Golden wedding trip to adventure land

Golden wedding trip to adventure land

Those were the words in the invitation we received.

 

We had for several years heard our parents didn’t want to celebrate their golden wedding with a party, but rather together with their closest family. The family of the golden wedding couple, their 2 children, 2 children in laws and 4 grandchildren of ages 8-18 years. And so the travel began…..

Already at the gravel road between the main road and Mpala the adventure started, with two fully grown giraffes, curiously while munching looking over the top of the trees. They had a baby giraf next to them.
One of the highlights, that specially the youngsters in the group had looked foreward to, was the ATV trip. Each driving their own ATV in the bush with the ranger in front. It is less how many animals you see on this trip because of the noise of the many ATV’s. Most of the animals quickly disappears before we see them. Giraffes though must have better nerves or worse hearing than other animals because they were plentiful. Three large giraffes walked in a single line on the road as if they owned the World, not caring about our presence. They had no intensions to clear the road for a group of motor thugs. While admiring them we discussed whether we could safely drive between their legs and when someone finally decided to give it a try they luckily decided to walk away from the road and continued into the bush. 
After the ATV trip we came to Mpala’s Bush Camp. It is a place in the midle of the bush with a barbecue and a set tables for dinner. Just before arriving we were welcomed by a committee of 3 elephants, an elderly male and two teenage males stod quietly feeding. Even though the bush camp is in the midle of the bush it is well equipped with fresh water and a toilet with a fantastic view. The wash with fresh water was indeed needed to wash away the dust before the dinner, which was set at a beautiful table with white table cloth. We all looked like having had a failured spray tan after the bike trip on the ATV’s.

 

 

While we had the most delicious beef’s in the light from oil lamps the sun set and the stars emerged. Imagine sitting in the darkness and listening to the animal’s sounds and admiring the starry skye in a 30 degree celcius nice dry evening. So fantastic it was.
Even if there were no wind, one of the trees at the entrance started swinging from side to side. It was the oldest elephant from the welcoming committee. He would just remind us who rules the bush. Our two rangers immediately approached the elephant to show it off. While one of them tried to talk teh elephant to calm down, the other ranger was ready to fire a worning shot with his riffle, should things escalate. The rest of the staff at the camp led us to safety behind the bricked bar. From this pocition we could watch the trees from time to time move heavily. The rangers had everything under controll and it was an exiting experience that showed how we as humans are just visitors in the animals World. At no time we felt unsafe or scared as the rangers and the staff had the situation under control. The elephant’s “show” happily ended as they left the camp without any need for warning shots.

 


Another experience we had looked foreward to was the two days trip with an overnight stay in Kruger National Park. Already on our way to the official entrence gate we saw several cars that had stopped at the road side. We soon learned that this was a certain sign for something interesting beeing nearby. An quite right, a leopard was lying in a tree. Unfortuately it had chosen a branch with leafs so it was a bit difficult to see it, even when the ranger pointed it out for us where to look. But after looking carefully we all managed to se some of it’s spots. We were so impressed of how well camouflaged a leopard is. Kruger National Park is not stuffed with animals everywhere as you see it on TV. You can easily drive for 15 minutes without seing anything! But suddenly something happens again!

 

 

At one occationt we met a group of elephants about to cross the road. There were several grown up females and youngsters at different ages. The ranger slowed down. But the driver in a car behind us seemed to be in a hurry and overtook us in a speed. That agitated the elephants, specially the smallest, a 2 year young male still suggling at his mom. This small elephant was very unhappy with the drivers behavior and despite the elephants size it felt forced to give a demonstration who’s the boss in the park. It opened it’s ears widely and flickered them, trompetering the best he had learned. A bigger sister put her trunk around him and it calmed him down for a while. But after shortly the show went on.
Elephants show how big and dagerous they are by picking up branches and throw them onto their back. Our little friend would also show he was big and after several not so succesful attemps he managed to pick up a small twig and throw it onto his back. As we drove on he againwanted to demonstrate his brave and ran after us with flickering ears before returning back to mum. The ranger told us that such a small fellow with such a big self-confidence might become problems when it grow older. After a day filled with experiences we vere filled with impressions.
After a delicious barbeque dinner we were ready to get lost in our beds in our bungalows of the park.

 

Next morning started with driving through a rocky area in the Southern part of the park. On the way up the mountains we saw two klipspringers. They move around on the rocks walking on the tip of their hoves just as ballet dancers. On the top of moutain we could get out of the vehicles and caught sight of a large group of elephants at the bottom of the rocks. Small and large elephants were busy having breakfast. A fantastic sighting and we had plenty of time to enjoy it.

 

 

 

Down again we met a spotted hyena cup. It was lying and relaxing right next to the road. We had a feeling of fantastic experiences in a short time one after the other. Not long after these experiences we had new luck. Three groups of rhinos shortly after each other. One of the groups were so close we easily could see their large horns.

