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Monday, 27 August 2018

A SOUTH AFRICAN SAFARI

So I’ve been gone for a while now due to some pretty big changes that are happening in my life (more on that in a future post) but I HAD to take some time to tell you guys about my recent trip to Johannesburg. This was my second time visiting Joburg as crew and after falling in love with it the first time around I decided to bring my Mum along with me for a little girls trip before I leave BA. I’ve never taken a cling on with me on one of my trips before so I was of course extremely stressed about her getting on the flight but standby came through for us and before I knew it my mum was on the plane on her way to South Africa with me!


When you think of Johannesburg you think of safaris, which is why I decided to give my Mum the authentic South African experience and booked ‘Leopardsong Game Lodge’ for the night. As crew we get a special rate for lots of places and Leopardsong is one of those – originally bought to my attention by fellow a crew member, Leopardsong is a 4 star luxury resort situated in 18,500 hectares of land in the middle of the Pride of Africa. It offers the incredible experience of an evening game drive, a night’s stay in an ensuite room in the lodge, and a sunrise game drive (which only costs an additional R200pp), as well as dinner and breakfast included in the price.

We arrived at the crew hotel in Johannesburg at around 11am on the Sunday morning and had a quick shower before getting picked up at 1pm and heading to the lodge. The evening game drive was scheduled to leave at 4pm so when we arrived at Leopardsong we dumped our things, got changed, and headed out to the safari jeep.

Within minutes of being out in the bush we’d already encountered two Vervet monkeys, a herd of impalas and a group of zebras (which FYI is actually called a dazzle of zebras – amazing) but had yet to come across any of The Big Five – Lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo and leopards. The Big Five were originally named for being the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot; however, safari tour operators now use the term for marketing purposes. 


After driving around for a little while Keal our game ranger received some information from another game ranger over the radio and within minutes we were driving down a little road and being greeted by a huge herd of buffalo! Finally we had found our first of The Big Five; unfortunately for us, the buffalo decided this would be an excellent time to cross the road en route to their watering hole, which meant we had to wait for them all (about 75 of them) to cross before continuing our journey (something that was made even more thrilling by the constant threat of a sudden charge by one of these beasts).  Turns out a large herd of buffalo delaying our journey wasn’t the biggest problem we had, because thanks to the uneven track we’d managed to pick up a slow puncture in one of the wheels, which by this point was completely flat and in desperate need of a change. Unable to continue due to the flat tyre and crossing buffalo, Keal had to reverse the jeep far enough away from the buffalo into a spot suitable enough to change the tyre and we all had to hop out (great!). As I stood pondering my life choices and wondering whether this would be how I died (and taking a few pics for insta), Keal got to work changing the tyre and before long we were back on the road and ready to find some more fascinating animals – thankfully all in one piece!


We drove around for a while in search of the elusive cheetah but came across nothing other than a few warthogs (which set me off singing Lion King for the rest of the trip, sorry everyone – “When I was a young warthoggggg..”), so Keal decided to find us a secluded spot to get out and enjoy the surroundings with a drink in hand. After snapping a few pics perched on the jeep we hopped back in and set off to the lodge where dinner was waiting. The sun was setting as we made our way back and we were all keeping our eyes peeled just in case anything decided to make a sudden appearance; we’d almost reached the gates to the lodge when Keal stopped the jeep and shone his torch into some bushes. To my amazement, lying asleep under a tree was a massive black rhino! Slightly perturbed by the bright light that had awoken him from his slumber, the rhino didn’t stick around for long but that didn’t matter to us because we’d just ticked off number 2 of The Big Five and couldn’t quite believe how lucky we were to have spotted this critically endangered creature.


Back at the lodge the cook had started a braai (South African slang for BBQ) and was cooking our steaks next to a huge fire pit that the staff had lit for us. We all huddled around the fire discussing the incredible safari we had just experienced and before we knew it, it was time to eat. The food that the chef prepared for us was amazing and the South African steak certainly didn’t disappoint. Once we’d all finished eating we decided it would be best to get an early night as we still hadn’t slept since our 11 hour flight over and if we wanted to catch the sunrise safari we had to be out by 6:30 the next morning!

After an early start we ventured out on another game drive in the hope of catching sight of some more spectacular animals. It was absolutely freezing so early in the morning but we were well wrapped up in our blankets and ready for the safari that awaited us. Watching the sunrise over the South African bush was one of the most unforgettable moments I’ve experienced in this job and the prospect of stumbling upon some elephants, lions or leopards at any moment only enhanced the experience; however, it appeared to be too early even for the wildlife and we drove around for a couple of hours with no sightings. We resigned ourselves to the fact that our luck had run out and we weren’t going to spot any more of The Big Five so decided instead to search for a secluded area to enjoy some tea and biscuits as we were all getting quite peckish. Little did we know, Keal had been following some tracks in the dirt as we drove, and seconds after declaring to my Mum “Oh I wish we’d seen some elephants” we turned a corner and came face to face with just that! I was completely awestruck seeing these beautiful beasts in their natural habitat so up close and personal – it was a real pinch yourself moment!


The entire herd were making their morning commute to their usual spot by the lake, so we let them all to cross the road (with “Hot Stuff”, the biggest male, bringing up the rear) then drove off to another dirt track and waited for them once more. As we sat there watching the herd, one of the smaller females popped out of a bush right next to our jeep and waved her trunk as if she were saying hello – Keal, however seemed less enthusiastic about this greeting and kept a firm hand on the key in the ignition just in case the female decided to charge (apparently this was quite a regular occurrence with this herd – that’s reassuring!). Soon all the elephants had gone and we were all left reeling from the incredible experience, empty stomachs long forgotten.


The next stop on our tour of the bush was to a huge lake that the animals frequented as their watering hole. Here we all got out of the jeep and drank our tea and ate our rusk whilst admiring the beautiful view. Across the lake from us we could see dozens of wildebeest and zebras all enjoying their morning drink; never have I felt so peaceful at 8 in the morning! Drinks finished, we hopped back into the jeep and set off for the lodge for breakfast but before we’d even passed the lake, we’d already spotted another huge group of animals – HIPPOS. Now I’ve watched enough Planet Earth to know that you don’t mess with a hippopotamus but sat at a safe distance away from these creatures they were pretty impressive and definitely not something you see everyday!


Breakfast back at the lodge was absolutely delicious - exactly what we needed after such a busy, early morning! After breakfast we packed up and headed back to the hotel for around 1pm where I’d booked for my Mum and I to enjoy a full body massage by the pool (best daughter ever or what?!). Once we were sufficiently relaxed we decided to go back to the room and nap for a few hours before the flight home - this was for my benefit more than my Mum’s but we both appreciated the comfy beds after such an early start that morning. Before we knew it, it was time for pickup and we were leaving behind the beautiful bliss of the South African bush and the standby stress was back. Worry not though because not only did my Mum get on the plane, she got a seat IN BUSINESS CLASS being served by yours truly. Overall the trip was one that neither of us will ever forget - it's not every day that you go on safari and see 3/5 of The Big Five! Being able to bring my Mum on such an amazing trip really proves to me how lucky I am to have such a great job that allows me to create these incredible memories.


Thanks for sticking with me during my hiatus and for reading this post about my latest expedition. See you soon for the next (and possibly last) instalment in my jet set life! Olivia x

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