About an hour after our stop in immigration for South Africa, we turned off the highway to the Kruger National Park entrance. The buses pulled to a stop while our guide (the drivers called him Big Ray) went into the office with our ship’s escort to register our arrival. As I sat in the bus I looked out at some large clumps of what at first I thought were stones. Nope. Elephant poop! Really? Here at the entrance to the park? I smiled. I could hardly wait to begin.
We were barely through the park entrance when we spotted our first giraffe. It was a young one according to Big Ray who used to be a park ranger. Eyes straining to see into the underbrush and trees, we rode another half hour or so to our lodge, the Lukimbi. It was amazing. More than I could have imagined even after seeing the pictures on the website. After a brief introduction and the signing of a waiver just in case we should become a lion’s snack, we were led to our rooms.
The bungalow was luxury—remember we’d spent 70 days in a 250 square foot room on the ship. We had a bedroom, a sitting area and a huge bath with an indoor and outdoor shower. The only uncomfortable part was that there were no shades to draw in the bathroom. You had to figure that anyone who stood out in the wilderness before us at night deserved what they saw.
After a wonderful lunch with all sorts of fresh fruits, vegetables, and chicken, we went to our room to rest a bit before our first scheduled safari at four. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well. Thanks to my generous husband I was coming down with the cold that had been going around the ship. Wouldn’t you know it would hit me at the highlight of my cruise.
I lay on the bed for a few minutes and suddenly heard Bob in a hoarse whisper from the deck, “Karen! Karen! Come here!” I roused myself and went out. He explained that he was hearing something giving a deep breath, like a snort almost, every so often in the bushes next to the deck and wondered if I could hear it. I couldn’t. But by then I was beginning to have trouble breathing as well as hearing. The cold symptoms were closing in. It was not going to stop me from my safari though.
We pulled on our safari gear and headed off in the direction of the lodge to find a small group of warthogs foraging through the front yard of the lodge just beyond the Land Rovers that were assembled to take us on our first safari.
Our group broke into four groups of six and off we went in the Land Rovers, each with a guide at the wheel and a tracker in the seat on the front fender. I blew my nose several times and hoped for the best as we entered the dirt roads of the Lukimbi concession of the park. (A concession is the area of the park where a resort is licensed to operate.) We were on our way and it wasn’t long before I began to forget how bad I felt. Me. On a safari. For real!