Archive for the ‘Nelspruit’ Category

Planning the South Africa Trip

JL and I have always longed for an exotic holiday. The idea begins to crystalise when I was given an assignment in South Africa! Like other travels, we have many itneraries to cover within a short time. As this is our first trip to this part of the world, the logistics for each leg of the journey is painstakingly looked into to ensure it goes well. But broadly, our 10-day journey is something like this:

  • 13 – 14 Jan: Fly to the Kruger National Park and stayed 2 days at the Skukuza Camp
  • 15-16 Jan: Spend 2 days in Johannesburg
  • 17-21 Jan: I work on an assignment while JL explores Durban
  • 22-23 Jan: Fly to Cape Town to spend our weekends
  • 24 Jan: JL flies back to S’pore while I continue my assignments in Durban

13 Jan 2005: Kruger National Park (I)

JL and I took the “red-eye” flight to Johannesburg. At 1 am, we checked in at Changi Airport Terminal 2 and by purely testing our luck, I requested for JL to be upgraded to business class. The counter staff frankly told us that several passengers had already asked for such upgrades, but readily agreed to take in our request. Thanks to my PPS status, SIA surprisingly upgraded JL to a business class seat. It was a 10-hours flight of good food and service; most of all, we had enough comfort to catch some rest.

At 6.30 am, we arrived at Johannesburg  Airport. To our amazement, this is a pretty decent airport with clean facility and clear signage. We transited to the domestic airport to board South African Airways for Kruger Mpumalanga (or commonly known as “Nelspruit”).  Our first stop was the Kruger National Park, the largest game reserve in South Africa. I guessed the adventure really started after realising that we were taking a propeller-driven aircraft. This airplane had only 3 seats per row and the engine noise drowned most of our conversations. Fortunately, it was only an hour flight.

kruger airport30

kruger airport (nelpruit)

Skukuza Restcamp

I had reserved a 2-nights accommodation in a bungalow at the Skukuza Restcamp. Skukuza Restcamp is the Kruger National Park’s largest rest camp, situated on the southern banks of the Sabie River. Unfortunately, there were no public transport from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport to Skukuza Restcamp. We had to hire a car at the airport and paid the exorbitant fare of 1,000 rands (or almost S$300) for the one-hour journey. After some bargains, the driver promised to drive us back to the airport at 800 rands.

 camp  - bungalow huts @ skukuza

The bungalow in Skukuza is a round-walled, single-room African style units with thatched roofs. Each unit is equipped with 2 beds and a shower room. We kickstarted our Safari adventure with an evening game drive.

game drive ranger

game drive truck

Skukuza Restcamp is one of the camps that are situated in the midst of Big 5 territory, which means the chances of seeing the Big 5 (namely Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo & Rhino) in the vicinity of the camp are very high. The trained field guide drove the jeep-looking truck into the wild, hunting down the tracks of these animals. Lady luck was on our side and we managed to see four of the Big 5 on that trips. We were told that it is most difficult to see the leopards as they are nocturnal and well camouflaged animals. Tourist can spend days or even weeks in the camp before encountering all the Big 5.




This was the first time we had such close encounter with the wild animals. Just imagine our excitement as the jeep moved so near to a lion and she did not even take any notice of us. We were told that the wild animal never attack a human being as long as he remains on the jeep. However if he gets off the jeep, the lion will almost certain to pounce on him for dinner. I am not sure whether there is a logical explanation for this phenomenal but it seems that the lions have accepted jeeps as an object out of sphere of their interests.


 It was a fruitful drive. On the way, we sighted a few more giraffes


… deers and kudus…



and even a laughing hyena, who seemed to have lost his way…


 After a quick dinner at the cafe, we tucked into the bed early. As the night fell, we were swallowed in absolute darkness. While dozing off, we would hear the insects and animals outside the bungalow, blasting the silence liked a concerted orchestra…Zzz…

14 Jan 2005: Kruger National Park (II)

It was a beautiful, sunny morning. JL and I decided to relax and explore the camp site. We saw a few interesting botany like this cactus-like tree, commonly planted in the compound.


We took our brunch at the cafeteria, next to the Sabie river. I had the BBQ chicken with South African pap, a somewhat-like “crumbly porridge” made by cooking rice with very little water, giving it a dry and crumbly texture. Half-way through the meal, I happened to look up at the shelter’s ceiling and got a shock of my life. Hanging precariously on the roof (and above our heads) were dozens and dozens of bat! Yaks!!!

bird - bats at cafeteria

Skukuza is home to a large variety of bird life. There is a lookout terrace in front of the camp’s restaurant. As we walked along the Sabie river, we caught sight of a tawny eagle on a bald tree.


bird - tawny eagle02

In the camp itself, there are populations of Warthog and Vervet monkeys. The monkeys seemed to be a lot more comfortable with us, while in contrast, the warthog was shy and scrambled into the bush before I could click on the camera. Somehow, it stopped among the bushes and turned back to stare back at us!


wild boar02


For the afternoon, we signed up for a guided walk. Yes, we are exploring the bush on foot in search of the Big 5…well, accompanied by two, well qualified armed field guides. Hiking in a single file, the experience is like National Geographic channel coming alive. The best scene we had was watching in awe as a herd of zebras galloped across the wilderness, leaving behind a visible trail of yellow dust.


pm walk24

pm walk 23

 It was also an enriching botany lesson … for example, the poison wood below looked totally harmless but can easily cause skin irritation to passer-by.

 timble trees (poisonous)

After the afternoon hiking, we were famished at dinner. To pamper our stomach, we ventured out from our usual cafeteria to have a decent dinner at a dine-in restaurant. At dinner, we met Marcus and Ginnie with their 3 beautiful daughters. We joined our newly-founded friends and excitedly exchanged our adventures during the game drives. Ginnie strongly recommended that we had Rooibos tea after the meal. This South African red tea ,made from a herbal plant, is very refreshing and pleasant. No wonder it has gained very popular in Southern Africa.

While leaving the restaurant, we realised that the campsite was badly lit after dark (probably for wildlife and nature protection and reservation) and it was almost impossible for JL and I to find the way back to our bungalow. Fortunately, Marcus was kind enough to give us a ride back.

marcus ginnie family 01

15 Jan 2005: Kruger National Park (III)

It was barely 3 .30 am. JL and I were already out of bed to join the morning game drive! The meeting point was a distance away from our bungalow and we did not have a torch to light the way. Relying on the dim beam from my mobile phone, we almost crawled our way to the meeting area. JL was clinging on to me tightly and it was literally ” the blind leading the blind”!

The morning drive was done almost before dusk. The truck was armed with powerful spotlight to track the animal trails. The drive was not as fruitful as before but we did manage to see the White Rhino and a couple of small animals. After 6 am, the sun broke the darkness and we witnessed an amazingly beautiful sunrise.



 Finally, we saw a few hippo while crossing a river …before we ended the morning drive at 7.30 am.


 At 9 am, our driver picked us up from the bungalow. He was driving an older car with a lady friend in traditional costume. JL and I suspected that the driver borrowed the car from this lady friend to earn the extra cash for the weekend. That’s probably the reason why he could give us a fare discount.  JL was pretty fascinated with the lady’s friend’s dress (why on earth would she wear this attire under the hot weather) and grabbed an opportunity to snap a picture with her.


 At 11.30 am, we boarded the plane and headed back to Johannesburg.


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