A first boat ride in South Africa…A natural wonder in this lush country…A winning combination…

The day was cloudy, the air thick was thick with a mist and low clouds obstructed our views of the mountain tops at times. However, we found the Blyde River Canyon breathtaking for the two full hours we spent on a pontoon with 20 other tourists.

Upon arriving at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, one of the most beautiful resorts we’ve yet to see, we asked our hostess Portia what activities she’d suggest.  Once we decided, she made all the arrangements for us.

Tom was thrilled to once again be back on the water after over seven months since our last cruise.
I was hoping the sun would peek out to improve the quality of our photos.  But, we still had a great time exploring the Blyde River Canyon.

On Thursday morning we decided on a boat tour on the Blyde River although it was a very cool, cloudy, and hazy day. We’d hoped that we’d have a sunny day in order to see God’s Window, scenery that definitely requires a clear day.

The lush greenery coupled with the sandstone walls created a beautiful backdrop in the canyon.

The cost of the boat trip was surprisingly low at ZAR $240, US $22.54 for both of us for the two-hour excursion.  Did we get our money’s worth on this outing? A definite, YES!

The colors were a feast for the eyes, not clearly depicted in our photos on this hazy day.

A short distance from the lodge we entered the Blyde River Reserve easily finding our way to the boat, a pontoon in good repair with plastic molded chairs with seating for 20. The boat tour lasted two hours.

Not a recreational boating area, the only docks we saw were the few allocated for the tours.

Our guide and boat driver’s knowledge of the area was a result of eight years experience, resulting in never a dull moment.

We could only imagine how it would look on a bright sunny day.  The eerie appearance of the low clouds presented it own unique beauty.

The Blyde River Canyon is best described here in this excellent quote from Wikipedia:

“The Blyde River Canyon is a significant natural feature of South Africa, located in Mpumalanga, and forming the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment. It is 25 kilometers (16 mi) in length and is, on average, around 750 meters (2,461 ft) deep. The Blyderivierpoort Dam, when full, is at an altitude of 665 meters (2,182 ft).

Human and animal remains were found in this deep cave when explored years ago.

The Canyon consists mostly of red sandstone. The highest point of the canyon, Mariepskop, is 1,944 meters (6,378 ft) above sea level, whilst it’s lowest point where the river leaves the canyon is slightly less than 561 meters (1,841 ft) above sea level. This means that by some measure the Canyon is 1,383 meters (4,537 ft) deep.

A series of waterfalls lined the walls in certain areas. This dead tree caught my eye.

While it is difficult to compare canyons worldwide, Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons on Earth, and it may be the largest ‘green canyon’ due to its lush subtropical foliage. It has some of the deepest precipitous cliffs of any canyon on the planet. It is the second largest canyon in Africa, after the Fish River Canyon, and is known as one of the great wonders of nature on the continent.

The beauty of Blyde River Canyon continues on and on regardless of how far we traveled.
Possibly the best view in the whole of the Blyde River Canyon is of the “Three Rondavels“, huge, round rocks, thought to be reminiscent of the houses or huts of the indigenous people, known as rondavels. This canyon is part of the Panorama route. This route starts at the town Graskop and includes God’s Window, the Pinnacle, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes.”
More colorful canyon walls.

On Friday, we took the entire day to tour the above-mentioned Panorama Route which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post with photos that may be in our file of “favorite photos” since beginning our worldwide travels.

Although we saw little wildlife along the canyon, occasionally we spotted interesting birds. A couple we met in Marloth Park shortly after we arrived, Lynne and Mick, have kindly informed us that this is an African Finfoot, a relatively rare bird.  As extremely knowledgeable bird enthusiasts they were excited for us in seeing this bird.

At the end of the boat tour, while waiting to use to “outhouse” near the dock, we ran into an American couple, only the second Americans we’ve met since arriving in South Africa. 

As our boat tour came to an end, we were grateful for the experience, clouds and all.

Not that meeting other Americans is a priority to us. It’s just curious to us how few American we’ve encountered since arriving in Africa over four and a half months ago. 

On the return drive to the lodge, we got a peek of the Blyde River dam when we were unable to find a viewing area.

