I wasn’t always a bush baby. There was a time when even a harmless gecko sent me screaming into the night. It was only after I met my partner, who took me on my first safari that I began to appreciate the beauty of being in nature.
I learnt that for the few things that cause me discomfort there is an entire list of other creatures that give me great joy. The thrill of spotting a leopard, or a kingfisher; the reflection of early light on a fever tree, the scent of elephant and all the other sights and sounds that make the bush one of the best places to replenish the soul!
And in South Africa we are extremely fortunate, we have so many options to enjoy.
I recently went on a family holiday to the Kruger National Park. Call it what you will: a bush break, safari or outdoor adventure. The trip was both a break from the everyday pressures of adulting and a memorable adventure.
We opted to rent the SANPark's Fish Eagle Guesthouse at Letaba. The rest camp is more or less in the middle of the Park. Location, they say is everything, and this guesthouse is ideally positioned. It sits at the end of the camp, ensuring maximum privacy. The four bedroomed, self-catering guesthouse overlooks the Letaba River, which despite recent rains wasn’t terribly full. At the centre of the sprawling building is a fully kitted kitchen, pantry and large open plan dining room and lounge. Two bedrooms, bathrooms ensuite on either side of the living and cooking area complete the house. There's a large covered patio, an outdoor built in braai area, fire pit and best of all - a private hide!
The house was very well maintained. It’s evident that thought was put into meeting guests’ satisfaction: everything needed to prepare meals, whether in the oven, stove top or braai, was available. There were two large fridges, a deep freezer and much to our pleasant surprise an ice bucket. I really appreciated the creature comforts, considering one is in the “sticks”. The guest house is extremely well suited to large groups of up to 8. There was enough space to be together and yet still find a nice spot to enjoy some alone time.
The guesthouse is serviced every day, by a cleaner and gardener. Throughout our stay we were greeted by friendly and cheerful SANParks staff, who went about their work with diligence and professionalism. Kudos to all of them and management!
There is the usual mix of accommodation types to fit all budgets, from camping to a private guesthouse – there’s an option for everyone. There is a shared pool within camp, which was well used as the days were very warm. The grounds were clean and well kept. I was super impressed with the camp shop. It was well laid out and perfectly stocked with all that’s needed for a self-catering visit. There was a frozen foods section, fresh vegetables, wine and wonderful souvenirs. We even enjoyed cold ice-creams on one particularly hot day.
Letaba’s Elephant Hall:
Also worth a visit while at the camp is the Letaba’s Elephant Hall, which was recently given a R1, 5 million make-over. The Hall gives an insightful glimpse into the evolution of the elephant. And it also houses the skulls and tusks of the Park’s famous big-tuskers. For those who can’t get to Kruger, phase 2 of the upgrade, will result in the development of a virtual tour.
I am not a morning person, hard to believe considering I worked as a breakfast show journalist and morning news anchor which required a 3am start. But the allure of a stunning sunrise, the possibility of witnessing a kill or a bird of prey and a warm cup of coffee with a shot or two of Amarula, mostly gets me out of bed at the crack of dawn, without too much coaxing.
There were numerous scenic routes to take during our self-drives in the Park. There was the mesmerising winding tracks that hug the river bank, a canopy of trees through which to glimpse the water below and the game it attracts. Or, the drive along the main road toward the northern part of the park, with Mopane trees lining both sides of the road, as far as the eye can see. Then the calming view of the river, atop the Letaba bridge. I could spend hours on the bridge, watching the large groups of swallows flapping about, not to mention the giant Kingfisher who uses the bridge as a staging ground for his precision fishing. Engelhard and Mingerhout dams are also nearby. Self-drives allow for any route combination you want as long as you stick to the opening and closing times of the rest camp gates. Our morning and evening game drives were rewarding: a pride of lions with cute little ones, a sleeping pair of Verreaux's eagle-owls, sun bathed saddle billed storks, large herds of elephant, and some of the largest buffalo I have ever seen.
Soon enough our days consisted of morning coffee in our private hide while watching the sun rise, followed by a game drive, before making our way back to camp. This followed a lazy lunch, and an afternoon nap before it was time for an evening drive. Dinner and star gazing (with tons of shootings stars and satellites) closed off the day, before we hit repeat.
For more information and to plan your trip: