Ever dream of escaping into the wilderness with very little connectivity? If yes, a safari is for you! There’s no experience as adrenaline-pumping and adventurous as this one! For someone like me, who yells at the sight of a lizard on the wall and screams on seeing a cockroach, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed being in the jungle.
My husband and I were planning our honeymoon to South Africa and while Cape Town, Knysna, Sun City were at the top of our list, the safari was at the far end. It was perhaps the only place we were resisting and were unsure of until the very end. But for the first time, we thankfully didn’t follow our hearts and just went ahead with our bookings. We obviously had no expectations as we weren’t very excited about this from the start. But as it turns out, this was the most exciting part of our honeymoon – an experience we will remember and cherish forever.
After contemplating over various game reserves, we finally settled for the Karongwe Game Reserve at Hoedspruit and stayed at the Shiduli Private Game Lodge. Nestled against the backdrop of the grand Drakensberg Mountain Range, Shiduli was all about lounges with internet facilities, thatched dining areas, South African art, expansive greenery and unsurpassed warmth and hospitality.
Traversing over 9000 hectares of supreme and diverse vegetation, with its three perennial rivers and huge Jackelberry and Leadwood trees, Shiduli is home to the Big 5, as well as a wealth of other smaller creatures and bird species. The lodge offers 24 suites, featuring en-suite bathrooms in rich African tones. The chalets are spacious with earthy tones of brown, complete with basic amenities. There is also a mosquito net over each bed for convenience. The lodge organizes daily safaris for guests – once at 5.30am and then at 4pm.
We decided to spend three days at the lodge, which meant we had only four trips to the jungle to spot the Big 5. Our guide Melvin and tracker Joel drove us into the jungle from where we could see animals right in front of us, an arms distance away. Scary at first, it became the most thrilling experience of our lives. In a span of two days, we were fortunate enough to see the Big 5, two live kills and innumerable other smaller species. We not only enjoyed spotting animals but also enjoyed warm cups of coffee on chilly mornings and cold glasses of wine during sundown amidst them.
When I look back, I can proudly say that there is nothing as thrilling as sitting in a jeep and driving through the jungle to spot animals. You must experience it to believe it. For those of you who don’t know, the Big 5 comprises of Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhinoceros – the five most difficult animals to hunt and obviously, the most dangerous too. African buffalos and elephants are unlike the Indian ones. They are much bigger in size, aggressive and wild. Some of you may have seen these animals on TV or the internet, but if you want to come face-to-face with them, there is no better place than this one.
At the end of our safari, we realized that a great jungle experience is not defined by how many animals you spot or how plush your accommodation is. It is all about how you feel during and after your experience. Our South African safari truly made us recognize the realness of the experience and left us feeling overwhelmed and excited beyond belief. It is surely something we will do again – this time, without a second thought!