Wouter Erasmus and his family enjoyed a short family break to try out their new caravan before embarking on their great sub-Saharan adventure.
It was during peak season this winter that we visited Swadini, the Forever Resort nestled amongst the Drakensberg peaks and the banks of the Blyde River. The resort is 35 km from Hoedspruit in Mpumalanga, and is a beautifully decorated front door to the Kruger National Park, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Mac Mac Falls and God’s Window, to name but a few. Swadini boasts 180 caravan and camping sites, all with power points and very neat and well-kept ablution facilities.
Their well-executed entertainment programme combines beautifully with functional facilities ranging from a heated swimming pool to putt-putt and tennis courts, making this resort a winter hotspot for young and old. Our family, being a bit adventurous, frequented the resort’s activities hub – including a boat trip, micro-light flight and a quad bike ride, so the five days spent in this tranquil setting flew past.
One evening, as the night shadows crept over the peaks, the campsite lit up with camp fires and the smell of ‘tjops and wors’ filled the air, I asked Elana, while watching the activities of our fellow campers, ‘Do you think that without experiencing the vibe, the spirit of camping can ever be correctly described in words, or even maybe in a single photo?’ ‘No,’ she answered quickly, without hesitation. In silence we listened to the chatter of campers and the laughter of our children playing with their newfound friends. For me, this is surely the signature of the camping experience.
We visited the nearby Kruger National Park twice during our five-day stay. The Tuesday was a typical day in the Park with no big sightings, but was well-spent bonding time with the family. The highlight of the vacation was on the Thursday. It was one of those experiences that come your way once in lifetime, if you’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. We entered the Park at Orpen Gate and headed straight for the route we had identified on the Tuesday. This gravel road was just outside Satara, running along a dry riverbed. En route we stopped to take some photos of waterbuck, unaware of the photo opportunities awaiting us further down the road. Cruising along we noticed a troop of baboons in a big tree, making quite a fuss about something across from them. As we came closer, we saw a Bateleur sitting in a tree and, assuming it was the reason for the commotion, Elana started shooting – that is, she started taking photos!
Focusing on this beautiful bird of prey, we were all astonished when a lioness appeared, in a cloud of dust, from the rear of our car. With plenty of ‘out-of-focus’ photos taken in a moment of confusion, our attention was suddenly drawn to a zebra caught in the deadly stranglehold of the lioness’ s hunting partner. An unforgettable scene unfolded in front of us.
Catching a well-deserved break after the hunt, the two lionesses started to disembowel the now dead zebra in the most horrid fashion. The smell of the kill was barely tolerable. The scene did, however, keep us captivated, totally in awe of this spectacle of nature. ‘The lioness has teats, Mom. Just maybe they have cubs nearby,’ exclaimed Kyla.
We witnessed the feeding frenzy; with vultures circling in the sky above. They feasted for a while, and then one lioness stood up and strolled away, only to reappear two hours later with four cubs in tow. Our day was filled with lions feeding, cubs playing, vultures being chased off, and the wonderful interaction between a lioness and her cubs; and bickering with fellow visitors who wanted to steal our spot. What an amazing experience!
Unfortunately, this adrenalinefilled day overshadowed our supposed vacation highlight of flying over the Hoedspruit game farms in two microlights. Even though it was not the highlight (and was not the enthusiasm- and excitement- filled day I had hoped for), it was nonetheless a memorable experience.
Tent poles falling (the familiar and gloomy sound in any campsite) started on the Saturday morning. With everything packed and our rig ready to go, we hit the road on our way home to Pretoria. And, as you can guess, the chatter in the car was all about the lion kill at Satara.