Jump to content

July honeymoon in Kruger, maybe it won't be once in a lifetime


Recommended Posts


Congrats on being a first!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Marks - Thanks. We had some great sightings at Elephant Plains, including a run of 3 consecutive drives in which we saw at least one leopard, usually more than one, and wild dogs. The game viewing was fantastic and being able to access Sabi Sands for that price is unbeatable, but I'm still not sure about how I feel about the lodge. It felt very much like a hotel, a nice one, but a hotel, and at times it was hard to remember that I was on safari. I'll have more to say when I get to that point, but suffice to say I'm conflicted about EP.


Yeah I can understand that, certain elements (2 pools, exercise room, etc.) are definitely more "hotel" than "camp." But as you say, the game viewing and price are great. Very cool that you got to see dogs there!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


After we returned to camp we had the usual breakfast and waited in the mess tent for the warthog and her children. As I sorted through photographs and had one of the guides, Mike, help me identify birds, my wife decided to head back to the tent for a nap. After all the birds had been identified to my satisfaction I pestered Mike with questions about guide training. Mike had just completed his level ones and Shindzela was his first position. He showed me the training manuals and the various references used during the course and told me stories about the guides he trained with. The interaction with the guides at Shindzela was one of the things that made the camp particularly special. Each of them take turns running the bar during your downtime during the day and they sit with you during meals, so you have a good opportunity to talk to them outside of the vehicle. In addition to talking to Mike about guide training, I talked to Johan about recent sightings at the camp and his time and Gomo Gomo, and talked to Sam about all the places he had worked in his 18 years guiding. As a result you really get to know the staff and the camp as a while feels like a very welcome place.


That afternoon we set out on our last evening drive. The air was slightly cooler than it had been over the previous few days, but the sky was clear and blue. Once again Sam was optimistic that we would find the rhino that had been leaving tracks all over, but had remained hidden from view. We spent most of this drive in a part of the concession that we had not visited previously. This is one nice thing about Shindzela, they have a rather large traversing area and as a result the only areas that we saw repeatedly were the two ponds and one of the larger tracks that runs through the concession.


On this drive the ponds proved productive. First we had a good-sized group of wildebeest drinking from the pond, and later we passed this smaller group of kudu.




The previously unvisited areas yielded this herd of elephants at a bit more distance and not in the best light. Would have been nice if they were a bit closer because some of the members of his herd were rather large, probably the two or three biggest elephants that we saw during our trip. Unfortunately they had little interest in coming any closer.




While once again following the track of the elusive rhino we happened upon this scene in a tree just off the edge of Shindzela’s area of traverse. At the base of this tree was a thicket of thick scrub too dense to see into from the road. Sam though the lions we had seen on our first night might have a kill in the bushes because this was part of their normal range. He suggested we’d come back later to see if the lions would venture out.




From there we turned back into the center of the Shindzela concession and within five minutes were Sam pulled the vehicle to a somewhat sudden start and gestured to the left, “Rhino, with a calf,” he said quietly. We all turned just in time to see two gray butts moving off into the bush at a distance. We sat there quietly for a bit to let the mother settle down and get used to our presence then Sam pulled the vehicle forward along the road to get a better view. Unfortunately, the mother wasn’t too keen to come out into the open and moved a little deeper into the bush each time we moved the vehicle closer. Eventually Sam shut off the engine, turned around, and said, “Everyone get out of the vehicle quietly, take just your cameras, we are going to see if we can get closer.” My wife and I looked at each other with wide, excited eyes. Not only were we going to get to see a rhino and calf, but we were going to track it down on foot.


We all piled out of the Land Cruiser as quietly, but as quickly, as we could. Sam told us to follow him in single file and to be as quiet as possible. With all eyes focused forward we followed Sam. I’m sure we weren’t very quiet, with each footfall I cringed a bit inside that we’d scare them away. We were so focused on the rhinos that they and Sam ahead of us became the only things that existed. Sam stopped us and pointed to where the two rhinos were deep in the bush, then casually gestured to the left toward a giraffe about 50 feet away that none of us had noticed. We never got close enough to get a good look because she was too shy, but it was an exhilarating experience. The pictures aren't good, but the memory will stay with us forever.



