When I was 17 years old and a high school senior in a small town in Southern Illinois (U.S.), Pernille, came to live with my family and me for the school year as an exchange student from Bornholm, Denmark. Over those nine months, the friendship between Pernille and I grew and we became like sisters. After our senior year, Pernille and I stayed in touch via mail and an occasional telephone call, but over the years we both moved and lost track of each other. Fast forward to Facebook, we found each other again and haven’t stopped communicating since. In July 2015, I took my two sons to visit Pernille and her family in Bornholm and we have since become one modern, international family who I love dearly.
Then, in January 2017, Pernille sent me a message that read “meet me in South Africa in two weeks.” I immediately laughed from my sofa in Northern California where I now live. Who picks up and goes to Africa on a whim?! But, Pernille was persistent and had visited Mpala twice before and knew how magical it is. She told me how incredibly amazing her visits were and a perfect place to relax and have a bit of a “reset…” something we both needed. It didn’t take much to convince me to say YES! Two weeks later, we were off!
Early bird gets the worm! Sunrise over the Olifants River. Wake up calls start at 4 or 5AM at Mpala Safari Lodge. Don’t worry… coffee and breakfast are waiting for you as well as an amazing adventure!
Arriving at Mpala Safari Lodge
After nearly 24 hours of travel that included a two-hour drive to San Francisco and three different flights, I had arrived in South Africa!!! Theo, a ranger at Mpala, met Pernille and I at the Hoedspruit Airport and although I have never met Theo (Pernille had) it was as if an old friend was picking us up at the airport. Pulling out of the airport we immediately spotted giraffe alongside the road… that was just the beginning of a magical week of nature viewing.
Getting to Mpala Safari Lodge requires about a 40-minute drive on what Theo calls “Wake and Shake Road.” It’s a dirt road with a lot of bumps and potholes, and indeed it will keep you hanging on and alert! After the bumpy drive, Mpala’s guest are warmly greeted by the entire team of staff when you pull into the carport. For Pernille (and I’m sure other returning guests) it feels like returning home.
“Wake and Shake Road” on the way to Mpala Safari Lodge. The bush was very green after receiving much needed rain.
Mpala Safari Lodge Staff
My Facebook Post – January 17, 2017 (Day 2 at Mpala Safari Lodge)
Cruising alongside my Danish sister on ATVs in the bush and came around a corner to find this AMAZING creature before us. We were a bit fearless coming up toward the lion until Theo, our ranger, motioned for us to move along quickly as the male lion was getting a little bit too curious about us. This was right after Pernille and I were giggling as a giraffe family (the “bush hippies”) galloped alongside our ATVs for a bit as we drove past. ummm… what?
Still not quite fully processing what is happening before my eyes. After a near 24-hour 3-different flights adventure to arrive near Kruger National Park I am still spent. After arriving at the last airport in Hoedspruit we had a 40-minute drive along a dirt road into Mpala Safari Lodge. Along the way we spotted buffalo, giraffe, zebra, kudu, impalas, jackals, crocodiles, and hippos. Surreal! We had a lovely dinner of spring buck (like an antelope… when in Rome!) and woke up to baboons running all over the front of our chalet. After spotting the lion we were taken to a candlelit dinner in the bush where we were greeted with champagne. Three days of game drives before us. I’m giddy! (and maybe a little bit buzzed from South African wine!) Love!
Place to ourselves (almost)! Pernille and I shared the beautiful lodge with just two other people, a lovely Danish couple (Jens Clausen and Linda Kronsted).
Another highlight of the trip is an ATV ride through the bush! We had so much fun we opted for a second ride later in the week.
Came around a corner on our ATVs to find this guy greeting us! O-M-G!
One of the rangers said it was his first time in 20+ years that he has spotted a lion while on an ATV (lucky us!).
