The Ngala Tented Camp Experience

While in South Africa earlier in March, I wrote a brief post about the wonderful accommodations at &Beyond’s Ngala Tented Camp, a luxury camp on the western edge of Kruger National Park and right on the Timbavati River.

But we were so busy tracking animals and eating amazing food that I didn’t get a chance to post a summary of our overall experience there.

Ngala Preserve’s 37,000 acres are lush with animals big and small. On our first afternoon, fresh from chasing African wild dogs through Sabi Sands, we took a three-hour game drive and saw four of the Big Five game:

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Cape buffalo
African elephant
African elephant
Leopard
Leopard
Lions
Lions

The next day, we saw more of these and the fifth:

Rhino
Rhino

Ngala is extremely rich with carnivores. We saw lions and leopards every day we were there, as well as jackals, a pack of hyenas — technically a “cackle,” as our guides informed us — and wild dogs at rest and on the hunt. You can watch all these animals and more on Ujuzi’s YouTube channel:

Our group had three guides and three trackers. The guide and tracker I went on my game drives with were Barney and Earnest. They were both Shangaan South Africans fluent in Tsonga and English. Here’s Barney explaining to us the importance of termites and termite mounds to the local ecology.

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Our schedule at Ngala was a little different from that at Kirkman’s Kamp. We woke up to room-service coffee and a light biscuit at 5 a.m., then headed out on the trail at 5:30 a.m. just as the sun was peeking over the horizon and the wildlife were beginning to wake up. This is a great time to spot wildlife, since predators are quite active in the early morning hours.

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Victoria Falls: One of the Seven Wonders of the World

Victoria Falls
Our group left Ngala Reserve yesterday, taking a short flight from Kruger National Park to Victoria Falls. We’re staying on the Zimbabwe side of the falls at the classic Victoria Falls Hotel, founded in 1904 as one of the first modern hotels in southern Africa.

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Living in a Tent, but Not ‘Roughing It’

We arrived at Ngala Tented Camp yesterday and have seen a lot of magnificent wildlife since our arrival, from a two-ton rhino to a pack of hyenas with their young. (Who could have guessed that baby hyenas could be so adorable?)

I’m in the process of posting pictures and video from our Ngala game drives to Flickr and YouTube, so be sure to check those out. For this post, I wanted to focus on Ngala Tented Camp itself.

For most people, the word “tent” doesn’t immediately evoke comfort and luxury. But the tents of Ngala are a different kind of tent. Erected on a wooden platform with a permanent wood frame, these tents have most of the fixings of modern life, including electricity, plumbing, and furniture. What distinguishes them from a cabin or cottage are their  canvas walls and roofs, which allows you to clearly hear the sounds of the bush. Last night, for instance, the sounds of chirping frogs and roaring lions lulled us to sleep. (You wouldn’t think a lion roar would be relaxing, but it can be when it comes from far away.)

Here’s the inside of a tented room at Ngala:

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This place is nicer than my home!

(This post was written by Kathryn Kingsbury, Ujuzi’s communications coordinator, who is spending two weeks in South Africa and Victoria Falls with a group from Dickerson Park Zoo, Springfield, Missouri.)

Look for wild dogs, find a leopard

You never know quite what to expect on safari. Make plans to see one animal, and you often end up finding another.

Such was our experience this afternoon. After yesterday’s experience finding African wild dog tracks, we were eager to see if they had wandered back to our neck of the scrublands.

Fifteen minutes into our drive, after we encountered some gorgeous nyala antelopes, our tracker Richie and guide Ally heard vervet monkeys crying out a warning call. Following the sound, we eventually found the tree where the monkeys had run from danger. One stood at the very top of the tree, calling out as it looked down on a nearby dry riverbed. We headed in that direction while Ally explained that monkeys most often warn for leopards and lions, but occasionally for other predators as well.

At the riverbed, Richie spied fresh leopard tracks. The excitement rose as he followed them through the trees. Meanwhile, Ally drove us toward a small pond that the tracks pointed toward.

At the pond, all the tracking was rewarded with the site of a large, eight-year-old female leopard.

