As South Africa says Goodbye: Hamba Kahle!

July 13, 2017

Bright School – 11-12 July 2017

It was time to leave our beloved campsite in Somkhanda Game Reserve. After a short morning reprieve drinking coffee, eating another wonderful breakfast, and listening to the sounds of the bush as we packed our belongings, we piled into the OSVs and made our way to our transfer bus. It was refreshing to soak in the sights as we made our way to the exit. Every drive in and out of a game reserve is it’s own special safari, and so we enjoyed every last piece of this inspiring place that we could, sewing them into our memories like tightly cherished treasures of which only a select few in the world could share.  The shy glances of nyala and kudu against the backdrop of a golden sunrise cast shadows in the rising light of the day. And flitting songbirds sang in the dawn chorus, dancing across our ear drums with a thrum of delight.

Our first stop after a short drive South (and a quick bite to eat) was the Zamimpilo Community Market. Zamimpilo is a larger craft and produce market that was established by local community women who wanted to earn extra income from their handmade crafts. There was excitement pouring from everyone as we walked through the property, admiring trinkets and fruits and baskets, and picking out small keepsakes to take home for ourselves or our loved ones. Bright colors, beautiful jewelry, intricate weaving, and traditional indigenous craftwork made our choices difficult, as there was so much to love! The children navigated the narrow passageways in delight, before making their final choices and piling back into the van, all awash in the sharing of their newfound riches.

We pulled into our new accommodations, Emdoneni Lodge, where we would be staying for our final 2 nights here in South Africa. We had a special treat planned for the group, which was right there on the property. Emdoneni operates a wonderful wild cat rehabilitation program, where they rescue 4 of the 7 known cat species in South Africa, rehabilitate them, and then release them back into the wild. We took the group across the property to see the facility and to learn more about these wonderful species. There was African Wildcat (which looks like a domestic cat, but is genetically better adapted to living in the wild), Caracal, Serval Cat, and Cheetah! We stopped by each enclosure as the local staff taught us about the animals inside, telling us their stories and their activities in the wild. The Serval Cat was a particularly exciting visit, as the group was able to go into the enclosure and pet one of the cats! Seeing all these cats up close truly made for a memorable experience! The children made haste to ask questions and listen intently as they learned more about the different species, and they have many photographs to cherish when they return home.

The following day, the alarm bells rang at 6am and the rapping of Nicole’s knuckles against the various room doors brought the group out of peaceful slumber and into our final full day in South Africa. A warm breakfast quickly lightened our spirits and we piled into the van to make our way to the Memorial Gate of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve. Today was set aside for a final game drive! Hluhluwee-iMfolozi Game Reserve is the oldest game reserve in Africa, and is a very special place for us here at Outdoor Africa. We were hopeful to deliver some more great sightings for the group, and today was without disappointment.

Once in the gates, we were immediately greeted by a family of warthogs and the unmistakable backsides of white rhino. The sky was overcast and the breeze chilly, but the wildlife teemed throughout the park, though most at a distance to leave us scouting the landscape with our binoculars in order to specify. A passing motorist gave our driver, Alpheus, a nod of lion just up the road, and so we directed ourselves to the area. Much to our delight, we found the lions halfway up a distant hillside, lazing in the grass and soaking up the morning sun. The van burst in delight, as children clamoured for binoculars and window space to catch a glimpse of the beautiful beasts. The distance made binoculars necessary, but nonetheless we were excited to see wild lions in their natural habitat. What a fantastic way to start the day!

We had lunch at Hilltop Camp, which is located on the highest hilltop in the game reserve and boasts magnificent views from every angle! Here, we ate a great meal and gave the children time to burn off some energy on a small playground…all the while dodging vervet and samango monkeys as they flew from tree to ground to the tops of vehicles around the camp. The kids were in heaven, snapping photos of monkeys and playing games and making the most of their final day!

The afternoon brought some amazing sightings! Most notably, we came upon a huge herd of elephant drinking and bathing in a roadside watering hole. A hush fell over the van as we hit the brakes when a big elephant crossed our path. As we looked to our sides, we quickly realized we were flanked by a huge breeding herd. Adults and babies alike were drinking and bathing mere yards from our vehicle, and the excitement of the group was palpable. The sounds of whispered giggles and clicking cameras mixed with the trumpeting of wrestling elephants and spraying of water. It was a sound unique to Africa. It was a sound we will remember forever.

