wandered through the field. We followed the road along the Crocodlie river and looped around past a bird hide while making our way to Afsaal. A Zebra crossing brought entertainment to the morning along with some interesting tree lessons. A few giraffes, more impala and other general game were seen. This family was so intrigued by everything they saw and the information that we shared with them, from birds to tortoises, chameleons and dung-beatles. They loved it all!
After a quick stop at Afsaal, we took the road towards our lunchtime destination, Pretoriuskop. The next moment there was another vehicle from the front and they were definitely looking at something more interesting then impala. "There's a leopard!", said the people in the passing vehicle. "In the tree!", said Joe. This was just perfect! Being almost the only vehicle around, we got a really good look at this majestic animal in its most favorite spot.
At Pretoriuskop the Carrea family didn't waste anytime to peak around in the giftshop. Fernanda and her mother Maria, really enjoys shopping and Mauro tagged along with pleasure. Gabriel and his grandad Marcos were way more fascinated with the trees and birds in the picnic area. While they were keeping themselves occupied we were preparing a scrumptious lunch with loads of African flavours. From pap and sheba with wors, a strawberry and blue-cheese salad and even freshly baked bread. Everyone was looking forward to this meal.
After lunch we headed up a bit more north on Napi road, then going south again, slowly making our way back towards Malelane gate. By this time the clouds have gathered around forming a thick dark cover across the sky. We could smell the rain and it was inevitable - we were going to get wet... It wasn't very long before the heavens opened up, pouring down buckets to cool down the earth. A typical afternoon thundershower was well-deserved and much welcomed by animals and plants alike. And the Carrea family didn't even mind to get wet. The important thing for them was to absorb all there is of our beautiful country.
Highlights of the day:
Rhino - check
Leopard - check
Elephant - check
Buffalo - check
Lion - not so lucky here
Be sure to check back soon for part II kicked off with a morning drive through the Kruger Park, where the Panorama route awaits.