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Christmas Eve started with being picked up in Maputo and driven to Nelspruit in South Africa, a journey that should have taken three hours took five due to holiday traffic and accidents. But we arrived at the airport and picked up our car which turned out to be a big Nissan X-Trail and had that lovely new car smell. We didn’t want to head back to the hotel right away since it was off the road with all the traffic, so we killed some time in the mall in Nelspruit seeing the buzz of a mall at Christmas time. We arrived late at the lodge late and had dinner and a few drinks then headed to bed.
Christmas Day for us was a bit bizarre; we had breakfast next to a pool before heading of into the country side. There is a monument to Samora Michelle (the first president of Mozambique) near the border where his plane crashed, so since we had a car we thought why not go see it while we have the chance. It was a beautiful drive through the country side and was lucky enough to run into the guard heading home from the site, he opened it for us and let us have a quick look around. Very powerful place with pieces of the recharge strew about all over and reminders of the man he was.
After we headed north around Kruger National Park to Sabi Sands Game reserve which share a border with Kruger. We arrived in early evening and were very pleased with what we found. The lodge overlooks a watering hole and is done up very nicely many lectures, a swimming pool, outside/inside showers on the chalets, big baths, and a very friendly staff made it easy to get in the pampering mood. We met some of the other guests and sat down to a first-class dinner. Champagne and drink ran freely, and we pushed back from the table stuffed and merry, an excellent way to celebrate Christmas.
But the next morning was when the fun began, for the next two days we were up at 5:00, game drive from 5:30-8:30, breakfast at 9:30, relaxing until 16:00 (with lunch in-between at 13:00), afternoon game drive from 16:30-19:03 and dinner at 20:00. Full days with early starts, but the food was very good, well thought out and prepare, and I was stuffed every meal, we have been a volunteer so long it’s hard to stop eating when there is free food around.
The game drives where why we were there of course, and we were not disappointed. Over our time there we saw the big five, in fact I was treated to five different leopards including a mating pair, hyenas, cheetahs, and of course antelopes galore. I finally got to see a male lion up close as he was feeding on a buffalo. The drives were fantastic and the thrill of the hunt as we tried to find the animals was great fun.
On the third day we had the morning game drive and breakfast and then unfortunately had to say goodbye. We headed south only an hour away to Hazyview near the entrance to Kruger Park. We spent the rest of the day by driving up to Graskop which sits up on a mountain pass and has some beautiful scenery where we sat and had pancakes. After we just returned to relax in Hazyview since we had to be up early once again the next day for Kruger.
We had decided to do one day of self driving through Kruger, since we were there and had a car. Funnily enough it was a great day. I really enjoy driving through Kruger because it is so far from the norm for me, it’s not very often I get to drive next to Elephants or Lions, wait while Rhinos cross the road or a troop of Baboons. We saw a huge herd of Buffalo which gave Lisa her big five, but we managed to see all the big five that day, most very close to the car, with just a glimpse of a leopard in the bushes. Lisa had never driven a standard transmission before, so we decided to let her have a go on the quiet back roads, took me back to when I was learning with lots of violent stops and lurches, but she was soon getting the hang of it.
Content with the day we drove back in the afternoon to our hotel and just relaxed, tomorrow it’s off to Swaziland.