Hearts and souls full, we meandered our way back through the park towards the exit. We stopped for rhino, Cape buffalo, nyala, and birds. We waited patiently for a troop of baboons, babies clinging to mothers’ backs in unmistakable comfort, to decide to stop blocking the road. We even saw a small journey of giraffe, who seemed to come out only at the end of our day as if to wish us a fond farewell from this wild and enchanting place they call home.

South Africa has been good to us. It has taken us to it’s bosom and treated us like family. It has made our hearts beat quickly and with purpose. It has filled our lungs with its air and covered our feet with it’s soil. It has left it’s imprint on our souls and will forever have a place in our memories. We leave with a happiness to see our loved ones, but also with a sadness to leave this wonderous land. 

I know this group will make Africa a place to where they intend to return, bringing family and friends to share in the experience. Most of them have said as much and, even those that haven’t, you can see it in their eyes.

Hamba Kahle, South Africa! Go Well!

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Camping in the African bush!

July 11, 2017

Bright School – 9-10 July 2017

We woke up in the quaint coastal town of St Lucia to the smell of the Indian Ocean and the rustling of branches as the vervet monkeys made their way across the property. The temperature was perfect for sitting outside to enjoy coffee and breakfast, and the bright patch of green grass surrounded by sub-tropical trees made for the perfect playground for the children to run in circles playing tag. The laughter was carefree and the contentment undeniable. 

This morning, Hayden’s family joined the trip, as his 2 sons are the same age as the children in the group. Watching the children hit it off with such immediacy exemplified the beauty of youth! It was like old friends seeing each other for the first time in many years.

First stop: the beach!! A pristine coastline of white sand, vegetated sand dunes, and the Indian Ocean awaited us for a few minutes of fun in the sand and surf. Now, this entire group can proudly say they have played in the Indian Ocean!

This was to be followed up with a unique boat excursion down the St Lucia Estuary system. The 2-hour boat ride brought the group within feet of hippo and crocodile, even seeing the latest additions to the pod: Baby hippos!! This was a major highlight for many in the group!

After lunch at a local St Lucia restaurant, we made our way to a secluded game reserve called Somkhanda, where we would be staying for the next 2 evenings. Somkhanda is a wild African park on old community land. It is owned by the local Gumbi tribe, but they allow operators to take care of the reserve with the agreement that they will train and employ members of the local community in the operations and management of the property and wildlife.

We arrived just as the sun was setting, and offloaded ourselves from the van into Open Safari Vehicles. It was a 7km drive into the heart of the park on the OSVs to reach our campsite, where tents and a warm braai (traditional South African barbeque) was awaiting us, expertly prepared by our camp cook, Xolani. We ate dinner and told stories around the campfire and under the South African night sky. It was the perfect way to end a day!

The next morning, we woke up to evidence of elephant and leopard in our camp. The spoor, dung, and broken branches painted the picture that we had all had in our heads that prior evening when listening to the snapping of branches in the near distance. Excitement was in the air. With Hayden and Themba as our guides, we broke up into 2 OSVs and headed out into the reserve.

Note: The previous day, on the way to Somkhanda, we had stopped to pick up another guide who was to be with us for the next 2 nights. His name is Themba and he and Hayden have been in the guiding business for many years. Themba is an expert bird guide, and a member of the Zulu community, so he is a wealth of knowledge in both birdlife and culture in Kwa-Zulu Natal. His expertise and genuinely wonderful demeanor was a welcome addition to our time in Somkhanda!

The morning air was cold as we criss-crossed the reserve, exchanging glances with black-backed jackel, giraffe (and babies too), kudu, nyala, impala, falcons, and scores of birds. Our hope to spot leopard or African wild dog was to no avail, but what a beautiful morning it was, with still much more to see in the bush!

