Wrapping up our trip to Blyde River Canyon Lodge…A treasured memory…

 

The exquisite view from our room at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, Hoedspruit, South Africa, where we stayed for three nights while we toured the many sites in the area.

It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Marloth Park for three days. One, we’re already paying for one home and to leave it empty to pay for another place to stay, makes us think twice. Two, I was afraid we’d miss visitors while we were away. (Tom didn’t quite feel the same – a guy thing).

The veranda and casual dining area in the Blyde River Canyon Lodge overlooks the pool and the expansive grounds.

However, if we had a permanent home, we’d occasionally take a three or more day trip out of town and the costs associated with owning the home would continue in our absence.

The door to our first floor guest room was conveniently located near the lounge, veranda and dining area.

What if the giraffes came to visit while we were away, maybe 12 of them as in the first time they wandered into our yard on a sunny morning in December? What if the wildebeests visited for the mineral lick, yet to occur in these almost past two months that we’ve been here?  What if Clive, our favorite Ostrich, lumbered down the driveway, proud and determined, while we were away?

We’d hope for time to use the pool, but our busy schedule made it difficult.

If any of these events occurred in our absence, we’d have never known. Yes, I did wander up and down our long driveway after returning on Saturday checking for animal tracks and piles of poop. There was plenty of both. 

The manicured grounds were a change after living in the bush these past almost two months.

Leaving Marloth Park wasn’t easy. The only way I could lessen my apprehension was to stay in an extraordinary place surrounded by nature. Blyde River Canyon Lodge filled the bill. We couldn’t have been more pleased. Need I say that we researched our option for several days?

On the grounds at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, as a part of the lodge, is a separate luxury two-story guest cottage with a full kitchen, two bedrooms, large living area and inviting décor.

Based on recommendations from the wonderful locals, we met, especially our friends Piet and Hettie, the Panorama Route was the thing to see, not too far away, a pleasant mountain drive with incredible scenery.

The lounge in the lodge was tastefully decorated with the finest furnishings and accessories.

 

Alternate view of the lounge area. There’s a small bar to the far left of this area where a wide array of drinks and mixes are available. 

With an abundance of attractions in the area we chose those most appealing to us as shown here over the past several days: the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, the Blyde River Canyon boat ride and a visit to the Elephant Sanctuary, and finally, the Panorama Route, leaving us busy and out and about each of the three days that we stayed at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge.

This was our table for all of our meals, breakfast (included) and dinner at the end of each of our three nights at the lodge. We had no issue with insects in the morning or evening. Notice the zebras visitors who stopped by daily. It was fun to see them racing through the huge expanse of lawn as shown in the background.

Another day to stay at the lodge would have been ideal. But, we had to return the little pink car on the return trip to Marloth Park via the airport in Nelspruit. (More on that frustrating story later). 

This was a young Vervet Monkey (photo from afar) that we’d see playing together at dusk.

We had little time to enjoy the beauty of the lodge’s surroundings. Much to our pleasure, there were visitors stopping by early in the morning and again late in the day, the few times that we were able to be at the lodge, savoring every moment.

The huge gnarly trees created the perfect amount of shade for lounging comfortably outdoors on hot sunny days. 

As for the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we found it to be the perfect choice for us, conveniently located to everything we wanted to see, affordable, and most of all, absolutely enchanting.

Who needs a lawnmower when Zebras cleanly dine on the grass?

The service was “over-the-top” by every staff member. The attention we received from the owner Vicky and her assistant Portia was appreciated and unexpected. 

A zebra was scratching on the tree while impalas leaped through the air with the ample open spaces.

This was the first time we’d seen zebras mating when all that have visited us in Marloth Park have been males. The zebras courtship rituals resulted in animated playfulness that we found entertaining as they chased and ran through the open spaces on the grounds.

The food at both the included breakfast and reasonably priced dinner served outdoors, couldn’t have been more suitable for my way of eating and to our mutual liking, freshly prepared with the finest of ingredients. The chef didn’t hesitate to meet with me to discuss my dietary restrictions in order to prepare my food accordingly.