We left the mother and calf alone after that and headed back to the vehicle for our sundowners. Sam decided next to swing back by the spot where he thought the lions had made a kill. It was close to full dark by the time we arrived, but the camp’s other vehicle had beaten us there. Their spotlight was trained on the two lion brothers in the grass near the tree we had seen before. The were at some distance and the light was rather poor, so our pictures didn't come out at all, but the two of them were fast asleep with full bellies. It was a good way to end the day.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


We awoke the next morning with the sad realization that our next drive would be our last at Shindzela and that our African adventure was half over. Leaving Shindzela was incredibly difficult. The staff was wonderful and made our stay nearly perfect. It seemed like only yesterday that we had arrived, rather than four days prior, and we had our first run-in with the temporal paradox that is safari. Each day on safari passes rather slowly, the downtime between drives or walks provides a rather lazy pace to the core of each day and the quiet hours after dinner looking at stars ease you out of each day. Yet each morning makes you wonder how the days have passed so quickly, and the final morning is full of disbelief that your adventure is nearly over.


Our final drive was rather quiet, as if Shindzela wanted to ease us on our way. We had some lovely giraffe, yet more elephants, and, of course, impala. The highlight was our final sighting was our last of the morning. After spending the better part of three days trying to find the rhino that had been wandering around the concession and getting only a fleeting viewing, the first drive during which Sam wasn’t focused on the rhino we ran into a different pair 5 minutes from camp. Once again they dashed off before anyone could get a picture, but it was as if the Timbavati bush was saying good bye to us with a playful wink.






Breakfast after our game drive didn’t last nearly long enough and in no time our luggage was in the back of a van and we were off to Sabi Sands. As with our drive to Shindzela, we saw lots of animals on the drive. Once again we were immersed in the surreal world of driving along a tarred road and seeing not white-tailed deer and raccoons like at home, but warthogs and baboons. Once off the tar roads and into Sabi Sands we saw a steenbok lying in the shade just inside the gate, and then our first nyala just outside the gate to Elephant Plains.






From the moment we stepped out of the van we could tell that Elephant Plains was a different place than Shindzela. Someone arrived to take our bags, and we were politely ushered to a true reception area for check-in. If these weren’t enough to indicate the difference our room left no doubt. The lovely furnishings and décor spoke to the quality of the lodge, and the flower petal heart on our bed, for our honeymoon, indicated a personal touch among the staff. The best part of our room though was the view. Rondavel 5 at Elephant Plains is spoken of highly on sites like Trip Advisor for the view and we were suitably impressed.




We sat on the small veranda of our room taking in the view and wondered what the next few days would bring. Little did we know how full the next four days would be....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

pedro maia

I´m following thir TR and looking forward to this next part, since we wiil go to Elephant Plains next August, seems like you had a wonderful trip.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It sounds like you had a wonderful time at Shindzela.


Really looking forward to how you compare EP to Shindzela.


I am staying at Shindzela for 4 nights in approx 3 weeks time and your excellent report is really setting the scene for me.


I was also thinking of going to EP but decided to stay longer in the Timbavati and Klaserie reserves instead.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Very enjoyable report with some really good photos

The rhino tracking sounds exciting - and you are right , it is the memory that lasts


I recognise the temporal paradox - sometimes the individual days seem like 2 or 3 days - but it is all over so quickly!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


@@pedro maia Thanks for following, hope you are enjoying. We had a fantastic time at EP and saw more there than we expected to see on our entire trip. The next few posts should give you a good idea of what to expect, I hope. We were really spoiled with leopard in particular while we were there, 7 different sightings in 4 days.


@@Johnmac Thanks for the kind words. We loved Shindzela. To us it was everything we would ideally want in a camp. Very relaxed and a real feeling of being somewhere wild. I'll never forgot our first night there hearing the elephants around camp as I tried to drift off to sleep. Never got any that first night!


@@TonyQ Yup. That memory will be one we keep forever. That feeling of a time paradox was what convinced me that we would need to go back to Africa. I've never been able to stay away from places that made me feel like that. Seems like a good indication that you need to go back.


From the moment we arrived at Elephant Plains it was clear we were at a different type of safari lodge than Shindzela. Not better or worse, just different, and it took us a day or two to appreciate the differences between the lodges, so enamored were we with Shindzela that our immediate reaction was to dislike anything different. It became clear after a day or so that Elephant Plains takes care of its guests. Aside from the number of staff and general superb presentation of the grounds at EP, the other thing that set it apart from Shindzela immediately was the variety of food available for our first, and all subsequent, meals. There was an amazing amount of choice and I can’t imagine how anyone would be unhappy with the food here.


