Anticipating any adventure is pleasurable but there is something decadently thrilling about the anticipation of a safari! We were on a small propeller driven plane (my husband affectionately calls them “puddle jumpers”) flying out of the Indian ocean port city of Durban north towards the greater Kruger National Park for a three night/four day stay in the “bush”. The sky was clear and filled with sunlight as we skirted the coastline and flew a little inland and towards this world famous region renowned for exceptional wild life and a forward thinking approach towards conservation of land, vegetation and its game.
We landed at Nelspruit airport, or KMIA – Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, a delightful thatched building which looks to all intents and purposes like a bush lodge – and stepped straight out onto the tarmac to walk to the arrivals and baggage hall. I must make reference to South African pilots here, who all seem to take the landing of their craft as a point of pride and measure of their professionalism. Being used to the shuttle-bus attitude of the American air industry and the way that their planes seem to leap out of the air towards the earth landing with a bone-jarring thump and bounce, it was entirely refreshing to enjoy smooth earthly arrivals with such obvious care and skill. And it is not unusual to hear the pilot apologise if he feels the landing was a little rough and not up to his usual exacting standard in any way at all!
There are various ways of reaching the Private Game Reserves or Kruger NP from the KMIA. It is possible to fly in via small plane as many of the lodges either have their own or share a common dirt air-strip. It is certainly the most direct and convenient way for many and is easily added onto the safari as an air transfer. More common is a road transfer from the Mpumalanga airport to the lodge and these can be as shared or arranged as a private transfer, most often by a local transport company. Some of the lodges have their own vehicles. By taking a shared transfer it is possible to visit some of the other lodges on the way which is an interesting insight into the general area. We opted to hire a car from KMIA and drive the 2hr distance and include that as part of our experience.
We were headed for Sabi Sands which is one of the private reserves bordering the Kruger National Park to the south and west. It is where our lodge is situated. These private reserves have exclusive traversing rights for the guests who stay at the lodges and camps and as there are no fences between them and the National Park, the animals are free to move around this large area. In recent years the governments of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa have co-operated in the formation of a Transfrontier Border Park creating ever larger areas for the wild animals to roam which in turn has relieved the pressure on the land and created ever healthier herds, flocks and prides – and outstanding game viewing opportunities for the visitor!