When I got an invitation to visit the Jock Safari Lodge in Mpumalanga, I decided to use it to kickstart my 40th birthday celebration. The invite was with a partner.
But I decided to ditch my better half and take my bestie because she also turned 40 recently.
My wonderful friend is well-travelled and has just returned from a 40-day trip in Asia to celebrate her birthday. I sent her the link of Jock Safari’s website and asked her if she was game to make sure the place made the grade? She got back to me in two seconds. Who can say no to five-star treatment?
Avis car rental came in handy with their best-roads campaign.
The car rental company announced the launch of its South Africa’s Best Roads drive following the success of the campaign launched globally.
Avis South Africa is encouraging citizens of the country to embark on road trips as a way to experience all the delights the country has to offer.
It evaluated 10 roads using a scientific formula, calculating the radius of the bends, acceleration and the length of the straights.
And the end result? The launch of South Africa's own best roads campaign.
The roads on the list include Magoebaskloof Pass in Limpopo, the stunning Pafuri Adventure in the Kruger National Park and the Sani Pass between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho.
Enjoying the sights, sounds and smells at Mathekenyane Hilltop. Photo: Supplied
We were loaned a 4x4 Toyota Fortuner, with all the creature comforts and nice trimmings.
We left Joburg at the crack of dawn on Friday for the six-hour trip to the Kruger National Park.
The drive on the N4 was a breeze in the Fortuner.
We did two stops only - for coffee and a quick snack - as we had a game drive at three in the afternoon and we wanted to be fresh and well-rested for it.
After signing in at the Kruger Park's Malelane Gate, we still had an hour's drive in the park to get to the lodge.
In my matric year in 1995, our setwork was Jock of the Bushveld. Little did I know that it was waiting for me in the future.
The book was published in 1907 and had an enthusiastic reception.
It remained a favourite in South Africa and has been widely read abroad, appearing in several forms and languages.
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, the author of the animal classic, was one of the people drawn by the prospect of striking it rich in the gold-rush days in southern Africa.
The prospectors passed through some of South Africa’s most scenic, untamed wilderness areas and one of them was the Jock Safari Lodge.
Nestled at the confluence of the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers at the southern tip of the Kruger Park, the presence of Fitzpatrick and his trusted dog, Jock, can be felt at every corner in this rustic luxurious lodge.
We were welcomed by two smiling staff members. One had a very interesting name, Carrot, which I preferred not to call out in case I burst out laughing.
The two offered us warm face towels to refresh after the long drive to the lodge.
We were then taken to our breathtaking thatched suite, which, veiled with lush trees and reed walls, offered us much-welcomed peace and quiet, not to mention privacy.
Each chalet leads onto a private deck with plunge pool and a Sala (an outdoor day bed), all with a spectacular view of the riverbed.
The river was dry but it is still a beautiful and relaxing sight to enjoy. On a lucky day, you also get to see animals loafing around from the comfort of your balcony.
A chilled bottle of bubbles was waiting for us with some biltong and chocolate.
All meals and game drives are included in the cost, which is great because from the moment you walk in you just kick back and follow the itinerary.
There are two game drives a day, one at 5am and an evening one, and about four all-inclusive meals a day.
We arrived just in time for lunch. We sat on the deck at the main lodge overlooking the riverbed. Kudu and a few buck were strolling by and all you could hear was the chirping of birds.
At 3.30pm we all met in the main lodge again.
You don’t have to be an expert such as Micah to tell you that this is elephant spoor. Photo: Supplied
We were introduced to our own personal ranger for the weekend.
In my group was a family of four who came all the way from India specifically for the safari experience.
After high tea, we all hopped on our truck and made sure we had our blankets for the chilly night drive.
We had a quick stop after a short drive for some wine and biltong while watching the sunset.
We saw a lot of elephant, rhino, buffalo, even a huge pack of hyenas taking advantage of the meal that a group of wild dogs had just killed.
Shame, the poor dogs were chased away by the opportunistic animals.
Driving back was an unforgettable experience because I have never felt that cold in my life. We thought we had prepared enough but, boy, were we wrong.
The two boys from India were only wearing long-sleeved shirts and they suffered the most.
On the game drive. Photo: Supplied
Luckily, there was hot chocolate with a dash of Amarula waiting for us. We also had a boma dinner which helped to thaw us and we were soon in happy spirits.
We were presented with a birthday cake and a traditional song and dance. We joined in and sang along since they were singing Tsonga songs and my friend and I felt right at home.
After that freezing ordeal I did not even attempt the 5am game drive. We went back for round two of the Saturday game drive with our fingers crossed for a lion.
There were none out and about, but we did see a leopard. He was not interested in us as he seemed to be preoccupied with finding something for dinner and we looked like we were disturbing him.
Oh, I forgot to mention that we also bravely did a mid-morning safari walk. I'm not sure if I will ever do it again but I'm glad that I have ticked that box.
Luckily we did not come face to face with any animals but we saw fresh lion tracks. We simply enjoyed the fauna and flora of the Kruger Park and played in some mud baths left behind by elephants.
On Sunday morning, we bid our farewell to Carrot and his colleagues with heavy hearts because the weekend went by so fast. But we had created beautiful memories of our 40th and I had relived my matric literature setwork, Jock of the Bushveld.
* Transport was sponsored by Avis: www.avisbestroads.co.za
* For more information on the Lodge: www.jocksafarilodge.com