After a quick break to stretch our legs and let the kids burn off some energy, we were given the opportunity to visit a hidden boma on a hilltop in the reserve, where they were holding 3 lions (1 male, 2 females) for release into the wilds of the park within a few weeks. Lions do not currently habitate in Somkhanda, so these wild lions will be the first to be introduced to the property. When bringing in new lions to a reserve, it requires about a 10 week stint in an enclosed area (for monitoring) while the lions adjust to their new companions and new surroundings. This allows for a less stressful transition for the lions, which in turn helps survivability for the lions as well as safety for the surrounding communities.

The lions were beautiful, and we sat in silence as we watched them bathe in the sun and the cool morning breeze.

After the game drive, we had a brunch and took some downtime in the camp. While many of the kids were resting, we took notice of nearby sounds and realized that elephants were very nearby. With some stealth tracking, and myself walking right up onto a big elephant bull, we found them just across the road. A few of us sat in the shadows as the bulls made their way across the road, a mere 25 yards from us, like silent house-sized phantoms floating through the bush. It was invigorating!

An afternoon walk through the bush with the local reserve manager had the kids enthralled, spotting spoor (animal tracks) and learning about plant-life, insects, mammals, and more as we traipsed down well worn animal trails. There is nothing like a bush-walk to bring us closer to nature and the living intricate world of Africa.

Finally, we ended the evening with another amazing braai and roasting marshmallows around the fire.

Each day brings something new, and we are all excited to enjoy it!


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Our Ancestry Visited

July 9, 2017

Bright School – 8 July 2017

Sleeping in is sometimes the greatest gift, and this morning we all celebrated being able to wake up after the sun had already presented itself in the South African sky. I awoke slightly earlier than the group to enjoy a cup of coffee and a few free moments to blog and catch up with things back home. It was another brisk morning, with a grey drizzle that highlighted the colors of the bird life as they skirted and chirped between branches, rooftops, and feeding stations.

Around 8:30, the whole gang meandered out of their grass-topped dwellings and made way to the dining area for a fantastic warm breakfast of eggs, breads, cereals, yogurt, and lamb sausage.

Today was set up as a travel day to take us from Finfoot Lake Reserve near Pilanesberg, to the Eastern-most province of South Africa, Kwa-Zulu Natal. We had to transfer out to the airport near Pretoria, hop a flight down to Durban, and then make our way North to the quaint little ocean-side town of St. Lucia. But first, we wanted to show the kids an amazing museum: The Cradle of Humankind.

South Africa is home to some of the oldest and most unique hominid fossils ever discovered. This specific discovery location is very nearby and a wonderful interactive museum is there to teach the history of humanity. The group had a great time viewing hominid fossils, taking a boat ride through the ages of the earth, and learning more about humanity’s common ancestry. It was a fantastic little stop-off along the way and made for an enlightening and educational understanding of our place in the history of the world, and our ties to the great continent of Africa.

“All humanity shares an African heritage. We are one diverse species across the globe, with our roots in Africa,”

New experiences tomorrow!

Mrs. Smith sees if she would fit into the narrow chute leading down to the deepest cave at the site.
Lilly holds onto the boat!
Testing the power of the brain and human motor function.
The “guest board”! Can you find Bright School and Outdoor Africa?
We were able to place our hands into the actual handprints of Nelson Mandela. Toby’s fit perfectly!

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Another side of South Africa

July 8, 2017

Bright School – 7 July 2017

The sun had not yet peaked over the horizon when we pulled our tired souls from the comfort of warm sheets. Today we planned to hit Pilanesberg early in hopes of some morning glimpses at the more nocturnal wildlife finishing their evening’s excursions.

The air was cold and our eyes were heavy. Small doses of coffee, warm water, and rusks filled our bellies as we shuffled into the van like fleece-clad safari zombies. Yes, it was early, but we were ready.

Not moments from leaving the parking area did we run into large waterbuck, red hartebeest, and a quick favorite of the group, ostrich. Game speckled the landscape as we drove to the gate of Finfoot Lake Reserve en-route to our destination.

Groggy with excitement, we jostled down the 14km rutted dirt road towards the park. South African music trilled over the speakers as Hayden gave out wonderful information about different species of plant and animal, and before too long we were at the gates of Pilanesberg.