With the people of South Africa speaking both Afrikaans and English (and many speaking Zulu), it’s been easy to make friends and communicate our needs and wants when out and about. In Kenya, the languages spoken were Swahili and English, an easy process for us single language speaking people. How we wish we’d learned other languages as children! 

Once we returned to the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we took this photo from the stunning grounds.  Soon we’ll share photos of the lodge.

At the end of the boat ride, we made our way back to the lodge until our next activity a few hours later, which we shared in yesterday’s post, the tour of the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. (Please scroll down to see the details of that rewarding experience).

Please stop back tomorrow for some of our favorite photos, taken Friday while on the scenic Panorama Route which includes many of the above-mentioned sights.

Talk about “safari luck!”…Knock us over with a feather….We’ve arrived in Blyde River Canyon. What a first day!

After stopping at a was rest stop in Kruger National Park, there was a Vervet Monkey atop our pink rental car when we returned. It was one of many very entertaining experiences we had during our 5 1/2 hours in the park this morning.

At 6:15 am Wednesday morning, we were on our way for the full day’s drive to the Blyde River Canyon for a three-night stay, commencing at the Crocodile River entrance to Kruger National Park.

This is the narrow single-lane one must cross over the dangerous Crocodile River in order to enter Kruger National Park. One wouldn’t want to fall into this river!

We’d decided to take the longer route through the park to experience our first “self-drive” safari. After watching a video posted on Facebook a few days ago, as an angry male elephant toppling a car onto its side with a foolish driver at the wheel, we were especially cautious.

At the entrance gate, we showed our passports and paid the fee of  US $45.90, ZAR $500 and we were on our way.

We entered the park with determined caution, hoping that once again our “safari luck” would prevail. But, after having seen only a family of Helmeted Guinea-Fowl with adorable chicks on the road, we considered that perhaps, “safari luck” had run out. Ha! How wrong we were!

The first sign of life we encountered was this flock of the familiar Helmeted Guinea Fowls who tend to pick through and eat the dug of the elephants who only digest 40% of their food leaving the remainder undigested which is often eaten by birds.

The intent was to spend a few hours maneuvering our way through the park to exit at the famous Paul Kruger exit, not far from the town of Hazyview, to then follow along the renowned Panorama Route.  

The Guinea Fowl gathered all their chicks together as we slowly drove by.

Little did we know or expect to spend 5½ hours in the park, extending our exiting route to the more distant Numbi Gate.

After seeing several impalas and more guinea-fowl (as Tom calls hens), we were worried “safari luck” wasn’t with us for once. After an hour had passed and we hadn’t seen much, we resigned ourselves.

Taking over 100 photos during our drive, we couldn’t have been more thrilled if we had seen the Big 5, of which we found two. We’d had that glorious experience 3½ months ago when on safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya in the first 10 hours in the bush. Experiencing it again was no longer important to us. 

Then, there he was. Tom spotted him first from afar.  He was on the right side of the car, the driver’s side (opposite of the US and other countries). Tom angled the car, enabling me to get this shot with the car window open.  

What has been important to us has been to have fun, to talk, to laugh, and to fill our hearts with the love of nature and our surroundings, which has proven to be a relatively easy task here in Africa, barring some scary crawling things we could happily do without.  

Little zoom was necessary for these photos. We were at a safe distance and Tom was prepared to back up in a hurry if necessary if the elephant became agitated.

But, it all has been a part of the adventure; the good, the great, the stupendous and, the occasional not so nice. 

He was well aware of us in the road, Suddenly, he decided he had enough of our prying eyes and camera. We took a video when he turned toward us appearing angry and clearly wanting us to leave. We’ll post the video as soon as we can get a strong enough signal to download it to YouTube.

The next morning at breakfast we’re comfortably situated in the outdoor dining area in the exquisite resort, The Blyde River Canyon Lodge, as I attempt to complete this post with a slightly improved WiFi signal when closer to the main office of the resort.

The elephant had enough of us and backed up onto the road at a good pace in our direction. Tom quickly responded, backing up as fast as possible. Although we were at a safe distance (so we thought), it was time to get out of his view. Our upcoming video will more clearly explain what transpired.

