There are no words to describe the river lodge that I ended up with. Yes, it is a Semester at Sea pre-sale trip, and yes if you’re thinking about a safari you should heavily consider this one. The reserve is 20 minutes from the single airplane airport and provides extra amenities for downtime. What downtown you may ask? The river lodge safari has a regulated schedule. Wakeup call came at 5 am where we grudgingly got up, brushed our teeth and made our way to 5:30 am early morning tea time, where they served just that, tea, coffee and biscuits. By 6 am we are all packed up and sitting in our jeeps for our first 3 hour game drive. Back at 9 am they served breakfast until 11 am and then began lunch again at 1 pm. 4 pm was afternoon tea time, where at this point, you have quite possibly already eaten a hundred times at the delicious buffet and are on your afternoon game drive from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Oh wait, I almost forgot, in the middle of each game drive you stop for a drink and snack break. Then dinner is served at 8 pm and by this point you are so exhausted that 9 pm seems like a reasonable bed time.
However, there is serious downtime from 9 am to 4 pm, where you can either indulge in the hotels amenities of a pool overlooking the watering-hole, where an occasional mammal will walk on by, or the wellness center complete with massages and African face painting. Then of course a hot air balloon ride, a visit to a cheetah reserve or my personal favourite an Elephant Safari.
The next morning at 6 am I was on the back of an Elephant named Sebetu, who travelled to the Kapama reserve from Zimbabwe (we were really close to the border). I rode this elephant for an hour going through trails around the reserve. I saw Zebras, Giraffes and hundreds of warthogs, hello Pumba! I have to admit; this made me think of my roommates Ashley and Neha back home.
Besides the Elephant Safari, my jeep was fortunate enough to view the Big Five. The top five most dangerous animals to hunt: Rhinos, Elephants, Lions, Buffalos and the rarest to find, the Leopard. Not very many people get to witness the leopard, it’s a night predator, very quick, very sly and extremely difficult to find unless her eyes reflect in your flashlight. One of the other jeeps driving around informed our jeep through the radio that they had a spotting. Within the next five minutes we were driving into the bush, off the beaten road, driving over bushes, knocking down trees and the scariest thing, driving through killer spider webs with these large colourful spiders the size of my hand. They are called Golden orbs, and their webs are so strong that they are used for stitches in eye surgeries and the technology is copied in order to make bullet proof vests. This is what we drove through, and this is what I was ducking from the most, quite possibly having a hear attack. Half an hour later we were in sight of the Leopard. We didn’t get a clear view, but we heard it run and then make a kill while a helpless animal squealed right beside our jeep. It was intense.
The next day we were on a trek for lions, male and female which we were extremely lucky enough to find both. The male lion, seated less than 10 feet away from our jeep gave us the perfect gift of roaring. Our guide told us that only 50 percent of people who are actually able to find the lion are able to hear him roar. We were able to get this luxury on three seperate occasions as we watched the animal and his firey red maine. (Pictures and videos to come soon!)
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