 

 

 

While we had these fantastic experiences in Kruger the staff at Mpala had been busy. They had made a great triumphal arch. (This is a Danish tradition celebrating wedding anniversaries) The arch of green leaves was raised around the room door of the chalet for the golden wedding couple. This was such a surprise and gave the golden bride tears in her eyes.  A trip to Mpala is not a relaxing holiday. Many days you are woken up at 4 or 5 am. But you need to get up early to get the best seeing the anmals waking up. In the evenings you fall tired asleep in your canopy bed, filled with fantastic experiences and great food. The rangers, Estel and the staff really does all they can to make you feel extremely well. The programme of the week is stuffed with experiences, but you also get time for a nice swim in the pool or relaxing on the terrasse with the view to the river and the animals coming to drink.

 

 

 

As we arrived to Mpala on the first day we were told that we come as guests but will be leaving as friends.
When we left the lodge 14 days later we fully understood what they meant. Best regards Connie Sørensen og family.

 

PS As you can see from the pictures the rangers managed to show us the Big 5 at least twice.

 

Translation from danish by Helle Scheel Grunert

The dream of Africa

The dream of Africa

As long as I remember I have had a dream of going to Africa, maybe right since I read Kiplings story about “the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River”. I wished for experiencing the animals in their natural enviroment. Those animals I often visit in the zoo’s wherever I travel around the World. Suddenly in March 2017 I got the opportunity to join on a travel as the travelmate/translater for Mie and her mum.
Mie has a handicap and she loves elephants.
Prior to the trip we discussed about the chances to see any animals in the vast country we were going to visit. If you want to be sure to see animals you must visit a zoo. So it was with great excitement we went off on our African journey.
But come on!
From the main road we entered a big gate to the nature reserve and the experiences speeded up. During the half hour it took driving from the gate along winding, hilly, bumby, red roads to the lodge I dare say our expectations
were fullfilled. Impalas, giraffes, zebras, elephants and a kudu. We spotted them all before we arrived to the lodge. At the parking area we were met with a very warm welcome by Stacey, Irene, Ryno and the whole lot of staff
and a couple of dogs. Already now at this very first day the thought stroke me that we have had all the experiences that we had wished for and that we could already return to Denmark happily !
NO, of course we stayed. But in that moment we really didn’t know what was waiting for us during the following week full of experiences for all our senses.

 

At the terrasse overlooking the river we were again met by a warm welcome, a chilled drink and fresh fruit. Amaced we just stod and absorbed everything. The house behind us, the river with drinking elephants at the oposite side of the river, the smells, the people and the sounds. The sounds were sudenly mixed with drums and singing approaching. Here they were – a group of fantastic beautiful and colourfull people intertaining us with their traditional dances and songs. We enjoyed it a lot.
We were led to the house that should be our home for the next week – and what a home – tasteful all the way through! I will have no problems of feeling at home here. At the dinner we got a safety instruction for the new and unfamiliar surroundings that we were about to experience. Common sence is always good, but as we were “far away” here, we were all ears and had a lot of questions. I had no doubts they would take great care of us while we were here. We also got the programme of the week – we will not come asleep to the experiences. Tomorrow we start at 5 am!
As I think back, which I often do, it is difficult to highlight a specific climax because we had so many starstruck moments. Talking about stars, we had at our 2 days in Kruger National Park a great clear night. Our ranger Rhyno showed us the names of the stars and star constellations on his Ipad with the use of an app: StarWalk. This app I have great joy of using here at home as well after Rhynos introduction.

The most fantastic starry night I had in the bush camp. After a fun ride on quadbikes – we certainly didn’t break the speed record – we were really in need of being freshened up – at Mpalas bush camp in the midle of the remote bush we found there were both a washbasin and a flushing toilet! How Fantastic!

 

 

 

At first we enjoyed a couple of Gin/Tonics to controll the malaria mosquitos – hmm yes yes. Then followed a wonderfull dinner of a barbeque a “small” humble steak, approximately at the size of a slice of a whole cow. Later, seated in the safari chairs, we held fireflies in our hollow hands. In this warm evening filled with sounds and scents myriads of stars appeared. I have never seen so many. The Milky Way was so clear and visible and felt so near as if you could almost reach out and touch it! On the night drive with spotlights at our way home to the lodge we met a rhino. How lucky can you be?

 

 

 

More about the stars – the really stars here are the animals – counting from the smallest to the biggest. From the small “fallen” baby bird gently returned to the nest – and the tortoise liftet out of a water basin,  I guess it was tired of paddling – to the elephant who pushed down the fence towards our camp to pay us a – I guess – not so welcoming visit – naughty boy! Luckily it was mostly us visiting the animals and not the other way round. From the early morning walks seing the sun rise, colouring the mountains and plains red, and all the dayactive animals starting to wake up, to the trips on the plains – a paradise for me – lots of different animal species feeding peacefully side by side – except for a couple of buffalos who muddled around so the oxpeckers felt their ground swinging, while the big buffalo bull from the top of a hill overlooked his kingdom.

 

The fantastic 2 days trip in Kruger National Park was packed with experiences and our heads were moving as mounted on ball bearings so we wouldn’t miss anything. Just as the situation with the man we meet in the midle of the park on a bicycle  – some just live their life dangerously – I mean – without a wearing bike helmet!
During lunch time in Kruger National Park, the steaks sizzeling on the barbeque, the table was set and we talked about the animal’s camouflage. Knowing a lion could hide in the bushes right behind us, suddenly a loud spectacle makes us jump up high – a lion? No just a box of cutleries tumbling down. Phew! Big laughs! Kruger Park simply MUST  be experienced by every one.

