In Novembrt 2016 my wife an I returned to Mpala to experience the magic, the presence and family feeling, we had wxperienced the first time we visited Mpala. This time we had invited a couple of friends, so they coul experience it too.
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 his large knowledge about wildlife and paticular birds. A true encyclopaedia.
As we arrived in the parking lot at the lodge a welcomming comite formed by the staff was greating us. It was a fantastic reunion. But someone was missing. Unfortunately Estel, the manager, was absent. He was off for her holiday in the firts couple of days of our stay. A new face appeared, Stacey. Stacey is Estels helper and right hand. She appeared to be a really fine and nice acquaintance. It is very clear why she is hired.
We got our rooms. We stayed door to door with our friends.
Besides us 4 another couple visited the lodge, also for 2 weeks. In all we were a small intense group.
We met in the MainHouse for a refreshment, We said hello to the other couple and met Irene. Irene is a personality who makes everybody feel welcome and her good spitit is ccontagious. Just as everybode elst at Mpala.
After the always intertaining tribal dance supper was ready. The food is fantastic at Mpala. The fact that we all meet in the Main House and the food is presented at every supper is adding to this family feeling. Averybody dine together at the same time. It gives an extra kick to this feeling that the staff join the meal. After supper we were ready to rest our eyes after the long journey.
Tuesday morning the adventure seriously began. But before the day even started we met Barry. A hippo had chosen to “move in” at Mpala. Barry fed at the lawn right outside our huts. A fantactic sighting. This sould only be at good day – and of cause it was.
The morning gamedrive offedred lots of animals, Jackals, of cause impalas among lots of more. After a shower breakfast was ready at the terrasse. The big “bush-TV” was on. During brakfast 5 elephants came down to drink in 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 finsished his feeding and came stroling down between the Main House and the huts into the river to bade.
Relaxing at the pool we watched 3 very large koudus walking 10-15 m from us. These magnificant animals walked af if they ewned the World. Thats why they were 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 see the nature from this perspective. Halfway we had a rest by a lake with a lot of birds.
Another magic moment.
.After the ATVs we joined the Mapla Bush Camp. Another beautifull place. The table is set for dinner. The bonfire is lit. The staff is ready in the bar to serve one or two drinks by wish. But first the dust must be washed off. Of cause you will find a washbasin with tap water and a toilet with a emensly hich roof and maybe one of the best views in the World.
A bit of relaxing and darkness kicks in. The bonfire is modified to a barbeque and the food is prepaired. It is a very special atmosphere and feeling, as you sit under the clear skye, listen to the sounds from the bush and enjoying the company.
This is one of the best meals at the stay at Mpala. On the way back the hand lamps are lit. We have a chance to see some of the night active animals in the bush. This time we found some birds, an owl and bushbucks.
Wednesday is the day for the trip to the school and the kindergarden. But first the day starts with a bushwalk near the lodge. The aim is not the big animals. But the minor animals and plants. Again Theo shows his great knowledge. we get a huge amount of knowledge about life in the bush. An hour passes and we have time for a shower and some breakfast. At around 10 am we head off for the school and kindergarden. A trip in the car of approximately 50 min.
Unfortunately the pupils had started their Summer vacation so Theo gave a small sightseing tor. Ti was the same at the kindergarten. All the little ones were also off. So no visit here. But the trip was not wasted. Because we had lunch at Mad Dogs Cafe. A cosy restaurant with some super great sandwiches. 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 it is worth all the trouble. We had wake up calls at 4 am. After the/coffee, som bisquits and yogurt the trip starts towards Kruger. We arrived apr. 6 am at the gate to the park. After attending the bathrooms we took a trip in the shop. We bought a book about the parks animals and birds. In the book it is possible to mark the animals you have seen. This is for us a nice way to remember witch animals we have seen and when.
It is always exciting to drive around in Kruger. You never knoe when ad whitch animals you will meet. It is amasing to drive for some time without meeting any animals, and suddenly you have in front of you 5-6 elephants, a heard of buffalos or a rhyno. The most exciting is of cause to meet some of the great cats. The trip in the first week was a bit quiet catwise but we had a lot of other animals and birds.
After an exciting day in the park we hit the camp for the night. It was time for a cooling dip in the pool and some relaxing time used for discussing the day. The days photos were checked and the sigtings were marked in the book. Meanwhile Theo was busy prpairing dinner. So all we guests had to do was to join the table and eat. Really luxury. The time is not getting old before we hit the sac. Lots of adventures, an early start and knowing we had another early start gave us no problems finding the beds.
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 enjoy the animals wake up and the fresh dawn is indeed special. After 3-4 hours hunt for all kinds of animals it is time for brunch. Again Theo is cooking and we guests can enjoy nature arond us. We are back around 4 pm. The rest of Friday is pure relaxaxation.
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 attend lunch a minor group of 9 elephants bade in the river. Later 3 big koudus visit the pool area. Known as ” the 3 guys”. We meet thm several tims during our visit. A bit later a warthog with family stroll in for a visit. The day ends with dinner at the terrasse.
Sunday we chose to join the river crouse. That ment leaving the lodge 6.30 am. We had just passed Mpalas fence as a lone male elephent blocked the road. He just needed to find out if we were “dangerous” and if he wanded to let us through. With a bit of persuasion from Theo he decided to pull to the side and we could continue our ride. On the way to the boat we disovered some of the “backarea” of the mines. This is very clear how much we humans ar willing to do for eaning money. Well on board the trip starded. Shortly after departure breakfast is served. Well fed we were ready to spot animals. Here were mostly birds and a couple of buffalos, koudus and zebras. Unfortunately no hippos or crocks. But still a great trip.
