I’m back on US soil, sitting in the Atlanta airport after the 16 hour flight from Joburg. We have 2 hours until our flight to Dayton and free WIFI, so time to catch up on blogging. We’ve had internet the past few days, but it has been so limited that we focused on using it to Facetime the kids and post a quick Facebook or Instagram photo.
Our remaining time at Thornybush was just as wonderful as our first day. We saw the Big 5 by picking up the rhino … well, lots and lots of groups of rhinos including an adorable baby who wasn’t so sure of us. We also found a cheetah basking in the sun and went on an hour plus adventure tracking lions on two different drives and successfully finding them. It was quite amazing to watch Jamie and John track the animals and on several occasions we got out of the vehicle to track on foot when the area was too dense to drive through.
Our typical day at Thornybush started at 5:30 am with a wake-up call. We all gathered at the main area at 6 am for a cup of tea and muffin, then out to the vehicles by 6:10 or 6:15 am, just before the sun came up. You’d get a blanket and hot water bottle upon entering the car since it was really cold in the morning. The vehicles are open air and seat 9, but the most we ever had in our car was 6. The first 2 drives we had a French man and his 7 year-old daughter and Italian honeymooners with a translator/guide from a neighboring camp to be with them. After the French family left, it was us, Marco and Francesa until the last drive, when the honeymooners had left and another Italian couple came. Simone, the translator, was working with them too so he was with us the entire stay. Apparently the lodge we picked gets more Europeans than US folks.
The morning drive went until 9 am with a stop somewhere in the middle for coffee, tea or hot chocolate (with Amarula) that Jamie and John packed each morning. By that point, you could shed your blanket and hot water bottle and maybe even one of your coats. We’d arrive back to the lodge for a full hot breakfast then have down time until lunch was served at 1:30 pm. One day we hit the spa for Rungu massages with a stick and that was delightful. The other day we slept for 2 hours!
Lunch was back in the main area, buffet style and I thought it was the best meal of the day, complete with some homemade dessert that we always had. High tea was served at 3:30 (along with some new dessert concoction) and then it was back in the cars by 3:45 for the evening drive that would last until 7 pm. We’d stop at some point for ‘sundowners’ — Africa’s equivalent to happy hour — and something Dave and I will bring back home with us. Jamie and John would whip out a make shift bar and serve you beer, wine or mixed drinks, along with snacks. We’d watch the sun set with its beautiful pink, purple and orange hues. After sundowners, blankets were passed out and coats and gloves put on as the temp dropped so fast when the sun went down. It would be pitch black by the time we got back to the lodge at 7 and the night porter would take you to your room and pick you back up for dinner at 7:30 pm. Dinner rotated between a la carte and Boma dining. The Boma is an outdoor BBQ of sorts and just beautiful — full of candles and fires going. By 8:30 or 9 pm, the night porter would walk you back to your room. After a full day outside and gorging yourself (seriously, how many meals can they serve us?) and knowing a 5:30 am wake-up was just around the corner, we never saw past 9:30 pm.
We can say we are huge fans of safari and can’t wait to try other parks, other countries, etc, to see the difference in animals, etc. Here are more highlights.
We tracked this male lion one evening and finally found him as we was marking his territory. The first video is us initially finding him and the power of the safari vehicles going off road. You can see John sitting at the front of the vehicle where the trackers sit. Jamie is in the hat and glasses with his binoculars, camera and rifle in front of him. He always brought the rifle with him when we went on foot, but assured us he’s never had to use it with guests around.
The lion walked slowly down the road as we followed him and finally settled at the dam where he roared to see if any other males were in his territory. It shook the vehicle. You can also see how quickly it gets dark as the two videos were shot about 30 minutes apart.
Another morning, we tracked the elephants on the South end of the property which took about an hour and half to get down to. Unlike Tau, though, we got right in the thick of the herd and had elephants surrounding us. This video is of a young male playing with an older female. Soon he’ll be too boisterous and will be pushed out of the herd to be on his own.
The final morning, we were tracking the leopards, but came across a group of lion tracks so switched over to finding them. It was 3 females who we found at the dam. We stayed with them for awhile hoping they’d hunt, but they never did.
Below are pictures of the animals and drives — the hyena and her pups were surprisingly one of my favorite and the hippos were great. We found the cheetah and rhino — but the same rules applied from Tau that you don’t post pictures of rhinos. Thornybush had lost two rhinos just recently to poachers. They come in on foot, shoot the rhino in the middle of the night, cut off its horn, and slip out. Very sad situation.
Pictures of our Thornybush suite. Since there was no fence around the lodge itself, we had baboons, monkeys, giraffe, warthogs and kudu by our door throughout the stay and saw a honeybadger one evening. The suites had power, but no TV or radio. The beds were huge and had heating elements underneath. They were draped in mosquito nets, but with it being Winter and dry season, we never saw a mosquito. The bathroom had a full tub, indoor shower and outdoor shower. Dave used the outdoor shower!