 On the way back we got the infuriating message that the booked hot air ballon flight next day was canselled due to “wrong” wind direction. Well, what to do then instead? I came to think about a TV-program I’ve seen of a huge hippo Jessica – the tame hippo! The lodge arranged it for us to go and meet Jessica. Next morning we headed of to go there. It was quite an experience to bottlefeed it with sweet tea (it tasted well), sweet potatos and to give her a kiss! A bit personally cross-bordering for me to be so close to the animal that causes most human deaths along the rivers in Africa.

 

 

 

 

Don’t think I have forgotten the lodge. As the first impressions of being treatet as VIP’s had settled I felt at home everywhere. I loved my terrasse where I spent excellent time watching the river with crocks, hippos and the elephants on the opposite river bank. One evening as I sat there thinking of the days experiences, I suddenly heard a lion roarring. Very quicly I decided NOW is a fine time to end this day and withdraw to my room. Forgotten is certainly also not all the lovely people I got the pleasure to meet. Generous and helpfull, competent, ready to fullfill all my wishes and needs, answering all my more or less intelligent questions and always in a super great mood! In the kitchen they were always in the process of preparing all kinds of delights to be served on the terrasse, in the boma, in the bush camp, and on the trip to Kruger. The dinners were plentyful and delicious. We even tasted the local tradition of corn porridge which is what the local people eat for all meals – the kids in the kindergarden had it with great pleasure in the shadow in the sun shade.

Even though I was not yet fed up – apart from my well filled stomac – all adventures and holidays come to an end.  This one had it’s ending with a champagne farewell accompanied by a colourful sunset at the view point overlooking the bush. The goodbye to the people of the lodge next morning was with warm hugs and tearfull eyes.

 My dream of Africa is still alive – the dream is now to come back!

 Lots of warm regards from Jane Mikkelsen, Denmark

 

PS. Mie, my travel mate, really got to see a lot of elephants as she hoped for. She put her foot on this elephant footprint and our ranger Rhyno gave her a toy elephant to take home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Translated from the original version by Helle Scheel Grunert

Still in love with Africa

Still in love with Africa

 

In Novembet 2016 my wife an I returned to Mpala to relive the magic, the presence and family feeling, we had experienced the first time we visited Mpala. This time we had invited a couple of friends, so they could experience the same.
In Phalaborwa Airport Theo met us. He would be our dedicated ranger for the next 2 weeks. Right away on our trip towards the lodge we met giraffes, impalas, buffalos and a countless number of birds. Theo showed passion and his large knowledge about wildlife and in paticular for birds. A true encyclopaedia he is.

 As we arrived at the lodge a welcoming committee formed by the staff was greating us. It was a fantastic reunion. One was missing though as Estel, the manager, was not there today. She was off for her holiday still for the first couple of days of our stay. A new member of the Mpala family was there, it was Stacey. Stacey is the second manager and Estels right hand. She appeared to be a really nice acquaintance. It is very clear why she is employed at the lodge.

We got our rooms door to door with our friends.
Besides the four of us there were another couple visiting the lodge and they were also staying for two weeks. In total we were a small intensive group.
We met in the MainHouse for a refreshment, We said hello to the other couple and met Irene. Irene is the waitress and a true personality who makes everybody feel welcome and her great spirit is stunning. Just as everybode else at Mpala.

 

After the always intertaining tribal dance the supper was served. The food is fantastic at Mpala. The fact that we all meet in the Main House and the dinners are presented at every meal, is adding to this family feeling that embrace a stay at this lodge. Everybody dine together at the same time. It gives an extra kick to this feeling that the managers and rangers join the meals. After supper we were ready to rest after the long travel.

 

 

 Next morning the adventures seriously began. But before the day even started we met Barry. Barry, a hippo, had chosen to “move in” at Mpala. Barry fed at the lawn right outside our house during the nights. A fantastic sighting. This should only be the start of a good day – and indeed it was.

 

 

 The morning gamedrive showed lots of animals, jackals, and of course lots of impalas among lots of more. After a shower breakfast was ready at the terrasse overlooking the river. The big “bush-TV” was on. During brakfast 5 elephants came down to drink water from the river. In the backgound a group of waterbucks had their breakfast. In the river we got a glimpse of eyes from mr Crock. Barry had also finished his morning breakfast and came strolling down between the Main House and the chalets to the river to go for his morning bath.

 

Relaxing at the pool we watched 3 very large kudus walking just 10-15 m from us. These magnificant animals kept together and walked gracefully as if they owned the World. Thats why they were always called “The 3 guys”.
After lunch it was time for the ATV trip. We didn’t see a lot of animals but it is still a great trip just to experience the nature from this perspective. Halfway of the trip we had a rest by a lake with a lot of birds.
Another magic moment.

 

 After the ATV’s we came to the Mpala Bush Camp. Another beautifull place. The table was set for dinner. The bonfire lit. The staff ready at the bar to serve champagne or a drink or two by wish. But first the dust from the ATV trip must be washed off. Of course, as if the most natural in life, you will find this remotely set bush camp equipped with both a nicely build washbasin with tap water and a flushing toilet with an extremely high to the roof and maybe one of the best views in the World.