Once inside, we made haste to the Fish Eagle Picnic Site for a packed breakfast. Fish Eagle sits atop a large kopje (rocky hill/outcropping; pron. “koppie”) with magnificent views overlooking nearby hills and the Mankwe Dam. The views were breathtaking, and through binoculars we saw white rhino, zebra, impala, hippo, and even some nearby giraffe sauntering by on their way to the dam for a morning drink. There was even the call of lions in the distance.

After breakfast, we went on a valiant hunt for the lions. This, however, was to no avail, as we couldn’t manage to pin them down. It’s amazing how easily the animals can fade into the bush when they decide it is time to be hidden.

As the larger antelope species and others made their way into our sights, we also turned some focus on to the small side of African safari. We viewed the inumerous bird species, listened to the sounds of their calls, watched terrapin in their slow dance just below the surface of the water, and enjoyed the slow sway of the elephant grass in the distant breeze.

After visits to a couple different hides (out-buildings in popular game areas where you can exit your vehicle and sit in a covered area to quietly view game), we decided to head back to the lodge for a late lunch.

The groups was tired, but they powered through as we grabbed a nice bite before heading down to the shores of Finfoot Lake. Here, we jumped onto a pontoon boat and took to the water. It was a beautiful, still evening as we watched birds, giraffe, and nyala along the shores and viewed one of the most magnificent sunsets I have seen in some time.

It was the perfect way to end a long and fulfilling day in Africa!

Red Hartebeest
Vervet Monkeys
White Rhino
+ many more mammal and animal species

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Kissed by a rhino!

July 6, 2017

Bright School – 06 July 2017

What a great day today visiting Pilanesberg National Park!

We awoke to the sounds of the adida as they perched overhead outside of AfricaSky Guest House in Johannesburg. It was a cool morning and the sun broke the cloudless sky with a wash of bright blue. The group we have out now is from a fantastic private primary school out of Chattanooga TN (USA) called Bright School. It’s a wonderfully inquisitive and excited group of rising 3-5+ graders who are all here in South Africa on their first ever visit to the continent. Our merry band of youngsters groggily pulled themselves from slumber with excitement in their eyes as we departed for Pilanesberg National Park to embark on their first ever game drive.  

After a couple hours trek to the gate, we pulled up to see a large troop of rambunctious baboons and a small herd of impala waiting there as if to personally introduce us to the wonders of Pilanesberg. After rumblings of excitement and snapping of pictures , we entered the park with anticipation…all eyes glued to the landscape in search of that first great sighting. Without but moments passing, the call of “elephant” rang from the mouths of the group as we saw our first wild African elephant at a short distance from the van. There is nothing quite like the elephant to start a game drive on the right foot.

After many photos and fascinations, we moved along, spotting white rhino, zebra, wildebeest, and even more elephant. Two of the Big 5 ticked off the list in the first 30 minutes.

Being way past due for lunch, we headed to Pilanesberg Centre to grab a bite and see what wild animals might be gathered around the watering hole of which the restaurant overlooked. We were not disappointed, as multiple giraffe were only a stone’s throw away from our tables.

Eyes and bellies full, we started back for the gate to make time to get to our lodging for the evening. There was not much to see as we cruised through the park, when suddenly a White Rhino appeared and we stopped the van to get a better look. As we sat observing, this beautiful beast came strolling out of the bush like a chubby grey unicorn straight towards our van. It flanked us on the left side and then walked right into the road behind our vehicle. It stopped, as if to pose for a moment, before turning to face us and walking within 5 feet of the tail bumper.  The van was silent and a little uneasy as the rhino huffed a moment, kicked his feet, and then peered at us in confused curiosity. We couldn’t believe how close we were to such a beautiful and rare animal. We watched for what seemed like forever. At it’s own pace, the rhino almost kissed the bumper to say goodbye, and then slowly turned around and meandered down the road. How unbelievable it was!

To top it off, near the gate to exit, Nicole and Jenny spotted the tail of a leopard that swiftly hid in the bush from the rest of our peering eyes.

So much more to see tomorrow and we just can’t wait!

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14 June 2017 – Another amazing day in Tembe Elephant Park.

June 14, 2017

14 June 2017 –

What an amazing day it was today in Tembe Elephant Park! Our wonderful group has been out with us for about a week and has been having a great trip. Today was spent in and around Tembe with some VERY close encounters with elephant, observing and learning the process of making local ilala palm wine, and some fantastic views.

