Sunset game drive in Kruger Park…Dining in the bush…The Big 5 hovering…First loves…

With mating season essentially ended, our guide said these 2 males were “practicing” dominance for next season.

A phenomenon has occurred in our world travels, first loves, a syndrome hard to avoid when on a path of many new experiences.

Sitting back several rows in the huge open game drive vehicle, it was difficult to take photos of this Kudu as he crossed the road so I took this one through the blue tinted windshield.

On January 3, 2013, Tom and I embarked on our first cruise on the Celebrity Century, an older renovated ship, reminiscent of the “old Hollywood days,” a style we both found appealing. The maximum number of passengers was 1770 with a crew of 858, a fact we especially enjoyed as a smaller ship than most. 

These warthogs appeared to be of a different species than those that have previously visited.

The ship was headed through the Panama Canal, a dream of Tom’s on which I gladly ‘tagged along” knowing he’d be “tagging along” with me in my dreams of Africa. Little did we know at the time, that we’d end up loving each other’s  dreams as well as our own, as we sit on the veranda again this morning after two batches of visitors have already come and gone, leaving us smiling and grateful.

Impala families hanging out in Kruger National Park.

That cruise on the Celebrity Century was extraordinary, although neither of us had a frame of reference, until, as we moved into the New Year, we sailed on seven more cruises. In the end, our first experience was the best, perhaps never to be outdone.

Bird watching enthusiasts went wild with the many sightings in Kruger Park at sunset including viewing this eagle at quite a distance.

This isn’t saying that the cruises that followed were inferior in any way. They were just different. Maybe it is tied to some romantic notion of that first feeling of excitement and adventure. Maybe is comparable to our own memories of our first loves. 

This vulture was high atop a distant tree, one of several we sighted along the drive in
Kruger Park.

Appropriately, we have now named this phenomenon, “The Celebrity Century Syndrome.” As we find ourselves enthralled each day living in Marloth Park, we imagine we’ll never again, find an experience such as this.  Where, I ask you, in the world would one have wildlife, to this degree, to this frequency, wandering around their house?

Another Vulture sighting, again far from the road.

Last night, once again, we fell prey to our “syndrome” in the game drive into Kruger Park, one of the largest game reserves in the world. The ‘first love” in this case, was our safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya, beginning on October 5, 2013, a mere 60 days ago, a tough act to follow.

More impalas.

Kruger Park is huge at over 2 million hectares, 7722 square miles, literally filled with wildlife. It has a rich ancient history and a geological history shared with us by our knowledgeable guide on the over-sized open game vehicle in which we traveled for approximately four hours with sixteen other guests.

Yes, there were power lines running through Kruger Park, a necessary reality due to its enormous size and requirement for safety, security and maintenance.

As explained to us during the sunset drive, Kruger Park doesn’t allow off-road, travel into the bush. Thus, we were subject to seeing only the wildlife that appeared within view along the road. For us, this was a limitation we’d hadn’t experienced in the Masai Mara.

As we entered the bush brill site, Danie is on the left with a raised arm and Louise is on the right. They worked so hard to host this event, cooking, setup, and cleanup in their hands. Everything was to perfections. To top if off, they appeared in our driveway this morning to inquire as to anything we may need.  Their hard work and dedication are evidenced in every activity they host and property they manage. This photo and the next were taken before I realized I needed to clean the camera lens.

When Anderson, our guide in the Masai Mara, saw a point of interest with his eagle eye and powerful binoculars, he took off expertly maneuvering the sturdy open sided Land Cruiser across the rough terrain of the bush, while the maximum of six of us, held on squealing in joyful anticipation of what was yet to come.

The candlelight place settings were befitting an elegant dinner. No paper plates here! All prepared for our group of 17 to perfection. The camera lens was humid resulting in these blotchy photos.

Last night, with the sun setting on a cloudy evening, the requirement that we couldn’t use a flash, with the limitations of the camera I am able to manage with the bad shoulder and the limitation of staying on the road, we were disappointed in our photos. For those having never been on safari, this may have been enough to fulfill their expectations. For us, the Celebrity Century Syndrome kicked in.

In any case, we did have a wonderful time last night, the guide was over-the-top expert on not only the wildlife but the history and geological aspects of the park, the group of guests were lively and animated and we enjoyed it all.

Not quite the jumbo sized beer in Kenya, Tom had a few of these during dinner.

Louise and Danie, our “hosts extraordinaire” were busy setting up the phenomenal meal, beautifully presented, truly in the bush and not at a campground. The linen napkins, lovely dinnerware and the beautifully set tables created a venue befitting an elegant dinner.

Unfortunately, our new friends from the UK, Lynne and Mick, are returning home on Tuesday. Had they stayed longer we certainly would have shared many more evenings with them.

Much to my delight, there was plenty of items I could eat. They’d made a special point of ensuring that there were several items befitting my way of eating. I so appreciated their delicious efforts.