DSC01094We decided to stay and watch her for about half an hour. Even though she didn’t hunt anything, it was fascinating to simply watch such a magnificent animal up close. The camera alone can’t convey the excitement of being near her. And even though she spent most of the time relaxing, she was still constantly moving: panting to cool herself down, looking around to see that the nearby herd of giraffes was still in sight, sipping water from the pool, and grooming herself.

Though we never found the African wild dogs, our afternoon safari was a definite success.

Featured Lodge: Sarova Shaba, Kenya

Shaba reserve

Sarova Shaba Lodge is set deep in Shaba National Reserve on the banks of the Ewaso N’giro (Nyiro) River. It is the only lodge on the reserve, with 85 rooms in raised bungalows. The lodge’s expansive pool is the perfect place to relax at the end of a long day of viewing wildlife.

Room exteriors

Guest rooms look out on the river and the lodge’s many fish ponds. Modern bathrooms include both tub and shower; beds are equipped with mosquito nets that are lowered as part of turn-down surface each evening. Rooms are a true retreat, free of the distractions of television and radio. A hot water kettle means you can make tea to enjoy as you sit on your porch to watch the river go by, or enjoy a brisk coffee before breakfast.

Lodge by the Ewaso Nyiro river

Amenities include an outdoor dining boma, bar, spa services (massage, pedicure, manicure, and skin treatments), and a well-appointed giftshop. Wildlife is plentiful in and around the camp, with plenty of vervet monkeys to provide entertainment and crocodiles that sunbathe on the banks of the river. (Steep banks and an electric fence keep the reptiles at a comfortable distance.) Cultural activities include traditional Samburu dancing at dinnertime.

Samburu girls

Featured Lodge: Azura Benguerra, Mozambique

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Mozambique is an incredible destination,  with miles of pristine  beaches and coastal islands that offer access to ocean explorations as well as land safaris. Azura Benguerra is a boutique hotel that represents many of its wonders – the people, history, culture, food, hospitality all wrapped up in the stunning villas dotted along the edge of the Indian Ocean.

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Read moreFeatured Lodge: Azura Benguerra, Mozambique

Featured Lodge: Azura Selous, Tanzania

walking-with-tree-azura-selous.jpg.1024x0Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest faunal reserves of the world and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 due to the diversity of its wildlife and undisturbed nature. Within this vast wilderness, Azura Selous offers an authentic African safari that is stylish, personal and filled with lots of wow factor.

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Featured Lodge: Manyara Ranch Conservancy, Tanzania

sundowners at Manyara Ranch Conservancy
Much more than a place to sleep, Manyara Ranch Conservancy is a destination unto itself. Managed by and benefitting the non-profit African Wildlife Fund, the Conservancy lies in the Kwakuchinja wildlife migration corridor and is situated right next to Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.

Zebras and other herd animals often wander through the camp during sundowners (cocktail hour), providing plenty of entertainment as the evening begins. The Conservancy has a variety of wildlife habitats, including open savannah, acacia woodland, bush and riverine forest. As for human habitats, six exquisitely furnished tents have electric lights available at all hours, and the en suite bathroom includes flush toilet and shower with hot water on demand.

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Featured Lodge: House of Waine, Kenya

House ofWaine Garden smallJust a few hundred meters down the road from the home of Out of Africa author Karen Blixen (also known as Isak Dinesen), the House of Waine is an 11-room luxury boutique hotel that melds traditional English design with the spirit of modern Africa. It is located on 2.5 acres in a quiet residential area of Nairobi and is close to many art and craft galleries, two wildlife sanctuaries, and Nairobi National Park.

Read moreFeatured Lodge: House of Waine, Kenya

Featured Lodge: Mbalageti Serengeti, Tanzania

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This permanent camp in the western corridor of Serengeti National Park is renowned for its stunning views of the Serengeti plains and Mbalageti River. Built on the slopes of the gently rising Mwamweni Hill, its 24 luxury tented chalets are constructed from a combination of local rock, wood and a canvas-and-thatch roof. The chalets are well-spaced for privacy, and each has a full en-suite bathroom and a private veranda from which you can enjoy the panoramic views. Mbalageti Camp also has two ‘suite’ chalets – which comprise two bedrooms, a lounge veranda and en-suite bathroom – as well as a 14-room lodge and three family cabins.

Read moreFeatured Lodge: Mbalageti Serengeti, Tanzania

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