Dining at Mpala Safari Lodge
Dining at Mpala is delicious, fun, and different… zebra, anyone?! Depending on the day’s activities the venue and format for the meal will change. Whether you are enjoying breakfast on the deck overlooking the Olifants River, a Bar-b-que picnic lunch in Kruger National Park, or (my favorite) candlelit dinner in the bush… it’s all amazing!
Candlelight dinner under a bush willow and 1,000 stars… I will take this over a five-star restaurant any day!
Candlelit Dinner is ready in the boma.
Of course one of the highlights of Mpala Safari Lodge are the game drives and walks. The rangers are top-notch, entertaining, and extremely knowledgeable. During our week at Mpala we tracked down four of the Big 5 (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African Leopard)… just missed the rhinoceros, which is the perfect reason for me to return! Mpala Safari Lodge is adjacent to Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa.
Oh hey there, kudus!
Thelma and Louise of the bush! We left the driving up to Theo, but took advantage of plenty of photo opportunities with the jeep!
We spotted this beauty during a game drive in Kruger National Park… amazing!
One of my favorite highlights from our trip to Kruger National Park… What we thought were a few elephants crossing the road turned into a herd of nearly 100 elephants crossing the road. They ranged from a few weeks old (adorable!!!) to over 50 years old. It was truly amazing to witness first-hand the different behaviors. Having well-trained rangers with you, like Theo, turns into quite the wildlife education experience.
Giraffes in the beautiful South African bushveld
We came across this Cape buffalo about 100 meters from our lodge. Theo, our ranger, says it was killed by lions just a few hours earlier. About 50 vultures were flying above the kill afterward. An alarming reminder that Mpala Safari Lodge is practically fenceless and open to Kruger National Park so animals come and go as they please.
Vervet monkey mama and baby
New ranger in town ? This never gets old!
Hippos with your coffee! Mpala Safari Lodge overlooks the Olifants River where we saw hippos swimming every morning over breakfast.
Visit to Diphuti Village School
Mpala Safari Lodge cares about their community. As a way of thanking the local community they provide a contribution to the village elementary school. It was so sweet to visit the school and meet the kids who happily sang a couple of songs for us between classes.
Students at Diphuti Village School
The Drakenberg Mountains
One of the options for an additional experience is a day touring the Drakeberg Mountains. This excursion gives you the opprortunity to explore a very different South African landscape from the bushveld. We spent the day with Theo driving us through small towns (where we got to do a little shopping) and from one amazing view point to the next. Chasing waterfalls in South Africa… highly recommended!
Pernille taking in the view!
Exploring the mountains!
Local market on our way to the Drakenberg Mountains.
My FaceBook Post – January 25, 2017 (Day 10 at Mpala Safari Lodge)
Leaving South Africa tomorrow with a very full heart. I think it might be impossible to spend 10 days in the wilds of this country without the experience changing you for the better… more grateful, more humble, renewed perspective, greater sense of awe, and absolutely recharged on life.
Thank you for sharing this special time with me, Pernille… I love you. Thank you to Theo Potgieter for sharing your kind heart and love of nature with us!
During the end of 2016, we held a competition for some of our former guests.
The prize is a trip back to our lodge.
Staying at the Mpala Lodge and visiting the fantastic Kruger National Park in South Africa is for most people associated with safaris, hunting or just relaxing in the cozy bungalows. These are indeed some of the most common activities and why people mostly come here as our guests. The main attraction of the Mpala Lodge is the nature and the wildlife.
However there is no reason why you should not be able to combine this unique experience with whatever hobby you usually enjoy at home. This is why for example hunters and photographers are frequent guests at the lodge. Did you know that we are a great spot for golfers as well?
Golf is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. It is estimated that more than 60 million people play this sport worldwide. The combination of technique, skill and outdoor activity has captured a lot of people. This means that there are great golf courses almost in every place on Earth, and golf travel has become a very popular way of travelling for golf fans.
