Christmas Safari in South Africa
After spending a lovely few weeks back in the UK, catching up with family and visiting some of our favourite places, it was time to head back to South Africa to enjoy the rest of the summer.
Before returning home to Cape Town, we had planned a 5 day safari in Balule Nature Reserve and Kruger National Park.
We hopped (if only it was that quick and simple- Covid makes everything MUCH more complicated these days!) on a plane on Christmas Day evening and finally landed in Hoedspruit, 3 flights and about 18 hours later.
We were tired and hot, but the stress had faded away as we got closer to our destination and we were ready to start enjoying the holiday.
The next 5 days were spent on safari, exploring the African bush and searching for as many different animals as possible!
Balule Nature Reserve
Our first stop was Balule Nature Reserve.
We stayed at Greenfire Game Lodge and what a treat that was. It's a 50,000 hectare privately owned reserve home to a huge diversity of wildlife.
The accommodation was stunning; individual rooms, with tall glass walls, set high above a river bed in the trees. You could happily spend hours sitting on the balcony, taking in the views and watching whatever animals came past.
We settled in, washed off the travelling grime, filled up with some delicious late lunch and then got straight out for our first evening game drive.
We couldn't believe our luck when we found a pride of 11 lions! They were just relaxing and sleeping along the track going about their own business. A few of them came to investigate the stage new object that had interrupted their evening and they walked along the side of the car staring at us with their big eyes. I have to say I was a little bit scared! This was my favourite sighting of the trip and was truly amazing to see them in their natural habitat.
We stopped for a sundowner before making our way back to the lodge.
It was a 5am wake up call, a quick coffee to liven us all up, and then out in the car bumping along the sandy tracks just as the the sun was rising. The skies were clear and the sun was shining- a lovely morning to be out! The drive was a success. Two lions and a white rhino being the highlight of the day.
Stopping in the middle of the bush for a quick coffee break was a treat (a bit different to your normal cafes!)
The middle of the day was spent around the pool- eating, drinking and watching the local hyena playing around in the river bed. The views were wonderful and it was nice to have some time to relax.
I decided to take the evening off the game drive (to give Levi a break from the car) and I think I made the right decision. A huge thunder storm started soon after the others left. It was impressive to watch from the shelter of my room as the skies opened up and lighting flickered between the dark clouds. When it rains here, it really rains!
We had time for one final game drive and then we had to wave goodbye to Balule and make our way to our next accommodation.
Moya Safari Villa
For the next three nights we stayed at the beautiful Moya Safari Villa just a quick drive away from Hoedspruit airport.
Moya is the Zulu word for "spirit" and the accommodations definitely reflects just that. It's the perfect base to appreciate what this corner of Africa has to offer.
We drove into Kruger National Park for the day.
Although I had been to Kruger a couple of times before, it was still great fun to go back. In all honesty, I didn't like it as much as Balule though! You have to share your sightings with a lot more people and most of the driving is on big gravel roads. This takes away some of the excitement of feeling like your driving through the wild African bush.
Having said that, we did see A LOT during our day. There definitely wasn't a shortage of animals around.
The tiredness had really hit us after having three early wake up calls, an overnight flight and a baby who doesn’t like to sleep at night, so we decided that a relaxing morning around the pool was needed. It was gorgeous weather and we happily spent the hours hopping in and out of the pool.
We took a trip to the rehabilitation centre in the afternoon. Informative and interesting to see, but not my favourite activity. It felt a bit too much like a zoo to me and after spending the last few days seeing all the animals in the wild, it made me sad that these animals were stuck in cages. Anyway, I’m still glad we went and I understand that they are working to educate people and spread awareness.
And that sums up our Christmas safari experience!
I feel like we managed to pack a lot into a few short days away and had some fantastic animal sightings. It wasn't a relaxing break, especially with a baby, but it was a memorable one. If I was to do the trip again, I would prioritise going to the private game reserves and possible skip Kruger.
I hope this has inspired you to get out and do a safari!