At each meal, the table was set utilizing a new color scheme.  We never saw the same place setting twice during our six meals at the lodge.

 

At each dinner, a starter, an entrée, and a dessert were served. The chef made this special starter for me when the starter for the evening wasn’t conducive to my restrictive diet. It was so delicious I asked for it the second night to which they complied.

Tom splurged and enjoyed this delicious Berry Compote Panna Cotta. We were having such a fabulous time at dinner, I failed to take photos of our entrees, all of which were wonderful.

Tom usually doesn’t care for cheesecake, but he managed to get this down! I must admit, this one was hard for me to resist which I did without even a taste.

Our room, although a basic hotel room, was situated on the ground floor, close to the lounge area and outdoor seating, was spotless and in excellent condition with no signs of wear and tear. The bed and covers were comfortable with the air conditioning working perfectly for a good night’s sleep. The shower had excellent water pressure, something we recall from a life long ago.

As the Vervet Monkeys played on the lawn and in the trees, this young impala stood back, occasionally joining in the play.

Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep well while at the lodge. I was so excited to get outdoors, awaking each day at 4:00 am waiting for the sun to rise. Also, with a slow WiFi signal, typical for the area with the surrounding mountains, I was chomping at the bit to post our stories and photos which had to be accomplished in the early morning and finished in the evening.

The Vervet Monkey on the right was no larger than the size of a small cat. The smaller, on the left, could easily have fit into the palm of one’s hand. 

Typical for me on our “side holidays,” I slept poorly, fearful of missing something. Yes, I know. It’s a flaw of mine, one of many, driven by a brain that just won’t shut off when I’m having fun. It’s during the quiet, less stimulating times that I can sleep for seven hours.

The simplest of naturally occurring vegetation, growing next to a piece of driftwood, created a pleasant scene.

Our total cost for three-night stay at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge including dinners, drinks, and tips was US $582.27, ZAR $6200. The total cost of the lodge and the cost of the fees for the stated activities was US $886.42, ZAR $9438.50, also including gas/petrol to and from the area.

More natural vegetation highlighted the grounds.

Although this side trip wasn’t a bargain, we definitely felt that the quality of the experience was well worth the cost.  In our old lives, if we’d gone to Duluth, Minnesota, USA for three nights, we’d certainly have spent a comparable amount if including the cost of a four-star hotel, several attractions, meals, drinks, and gas/petrol.

Although a quaint, intimate facility, the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, with seven guest rooms plus the private luxury cottage, was offering the utmost amenities, service, and food, commensurate with a much larger high-end resort.

The private stand alone cottage was charming and well appointed.

The spacious living area and kitchen in the private cottage.

The master bedroom in the private cottage.

The second bedroom in the private cottage.

The master bath in the private cottage.

The view from the private cottage from the living room.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the frustrating story of the pink rental car which, by the way, we no longer have in our possession, or any vehicle for that matter and… What we’re doing for transportation over the remaining 38 days we’re living in Marloth Park. Plus, we have more new unseen photos to share.

Please stop back.

More up close and personal at another wildlife rehab facility in Hoedspruit…Lions, vultures, cheetah and more! Crazy photo of Tom!

Tom volunteered to feed the vultures raw meat.  He wore a leather sleeve on his right arm from fingertips to shoulder. As soon as our guide put the raw meat into his hand, several vultures flew at him to grab it, leaving two to fight over it. Exciting, to say the least!

Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, one of several in South Africa was definitely on our “to do” list when we spent three days in the nearby Blyde River Canyon, beginning on Wednesday, returning to Marloth Park on Saturday.

This handsome cheetah is recovering from poisoning, as the result of an attempt to kill him for his hide will be unable to return to the wild, due to the risk of being killed by his own species. He’s been made an “ambassador” to represent the rehab center in saving his and other species from becoming endangered.  Watching him through the electrified fencing, we were anxious to get inside and “hands-on.”

 

Both Tom and I were anxious to touch him. If we had any apprehension, which we didn’t the fact that he was “purring” welcomed our touch.  Wow!

