We’ve enjoyed an amazing summer vacation in South Africa. I think I might be the luckiest person in the world. I’d like to call this the trip of a lifetime, but it’s my second trip here. With my South African husband having most of his family still living in Johannesburg, I know it’s not my last visit. Again, lucky me.
When I was a little girl, I used to think going to Africa was like taking a trip to the moon. Flipping through a National Geographic back then didn’t really paint the picture of a place that I thought I’d ever travel to. The people here don’t look like the ones in the magazine. When you go shopping in Joburg, a-bone-through-the-nose is not one of the trends you’ll see, but welcoming smiles, amazing food and an unsurpassed appreciation for our planet are. I thought I would share my safari experience at Madikwe Game Reserve. There are many places to go on safari in South Africa. I think we truly picked one of the best.
After a long, fascinating drive through the African countryside, we arrived at the Madikwe Safari Lodge hungry and ready for our first safari drive. We were treated to a traditional South African lunch. The food was fantastic.
When you go out for a game drive, there’s always a pit stop for refreshments right in the bush. Morning drives bring hot tea and coffee served with these amazing oat crunchies, similar to our granola bars, but better. I had a splash of Amarula in my coffee. Amarula is a creamy South African liqueur made from the fruit of the Marula tree. It makes for a nice hot toddy on a cold morning. Afternoon drives included hot beverages as well, but our ranger also pulled out a well-stocked bar from the back of the truck. My husband enjoyed his scotch while a lone springbok grazed not far away. African smoked sausages, crunchy roasted corn nuts and spinach quiche were our snacks for the afternoon. Somehow you forget that there are “real” predators lurking in the bush behind you and no fences!
A 6am wake-up call knocked on our door each morning. Sunrise is one of the best times to see the animals. We’d return to the lodge for breakfast by 10am and enjoy a few hours of rest until our afternoon drive. The lodge makes the best chocolate chip biscotti and homemade shortbread, served alongside our 3pm tea. Afternoon game drives always started off perfectly warm and sunny, but by the time we’d return to the lodge around 7pm, it was freezing. Average high temps were in the 60’s during the day, but mornings and nights called for down jackets and layers of thermals. It’s that cold! Upon our return our vehicle was greeted each evening by the smiling staff, holding hot towels to wipe our hands and a glass of something to warm our bones.
Our first night they surprised us with an African BBQ, called a Braai. Kudu sausages, grilled chicken and African pap were on the menu. Pap is like an African version of polenta and is usually served with a tomato and onion sauce. Steamed veggies, beef stew with dumplings and salad were also part of the feast. I was feeling a little guilty about the kudu, seeing them frolic in the bush just hours before, but one bite of the sausage erased the guilt.
On the third morning, we were out for our game drive and began heading back to the lodge only to be diverted to a surprise breakfast in the bush. We initially thought, “isn’t that nice, someone must be getting married in the bush,” only to find out it was a breakfast party for us.
I was thrilled to receive a few recipes from the chef at our lodge. I plan to give African cooking a try at home and will definitely share the recipes. The first step is translating the measurements and step two is figuring out what desicated coconut is? Do we have that in the States? It’s a key ingredient in the yummy oat crunchies from above.
A last note on our safari trip… I left the lodge thinking how blessed I was to experience nature in its true form. Since my last visit in 2006, I can’t bring myself to visit a circus and cringe at any news of poachers and animal cruelty. My sister-in-law reminds me that even an ant will run if you try to kill him… the ant loves life as much as we do. I often catch and release spiders rather than squash them. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes my ridiculous bug fears get the best of me. All I can do is try to remember we are all living creatures who deserve a chance at life. The mom and baby elephant below did everything in sync. Each movement the mother made, the baby would mimic perfectly. I’m certain this is the habitat they should be living in.