The day my dreams took flight

My favourite thing to do is to go to where I have never been!

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As long as I can remember I have dreamt of flying gracefully above the earth, experiencing what it must feel like to be a bird – the peace and tranquility as they soar above the earth.

In August we eventually had our chance, we booked our flight with AirVentures and spent the the night before at Glenburn Lodge – making it a truly memorable experience as this is where Wayne and I got married a few months ago!

We arrived nice and early at Kloofzicht Lodge which is where we were launching from before sunrise. I was feeling a bit anxious as Wayne hates heights – so in the back of my mind I was wondering how we were going to conquer this one. But guess what… for someone whose knees quiver when we look over any drop, my husband never felt insecure or afraid once through the flight.

We were welcomed in the reception by the flight crew and prepared ourselves for our once in a life time opportunity. We soon headed out to the fields in front of the lodge where the ground crew were already setting up the balloon, it felt like eternity as we stood there waiting for the hot air balloon to inflate and take shape as it lifted from the ground.

Soon enough we were in the basket and receiving our safety briefing – the landing was going to be the tricky part, but at the time all I wanted to do was get up in the air and we could worry about landing later (which I can tell you was so smooth we ended up landing directly on the back of the trailer).

Slowly we left the earth – it was truly as if we were floating on a cloud. We were gliding gently on the air currents. As we climbed higher and higher it became ever more peaceful and so quiet, with the only sound being the intermittent blasts of the gas-burner firing.

Slowly the sun started peeking over the horizon, it was breathtakingly beautiful… beyond mesmerizing! I finally had the chance to experience the earth as the birds do… soaring above, catching the air currents and appreciating the sheer beauty of the rolling landscapes from the skies above. The views were endless as we drifted over the Cradle of Humankind which is situated near Johannesburg.

The whole flight was an overwhelming experience and totally magical… we tried to take it all in and capture the moment at the same time.

AirVentures offer an experience that words can’t actually begin to explain – it’s a bucket list experience that needs to be ticked again!

Live in the moment

For me there is nothing more exciting than getting into the bush, so when my husband walks through the doors and tells me he has won a 4-day getaway to Mabula Game Lodge, I was in my element. All I can say is “babe… best you sell more of those Michelin tyres”, because you will have one very satisfied, sane wife and as we all know, a happy wife equals a very happy husband!

I promise you, I counted the days… And then just like that it was time for our bush getaway. Thank goodness, because I literally could not wait for some much needed time away.

We arrived to such a warm welcome from some warthogs eating the grass outside of the lodge, so of course I was already in my element, snapping away, while the poor reception staff where trying to welcome us.

From then on the trip just got better and better… Literally our day consisted of eating and game drives, oh and quality time with my husband… did I mention the eating and the game drives.

So from then, we had 3 full buffet meals a day (gee, no wonder my clothes felt so tight) and a game drive twice a day.

We had our morning knock on the door at 5:30am by our guide, Francis, but I was definitely up earlier to be the first on the vehicle waiting in huge anticipation for the two-and-a-half-hour game drive which normally turned into 3-hour morning drive. We then had another drive from 3:30pm till about 6pm.

In my mind there is nothing more exciting than experiencing time in the bush, because it does not matter how many trips you plan, every time is unique and emotionally touching. I always feel so silly sitting at a sighting trying to wipe away my tears before anyone notices – sniff, sniff!

Our guide, Francis has worked at Mabula for 8 years and he was amazing. The sightings were breathtaking – well I never have the words to explain them. There was an abundance of wildlife, we enjoyed a wide variety of antelope, elephants, lions, cheetah, hippos, jackals, rhinos, buffalo… The only one that eluded us was the leopard.

We spent quite a bit of time with a pride of lions… But every morning it was rather exciting tracking and finding them (I always appreciate the skill the guides have mastered when it comes to reading the signs of the wild – I actually studied to be a game ranger, but life had other plans for me).

Each time we found them I just have to remind myself to live in the moment and take in the wonder of these magnificent creatures – because I tend to get caught up snapping the pics and not experiencing it.

Within the pride is a cub at the moment, so watching the interaction with his mom and the others was just so amazing. He got stuck trying to cross a little stream the one evening and the pride coaxed him and called for him until he had the guts to cross over. Back on the vehicle we just held our breath in anticipation waiting for him to take that giant leap of faith.

 

We were also very fortunate to spend time with some cheetah, now these males decided it might be fun to investigate the trail horses the one evening, I am not sure what they were thinking! These horses literally formed a straight line and confronted these cheetahs straight on. Well you can imagine who won the battle, but it was truly amazing to witness these horses standing together in a formation and surrounding these boys and basically showing them who was in charge.

The other cheetah sighting got me rather chocked up – a mom and her cubs. It was possibly the best cheetah sighting I had experienced. They were sitting together in the open on the road, my previous sightings have always been with them on the move – so now we could just sit, watch and take it all in.

There is so much I could tell you in terms of the amazing sightings we had, I even got to see my first porcupine… but it will never translate until you are actually living in that moment and experiencing it yourself.

I am blessed that I can share these moments with Wayne, who had no choice when he married me to take on my passion for the bush, which I believe he has become very fond of himself. Of course he has to try and tell me on each drive the best terrain for dirt biking and how he would take on the riverbed, rocks and the thorny trees – included are the various sound effects the bike would make when tackling the obstacles – braaap, woop, woop-woop, not exactly the call of the wild.

General info: Mabula Game Lodge is located two and half hours’ drive from Johannesburg in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo Province. The landscapes are diverse from grassland plains to rocky outcrops which makes it an ideal habitat for the Big Five, as well as other wildlife. There are also other activities like bush walks and horse trails plus they are involved with the Mabula Ground Hornbill conservation project.

NO FISH FOR THE HIPPO

On our recent trip to Mabula Game Lodge they left a bookmark on a pillow with the most wonderful story, I could not help but share it.

Mabula Game Lodge African Bedtime Story

When the Creator was giving each animal a place in the world, the pair of hippos begged to be allowed to live in the cool water which they so dearly loved. The Creator looked at them, and was doubtful about letting them live in the water: their mouths were so large, their teeth so long and sharp, and their size and their appetites were so big, he was afraid that they would eat up all the fish. Besides, he had already granted the place to another predator – the crocodile. He could not have two kinds of large hungry animals living in the rivers. So the Creator refused the hippos request, and told them that they could live out on the open plains. At this news the two hippos began to weep and wail, making the most awful noise. They pleaded and pleaded with the Creator, who finally gave in. But he made the hippos promise that if they lived in the rivers, they must never harm a single fish. They were to eat grass instead. The hippos promised solemnly, and rushed to the river, grunting with delight. And to this day, hippos always scatter their dung on the river bank, so the Creator can see that is contains no fish bones. And you can still hear them laughing for joy that they were allowed to live in the rivers after all.

Blog on our trip to Mabula Game Lodge to follow soon…