Our group has been at &Beyond’s Kirkman’s Kamp for two days, and the stay so far has been outstanding. Browsing through Ujuzi’s Flickr page and YouTube channel, you can get an idea of the incredible range of wildlife our guides here have introduced us to. But pictures aren’t enough to convey other aspects of the experience, such as an attentive staff, meals that would do any five-star restaurant proud, and accommodations that are at once luxurious and steeped in the wild.
We start out each day at 5:30, just around sunrise, with a wake-up knock on the door from our guide. After getting dressed, we walk from our cottages to the main lodge for coffee and biscuits, then head out for the morning game drive by 6:15 a.m.
Mornings are a great time to view animals because many of them are most active before the heat of the day sets in. On mornings here we’ve seen leopards, lions, Cape buffalos, giraffes, and a variety of birds and antelope, from small duikers to great big kudus.
The guides and trackers here are incredibly knowledgeable and have great eyes for spotting things most people would miss. Yesterday our tracker Richie stopped the vehicle upon noticing tracks in the sandy road. He soon identified them as the two-day-old footprints of African wild dogs headed east. Though we weren’t able to follow the tracks all the way to the dogs themselves, it was exciting to know we were standing in the same space as these elusive predators had a short time before. From tiny carmine bee eaters (a colorful bird) to huge hippos, Ally and Richie have shown us hundreds of animals we never would have found on our own.
Yesterday, we stopped on a shady bluff overlooking the Sands River for coffee and ginger cookies a couple hours into our drive. My group’s guides, Allie and Richie, introduced us to a drink they call a “mocha-choca-rula” — a blend of coffee, sweet-and-salty hot cocoa, and Amarula, a cream liqueur made from the fruit of the native marula tree.
This morning, our break was fancier, with a hot breakfast in the bush complete with champagne, omelets made to order, and all the fresh fruit we could eat.
On days when we don’t breakfast in the bush, we have a full breakfast upon return to the camp. Then we have most of the day to relax—nap, read field guides, lunch, or get a massage—until the afternoon game drive around 4 p.m.
There’s additional relaxation during the evening game drives during the “sundowner,” when we stop in a scenic area to enjoy cocktails and watch the sun set over the bush.
As twilight begins, we head back toward camp, keeping an eye out for nocturnal animals such as bushbabies, nightjars, jackals, and African scops-owls. By the time we reach our destination, hundreds of stars shine brightly and the Milky Way is visible, casting a cloudlike glow across the black sky.
The wildlife viewing isn’t necessarily over for the day. Last night during dinner on the patio, several of us watched a hyena stroll by just twenty yards away. It posed no threat to us, seemingly oblivious to human presence as it trekked across the clearing.
Lunches and dinners are gourmet affairs that conclude with homemade ice cream or popular local desserts, such as malva pudding. Yesterday at lunch the meat-eaters had the opportunity to try farmed ostrich, a meat considered exotic in the United States but that’s quite common in South Africa. Everyone who ate it gave it two thumbs up. (Surprisingly, it tastes more like beef than chicken.)
By the time dinner is over, it’s 9:30 or 10 p.m. and time to settle down for the night. It’s sweet dreams knowing you’ll start the day with another incredible adventure.
(This post was written by Kathryn Kingsbury, Ujuzi’s communications coordinator.)