In September Lucy and I embarked on our journey to Africa. We travelled to Durban via Johannesburg on an overnight flight. Lucy had described her feelings before leaving as dubious, we hoped she meant anxious, as anyone would be before such a long trip.
We had a fantastic journey and arrived in the sun a Durban airport and were greeted by our guides for the trip. They promptly took us to our first port of call, The Makaranga Garden Lodge, just outside the city. A tranquil spot perfect for rest and relaxation. This would be our home for the next three nights and we quickly made ourselves feel at home. Lucy and I passed the time sitting admiring the view over the thirty acres of garden and woodland and played a few hands of Uno before the rest of the group arrived in the evening, (they had taken flights via Dubai to break the journey up more). During our stay we had time to explore the gardens and enjoy the pool as well as make a trip to Durban’s Marine World. We saw all manner of weird and wonderful sea life. We saw a dolphin display and some people dove with sharks! We enjoyed beautiful surrounds, amazing hospitality and fabulous food, this Lodge had been the perfect place for the group to meet and rest following our long journeys to South Africa, but soon it was time for our next stop.
We arrived in the evening at Hlulhluwe Game reserve for the next leg of our trip. We stayed at the Hilltops Lodge Hotel which was perched on the top of a hill overlooking the reserve. Here, we stayed in individual huts with balconies looking over the reserve and were occasionally able to watch animals grazing. We had a number of drives arranged both in our mini busses as well as the larger game trucks. This were either in the morning or later in the afternoon. Lucy opted to join some additional morning drives which did require quite an early start but was well worth taking these opportunities as it's not every day you get the opportunity to see elephants and rhinos in such close quarters in their natural habitat. In addition to these we also spotted hippo’s, giraffes, wilder beasts and water buffalo as well as many different types of deer. During our time near Hluhluwe was also had the opportunity to visit an Elephant sanctuary. It was quite amazing to experience these animals at such close quarters, to feel their skin and feed them.
Our final stop on this magical trip was back on the coast, at St. Lucia. Here we stayed in lovely guest houses with breakfast laid up outside each day under shade. This was an opportunity to pick up some mementos from our journey and wind down again after the excitement of the safaris and the associated early starts. Whist at St Lucia we took a boat trip into the estuary where we could watch hippos snoozing in the midday sun and attempt to spot the very well camouflaged crocodiles. We had some lovely meals out and on one night, Dave our guide cooked us a traditional African Stew. Sadly, it was now time to head back home with wonderful memories and new friends made. Our journey back was pretty smooth again and on returning to London with rain in the air, it felt like home again.
This trip was a fantastic opportunity for people to get together and share their experiences. We travelled with a diverse group of people who all contributed something amazing to the journey. The benefits of travelling in a group such as this was that there was a thread consistency throughout which really helps cement the memories of what was a trip of a lifetime.