South Africa, a country that gets in your blood…….

We returned from an epic adventure to Hoedspruit in South Africa a week ago and would dearly like to thank our friends and neighbours Zoe and David for hosting such an amazing visit.IMG_6324

South Africa had never been on our radar as a holiday destination and I’m not sure why.  Our friends, Zoe and David are passionate about their second home and their enthusiasm became infectious. We booked our flights with no preconceptions of what to expect, we chose not to buy guide books and neither do any research beforehand, but allow our Hosts to introduce us, to South Africa through their eyes and by their own experiences.  Thankfully, a great decision, wow, what an incredible journey we made.

IMG_6131Taking an internal flight from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit, in the eastern reaches of South Africa’s Limpodo Province.  We flew across country, giving us a bird’s eye view of the vast landscape.  The phrase “I had a farm in Africa,” from the great, classic film, Out of Africa, popped into my mind; the scenery gave us the sense we had just dropped onto the movie set. From high above I could see giraffes roaming free, I struggled to keep the awe and wonder from bursting out, I felt like a small child and caught myself screaming in excitement.

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Landing in the small but incredibly formed Hoedspruit airport, we were already getting the sense that we were about to embark on the holiday of a lifetime.

Hoedspruit is surrounded by abundant wildlife in private game reserves, it’s literally 40 minutes away from the Orpen Gate entrance to the world-famous Kruger National Park and just north of the majestic, Blyde River Canyon located in Mpumalanga, at the northern most tip of the Drakensburg mountains. IMG_5914

On our journey to our home for the next two weeks, we encountered Giraffe, Kudu and Impalas, the Khaya Ndlovu private game reserve felt like Bewdley Safari Park on steroids!  Khaya Ndlovu is situated within The Blue Canyon Conservancy with incredible views of the Drakensberg Mountains.  The African bush, although autumnal, was looking green and lush from recent rainfall.  Wild flowers in a riot of colour, shimmered in the heat and blankets of light and shade carpeted the floor of the bush, creating an overwhelming picture of perfection; add in the occasional bit of wildlife with their incredible markings and you can see why Africa presents an artist with a limitless amount of inspiration.IMG_6166

We spent two weeks enjoying the most spectacular game drives, meeting the most extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, eating some of the best food I’ve eaten anywhere and witnessing some of the most incredible sights.  Someone said to us, when we commented, that this was our first visit to South Africa, that the country gets into your blood.  We laughed at the time and thought nothing of it, but on returning home to the UK and thoughtfully processing the visit, we both agree, South Africa has got into our blood, what an amazing country!  We are already planning our next vacation, who knows when we’ll manage to get there again, it’s anyone’s guess, but we hoping to achieve this very soon.IMG_6997

Stay at Khaya Ndlovu Manor House which boasts magnificent colonial style gardens as well as unsurpassed views of the Drakensberg Mountains and surrounding bushveld. www.khayandlovu.co.za

If the opportunity arises, take a helicopter ride over The Blyde River Canyon, it is one of South Africa’s most remarkable geological features and is the third largest canyon on Earth.IMG_6098

Having had the wonderful experience of flying over both, Blyde River and The Grand Canyon, I can tell you first hand, Blyde River Canyon is truly spectacular and for me, surpasses the legendary Grand Canyon hands down.  On a clear day from the aptly named viewpoint, God’s Window, you can see as far as Kruger Park and Mozambique.

No visit would be complete without spending time in Kruger National Park, the size of Wales, its range and sheer diversity of animals is beyond comprehension.   Remember the scene in Jurassic Park, where the characters of Sam Neill and Laura Dern encounter the Dinosaurs for the first time from the game vehicle?  We felt their awe and wonder, it was often ‘a fling off your hat and sunglasses,’ kind of moment around every corner!  At one viewing point, we looked across the plains and saw Elephants in every direction and we watched Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Waterbuck and Fish Eagles at a waterhole.  We sought out sleepy Lions, dozing in the bush and witnessed the most spectacular sight of all, a gorgeous Leopard, using a road sign as a rest stop.  What a thrill! IMG_6770

It was a privilege to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat and for us, to do our part, to promote and encourage our small community of friends and family to see how valuable our wildlife really is.  The more of us who promote these majestic sights, then perhaps these tragic animals will become worth more alive, than dead; poaching is still a catastrophic problem, which funds the criminal underworld.   Rhinos particularly, have suffered to near extinction, we need to do, as much as we can, to enable the children of the future, to continue to witness these gentle giants, in their natural surroundings.

www.rhinorevolution.org

www.lonelyplanet.com/south-africa/mpumalanga/kruger-national-park

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