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.

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.

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!