Golf at Mpala
If you bring your golf clubs with you when coming to the Mpala Lodge, we guarantee you an extraordinary experience, very different from what you know from your local golf course at home. We have a special agreement with the nearby Hans Merensky Golf Club, which is a very special place for golf lovers, wanting to try something different, but at a high quality still.
The Hans Merensky Golf Course was voted the best walking course in all of South Africa and is designed by world famous golf course designer Bob Grimsdell. As you can probably imagine by now, this is a very fine golf course. This golf course has 18 holes, and is classified as a Par 72 Championship Course.
Watch out for crossing giraffes and do not try to pick up ball from the water!
Besides being a top class golf course, what makes the Hans Merensky Golf Course really special are the resident animals who likes to enjoy the course as much as you do. Imagine teeing off and enjoying your golf play in beautiful surroundings and in great weather, and then add the experience of watching the golf course’s very own giraffe crossing the course in front of you. Not to mention the hippos bathing in the lake in the middle of everything. The green grass of the beautifuld golf course attracts a range of animals, and you will love sharing the grass with these amazing creatures.
We have to warn you though. Please do not try to pick stray golf balls from the water. There are crocodiles lurking there, adding just a little bit of action to your golfing experience. There is no danger though, just count balls in the water as lost for good.
We would recommend assigning 1-3 days for golf, and combining it with all the other extraordinary activities available here at the Mpala Lodge and in the Kruger National Park.
If you are a hunter, a time will come for most people, where you begin dreaming of something bigger and more adventurous than your local hunting at home. It is not that there is no joy and excitement hunting for local game, but for many the dream is a safari, big game hunting and exotic trophies on the wall. Some choose to take hunting trips for example to Poland, where you can combine the lust for travelling with new hunting grounds, but there is no doubt about the fact that the ultimate dream is hunting in Africa.
There are many African countries offering hunting trips and safaris, but we will clearly recommend, that you choose South Africa. There are several good reasons to choose South Africa, but the primary one is that it is one of the only African countries where the game does not belong to the state. In South Africa it is the land owners who also own the game on their land. This means that there are much larger selections of hunting operators in South Africa than in any other country in Africa. There is literally thousands of hunting areas in this large country – the last numbers we have read were more than 4000.
Which animals can you hunt in South Africa?
If you are not familiar with hunting in Africa, then you might be wondering which kind of animals you are actually allowed to hunt in South Africa. It is said that there are up to 60 different species, you are allowed to hunt in South Africa. Each hunting operator typically has between 12 and 20 different species. The operators can advise you regarding which species will fit the circumstances and your needs.
The most common game to hunt – especially for beginners – is impala, black wildebeest, zebra and warthog. But you may also have the possibility to shoot for example buffalo, kudu, nyala or eland, just to mention a few, if you are more into the larger game. No matter what, there is a big difference from shooting deer at home to hunting for zebras in the fantastic African nature.
When is the best time to go hunting in South Africa?
Hunting in South Africa is best in the winter season, when it is not so hot and when there are no leaves on the trees and bushes, which means that it is much easier to spot the game in the bush. Remember that South Africa are in the southern hemisphere and that the seasons are opposite to the northern hemisphere. The early summer begin in October. From the beginning of November the bush is dense with plants and leaves, making it more difficult to get within shooting range. Hunting in the summer period from November to April will mostly take place in the early mornings and late afternoons, when the sun and the heat is not too strong. It will mostly be on a much closer range (50-100 meters) or in the spots were the animals come out to drink.
Can I bring my own rifle?
We recommend that you rent a rifle on location by the hunting operator, if possible, so that you avoid all the trouble of bringing a weapon through customs and security in connection with your flight. If you rent a rifle in South Africa you can furthermore be sure to get precisely the type and caliber that the Professional Hunter would recommend for the game you wish to hunt. If you after all prefer to hunt with your own rifle, then that is possible. However it is very important that you follow the mandatory regulations of transport all the way from your starting destination to your place of hunting and back, to not risk being delayed or even cancelled because of missing permits.
