Honeymoon – Leopard Hills

Editor’s Note:
All posts dated between November 2004 and June 2005 were imported to Keith’s Amusing Musings on January 21, 2006 from my previous travel blog. I decided to delete that blog and move all its content here which some readers may find disruptive considering Keith’s Amusing Musings did not come online until October 2005. The good news there will be only one blog, Keith’s Amusing Musings, going forward. Enjoy these older stories.

The two hour flight to Nelspruit/Kruger was quite an experience. We were the only two passengers on the 7-passenger, twin-engine, prop plane. The flight was really bumpy and I actually started to get sick. Our pilot, Danie, was pretty friendly and made sure we were ok. Upon arrival in Nelspruit, Danie had to make three attempts at landing because it was so windy. I can’t tell you how happy I was to be on the ground! It’s really ironic to see the fancy, state-of-the-art Nelspruit/Kruger airport in the middle of nowhere. Since we were coming from Mozambique, we had to go through customs. Again, it was pretty uneventful.

After going through customs we were greeted by the pilot who was to take us to Leopard Hills. He started speaking to Danie in another language (probably Afrikaans). They went back and forth, and then Danie informed us that he was going to fly us to Leopard Hills because the winds were too strong for the other gentleman’s single-engine, prop plane. The 20-minute flight to Leopard Hills wasn’t too bad…I think because I knew it was a short flight. The airstrip for Leopard Hills was literally a runway in the middle of the bush.

Once on the ground, we were greeted by Raymond from Leopard Hills. We later discovered that Raymond would be our tracker for the time we were in Kruger…more on that later. On the way to the lodge, Raymond pointed out a couple animal tracks (i.e. footprints). After about 10 minutes we arrived at Leopard Hills and were greeted by staff members. After checking in, we were informed that the afternoon/evening game drive would be leaving in about 10 minutes if we were interested in joining.

Keith needed to get his bearings and wasn’t sure if he was interested in going, but I was ready to see some animals! We both ended up going on the drive, which was a good thing because we had some amazing animal sightings. We also got a chance to meet our crew. Ryan, our ranger, was responsible for driving the Land Rover and explaining the animals and environment. Raymond, our tracker, sat on a chair that was pretty much connected to the hood of the Land Rover. As a local Shangaan, Raymond is familiar with the animal trackings and sounds which is helpful when trying to find animals. Raymond would point Ryan in certain directions based on the tracks spotted. The other part of our crew were the two other couples on our drive…one couple was from outside of Amsterdam and the other was from Cape Town, South Africa.

We discovered a few things on that first afternoon/evening drive. All three couples in our vehicle had arrived at the lodge that afternoon. Also, we learned that we would be part of the same group for our entire trip. Every game drive and meal would be with those same people. It’s a good thing we all got along. On that first drive we saw leopards, lions, vultures, impala, and elephants. The vultures were hanging around in the trees watching a lioness that had killed a wildebeest. They were waiting their turn for any leftovers. We also had a “celebrity sighting” while viewing the elephants. Apparently Trista and Ryan from the bachelorette were honeymooning in Kruger as well. Their honeymoon, like the big wedding extravaganza, will be aired on TV. So, they were out viewing animals with video crew in tow. The afternoon/evening drive lasted from about 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm. After arriving back at the lodge, a staff member was waiting for us with drinks and a security guard to take us back to our suites. At night, we were not to walk around without a security guard as Leopard Hills is in the middle of the bush. Apparently, leopards routinely come into camp after dark so everyone is extremely cautious to keep guests safe.

After the game drive we had a few minutes to relax and get ready for dinner. Pre-dinner drinks started at 8pm, with dinner following at 8:30. During pre-dinner drinks, we got a chance to mingle with some of the guests from the other Land Rover crew. Leopard Hills has 8 double-occupancy suites During our first two nights there were 6 units filled, half in each Land Rover. In the other group were partners from Florida, a father/daughter pair from Italy, and a guy traveling by himself with whom I never really got a chance to talk.
Dinner was very tasty and we got a chance to get to know our ranger and fellow guests a bit more. After dinner, we were told that we’d receive our wake-up call/knock at 5AM…Yes, 5 o’clock in the MORNING! With that notice, we called for a security guard to escort us back to our room.

A typical day in the life of a Leopard Hills visitor is as follows:

  • 5:00 – Wake-up knock
  • 5:30 – Meet for tea/coffee
  • 5:45 to 8:30/9:00 – Morning game drive (while out on the drive, we stop for coffee/hot chocolate and muffins)
  • 9:30 – Breakfast
  • 9:30 to 4:00 – Relax
  • 1:00 – Lunch (I never made it to lunch since I was always still full from breakfast)
  • 4:00 – Afternoon tea and pastries
  • 4:30 to 7:30/8:00 – Afternoon game drive
  • 8:00 – Evening cocktails
  • 8:30 – Dinner

That was the daily routine. On our first night dinner was in the dining hall/lodge. It was set-up with 4 different courses. On our second night it was a boma dinner, which is like dinner around a bonfire. There were outdoor grills setup and it was like outdoor stir-fry. We got to pick all the vegetables and meat that we wanted, and then it was stir-fried with the seasonings we wanted. On our last night, dinner was back indoors.

Over the course of the 5 game drives we went on, we saw leopards, lions, vultures, impala, elephants, hippos, cheetah, kudu, rhinos, giraffes, buffalo, hyena, monkeys, and warthog. In addition, we saw myriad birds, bugs, plants, and trees. I can’t do justice to the experience of riding around the bush looking at animals in their natural habitat. As natural as can be with a Land Rover following the animals. 🙂 Here are some of the highlights of the game viewing:

  1. Seeing a mother cheetah and her two cubs feeding on a steenbok (a small gazelle).
  2. Seeing a pride of lions consisting of three females, 1 male, and their 10 cubs interacting.
  3. Being literally in the middle of 3 female and 1 male lion having a roaring showdown…of course the male lion won with ease – we could feel his roar on the open savannah vibrate through our chests.

On our last morning at Leopard Hills, we decided to skip the game drive and sleep in. It was funny that sleeping in meant waking up at 7 am. I was sad that our time at Leopard Hills was coming to an end, since we had such a great time. But, I must admit, I was happy to be leaving the bugs. Our flight from the Leopard Hills airstrip was scheduled to leave at 10:30AM. So, around 10:00 we said our goodbyes, checked out, and Ryan drove us to the plane.


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