Back home at the lodge it was lunshtime and then it spelled relaxing at the pool untill 4 pm. it was time to meet in the carpark for departure on the gamedrive. On the trip we saw a zebra with a very large bulk on the stomac. I was a bit special to see it. When we were here 4 years ago we also met this zebra.. So we named her Betsy. The tip terminated at the view point. The staff was ready with “champagne” and snacks. We had an incredible sunset and headed back for the Boma dinner.
During the dinner the chef came and fetched Theo and another ranger called Kerih. They left with the chef for the kitchen. Half an hour later they returned and told that a snake had entered the kitchen. It was now caught and released well away from the lodge.
Monday is usualy the day of changing guests. But as everybody stays for another week we had an oppotunity to take a trip. We chose the Drakensberg Trip. It takes just under an hour to reach the mountains. First stop was at the caves “Ecco Caves”. Then we reached “Blyde River Canyon and The three Rondavels”. What a fantastic view. Then on to “Burkes Luck Potholes” An area where 2 rivers meet. This turbulent water has made some incredible formations in the rocks.
Before lunch we went to “Goods Window”. As we were here 4 yease ago it was unfotuately closed due to fog. This time was luckyly better. Another spectakular view. This plase aslo gave rich oppotunities for shopping.
Lunsh at Hatties in Graskop. they are famous for their filled pancakes. They are really nice.
On the way bask we visited Lisbon Falls and Berlin Falls Incredible nice waterfalls.
Last stop on the trip was at the tunnel. It was time for Christmas shopping. The trade went well untill Theo honked the horn – time for departure.
Home at the lodge 6.45 pm.
Tuesday we chose not to take the ATV trip again. We had instead an extra gamedrive. We started out at 6 am and had zebra, ginneafowls, impalas with new born babys, elephants and a lot of birds. Bask at the lodge we had breakfast and relaxing before another gamedrive.
Again we had a lot of animals. A lone elephant bull decided to make a show off. He did it by pushing a big tree over. While watching his show another elephant approached the car from behind. He was a bit more brash, so Theo decided to go.
The gamedrive ended in the bushcamp. Dinner was served here. 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 the locomotion.
As he returned and he told he could not locate the reason for their 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 min 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 got us into the car and took us up to see the big cats.
Et fantastisk syn, men også lidt skræmmende. Med den viden, at når de var færdige med at spise, ville de have vand valgte Theo, at vi skulle vende hjem. Mest fordi vi befandt os mellem løverne og det vandhul, som løverne ville gå hen til, når det var færdige. Vanvittig oplevelse. Once in a lifetime. Der blev ikke sagt ret meget på turen hjem. Alle skulle lige bearbejde denne oplevelse.
A fantastic sighting, bur also a bit scary. With the knowledge in mind that when they had finished eating they would go to drink. Theo decided to head for home. Mostly because we were in the line between the lions and the water hole. So the lions would probably right through the bushcamp. Crazy experience. There was not much said on the trip home. Everyone should just work this experience.
Back home at the lodge we had a drink and a talk before bedtime.
We are again on our feet at 6 am. We were going out to see how it looked at the bushcamp. 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. Theo could follow their tracks in the sand.
Back at the lodge we had breakfast and birthday song. It was Jan’s birthday.
The rest of the day was relaxing. Witch was very nice efter yesterdays adventures. We had dinner in the boma. The chef had made a birthday cake.
Again two days the Kruger Park Trip. This time we had more luck on the cats.
Thursday afternoon Theo spottet a leopard in a tree.
You amost get goosebumps when you see such an incredible elegant animal. Of cause we har many animals, but this was the climax.
In the morning just as we headed out from the camp we saw 7 lions relaxing lazyly in the morning air. 3 cups had found a cola can and ran around and played with it. We got home at 3 pm. We were served som fruit and cheese. We were well in time for a dip in the pool before dinner.
We all went on a trip to Hoedspruit, We needed to buy the last gifts and just shop.
After lunch we had som relaxing time at the pool. Just as we were lying at the pool “Barry” decided to get up and pass. He wantet to feed on the lawns. In the river 2 other hippos emerged. They just wanted to show who was the biggest. We guess that it was the reason Barry chose to pull back.
Late in the afternoon we had invited Theo up to our hut. We had bought a gift for him to say thank you for his great way to be and all the many hours he had spent with us.
We woke up to rain and a bit chilly weather. But it had been wonderfull with some rain. The skye cleared again and after breakfast we had sun again.
At 4 pm it was time for the last gamedrive, “champagne” and sunset in the view point. Another fantastic view and cosy company.
Last evenings meal was in the boma with all the staff.
Everybody packed and everything prepaired for the journey home. Lots of goodbyes and hugs.
Again some tears were shed before we mounted 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. It almost couldn’t get better than last time. But it could. Because of that we all have decided that we must come back. Back to Mpala, the animals and not at least the staff. It is very much their effort that this trip becomes so fantastic. So when Mpala writes, that this is an experience you never forget – it is so true!. We will put our signature under that.
Hopefully we will see you in November 2019. It is our silverwedding. That will be our gift for ourselves.
Jeanette and Jan Lindstrøm
Translation: Helle Scheel Grunert