If you haven’t read my previous post “Beginning Our Honeymoon Adventure“, you won’t know the story of how we got to South Africa and how we spent the first two nights of our trip so maybe go back and read that first!
Having left La Residence at 7am in the morning, we caught a flight from Cape Town to a tiny airport in Kruger National Park. I wish I’d taken photos of it. We landed in the middle of the bush, monkeys running around everywhere and walked into the smallest airport I have ever been to. It was literally a wooden building with a thatched roof and we just walked through it and the other side met someone (Pete) who was waiting for us from the lodge we were going to stay at, Royal Malewane. A 45 minute drive later, we arrived at the lodge. Remember how I said I was emotional when I arrived at La Residence? The same thing happened arriving at Royal Malewane. It was just such a crazy experience…the staff greeted us outside and all introduced themselves. I have never met warmer and friendlier people. The lodge is honestly the most stylish, magnificent and beautiful place I have ever been to. It’s all really open plan so as you eat your lunch you can watch the animals hanging out at the waterhole. We saw Buffalo and Warthogs on our first day! A man named Andrew took us to our room and told us that we needed to be escorted to our room by a staff member after dark unless we wanted to become dinner on our way to dinner! It was so exciting how they didn’t try to keep the animals away from the lodge at all, elephants would literally walk up to your pool and drink the water from it and Andrew explained that we must keep the sliding doors of our room closed at all times unless we wanted monkeys raiding our suitcases! You know how they often put out fresh fruit for you when you arrive at nice hotels? Andrew explained they’d left us some fruit, but they’d hidden it in the cupboard as there’s one particular monkey that is clever enough to open the sliding doors if he can see fruit on the other side! I could go on and on and write SO much about this place, so to summarise; it was incredibly special. The food, the rooms, the lodge, the spa, the staff, the safari experience was all just magic.
After eating lunch and checking out our room (apologies for the messy bed photo!) it was time to go on our first safari with our guide Ryan and tracker Robert. Jim and I didn’t really know what to expect, but we were really excited. We travelled through the bush in a huge jeep with no roof, stopping each time we saw an animal so we could quietly watch them in their natural habitat whilst Ryan answered our questions and taught us about the animals we were seeing. For those of you who have been on safari you’ll know it’s difficult to articulate the feeling you get as you sit in the dark and listen to a lion roar or look up a tree and see a leopard protecting it’s antelope kill from a hyena. It really is a life-changing experience. There were a few times that I felt scared and unsafe as we did get very close to the animals, but Ryan reminded me that although we are in their territory, the animals have grown up with the jeeps driving around and wouldn’t try to harm us as long as we respected their space. He explained that they are used to the silhouette of the jeeps so it was important we never stood up incase we changed the shape the animals are used to. We were very lucky and saw the Big Five (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino) on our very first safari!
We had three nights at Royal Malewane and got up every morning at 5am to go on a game drive and went again each afternoon at 4pm as that’s the best time to see the animals. During the days we sunbathed by our pool, read, ate and one day had massages at the spa with Renee and Rochelle (hands down the best massages we’ve ever had). Eating lunch by our pool was hilarious as there were so many cheeky monkeys trying to steal our food!
One evening on our game drive as the sun was setting, Ryan stopped the jeep at a watering hole so we could get out and watch the hippos. (Apparently it was safe to get out of the jeep as long as they were in the water.) He set up a little picnic on the front of the jeep and it was so surreal standing with Jim, drinking Rosé and watching the hippos pop their heads in and out of the water. There’s something so peaceful about being out in the bush, it’s very quiet. Definitely an evening I’ll never forget.
As we came to the end of our final game drive, Ryan told us that we wouldn’t be going back to the lodge for dinner. It was dark and I couldn’t see where we were, but could hear African music, then we drove into a clearing filled with candles and a tent with a table laid out for dinner. Jim and I were so surprised as Ryan told us we were having our final dinner in the bush! Before dinner we watched a group of the local people singing, dancing and playing the drums. I went into my bag to get my camera and when I looked up Jim was dancing with everyone! He said one of the ladies had grabbed his hand and he decided to just go for it (I love how Jim is always up for joining in – he had all of the others laughing). It was such a brilliant evening, so many amazing memories that we will treasure forever.
The next morning we said our goodbyes to everyone at Royal Malewane, we have never felt so sad to leave a place, but it was time for the final part of our honeymoon adventure. We went to a tiny airstrip in the middle of the bush and I kind of freaked out when I saw the plane we were getting on. It was TINY! I’d never travelled in anything like it before and was quite nervous, but the pilot reassured me and before I knew it we were up in the sky…
You’ll have to wait for my next blog post to find out what we did next! I hope you guys are enjoying hearing about our travels and seeing our photos. It’s so lovely to re-live it a bit by telling you all.