The Jacksons’ at Buffalo Thorn.

Our American-based family joined us at the Lodge for 5 wonderful days where we feasted on the sights and smells of the bush as well as, of course, lots of biltong!  What would the bush be without biltong, Amarula in morning coffee accompanied by Ouma rusks and a g’n t (gin and tonic) in the evening???  (Not having been able to travel here for two years they were desperate for a “bush fix”).

The new Sundowner deck was an ideal platform to celebrate family time in comfort and watch the sun going down over a wide vista of undulating hills pock marked with silhouetted trees and aloes.

 As we basked in the last rays of the winter sun, two white rhino came to check out the new watering hole just below us.  A few meters away, in the dusk, their massive, prehistoric forms almost blended with the grey and black shrubs of the surrounding bush.  Then slowly as quietly as they had come, they disappeared into the dense bush.

A special treat on Sunday afternoon was the elephant herd that came to the Crater viewing deck and watering hole just in front of the main deck at the lodge. How extraordinary that these huge mammals can move so silently through the bush.  We could have missed them altogether as we were so engrossed with braaiing and enjoying delicious spareribs!  Another ritual “must” for our American family!

But the elephants obliged as they drank and wallowed in the muddy water, suddenly splashing, and trumpeting with the adolescents testing their strength by pushing and bumping one another.  A small elephant calf, about 6 weeks old we were told on good authority by Evan, struggled to control its trunk as it played next to its mother but eventually decided mother’s milk was a better option than dirty water! To be able to observe them so close at hand from the safety of the deck, was absolutely awe inspiring.

The Noel Coward song says that “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun”, but I think it may equally apply to early morning game drives in the middle of winter! Only desperate tourists go out at the crack of dawn before any of the animals have even braved the cold! 

Nevertheless, one morning, at what felt like almost sub-zero temperatures, we did brave the cold and drove through the Wilderness into the Pilanesberg stopping to watch a couple of very blasé warthogs which allowed a young leopard to get quite close to them and then would run off in another direction.  It was intriguing! The leopard tried sneaking up from all different directions, but the warthogs knew a thing or two and completely unperturbed would dart off, then swing around and stare directly at the leopard with a kind of “catch me if you can” attitude, until he eventually slunk off, humiliated, his stomach still growling!

Truly “memories are made of this”!

Author Patricia Jackson

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