Our photos of the drive through Kruger Park will illustrate the magnificence of our “self-drive” safari.  Going at our own pace, stopping for as long or as little as we chose, backing up on the road if we missed something, stopping to check the tire pressure” behind a bush, all contributed to the quality of the experience.

Satisfied that we were out of his way, he completed his goal of moving to the left side of the road. We waited for several minutes and then continued on our way.

He never took his eyes off of us as we drove past him continuing on our way. We both agreed that having this experience alone would satisfy us for the day.  Little did we know what was yet to come an hour further down the road, all of which we’ll share tomorrow.

Adding Mother Nature’s cooperation and “safari luck” to the mix, you’ll see from these photos what I’m talking about. We didn’t need a “Big 5” experience. We only needed to have fun and that, dear readers, is exactly what we did.

No more than minutes later, we encountered this family of monkeys playing in the road with their offspring.  Their playful antics made us laugh.

Again, as we enjoy yet another three-day trip we’ll produce lots more photos that it will most likely take many days to share. So please bear with us, as we work our way through. The slow WiFi signal definitely impedes our ability to post dozens of photos in one post.

Nothing like a baby monkey kissing the ground. LOL.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back to more of the adventures of our lives, lived to the fullest, including more Kruger Park photos and, taking a walk with an elephant’s truck in our hands, an elephant “kissing” our necks using the end of his trunk and much more.

Thanks for your patience.

Road trip tomorrow…Three night stay in Blyde River Canyon…Kruger Park…Panorama Route..Plus more new photos…

One of few female kudus we’ve seen since our arrival when we found a small herd along the side of the road on our way to the water store, Credence Clearwater, to buy refills.

Early tomorrow morning, Wednesday, we’ll begin a road trip to Blyde River Canyon and to explore the renowned Panorama Route, over the next three days, returning to Marloth Park late Saturday.

To begin, we’ll drive through Kruger National Park for approximately two hours, hopefully seeing lots of wildlife.  Then we’ll be exiting via one of the many entrance gates to the park to arrive at the town of Hazyview.  Continuing north to the Blyde River Canyon, we expect to arrive before dark.

Another kudu from the herd along the road, under the protection of dense bush. The five females appeared to have two babies, but they were kept well hidden. We suppose the reason we hadn’t seen many females up to this point in due to the time they stay hidden for several weeks after the birth of their young. Males do not participate in the upbringing of their offspring.

We’ll have traveled through only one-quarter of the north/south route of Kruger. Although the distance until we’ll exit the park is 55 miles, 88.3 km, the driving is slow as we’ll be stopping for wildlife and possibly following behind other slow vehicles on the narrow roads.  

Baby warthog sleeping in our yard, while mom and three other babies, munched on vegetation.

Once exiting the park we’ll have another 88 miles, 143 km to travel taking approximately another two or more hours. Of course, this travel time doesn’t account for the many stops we’ll be making along the way.

Mr. Monitor Lizard, slithering along the driveway most likely looking for a bite to eat.

Once we arrive at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we’ll check-in, get situated in our room in the quaint, positively reviewed eight-room lodge, and head to dinner in their restaurant. Each day over our three-night stay at the lodge we’ll venture out to see the many nearby sites.

Most likely, this is the Blu Tuna Tortoise which we noticed a few days ago walking in the driveway, moving surprisingly fast.

At this point, we’re assuming, based on several reviews, that the WiFi in the lodge will be adequate for us to post photos both tomorrow night and continuing each day. Thus, you will hear from us before the end of your day, depending on your time zone. 

This young impala, perhaps a month old or less, stopped by yesterday with her mom. Usually, impala females and babies travel around the area in groups of six or more. It was the first time, we spotted a mom and baby alone. Here again, the males do not remain with their offspring and do not mate for life.

Packing for this short trip is easier than ever before with our now tiny inventory of clothing and shoes. In five minutes this morning, I pulled out everything I’ll need to bring along.  Tom will pack later today after we return from a trip to Komatipoort to purchase more data and a quick trip to the “chemist” for a few items.

Tonight, we’ll dine at Jabula Lodge, the only “open to the public” restaurant in Marloth Park that can easily accommodate my way of eating with great food, ambiance, and service.

Today, we’ve included a few photos we’ve never shared, taken over the past week.  See you tomorrow with more!