Monday, July 14, 2014

Mom in South Africa Redux

Mom by our tent at Tamboti Camp
Better late than never!

We had a great time with my mom last March. We bookended her visit with stays at the Pretoria Sheraton (Club Level - ooh la la!). In between, we camped inside Kruger at the Tamboti Tented Camp and spent some time in Nelspruit relaxing at Francolin Lodge. 

My favorite was Tamboti. This picturesque tent camp is situated along the Timbavati River. Since it had been raining (a lot!) the river was running (but alas, the same rain filled the swimming pool at Orpen with mud). At night, we could heard lions roaring and calling. Very cool. We also had tent "guests" -- vervet monkeys and baboons! After we arrived, we put all of our food in our food cage and went out. When we returned, the camp host, frowning, escorted us back to our site so we could see that vervet monkeys could, in fact, reach their little hands and skinny arms through the cage bars. They ate a lot of our food! While we were cleaning up, my mom placed our bananas on the table in front of her and Bam! Gone. The sneaky devil sat in a tree and ate all those bananas right in front of us. The baboons (whom the cages were designed for) couldn't reach in, but they patrolled constantly, on alert for any lapse in attention. One actually tried to open the velcro flap on our tent and go in! We'd learned our lesson, though, and never, ever, left anything out, so the baboons mostly left us alone. It helped that we had a big stick to scare them off with. Don't mess with baboons!

Mom and I on the deck
Our tent had four very comfortable beds, a wardrobe, and a giant fan. Outside, we had a large covered deck, a table and chairs, a refrigerator and the aforementioned food cage, and a place to braai or build a fire. Every day, an attendant came and made our beds, gave us fresh towels, and cleaned the ash from our braai. Pretty deluxe camping! Nearby were a clean ablution block with flush toilets and hot showers and a cooking block with burners, sinks, and on-demand boiling water for tea and coffee. At night, you could see every single star in the sky. Just amazing.

From Tamboti, we went on both an early morning bush walk and a night drive. The bush walk was interesting and also very fragrant because every step we took in the bush was scented by the wild anisette we were walking on. Our guide said that if we smashed the seeds and rubbed the oil on, it would repel mosquitoes. We didn't see an awful lot on our night drive, but what we did see was quite dramatic. About halfway through the drive, we heard a rumbling, which turned out to be literally thousands of Cape buffalo crossing the tar road just ahead of us. Our guide turned off the truck's engine and we watched them, eyes glinting in our headlights, thundering and snorting as they hurtled across the road. Incredible.

Vultures on a kill
We also took our rental car and drove to Olifants Camp, a few hours drive. One morning, my mom and I saw a flock of vultures on a kill. It was sparring season, too, apparently, because we saw sparring impala, fighting elephants, and a dramatic hippo chase! We also sighted a group of endangered ground hornbills and saw our first Bateleur eagle. Nearer to Olifants, we saw a hyena pup. Poor little guy was clearly in some kind of trouble and alone. The wild dogs, which I so wanted to see, eluded us. Perhaps we'll see them on some future trip to South Africa. :)

In all, a great holiday with mater, and not so long before we see her again. Disneyland in October!

Ground hornbill

Ubiquitous giraffe. These look to be Masai, though, different from the giraffe we see down by Malelane.
Chameleon. Fuzzy picture, but such a cool animal!

Hyena pup - sad to see him alone.
In Nelspruit, we met up with my counterpart Bobet. We took him out to dinner…had a blast!

Lastly, here's a photo of our Club Level room at the Pretoria Sheraton. We were in the same room the Secret Service stayed in when Obama came to SA for Mandela's memorial! Through the window you can just make out the lovely Union Buildings across the street.

- Elizabeth

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