Most airline companies have their own special regulations that must be complied with. They require that the weapon is legally registered when you check in, and the transportation of a weapon may have to be registered with them on beforehand so they can prepare themselves for the transport of the weapon.
You will also need a customs declaration fitting your specific country and you must register for temporary import of weapons to South Africa. This form must be signed by you in person in inspection of the airport police in South Africa.
This was just a quick run-through of the most important issues regarding transportation to South Africa but your home country may have other regulations. If you plan on bringing your own rifle for hunting in South Africa, you must check the specific rules yourself, and ask the airline company about their regulations, so you will not get into trouble during the process.
Bring you trophies back home
An important part of a hunting trip to exotic places such as South Africa is likely bringing home your trophies. The thought of having trophies with wonderful experiences on your wall – and maybe even the thought of making your friends impressed – is most certainly a part of the dream for many travelling hunters.
But how does it actually work? How do you get from the point where you proudly are having your picture taken in front of the hunted trophy till it is hanging at your wall back home? There are basically three elements in the process.
The first is the field preparation which is handled by the Professional Hunter. The game is skinned, salted and clearly tagged, to prevent the skin and horns from being damaged by the heat, moisture and insects.
Secondly is the taxidermist works, if you do not prefer to get your trophy send home to a taxidermist at your home country. The most important is that your trophy is handled by a professional taxidermist who knows his job and how to work on the specific game, as bad taxidermy work can ruin your dream of the perfect presentation. Mostly the Professional Hunter will deliver your trophy’s to the taxidermist and from there the taxidermist will contact you directly by email and make all arrangements included shipping directly with you, as well as all payments regarding the work, veterinarian papers and the shipping etc.
Thirdly is the packing and shipping of the trophies to your home address. Professional taxidermists who work with international clients will normally also take care of the entire process with the packing, shipping, insurance and delivery, which is very convenient because there are so many regulations to comply with.
Field preparation, taxidermy work, veterinarian papers and shipping are costs that you must budget for separately because these costs are not included in the hunting. Very often these costs are at the level or even higher than the hunting itself.
We recommend that you make use of a reliable taxidermy with good international reputation, even though he may be more expensive than a local taxidermy boutique in the remotes, because you don’t want your life time experience to be ruined.
Combine the hunting trip with a family vacation
Often hunting is an interest you share with friends but not so much with your family. A hunting trip to such an exotic place like South Africa is not exactly a cheap pleasure, and one could imagine that it would not be easy to sell the idea to your better half, that you would be going alone on that kind of adventure, while she and the family have to stay back home. But it does not have to be like that.
Why not bring the whole family to South Africa to combine a family holiday in the amazing country with one or two days of hunting, while the family have their experiences at the same time?
Mpala Safari Lodge is a small exclusive lodge on the banks of Olifants River in the world famous natural reserve Greater Kruger National Park.
The special about Mpala Safari Lodge is the package of experiences which is included in the price. Each day offers brand new experiences of nature, traditional culture and safari. We have specialized in combinations of family holidays and hunting trips, where the possibility for hunting takes part on the Saturdays and Sundays at a hunting farm with plenty of excellent game closely to Mpala. While you are experiencing your life time dream of hunting the non-hunters have options for several other experiences for example hot air ballooning, river cruise, horseback riding, elephant riding, sightseeing in the beautiful Drakensberg mountains, shopping at the nearby small city and much more.
At Mpala the whole family stays in peaceful non touristy surroundings, while you have one or two days of hunting at the nearby hunting farm. At dinner you return and stay home until the next morning. This may probably be the best way for a family holiday and at the same time get your hunting dreams fulfilled.
Read more about the hunting and see prices here
Below you will find some of the news from Mpala. If you want to read more about the latest experiences at Mpala, please visit us on Facebook where there will be news and photos almost every day.
Visit us on Facebook