 

 A bit of relaxing and darkness kicks in. The bonfire becomes a barbeque and the steaks are is prepared. It is a very special atmosphere and feeling, as you sit under the clear dark skye, listening to the sounds from the bush and enjoying the company.

This makes it one of our favorite dinners at Mpala. On the way back to the lodge the spot lights are lit. We have a chance to see some of the nocturnal animals of the bush. This night we found some birds, an owl and bushbucks.

 

 Wednesday is the day for the trip to the township with the school and the kindergarten. But first the day starts with a bushwalk in the area close to the lodge. The goal is not to see the big animals, but the minor animals and plants that you only find at foot. Again Theo showed his great knowledge. We got a huge amount of knowledge about life in the bush. After the bush walk we had time for a shower and then the breakfast. At around 10 am we headed off for the school and the kindergarten some 50 minutes away by car.

 

Unfortunately the school and the kindergarten was closed for summer holidays but Theo gave us a sightseing through the township Yet another appealing experience, not the least because of the lunch at the great Mad Dogz Cafe – a pleasant restaurant that serve super great sandwiches amongst more. Well fed we went back to the lodge. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and enjoying the company at the pool.

 Thursday is from our perspective one of the big days. Even if the day starts really early in the morning it is worth all the trouble of getting up. We had a wake up call at 4 am. After tee and coffee and some bisquits and yogurt and cerials the journey starts towards Kruger National Park. We arrived at app 6 am at the gate to the park. After visiting the bathrooms we went to the small shop and bought a booklet with pictures of the animals and birds species and a roadmap of the park. The booklet we used to mark the species of animals and birds we saw. This is  great way for us to remember witch species we have seen and when and where.

 

It is always exciting to drive around in Kruger. You never know when and which animalsand birds you will get to see. It is incredible that you can even drive for a while without seeing any animals, and suddenly there’s a group of elephants in front of you or a heard of buffalos or a rhino. The most exciting is of course to meet some of the great cats. The trip in the first week was a bit quiet catwise but we saw a lot of other animals and birds.

 

After an exciting day in the national park we came to the camp where we were to stay for the night. It was time for a cooling swim in the pool and some relaxing time before the dinner that we spend with discussing the experiences of the day. The days photos were checked and the sigtings were marked in the booklet. Meanwhile Theo was busy preparing the dinner. All we as guests had to do was to relax and then join the set table for the dinner. Really luxurious. This day we did not get old before we were overwhelmed by our beds. Lots of adventures, an early starting of the day and knowing we had yet another early morning made it easy to go to sleep.

 

Friday starts about 5 am with a light breakfast and packing the car. You want to be ready at 6 am when the gates open to the national park and you are allowed to drive out from the camp to enjoy the animals waking up. The fresh dawns are indeed special. After 3-4 hours of photo-hunting for all kinds of animals it is time for brunch. Again Theo is cooking while we guests enjoy the surroundings. We are back at Mpala at app 4 pm and the rest of the day is for relaxation at the lodge.

 

 

 Saturday is the day of no program. We could sleep a bit later. Breakfast at 9 am and a day at the pool. This does not mean that nothing happens. Because just as we are having lunch a minor group of 9 elephants go bathing in the river. Later the 3 big kudus visit the pool area, known as “the 3 guys”. We meet them several times during our visit. A bit later a warthog with family stroll in for a visit. The day ends with dinner at the terrasse overlooking the river.

 

 

 Sunday we chose to join the river cruise. That ment leaving the lodge 6.30 am. We had just passed Mpalas fence as a lone male elephant blocked the road. He just wanted to know if we were “dangerous” and if he wanted to let us out. With a bit of persuasion from Theo the elephant decided to pull to the side letting us continue our drive. On the way to the boat we saw some of the “backsides” of the mining area at Phalaborwa. This showed very clear how much we humans ar willing to do for making an income. Well on board the boat the cruise on the river started. Shortly after departure breakfast was served and we were ready to spot for animals and birds. Here were mostly birds and a couple of buffalos, kudus and zebras. Unfortunately no hippos or crocks to be seen this day. But still a great trip.

 Back home at the lodge it was lunch time and then nice relaxing at the pool until 4 pm when it was time to meet for the evenings gamedrive. On the game drive we saw a zebra with a very large bulk on the stomac. I was a bit special to see it because when we were here 4 years ago we also met this same zebra. We named her Betsy. This game drive ended at the view point where the staff waited for us with champagne and snacks. We had an incredible sunset and headed back for the Boma dinner.

 

 

During the dinner the chef came and asked Theo and another ranger called Keith to come. They left with the chef for the kitchen. Half an hour later they returned and told that a snake had entered the kitchen but it was now caught and releasedin the bush far away from the lodge.

 

 

 

 Monday is usually the day of departure and for arrivals for new guests. But as everybody beeing here now was staing for two week we got the opportunity to get an extra trip. We desided for the Drakensberg Trip. It takes just under an hour of driving from the lodge to get to the mountains. First stop was at the “Ecco Caves”. Then it was the Blyde River Canyon and The Three Rondavels. What a fantastic view. Then on to “Bourkes Luck Potholes” where 2 rivers meet. The turbulent water has made some incredible formations in the rocks.