 

We each had a turn at touching his tail after being warned not to pet his head.

 

The conscientious guide ensured our safety.  But, we had no fear.

We’d anticipated seeing an array of injured wildlife in various stages of healing. Little did we anticipate the education we’d receive about the dwindling of natural wildlife habitats in South Africa and all of Africa due to man’s intervention. It is down from 100% a century ago, to approximately 10% today.  Where is the wildlife able to survive?

This mating pair of honey badgers was kept together when one was injured.  It was delightful to watch their playful antics. In the wild, they are dangerous animals known to be able to rip the genitalia from any animal in a single bite. Yikes.

We were made further aware of the heartbreaking loss of rhinos (45 killed in Kruger National Park in the past three weeks) as well as elephants and the curious pangolin through their senseless slaughter by poachers for the purpose of selling them to religious zealots who wrongfully believe that their tusks and hides have mystical powers (the scales on the Pangolin sell for ZAR $1087, $100 each).

The small serval is a vicious hunter in the wild. We were not allowed inside her habitat.

The Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre’s mission is to not only medically treat injured, ill, or poisoned wildlife but, to prepare them to return to the wild in their natural habitat.

After we were allowed inside the vulture habitat, it was exciting to interact with them.

 

This adorable, yet  deadly eagle was more than willing to lower his head for me to pet her.

We learned that for some of the animals, returning to their familiar habitat is a certain death sentence. Thus, in time, many are returned to other areas, where they can begin anew. 

The birds of prey were beautiful up close.  Seeing them gave us an entirely new perspective of their behavior, their importance to the environment, their anatomy, and the colorful plumage, vultures, all species are being poisoned for their heart, liver, brain, and other internal organs. The fanatics believe that these organs will improve their ability to see into the future, based on the acuity of the Vulture’s vision.

 

The exquisite plumage on these two vultures was a complete surprise.

 

This vulture seemed a little shy as compared to the others. He bent his head when I approached to take his photo.

 

This is our usual perception of a vulture. This particular bird was involved in the scuffle for the piece of meat in Tom’s hand. Each Vulture species had a particular neck and body commensurate with which part of the body of their prey that they are known to eat. The longest neck vultures eat the internal organs while those with shorter necks go after the flesh.

In extreme cases, when their are virtually no options for survival in the wild, as in the case of an animal having lost a limb, a wing, or the ability to eat and thrive, they are kept in the facility as “ambassadors” aiding in the center’s goals of creating awareness for the preservation of the species. The loving attention and care for these various “ambassadors” were heartwarming.

We weren’t allowed to get face to face with this Vulture.  He offers tourists a stick with the appearance of being generous when in reality, if the gift is accepted through the fence, he’ll bite their fingers off!
Vulture headshot, one of my favorite vulture photos. He seemed to pose for me when I took this without zoom while standing directly in front of him. Our guide told us to move around frequently while in the vulture area. They eat “dead” meat, except for the above red and orange Vulture above who likes human fingers.

After the meaningful educational session that we experienced in a classroom environment, we were excited to get the opportunity to see the animals in person. 

This male lion leisurely recovering walked our way as we approached the electrified fence. I was able to take this photo through an open small space in the fence, using a bit of zoom. Of course, we weren’t allowed inside his area.

As he approached us, he seemed gentle and sweet.  We were warned that he is neither.

Without a doubt, it was hard to witness some of the animal’s injuries. On the other hand, it was comforting to see how each species was treated with such care, the natural habitat created for them, eating food they’d hunt or forage in the wild, and housed in a manner conducive to their environmental needs. 

Our guide explained that male Lions are the laziest animals on the planet.  They watch the female lion or other animals catch their prey and then he steals it away with his massive strength. While in the Maasai Mara on safari in October 2013, we witnessed this behavior when we saw a lion steal from a female hoping to feed her cubs. Not unlike humans, through past generations; women cooked, men ate. 

