Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of South Africa  , Limpopo,
Saturday, April 14, 2012

The drive from Jo'burg to the Kruger National Park took about 6 hours and was pretty entertaining at times. A large amount of the drive after passing Nelspruit took us past enormous township communities and there were thousands of people with these small little houses in the beautiful countryside. 

 We passed lots of schools, houses and shops, one of which had a sign saying...
 "Typing, Internet, Prostate check." What else could you ask for?
 The roads along the way were in pretty bad shape and we were dodging huge pot holes for miles and miles but eventually got near to the Kruger where it was fine again.

We stayed in Maduma Boma which is a private game farm situated just outside the Kruger National Park near a town called Hoedspruit. It's very basic accommodation with no electricity but brilliant because it's in the bush, rustic and an adventure. Every night we would get the fire going and have our dinner under the unbelievable starry skies chatting and catching up with all the family. On the way in and out of the cottage we can even spot some game as there are a few giraffe, impala, warthogs, Nyala and monkeys within the grounds.

We joked a bit about how we were really in the wild now and need to look out for the lions and the leopards but roamed the grounds quite happily during the day without thinking too much of it. Then on one of the last days we got a text from the owners of our cottages...

"Hi, please be warned that last night we spotted a leopard near one of the cottages. He was standing in the road when I drove past. Please make sure you do not walk around the property alone, especially the young ones."

All of a sudden we took the place a little more seriously and there was no more wandering about on your own, in fact nobody really wanted to leave the property unless they were in the car.

No names, but one or two people were a bit skeptical that it was a leopard thinking it was probably just a smaller cat like a Caracal or a Genet. But we visited a wildlife rehabilitation centre called Moholoholo and mentioned our leopard to the guide who told us they had been trying to catch that leopard because of how dangerous it is for the guests staying at Maduma, but it had been too clever and had avoided their traps so far. He hadn't actually caused any major problems but I think the owners were a bit nervous.

Moholoholo was a real highlight for everyone. Initially they gave us a presentation explaining how the space for Africa's wildlife has decreased by over 95% over the last hundred years and the national parks are just not enough space for huge destructive animals like elephants as they used to migrate hundreds of miles allowing the land to re-develop before they returned. 

 It's a place where we could get up close and personal with some of Africa's most impressive animals and learn a bit more about them at the same time. Probably the biggest thing I learned was just how scary a hyena is up close. Previously I had just seen them as a pest like a fox but at Moholoholo we met a hyena who we were told hated humans and if it escaped would kill the first human it could get to. It was so scary, the size of a large dog and hissed and growled at us through the reinforced fencing. He took a particular disliking to Katy, following her along the fence and jumping up against the fence which actually meant he would get an electric shock. Freakin' scary!

One of their ambassador animals was a beautiful Cheetah, and we were allowed to take it in turns to go up and stroke his fur which was quite scary as you can see the strength and power of it. Every now and then he would leap up on the table and we would all jump back just to be on the safe side. What an impressive animal though, and it was really exciting to be able to get so close and touch it, I didn't know that would be possible anywhere so it was a really amazing surprise. 

They also had a baby rhino who was being raised there having been left by it's mother, aborted prematurely. There was a girl from the UK who's full-time job was to be a mother to this little rhino and we could go up and see him whilst dodging his charges for our shins. Rhino's are virtually blind so apparently the tactic is to wait until they're nearly at you then dodge to the side, bull-fighting style.

One of the best animals without a doubt were the honey badgers. While the guide was talking to us the female was spinning around and falling backwards trying to get his attention so that she would be given some meat. We were also told that the male honey badger is a known escape artist. He had previously managed to escape by moving blocks in his pen to the edge to build a ladder, expanding cracks in the wall and then using them to climb out. In fact, when they introduced a female into his pen, the first thing he did was push her into the corner, climb onto her head and try to use her as a ladder to climb out. They were really cute but I really went off them when we were told that the male hated humans and would try to kill anyone if he was able to get out, and the way he would do that would be to bite the crown jewels... off! It was all a bit strange how many of these animals had grown to hate humans!

My youngest cousin, Noah was of great interest to a few of the animals being the perfect size prey, just 4 years old. He kept crouching down and then would start to be stalked by the predator's we were looking at through the fences. One of the leopard's saw Noah crouched there and immediately ducked down into the long grass before running up to the fence where he was standing. It's a good thing for him that there was a fence there or he'd be a gonner. But although the leopard was impressive, the lions were big and the honey badgers were feisty, I maintain that nothing was as scary as that Hyena. He was a proper psycho.

When we read about Moholoholo, it said that one of their ambassador animals was a hippo which you could hug. However when we wee there we were told that the hippo had been sold to a guy who was using him as part of a circus act. He would ride the hippo in, and one day the hippo had enough and bit him in half killing him. I no longer wanted to hug that hippo!

On one of the days we took a drive out into the Drakensberg Mountains which had spectacular views over the Blyde River Canyon. We stopped at various view-points in the valley such as God's Window and the 3 Rondavels. From up there we could see across the bushlands for miles and the views were truly spectacular, it is all so green and wild.

 It's a stunning part of South Africa with lots to see and do, but what we're really here for is the Kruger National Park which is up next!
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Trevor on

Brilliant reading about it. Brings back memories of an amazing holiday.

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