 

Before lunch we went to “Goods Window”. As we were here 4 years ago it was unfortuately no the normal spectacular sighting from there due to foggy weather at the mountain top. This time was luckily better. Another spectacular view. This place also gave rich opportunities for shopping.

Lunch at Harries in Graskop. They are famous for their stuffed pancakes which is one of the traditional cuisine of South Africa. They are really delicious.
On the way home we visited Lisbon Falls and Berlin Falls which are incredibly nice waterfalls.
Last stop on the trip was at the short tunnel through the mountain. It was time for Christmas shopping. The trades went well untill Theo honked the car horn – it was time for departure.
Home at the lodge 6.45 pm.

 Tuesday we desided not to do the ATV trip again. We had instead an extra game drive. We started out at 6 am and saw zebras, ginneafowls, impalas with new born babys, elephants and a lot of birds. Back at the lodge we had breakfast and later another game drive and again with a lot of animals. A lone elephant bull decided to make a show off. He did it by pushing over a big tree. While watching his show another elephant approached the car from behind. He was a bit more brash, so Theo decided to drive away.

The gamedrive ended at the bush camp where the dinner was served. Just as the week before we had a bonfire and refreshments. As we enjoyed our drinks we could hear a lot of animals running. Theo went up in the car to check what was going on.

 As he returned he told he could see why they were running. Food was ready and we started the dinner. During the dinner we heard a loud scream? Theo chose to wander off into the darkness to investigate the reason.

5 minutes later he returned. He asked us all to stand around the bonfire and talk a bit loudly together. Then he went off again.
A bit later he returned with the car. He told us, that less than 50 m away 4 male lions and a female had killed a zebra and they were busy eating. He told us to get into the car and took us up to see the big cats.

 

 A fantastic sighting, but also a bit scary because Theo told us taht after finishing their meal they would go to drink and we were between them and the water hole. Theo decided it was time to break up from the bush camp and to head for home. Crazy experience. There was not much said on the drive home. Everyone was digesting the experience.

 Back home at the lodge we had a drink and a talk before bed time.

 Wednesday

We are again on our feet at 6 am. We were going out to see how it looked at the bush camp where the lions cought the zebra. Almost nothing is left from the zebra. The only remaining was a bit of the tail. Just as predicted – the lions had passed right through the bushcamp when they had finished eating. Theo could follow their tracks in the sand.
Back at the lodge we had breakfast and singing a birthday song because it was Jan’s birthday.
The rest of the day we relaxed, witch was very nice after yesterdays adventures. We had dinner in the boma. The chef had made a birthday cake.

Thursday

Again two days in the Kruger National Park. This time we had more luck with finding the cats.
Thursday afternoon Theo spottet a leopard in a tree.
You amost get goosebumps when you see such an incredible elegant animal. Of course we saw many animals, but this leopard was the climax.

 

 

Friday

In the morning just as we headed out from the camp in Kruger we saw 7 lions chilling out lazily in the morning. 3 cups had found a cola can and ran around playing with it. We got home at 3 pm. Freesh fruit and cheese were served to us. We were well in time for a dip in the pool before dinner.

 

 Saturday.

We all went on a trip to the town Hoedspruit. We wanted to shop for the last Christmas gifts.
After lunch we enjoyed the pool. Just as we were lying at the pool “Barry” decided to get out of the river and go feeding of the grass. In the river 2 other hippos had arrived. They just wanted to show Barry who was the biggest. We guess that it was the reason Barry chose to go dining.
Late in the afternoon we had invited Theo up to our house. We had bought a gift for him to say thanks for his great way to guide us and for the many hours of good company we had spend with him.

Sunday

We woke up to rain and a bit chilly weather. But it was wonderfull with some rain. The skye cleared again and after breakfast it was sunshine again.

At 4 pm it was time for our last game drive with champagne and sunset at the view point. Another fantastic view and cosy company.
Last evenings dinner was in the boma with all the staff.

 Monday

Everybody packed and everything prepaired for the travel to home. Lots of goodbyes and hugs.

Again some tears were shed before we entered the cars bound for the airport.

 


We have no doubts. This trip has been another incredible experience. We had a bit of doubt after our last stay here at Mpala because it was almost impossible it could get better than last time. But it did. All of us have already decided that we will come back again. Back to Mpala, the animals and not at least the staff. It is indeed their what they do and how they are that makes a holiday at Mpala so fantastic. When Mpala writes that this is an experience you never forget – it is so true!. We will sign for that.
Hopefully we will see you in November 2019 when it is our silver wedding. That will be our gift to ourselves.
Kind regards
Jeanette and Jan Lindstrøm

 

 

 

 

Translation from the original danish version by Helle Scheel Grunert

Dear Mpala

Dear Mpala

First, second and third time – and maybe a forth time 🙂 Every time has been gigantic experiences – each time in its own way, as described below.