Once again, South Africa delivers. Here are some PHOTOS and VIDEO of the day:

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Learning about the process of making local ilala palm wine!
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A journey of giraffe and views for miles!
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An ellie road block.
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Sneaking up on us!
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Amazing close encounters.
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We came up on a family reunion!
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What a day in SA!

A beautiful day in Tembe – Joy Resor Safari – 16 March 2017

March 16, 2017

16 March 2017 – Explorations around Tembe

We started off with an early-morning game drive in Tembe Elephant Park (always one of our favorite places)! We enjoyed fantasic sightings of a herd of bufallo, scores of elephant, and some really cool birds!

Where the buffalo roam.

We then decided to explore the Tembe area. This included a stop in a remote area close to Tembe Elephant Park, to try some of the local palm wine, called Njomane. The palm wine is tapped from the Ilala palm trees and this particular area belongs to the chief’s son, whom granted us permission to visit. Very few tourists get to see this area, so it was truly a treat for our guests, Joy and Andrew!

Joy getting a taste of the Njomane!
Learning about the process of tapping the ilala palms.

We also had the chance to visit a local Tembe Sangoma (traditional healer). It was a true taste of local Africa wrapped up into this beautiful day!


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Wildlife, Boats, and the Indian Ocean – Joy Resor Safari – 14 March 2017

March 15, 2017

14 March 2017 – Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve / St Lucia Estuary / Indian Ocean

We sat down for breakfast at 8am before heading off to St. Lucia! On our way to the gate from our accommodations in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, we had some very up close and personal sightings. Joy was over the moon again, and Andrew (her son who has now joined us on the tour) also enjoyed every moment. First up was this old “dagga boy” buffalo – in the mud as expected! This was followed by close encounters with zebra, a young buffalo, and an elephant bull (who hilariously looked like he was both asleep and eating at the same time…??)!

Dagga Boy!
Zebra Encounter!
Fearless Zebra!
Elephant bull! – Eyes closed and mouth full of breakfast.
A first ever visit to the Indian Ocean! Joy went and put one foot in the ocean…and proceeded to get splashed with an unexpected wave!
Andrew and Hayden walking on the boardwalk of the mouth view point.
Joy in the shade of a wild fig tree.
Andrew and Joy ready for the boat trip up the estuary!
Enjoying dinner at Hilltop Camp – Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

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For the love of lions! – Joy Resor Safari – Day 2

March 12, 2017

10 March 2017 – Pilanesberg National Park

The morning started off bright and early as we entered the pilanesberg gate at 6am. An amazing sunrise greeted us with displays of lilac, teal, and deep orange fading into a turquoise sky!

Sunrise in beautiful Pilanesberg!
Joy & Jackie chilling out in safari-style!

Although game was scarce to start off, we finally found some zebra and a herd of wildebeest. On one of the loop roads, we came across a number of stationary safari vehicles. We determend that they were looking at lions, which were unfortunately hidden from our view. After waiting approximately 15minutes, the safari vehicles had moved on as they had lost visual of the lions. Hayden decided to turn around and head back in the direction we came. Approximately 100-yards down the road, the lions appeared out of the grass, walked directly towards and in front of us. It was an intimate and amazing sighting that we had all to ourselves!

A few of this small pride of 6 lions!

Fun times in Pilanesberg hides! (Jackie & Joy)
Another wonderful day in Pilanesberg!
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A stripy day! – Joy Resor Safari – Day 1

March 10, 2017

09 March 2017 – Our wonderful client, Joy Resor, from Brevard, NC, had an amazing start to her safari! On her first day on safari to Pilanesberg, she had great and intimate sightings of a whole plethora of plains game, as well as her first Elephant sighting! Although the grass is very tall after some good rains, the scenery that greeted us upon arrival was truly beautiful, with plenty of water everywhere, and tall, swaying elephant grass as far as the eye can see!

elephant pilanesberg
Close elephant encounters!
The cool sensations of a dust bath!
A beautiful sighting of this European Bee-Eater!
sunset 9-march-17
Sunset over Pilanesberg National Park!
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