FINAL DAYS OF AN EPIC FOURTEEN DAY EXPERIENCE
Our amazing Nhongo guide Amanda has been on a thrilling fourteen-day adventure through the Northern parts of the Kruger National Park. It’s been a joy to share their experiences with our readers, reading up on their journey and the many fantastic sightings they have had. Let’s take a look at the final days of their fourteen-day safari.
A Guides Journal: Amanda (Final Part)
They say “all good things must come to an end”, this is exactly how we feel as our safari comes to an end. It’s been an incredible journey through the North with some equally incredible guests.
I often wave at the animals when I see them and when I have guests that do the same, I know I’m with my tribe.
Shingwedzi has been amazing. Our afternoon drives have been beautiful. Admiring how the windy roads change colour as the sun begins to set which is now at around 17h15pm since it’s wintertime. The sun for some reason seems more orange up here but it’s so peaceful just watching it sink below the horizon. Truly beautiful, there is no camera or cell phone that can capture it the way your eyes see it. Sometime, you just need to put away the camera and watch the mesmerizing way the sun dips and welcomes the moon to the night.
There are two gates at Shingwedzi Camp. The one is three kilometres of tar and follows the Shingwezi River, the other gate is at the back of camp and takes you down to a low level bridge which crosses over the River. This continues for three kilometres on a dirt road.
The name Shingwedzi means “the place of iron rock”, another translation from the Tsonga word “ngwetse”, which describes the sound of two pieces of metal being rubbed together.
The Northern part of the Kruger National Park is mineral rich. There have been a lot of documentation of late iron age smelting ovens where the iron was extracted and used for weapons.
The eco zone Shingwedzi falls on open savanna grassland which has many stunted Mopani trees and it’s one of the best places to find and spot the big tusker elephants. One of the tuskers was named “Shingwedzi” as he was quite often seen along the river near camp. His main tusk was 264cms log, had a circumference of 48cms and weighed nearly 60kgs. Shingwedzi passed away about five years ago and I was lucky enough to see him once.
We decided to drive south to Mopani Camp for breakfast one morning, there’s a few loops but the game density is very low. We did see a young hyena walking along the road though. After breakfast we decided to head back to Shingwedzi Camp. We hadn’t seen any lions so far but we have been incredibly lucky with other amazing big 5 sightings. Everyone was feeling tired from the morning drive but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying a lovely afternoon drive. We took the dirt road at the back of camp which has huge Leadwood, Jackelberry and Fig trees along the banks of the river where we sat and watched some giraffes. Afterwards, we thought it would be nice to chill at the birdhide which quickly went out the window. As we pulled into a very open lookout point, we were greeted with loads of elephants drinking under the sandstone ridge and, sitting on top were nine lions watching their every move. What an amazing sight! We positioned ourselves so that the light was just right for some great photos. The colourization was amazing as we were in the golden hour of the afternoon, where the light takes on an amber tint to it. As the lions watched and we watched them, the elephants paraded off and as soon as the coast was clear, the lions descended the ridge and continued to walk along the riverbed until we lost sight of them.
It's not everyday you see a sighting like this but when you do, it stays with you. So when people ask me what’s been one of your best sightings, this one will rank pretty high on the list. It’s been such a memorable trip and when you have fantastic guests that love every aspect of nature, it just adds to the memory.
The last few days have been filled with mesmerizing sunsets, breath-taking sunrises and remarkable sightings. “Expect nothing, appreciate everything” I always say to guests as we head out on a drive.
The previous evening, we had heard a male lion roaring, his roar wasn’t very long so we surmised that it might have been a young male. Lions have the loudest call of all the cats, reaching up to 114 decibels, as loud as a chainsaw. The male lions guttural roar is not only attractive to females, it’s also a sign of their prowess. It’s amazing just to sit there in the dark and listen to the lions call. The lion sounded so close we knew he had to be in the river… somewhere. It was dark as we headed out and even with our torches, it was impossible to see as the riverbed is quite far down a ridge. We weren’t giving up. The sun slowly rose as we did the loop around the back of camp but to no avail. We hadn’t heard him call again so we thought maybe we’d check on the afternoon drive.
Driving along the riverbed, there’s a few spots of water where the animals come to drink. We sat under a huge Jackelberry tree watching, still looking for that lion and through the Mopani forest, a herd of about 400 Buffalos came rushing down. The sight was breath-taking! Like a scene straight out of National Geographic, the endless line of Buffalos sped down the bank towards the water. We sat in awe for 45 minutes, just admiring the spectacle until a few started to climb back up the bank to leave… Except, they didn’t. A few made their way up and then stopped, refusing to go any further. I looked to see what had literally stopped them in their tracks and starred to where they were looking. There he was, the male lion we’d been looking for, running away from the buffalo. We lost sight of him but, the buffalo were still cautious so we parked and waited. The large male buffalo came to check what was happening and then out of nowhere, here comes the lion, running full steam towards the herd. He quickly came to a stop once he saw the hundreds of buffalo start charging him. He did a quick turn and got out of there, running full speed to safety. It was exhilarating to watch and as one of my guests pointed out, a once in a lifetime sighting.
We headed back to camp, all of us still in the moment, we all felt deep down, extremely privileged to have witnessed such a moment together. This is certainly a sighting I’ll never forget and it really does pay to sit and watch nature in all it’s glory. What an amazing way to end a safari. On the last day, the drive was very chilled but I think we were all just reflecting on the past two weeks and planning for another trip next year.
It was a bitter sweet goodbye to my guests, happy we all shared many experiences together but, sad that our time at Shingwedzi was over… for now.
I would like to leave you with this thought. “We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone”.