Despite we from close friends had heard that Mpala was a very special place, we didn’t actually know what to expect – on the other hand we had great expectations! As we during landing in Hoedspruit Airport saw baboons and impalas running along the landing strip we realised that this first safari could become very exciting – we were not disappointed. Before we arrived to the gravel road leading to the lodge we had already seen giraffes, buffalos and Oliphants – the great joy was endless. During that week we saw a lot more than we could ever dream of – not only at the trip in Kruger Park, but also from our extremely cosy Chalet or from the pool lounger. 🙂

The welcoming committee was the whole Mpala family. They greeted us at arrival and from that moment we felt the special atmosphere at the lodge. Seen from our perspective, the factor that makes a week at Mpala so fantastic are all the people at the lodge. Words such as dedicated, caring, nice, family like – but at the same time discrete, is very describing for everybody at the lodge. Mix all of this with true love and passion for the great nature and you will have a fantastic stay with these people at the lodge. The Mpala saying: “You come as a guest and leave as a friend” is spot on!

By the way this week was elonged with a week at Zanzibar – super place with the most delicate beaches we have ever seen! Highly recommendable mix!

Our second stay lasted 2 weeks – we had the pleasure of two different rangers. Two unique weeks and nevertheless so very different – For us it is not about seing the most animals. It is also getting the good stories, funny stories, small animals, funny animals. facts and anecdotes. We have no doubt that the rangers at Mpala are special hand picked – not to be identical, but their enthusiasm and love for nature is completely unique. No matter if it is about a small mountain of elephant dung habitated with bugs, an army of Matabela ants, the size of an ostrich’ brain, small or large birds as “Curry Monster” or how complex a lion family actually can be – All the details are told in an interesting and from time to time even a funny way.  Everything gets more interesting due to the rangers dedication. At this stay we altered the motto to: “We came as friends and left with much more”.

Third visit confirmed everyting just described. The employees of the lodge changes naturally as times go by. But the “Mpala Family” spirit is living on in exactly the same way as before. The big hug we received on arrival from the well known wonderful friends put a big line under the motto “We came as friends and…”

Also this time we had fantastic game drives, Kruger trip with lion activity and thrilling animal experiences right ouside the lodge. For a long time before our stay it had not rained. The draft and lack of food had killed a lot of animals. The many dead animals was unpleasant to see, but this actually shows that Mpala/Kruger is not a zoo and the stronges survives. The gallow humor was very much alive. Gaby – a fellow guest – invented a new alternative to “the big 5” and “the small 5” – it was “the dead 5”!

We spent many good hours with other lovely safari guests on the drives, at the pool and at the many delicious meals at the lodge or at the worlds best restaurant – outside in the bush camp.

During this week we had the pleasure of experiencing a very professional and entusiastic photographer. He had arrived to make movies and take photos for marketing use. Very intertaining to watch this action with Per Grunert as instructor. The result is great as you can see on this web page.

The last evening’s farewell dinner in the cosy Boma together with all the employees is allways an experience and howling funny. These people can really tell anecdotes, African jokes and stories so the tears roll.

To be close to the wild life and nature has been a very different and exciting experience for us if we compaire it to our life back home in Denmark. Here our most dangerous animal is a tick – and the closest approach with dangerous animals is on the TV screen.

We have seen so much during all the weeks – Big 5, if a leopard in the darkness counts? We are still short of a cheetah – but hundreds of fancy birds, large heards of buffalos, wilder beests and Oliphants. Lions very close up, lots of girafs, rhinos, hippos, hyenas and a lots more. The greatest experience must without doubt be the last game drive in Mpala’s back yard: heards of zebras, elephants, girafs, bufalos, wilder beests, impalas, wartogs and baboons was at the same spot at the same time – wildly impressing and an experience we will never forget.

Mpala Lodge is a luxury lodge – without toxidos, extraordinary tendenses, goldcovered water taps, or anonymous employees. The lodge design is really top of the pop. A cozy and relaxed down to earth atmosphere. This atmosphere is created by the employees and along with the kitchen staff’s skills to create one delicious meal after the other using local food and recipies. This is the perfect cocktail. It is up to you if you want the privacy in your own chalet and enjoy the view over Olifants River or watch the “Bush-TV” joining other guests on the terrace at the Main House. Everything is done best with a glass of chilly white wine or icy G&T. Same TV programme is shown in the pool area!

To watch wildlife in this atmosphere is one of the many reasons we return again and again. Total relacing and no stress with fantastic people in a fantastic nature.

Lots of regards “and big hugs” from Else and Flemming

Translation from the original danish version by Helle Scheel Grunert

Stay at Mpala Lodge

Stay at Mpala Lodge

Diary of Birthe Zimmermann
in company with Kirsten Wøldike and Erland Andersen (ch. 3)
Vibeke Birkmann and Kim Pilegaard (ch. 1) and
my husband, Jan Zimmermann (ch. 2)

We – a total of six good friends (including 4 biologists) – have not been many hours in South Africa before we recognize that we are landed in the midst of the South African spring. Here, however, it is crackling dry!

 

We are picked up at the charming little airport in Phalaborwa. On our trip to Mpala, the savannah around us is silver gray with only a little green. But the vegetation however, show tiny little leaves. We are writing Monday, October 30, 2017. Both the striped lizards and birds like Trumpeter Hornbill and Purple Crested Turaco bark and chase each other in the trees of the lodge as we are welcomed by the whole smiling family at Mpala Lodge. We are getting chalet number 1, 2 and 3. From the terrace at the chalet 2 we immediately enjoy the view down the Oliphants River. There are warthogs grazing – or rather said: They kneel on their “knees” when they are grazing. On the opposite river bank a large group of graceful impala, and a few kudus are ruminanting in the shadow of some leafless trees.

