Regan had to work some when I was visiting and I felt led to go to Kruger National Park, and Regan with her awesome connections made it happen with 2 days notice. I was booked on a tour through Safaris Direct.
Regan dropped me off at a hotel the morning of January 8, 2009. I waited in the lobby and talked to our driver. He said we were waiting on one more. There was a group of people sitting in another group of couches. When the guy arrived, we headed for the shuttle and I realized it was just the two of us. His name was Ian and he was from Australia. He was old enough to be my father. All of this was good (I know, I’m boring, but I didn’t have to deal with all of my crap and I could enjoy my trip without being boy crazy). My package included travel to and from, 2 nights at Protea Hotel at Kruger Gate, 4 meals and 4 safari drives, all for $765, which I thought was screaming deal-especially at last-minute. Our guide took us on all 4 drives and ate with us at all 4 meals. His name was Nomatter, and it is pronounced no-MAH-tah
There is too much to tell, so I will give some highlights.
Elephants at the Watering Hole: Safari Drive 1
Ian and I were spoiled and had the jeep to ourselves the first game drive. We passed by a line of elephants moving with a mission.
The matriarch was leading them to the watering hole.
“Let’s go around the bend. I bet they will be there,” Nomatter said as he sped up.
He found a shady spot in the road near a pond then cut the engine. Where were the elephants? Nomatter pointed and I looked in the distance to see them surrounding a concrete tank, reaching their trunks over the side. There was a lot of splashing and spraying.
When they were done they headed toward the pond, but didn’t drink from it. They began eating the grass. The young ones stayed near the older ones. It was so peaceful and quiet, it was incredible. We watched in silence for at least 15 minutes, before Nomatter asked if we were ready and started the engine.
Lions: Safari Drive 1
When driving in Kruger, it’s common for cars to stop and exchange information. Nomatter stopped to talk to a gorgeous guy with blue eyes in a tiny white car. They spoke in English, but they used code words for the animals- like Mogadishu for lion. I’m not sure if it was another language, or they were using names from the Lion King. After speaking to him, Nomatter told us there were lions and he drove until we spotted 10 cars sitting on the road and watching.
We approached and I saw them all spread out, lying in the shade of various trees. Some were rolled over on their backs with their paws in the air. It was late afternoon/almost evening, and some of them were awake. I could see a lionness in the distance. She looked right at me. After some time she got up and stretched, then slinked, walking deliberately. When she was a few feet from our jeep, I pulled back in. I had been standing and leaning on the railing. She looked at me again when I moved, then passed us and sat in the shade of a truck in front of us. She sat right in the middle of the road, indifferent to the cars.