The vast size of Kruger National Park is the source of many of the injured and ill animals. As soon as the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is notified of an injured animal, they initiate a process that will get the animal to the center as quickly as possible with the least amount of harm.  Imagine, capturing an injured lion to transport it, often by plane or helicopter with medical staff on board, to the center to return it to health. We were impressed.

This female lion showed little interest in our visit. She was more interested in the bucket of raw meat our guide had in his hands.

Our photos here will illustrate how special this experience was for both of us. Once again, we had a new perspective of the life cycle of many species and the dedication of many people to ensure the various forms of wildlife survive and not become yet another endangered species.

Other wildlife meandered the open areas of the rehab center, which is located in the bush including many vultures, eagles, impalas, and other species.  This young impala was enjoying quiet time in the shade.

For us, traveling the world is not about luxuriating in comfort and convenience, although at times, such as the three glorious nights we spent at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we were exquisitely comfortable and at ease. 

The opportunity to expand our horizons with a greater understanding of the world around us, through the eyes of those that came before us, makes our travels all the more rich and meaningful.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos and stories of our boat ride on Thursday on the Blyde River. Thank you for sharing in our ongoing adventures.

 

Thirty to forty crossing the road… Breathtaking Kruger Park experience…Later in the day, we visited the Elephant Sanctuary…More photos in tomorrow’s post.

Wow! They kept coming and coming until there were 30 to 40 elephants crossing and waiting to cross the road. They continued in a steady stream. What a sight!

It’s the end of our first 36 hours since leaving Marloth Park. Here’s what we’ve done so far:
  • 5.5 hours on a self-drive safari through Kruger National Park 
  • 2 hours at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hazyview on an interactive experience with elephants, walking, feeding, and touching the elephants (photos in next post)
  • 2-hour boat trip in the Blyde River Canyon, the third-largest canyon in the world where two rivers come together, the Blyde River and the Treur River
  • 2-hour tour of the renowned Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre with an opportunity to touch and experience rehabilitating wildlife
The elephant herd crossed the road as more waited in the wings to do the same.
As shown, the babies are kept tight in the center of the herd as they make their way across the road.

 

Although the park wasn’t crowded, the word must have got out about the elephants on the road when suddenly cars appeared out of nowhere. We continued to stay back and out of their way, especially with the babies in tow.
 
This kudu was munching on a hill, stopping only to look at us as we drove by.
Back at the exquisite Blyde River Canyon Lodge for the evening, we were reeling from the above experiences, energized more than tired from the hours of standing and walking while we learned so much.
Need I say that in these 36 hours we’ve taken no less than 300 photos? And, as we sit here now on the veranda at the lodge at 6:00 pm on Thursday evening, there are impalas, vervet monkeys, and zebras playing, eating, and wandering about on the beautiful grounds.

 

Finally, the sun came out today, and weather providing tomorrow we’ll take off on yet another day of exploration as we embark on the popular Panorama Route, returning to the Blyde River Canyon Lodge for our final night.  

Saturday, we’ll drive back toward Marloth Park, stopping at the Mpumalanga/Nelspruit airport to return the pink rental car and pick up another rental car. Doing so enables us to save approximately US $800, ZAR $8712. Since we’ll be traveling in that direction anyway, it made all the sense in the world to swap cars when the savings more than pays for our three-day outing.
 These enormous sausages-like pods grow on the Sausage Tree (duh) were growing on a few trees in the park. Our Marloth Park friend Piet, informed us as to the name of these trees.
 
 These pods were huge, comparable to the forearm of a large human on the Sausage Trees.
 
We only saw a few Sausage Trees clumped together in one area.

Although we love being here at this lodge, in this canyon, and in this area, we have no sense of dread that often accompanies returning “home” after a pleasurable time away.  
In the time we have remaining in Marloth Park, already having passed the halfway mark, we’ll continue to embrace the ongoing wonders of daily life in the wildlife-rich area.

 

Over the next several days, we’ll continue to post photos, sharing what we’ve learned during this short but special time away. Often, we’ve heard the locals say, “I want to travel like you guys but, staying in South Africa. There’s so much to see here!”

We heartily agree.  Thank you, South Africa. Thank you so much for sharing your treasures with us!