After we settled into our Rondavel and put away our things we walked around the grounds for a bit and almost immediately saw some frequent camp guests. This little family of Nyala was grazing in the grass between our room and the spa and we saw them at some point of every day at EP. On the other side of our room from the spa was a small flower garden and one of the two pools at EP. From the small deck of our rondavel we could watch the broad plains and water hole, or we could sit and bird watch in the garden a few feet away. We spent most of my free afternoons viewing these two areas, and ignoring the people sun bathing on the other side of the garden.


During lunch we had met our guide, Dawie. He welcomed us and asked us what we would like for sundowners, then we did not see him again until our drive. When it came time for our drive we were disappointed to see that the vehicle would be nearly full with 8 people, though we got there early enough to get a seat just for us. We were the only newcomers to the vehicle, in fact most of the other people were at the end of their safaris, and there was surprisingly little conversation among people during the drive. The only conversation we had with anyone during that first drive was during our sundowners when a Spanish fellow came over and asked us if we were Canadian. Upon hearing that we were American he nodded, then turned around and went back to talk to his wife. My wife and I smiled at each other over this and went back to looking at the Blacksmith Lapwing in the nearby watering hole.


Our drive started off well, Dawie took us out to the plain that EP overlooks to see a couple of Cape Buffalo. I guess a few of the people leaving the next day had not seen any yet and wanted to check them off of there Big 5 list. The concept of Big 5 came up quite a lot while at EP, driven, I think, by guests. Staff would ask us occasionally if we had seen the Big 5 yet, and the guides would always mention if an animal we were seeking was one of the Big 5, but it was clearly for the guests, and the times Dawie seemed to get really excited involved animals outside of the Big 5.

Following the two old Cape Buffalo we had some rather nice Greater Kudu and Impala sightings as well as a Grey Duiker that was too quick to photograph. Dawie then teased us with the thought of seeing a cheetah, something we had not expected. Apparently, that morning a cheetah had been spotted on the concession and we were going to have a look for it. Sadly it was not in the area it had been seen that morning, likely because of the pride of lions that was sleeping in the shade about 100 meters from where it had been seen. There were 5 of them, members of the Styx pride that is seen rather frequently at EP. Until this point my wife and I had only seen lions in the dark and were fairly excited at to see them in good light. In addition, we were able to pull up within 5 meters of the pride, the lions barely lifting their heads to acknowledge us. It was at this time that I gave Dawie a significant fright, I casually mentioned to my wife how amazing it would be to reach out and touch one of the lions. Dawie shot me a look that said, “Please do not be a crazy person.” At that point I had to remember that not everyone enjoys my smartass remarks.


The lions were followed by sundowners and our brush off from the Spanish gentlemen. Things were quiet on the drive until dark. Dawie received a tip from one of the other EP guides that a leopard had been spotted near where we were. Soon we were peering through underbrush by the light of our tracker, Tooly’s, spotlight. After a few moments Dawie spotted it. He told us that this was Tingana, a male that has been in the area for quite a while. What followed was quite an exciting 20 minutes as we followed Tingana in the dark as he set out. Dawie suggested that he was hunting for the night. I was over the moon at this point. We had chosen to stay in Sabi Sands because I wanted to see leopard on what we thought would be our only safari and here we were following one through the underbrush at night. I probably could have left South Africa fully satisfied with our trip at that point, but it is good that I did not because the best was yet to come!



A nice touch that EP provided in our room to celebrate our honeymoon. On our last night we found flower petals scattered around the room and a complimentary bottle of chilled champagne when we returned from our game drive.



Patriarch of the Nyala family that spends time inside the EP fence.



Cape Buffalo with EP in the background









Tingana, our first leopard. Notice I said first. Also, note the improved night photography from Shindzela.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice TR. Always interesting to experience a safari vicariously through fresh new eyes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

@anthracosaur I am reading along, "The best is yet to come." I am waiting here holding my breath, turning blue, waiting for the "best". I am thinking there are more leopard stories for you to tell us. Come to think of it, you promised us "7 different sightings". I would love to see the pictures and hear the stories of every one.


I am really enjoying your trip report and your photographs.

Edited by Terry
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I too am anticipating some more!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy