lions and hippos and elephants, oh my!

As I mentioned in the last post, my mum was not too keen on me going to Johannesburg. Well, I survived the first night! Granted, I went through my first (and second, and third…) gun checkpoint which was an eye-opening experience, but of course I wasn’t packing so I got the all-clear.The next day we flew to Richards Bay in KwaZulu Natal (KZN), which is the state up in the North West of South Africa, near Swaziland and Mozambique. The flight itself was nice and bumpy, made more so by the fact we were in such a small aircraft – another first for a few of us. From the airport we drove to a lovely town named St Lucia, which was the perfect jumping off point for some game drives in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park and hippo viewing at iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Everyone asks me, “did you go to Kruger?” I answer No. The look of disappointment is obvious in whoever asked. But there are so many different parks and possibilities for game drives – Kruger isn’t the only one. Not only that, but where I went is the best spot for viewing hippos. In fact, on our second night in St Lucia, we walked out into the street after dinner, and were told to stop and stay still because there was a hippo across the road. She had wandered into town for dinner and was helping herself to some grass in the playground!
From St Lucia we made our way to the magnificent Phinda Mountain Lodge, which is a private game lodge in KZN. The difference between a private game reserve and a National Park is that you stay within the grounds of the park, you are assigned a driver and a spotter (who know their stuff inside out) and the animals are closely monitored giving you an increased chance of encountering them.
From here on, I will let the photos speak for themselves. I am a terrible photographer, but I hope you get the idea. Enjoy!
Hippos at iSimilangaliso
 
A quick safety warning…
The savannah
Unfortunate fact: this guy is really not that nice. Thanks for getting my hopes up, Lion King.
Phinda Mountain Lodge
The view over Phinda
The bathroom of my suite at Phinda… pretty nice!
My balcony at Phinda, complete with dipping pool and outdoor shower
Bones
Our view from the hill where we enjoyed our Sundowners
The safari vehicle, driver/guide and spotter (they were amazing)
In Adelaide, we’re lucky to have two zoos with Giraffe populations, so I see them quite regularly. However, the thrill of driving around in the bush and seeing one poking is head over a tree way in the distance and edging closer and closer to say ‘hello’ is something else entirely!
 
Speaking of experiences that are “something else” – this guy followed us for about a mile, keen to see what we were up to.
Down at the waterhole…
Juvenile lions
Hanging out…