Striped lizzards in Spring moode

 

 

 

 

 

Vehyumbeleri Dancers, colorful and joyful

We are invited to a welcome drink, and colorful dancers rush forward. Their joy of life is spreading to the terrace, where we sit with a glass of deliciously cool bubbles – us 6 a little tired-of-traveling Danish friends.

But then I become almost euphoric because the singing group breaks into the “Shosholoza” song … a song I have enjoyed singing in my choir (Vokalists) at home. Here the song is obvious – in the exact right frame. “Sho-sho-lo-za … South Africa!” First meal is taken on the main terrace overlooking the river in the sunset, and we still do not understand why we must not go alone to our beautiful chalet at the top of the hill, for a night’s well earned rest before the next mornings first game drive. Here it seems silent and harmless, and very dark? However, strange sounds from the river reveal a bunch of hippos in the dark. And what else may be luring in the dark, hoping for a bite of danish treat …

 

We easy to fall in love with “our”  chalet no 1-2.

Tuesday 31 October and after a good night’s sleep, we enjoy the birds songs, a cup of coffee and the sunrise on the terrace before the phone rings. We are ready for the first game drive! While “our” Hadada-ibis and “our” kingfisher have said a clearly good morning in their very own, noisy way!

Sunrise at no 1-2

 

 

Quickly the day offer experiences: Yellow-billed hornbills are the closest character here. A very big eagle poses beautifully in the early light – Martial Eagle! We see lots of lovely animals: Zebra, wilderbeast, warthog, kudu, impala, bushbucks and nyala – the one with the yellow legs:

 

 

 

 

After breakfast and some time of siesta on the terrace spend with naming the many new birds we see – today’s adventures continues in the dust:

Bike tour in a beautiful nature reserve. But the mashines are noisy and dusty. Not a prefered activity for me!

Three of us choose to sit in the game drive vehicle that follow at the rear: We get our dust today! We spot the vulture on the nest, a couple of European bee eaters, a yellow-billed, kite – and fresh elephant dung. We see a jackal, but no lions, giraffes, rhinos or elephants! However, the evening is very special: We are having the dinner in the bush camp in the candles and the lights of the fire, to the sound of singing night jar: “Fiery-necked night jar” sings melodically and gets the answer from far away. One of the other guests has an app with South African bird songs and play it, which lures the night jar closer. The sounds around us and the delicious steak and good South African red wine creates an incredibly nice atmosphere for the evenings dinner. There is even a toilet with flushing water and a washbassin with tap water so the dust from the afternoon’s trip experiences can be washed of! On the bumpy road back towards the lodge, our guide holds a powerful lamp in the hand and lights to all sides.

After a few meters he spot the night jars in the light cone. To me, this is a unique experience. The night jar here sing so melodically as opposed to the homely (Scandinavian) arts’s hoarse and shattering, little boring sound. And when I’m safely home at the lodge under the mosquito net (even though we do not see mosquitoes at all!), we recognize that there is also singing fiery-necked night jar just outside our chalet and around us. The song is just one of the many sounds of the night out there. Now well known.

An app 10 cm big moth on the pathway up to chalet 2                                     

Wednesday, the 1st of November.
Again we get up before 5am for a bush walk in the early morning light. Lion ants, elephant dung, cardinal woodpecker, sunbirds. No big animals. The advantage of walking is that we get close to the flowering acacias and other savannah plants.

Otherwise, today’s main theme is a visit to a school and kindergarten! We park at Mpalas own parking space and visit the Mmakadi Day Center where the children are gathered under the newly established shading roof. It gives a shadow to the burning sun. The kids are happy, but seem to be a little shy. In turns they perform thank you greetings to Mpala, to us, to Nelson Mendela and to Africa.

Perhaps the reason why they are quiet is that the kindergarten today has a visit for dental care!

Every child opens up and gets the teeth examined. Those who need treatment are being carefully noted. Everyone get a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste.

We also visit the Diphuti school, where all the 7th-8th grade students are gathered in two rooms: the boys and the girls are seperated today. Today’s teaching is about “the difficulty of becoming a teenager!”

Lunch is served at Mad Dogz Cafe close to Hoedspruit.  We return towards Mpala with beautiful views of the Drakensberg mountains driving through lush friut plantations. Just before the turn off for the dirth road we stop to fill petrol on the cars – again something interesting happens: A giant flock of Southern Masked Weavers builds artistic nests in a tree. The birds are bright yellow with a black mask. The nests are impressing with the openings pointing downwards. The females disqualify shappy work so the males have to perfom perfectly with the construction work!
Late in the afternoon we come home after a bumpy ride on the dusty and uneven dirt road. It takes ½ hour from the main road to the lodge, but we enjoy every minute and sighting: camouflaged antelopes: waterbuck with the white “toilet seat” painted on the butt, the kudu with the white crossbars and the elegant impala.

