After making our way from Hoedspruit, we pulled up to Ngala Private Game Reserve. I had been prepared to “rough it” in a sense. You hear things like “safari” and “game park” and “creepy crawlies” and expect as much…right? What I had not been prepared for was this:
As it turns out, all the other accommodations were booked out, so they upgraded mom and me to the honeymoon suite (naturally, no such thing ever happens when I’m traveling with my husband)(yes, I am still not used to saying that!). And by “suite,” we had a bedroom, a living room with additional bed, a wrap-around porch, a kitchen, two full bathrooms (one of which had a stand-alone shower bigger than my home office) and a full-sized swimming pool. (Don’t worry, I’d hate us, too.)
On top of that, they served us dinner one night on our private porch overlooking an empty creek bed with hyenas howling in the distance. (I’m not going to lie: That part threw me off ever so slightly.)
Every day followed a pretty “strict” schedule: Morning safari started before 5am, meaning a Ngala employee knocked on every cabin door at 4 to wake us up, we had a quick cup of coffee and pastry, and were in the truck and ready to go on time. We would arrive back to base camp around 9am, at which point a fancy breakfast spread awaited us.
At that point, I usually slept all afternoon long in lieu of going on the bush walk. Had it been warmer—it was fall while we were there and pretty darn nippy—I would have made use of the pool. Then, there was afternoon tea before the 4pm safari, another four-hour drive and back after dark for a full-on feast, which was served in a different dining room each night. So basically the pattern was: eat, wildlife, eat, nap, eat, wildlife, eat, sleep. I think I can handle that kind of strenuous routine on a full-time basis.
Our intrepid and comic safari guide Dyke would also stop and set up a snack table and cocktail bar in the middle of the bush on each drive. You know, just so we wouldn’t have to go two hours without sustenance. The food was amazing, I’ll give them that. It’s a wonder I didn’t gain 10 pounds; Lord knows I wasn’t sticking to any sort of pre-wedding diet on this trip!
The commons areas were beautiful: Everything was open and airy, and there were couches everywhere for lounging. Oh, and once the sun went down, you weren’t allowed to roam around the camp freely; rather, you had to have an escort. With good reason—one night, there were leopards roaming about the camp! And let’s not even talk about the pesky baboons who used our roof as a trampoline every night when the lights went off.
The jeeps were amazingly comfortable, too—extremely important, of course, as you spend a good eight hours a day in them. The lack of a top or side railing meant that the animals could come right up to the vehicle and breathe on us if they liked.