It can be a lot. A lot for the senses. Your mind. And for the stomach.
Up, up and away you go from Cape Town with Cem Air or SAA Airlink - two hours and a smidge later you touch down in Hoedspruit. It’s warm. Warm, like “this is so, like, totally Africa,” warm *insert American accent here*.
A 45-min drive from here sits Tintswalo Safari Lodge*. Private luxury verby. The private Manor House offering is perfect for a group of up to 10. You have a butler, a chef, a private pool overlooking the animals' watering hole and it's fenced, unlike the main lodge, so it’s child-friendly.
And, oh, you have access to a private safari vehicle. Which, you don’t even have to drive yourself.
‘Going on safari’ can take many forms. And everyone’s experience is different.
It’s not exclusively about the watching of animals in the bush. The experience is made up of all the other surrounding elements.
Having a guide, or a guide and a spotter, or access to a guide and a spotter who also has Shangaan tracking skills is a stark contrast to, say, driving yourself and some friends or fam around the Kruger in your silver Corolla with a Coleman in the boot.
There is a sense of ease, a calm you don’t get when DIY-ing your way through the bush. But it also makes you a lazy animal spotter, I realised, as an almost subconscious laxness befalls you as animals are found for you.
You cruise along for hours, wind in your hair and the sun at your back. Your guides edge you closer than you’ve ever been to wild animals. They know the animals and the winding roads of the veld like the back of their hand.
Sorry to ruin the surprise, but the Tintswalo guides love to keep you in the dark. You take a corner, and voila, suddenly there’s a bush bar set-up with gin and tonics, bubbly and warthog braaing on an open fire. They even surprise you with leopard or lion sightings.
Nature, like we know, is a place where everything works as it should. It’s organised chaos, yet it’s seamless, unpredictably perfect.
In the bush, being open to nature’s surprises is key. Even when many of these surprised are initiated (and catered for) by humans.
You are surprised at how early you can have your first drink of the day. Mine? 6am coffee and Amarula on an early morning safari.
You are surprised at how long the day can feel (well you did get up at 5am for that safari), and how much you can rest, see and do in a day.
You are surprised when you sunburn despite all the SPF 50 sunscreen you applied.
From a bush brekkie fry-up to the malva pudding dessert at dinner - you are surprised at how much you can eat. And how you constantly seem to crave more.
You are surprised by the guides, who keep animal sightings from you as they use code names for animals when conversing with other rangers over the radio. Sneaky, sneaky.
But ultimately, you are most surprised by the overindulgence you can have in nature. The sunburn, the heartburn will all fade (and are small prices to pay), but the elegance of nature, its creatures and its surprise. It charms your socks off as you are reminded that imperfect perfection is astoundingly natural.
*Marisa Crous was hosted by Tintswalo Safari Lodge Manor House for 2 nights.
The Manor House at Tintswalo Safari Lodge reopened earlier this year (2018) after an extensive refurbishment of the exclusive-use villa, which is situated within the Manyeleti Game Reserve (bordering the Kruger National Park, the Timbavati and Sabi Sand game reserves). WATCH: Kruger Gold As Buck Runs Into Lions
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