In the chalet the phone calls: There is an elephant accross the river! We enjoy all the sight of him, but suddenly something happens just over our heads: The big trumpeter hornbills are in the mood! Kim can’t spot them and stays back as we get back to spend a lazy hour on the terrace. Kim is our “photographer” – and he succeeds in recording a “porn movie” of the two birds! The sequence is shown to anyone who wants to see it, both before and during the evening’s cozy dinner outside in the boma! Another great day is has ended!

Thursday 2nd -Friday 3rd November: Kruger National Park!

A mighty male elephant welcomes us in the Kruger National Park, a trip we have looked very much forward to. The day starts cloudy, but before 9 am we have seen a leopard eating of a giraffe in a tree, flocks of elephants digging for water in the reddish sand, zebras, wilderbest, waterbucks, bushbucks, and small stein bucks that reside close to the roadside. We spot a volture and hyena. The pulse is high as the ranger suddenly speeds up: There are spotted wild dogs further ahead.

The rangers are preparing a delicious barbecue, while we fall in love with the sighting of a small crocodile that runs all the way out of the water in an attempt to catch a little red-nosed bird. After lunch, the sky has become cloudy and the animals seek shadow. We spot a cori trappe, a fish eagle, blackshouldered kite. Suddenly we are caught in the middle of a herd of elephants on the road. On all sides we are surrounded by elephants. A truck exceeds the speed limit of 50 km/h which makes a big elephant angry. But everyone else stop and look at the herd. Also, impala and baboons crosses the road.

We have been warned…

We are close to Olifants River with plenty of water and green grass. Lots of animals and birds live in the this rich area. We take our time on the bridge just to watch. .

The evening and the night is spend in “Olifants-camp” with barbecue in full moon after a beautiful sunset.

Friday morning we see hyenas and crocodiles and the lovely little clip springer on the route down the river. The light is beautiful in beams through the clouds. We continue the adventure with secretary birds, saddlebilled stork – and the ears of a lion – several walking cori traps, white-fronted bee-eater very close to the colorful breeds (Lilac Breasted Rollers). At the picnic spot three species of hornbills; a yellow barbet sings from a tree top, and in the tree in the center of the picnic spot sit a little Scops Owl looking obliquely down on us. We almost got a good excuse for staying an extra day in the park – the car will not start (!) – we eventually left Kruger National Park after two completely awesome days.

 

A fish eagle poses beautifully in a dead leadwood tree. 

Kruger National Park is an adventure, an out of this world experience. Partly because of the many animals, partly because a rich and exciting world of birds.

Saturday, 4th of November is a day for relaxing. We thought of joining the trip to the Drakensberg Mountains. But we felt a need to digest the many impressions. Even a day off gives experiences when a giant kingfisher suddenly rest on a branch nearby and flashes its rusty red breast, reveailing he is a male.

In the afternood we go on a gamedrive to see the jackal with the 4 small cubs. But they are nowhere to see. In stead we enjoy the many gracious girafs. Suddenly we are met of the sound of high calls. The jackal cubs are calling their mom. Quickly the ranger turns the car and speeds to the denn – now the bush swarm with life. A cub lies flat on the ground hiding some meters from the denn. Another peeps cautiously its head out and is followed by a sibling. Mum is now coming home!

Eye to eye with four cute jackal cubs

 

Full of rich moments the game drive ends with sundowner bubbles “slightly early”. It is our second last evening – but Vibeke and Kim’s aniversary. We enjoy the drink and the beautifull view over the landscape while the sun sets behind the mountains.

Sundowner for Erland, Kirsten, Vibeke, Kim, Birthe og Jan

Sunday, 5th of November is our last full day. We have booked a river cruise and drive through a scarred mining area towards the boat. Breakfast is served on board. We see a lot of birds: The African darter, herons, white-faced ducks – and later a yellow billed stork..

From the Big 5 we see buffalos. A lot of them with ox-peckers on their back. The skin treatment team – catching bugs and parasites. They look harmless on the distance as they calmly ruminates. But as you watch the huge horns you are not in doubt. To be enjoyed at a distance!

On the way home we drive up the mountain of rock debris from the mine.  We have negotiated us to an extra sundowner to accompany the view. We spot a lake inhabitated with estimated 50 flamingos and we also see the red-billed buffalo weaver while we wait for the other car of Mpala guests.

 

The day ends with a festively set table and a gourmet dinner outside in the boma.

The boma evening is a perfect example of “hygge”!

Monday, 6th November 2017 the adventure at Mpala Lodge is over for us. From the “Big5” we have “only” seen leopard, elephants and buffalos. Well we did see the ears of a lion behind a tuft of grass in Kruger National Park. But it was mostly the beautifull saddle-billed stork we watched. The other car of guests actually saw a black rhino on the way to Kruger NP. But it had left when we arrived. So we had “only” the beautiful ground hornbills on the same spot. But there must be something to come back for!

And look, what happened on our way to the airport. Not so far from Mpala Lodge we met mamma lion with her 3 cups! They came quitely sneaking down the road towards us. The engine of the car is turned off. They pass us so close that we could have petted their backs everyone of them.

Photo of lion cups with mum. taken by Kim Pilegaard

Thank you for this time – We will very gladly return!

DanishText and photo: Birthe Zimmermann

Translation from the original danisk version by Helle Scheel Grunert