More new friends from the UK at our table, also seasoned world travelers with considerable experience in many countries in Africa.

But, what they had made that worked for me was flavorful, well seasoned, and cooked to perfection. My plate was piled high with wonderful meats and veggies, some of the likes I’d never seen but hope to see again.I’d expected that the food had been catered by a local restaurant only to discover that Louise and Danie have made everything themselves.

Arriving at the bush dinner, we were surprised and grateful to find a restroom facility roughly put together. This particular site is frequently used as a “bush braai” location. The gate around the toilet area was smashed.  Louise explained that the rhinos were responsible. We laughed.

The entire bush braai dinner was unlike anything we’d ever experienced before, surely putting “bush braai” into the first love category. Seated with the lovely couple we’d met at Jabula Lodge on Wednesday night and good friends of theirs, all of whom were from Jersey, UK, our table of six had an excellent dinner, laughing, talking and educating us on the numerous insects wandering about on our drinks and plates. 

Seasoned travelers to many countries in Africa and as homeowners in Marloth Park, they gave nary a thought to the multitude of walking and flying insects, making every effort to educate us on their purpose and benefit. This did put help us by reframing some of our thoughts about certain insects, putting us more at ease.

Appetizers of grilled prawns (they don’t call them shrimp outside the US) and Boerewors, a frequently served sausage of South Africa. Notice the dinner plates are upside down to keep the bugs off of them. I failed to take more food photos.  We were too busy having fun!

However, during dinner, we notice a crowd gathered around one of the other tables for six to discover they were looking down at the ground at a scorpion. One of the diners had open toe shoes and Louise and Danie gave her two empty wine boxes to cover her feet. Oh, dear.

Several times during dinner, I used my LED flashlight to check the ground beneath me. Of course, the others chuckled over my frequent inspections. I suppose in time, I will become as fearless as they seem to be.

As we dined there were several armed guards with spotlights perusing the area around us. They had used torch lights to set up a perimeter in which we were required to stay. Oddly, busy chatting with everyone, we didn’t give the prospect of any intrusions by wildlife a thought.

The only wildlife we’d seen thus far, nearby the braai area, was a hippo. Hippos have proven to be the most dangerous animal to humans with the highest incidence of fatalities worldwide. He seemed disinterested in us and took off.

To all of our delight, coupled with a bit of trepidation, and with rifles aimed and readied by the guards, a herd of elephants walked past our braai, as many as a dozen. We all held our breath in the excitement of seeing them within 30 meters of our table, never turning our way or looking at us.

It appeared the largest female, the matriarch, held up the rear of the line while the moms and babies stayed cocooned in the middle. Unable to take photos with the flash restrictions (rightfully so), it was impossible to get a photo. But, the sight and sounds of the graceful steps of the Elephants in the bush will be emblazoned in our minds forever.

The crescent moon in South Africa is positioned differently than we’d seem in Kenya.  How interesting!

It was an amazing evening, in itself responsible for several “Celebrity Century Syndrome” first love moments that we’ll add to our repertoire of memories of adventures that we’ll carry with us wherever we may be.

Tonight, we’re going out on yet another sunset drive, right here in Marloth Park, as guests of Vic, Executive Director of Royal Kruger Lodge followed up by their popular Boma Dinner.

Of course, we’ll be back tomorrow with more photos and stories to tell.

Plus, we’ve had seven sets of visitors so far this morning. Can’t wait to share

Comments and responses Sunset game drive in Kruger Park…Dining in the bush…The Big 5 hovering…First loves…

  1. Anonymous Reply

    I see what you mean about the differences of the game drives in Kruger Park and the Masai Mara. It would have been disappointing not to be able to go "off the road" to get good pictures. But the candlelight dinner and the tourists from the UK, sounded like fun. And then the dozen elephants passing by where you were sitting would be worth it all.

    The zebras were back, oh, so exciting! It sounds like you see as many animals at your house as you did on the sunset drive.

    You are really busy here with another sunset drive in Marloth Park coming up. I guess they have the same rules as the Kruger Park about not driving off the road.

    It would seem hard to pick a favorite from everywhere you have been.

    We also like the smaller cruise ships as opposed to those big mega ships. That is one reason we picked the Holland America cruise in February. Most of their ships are smaller.

    I will close for now, just wanted to reinforce how much we are enjoying reading your blog. I am sure you realize that anyway with my commenting almost everyday.


  2. Jessica Reply

    Good morning, Pat!
    You're so right. We try to embrace every location with its differences and we find over time, we get better at this.

    Tell us more about your upcoming cruise. Wasn't it in the Caribbean? We've never done Holland America but it sure has lots of fans. Before you know it, you'll be on your way! How exciting!

    Thank you so much for reading and enjoying our daily posts. We take nothing for granted and appreciate your reading and writing.

    Oops, 2 giant Wildebeests just ran through the yard and I didn't get a photo. They were too fast. They'll be back.

    Have a great day.
    Warmest regards,

    Jess & Tom

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