Since I was 9 years old, I have found joy in watching animal programs on TV and wondered what it would be like to go on an African safari. Our visit to the Kapama Private Game Reserve fulfilled this lifelong dream of mine. It was even better than I imagined it would be.
Sunday, September 5, 2006 was the day for which I'd waited most of my life. It was the day we were picked up from our hotel in Johannesburg to be driven to the Kapama Private Game Reserve for the African safari of my dreams. I didn't get much sleep the night before. I was like the little boy on the Disney World commercial - "We're too excited to sleep." I had lain awake in the bed from 3:30 AM until our wake-up call at 6 AM.
Our driver, Johan, loaded us and our luggage into his van and then told us we had a 5-hour ride ahead of us. He made stops at two other hotels to pick up a British newlywed couple and an African lady before heading out of Johannesburg.
The reason our travel agent chose to have us driven to the game reserve instead of being flown is because the ride is supposed to be very scenic. However, Johan apparently wasn't interested in showing us scenery. Instead, he drove us on a highway that took us through three hours of flat farmland. He made a 15-minute stop at a rest area and then continued on. The scenery of the last two hours of the drive was less monotonous as it alternated between mountains, farmland, and shopping centers. I spotted some baboons, spring bok (type of small antelope), a zebra, and an ostrich along the way. After all, this is Africa.
After five hours on the road, we pulled into the parking lot of the Perry's Bridge Shopping Center in a town called Hazyview where we were greeted by some other Thompsons representatives. They loaded our luggage into another van and introduced us to the driver, Andy. The newlywed couple and the lady who had ridden with us from Johannesburg were met by other people and taken elsewhere.
The six of us were pretty restless after the ride from Johannesburg. Thinking we must be fairly close to Kapama by now, we asked Andy how long the ride would be. We were stunned when he told us we still had at least another hour and fifteen minutes to go.
The first half of the ride was through homeland territory. This is the land of the self-governed villages of the native South Africans. Some of these rural towns looked pretty rundown. But soon we began to enter the bush. I was starting to get excited because the landscape reminded me of the African nature shows I'd seen on TV. It was the dry season; therefore, all across the plains we saw miles of dried-up yellow grass and short scraggly trees and bushes. And then, "Whoa! Did you see that?", Jeffrey and I asked each other at the same time. We had both spotted a giraffe. This was getting good.
through the farmlands...
...through the homelands...
...and through the bush
Our van soon turned into the entrance of the Kapama Game Reserve. From this point on, we were bouncing along dirt roads. There were dung piles everywhere. We eventually arrived at the Kapama River Lodge, where the staff unloaded our luggage from the van. A lady came out to tell us this was not our final destination but we were welcomed to relax in the lobby until our accommodations at the Kapama Buffalo Camp are ready.
The River Lodge was impressive. It is a big thatch-roofed pavilion that has a registration desk, several lounge areas, and a deck with an endless swimming pool. It is quite elegant but still blends well with wildness of the bush. We spent about twenty minutes here taking pictures until we were told our ride had arrived. This time, our luggage was loaded onto a trailer attached to an open-topped land rover. It was a ten-minute ride on a dirt road until we finally made it to our destination - the Kapama Buffalo Camp. The staff came out to greet us and offered us wet towels and cold drinks. Nearly seven hours after leaving Johannesburg, we had finally arrived. Bring on the safari!
Kapama Buffalo Camp
friendly Buffalo Camp welcome
The Kapama Buffalo Camp is a tent camp. However, the tents we stayed in here are nothing like the ones I slept in on Boy Scout camping trips. The tents at Kapama are on stilts over the bush. A set of wooden walkways connect all of the tents in the camp to the public areas. The inside of our tent had hardwood floors, a queen-sized bed, a bathroom with a shower, a desk, animal hide rugs, electricity, and plenty of closet and storage space. The only way we knew we were inside a tent and not a nice hotel room was by the canvas walls and window flaps. The entrance was a sliding wooden door. We were warned not to leave it open. Otherwise, the monkeys could get in and make a mess of the room and our belongings. We kept it closed but we were not given a key. Therefore, the door remained unlocked all the time. There is a safe in each tent that can be used to lock up valuables.
our tent on stilts
inside our tent
chillin' on our balcony after a long travel day
Housekeeping comes in several times a day to clean the room and to do turn down service at night. They even leave cards and candy on the pillow. The evening got quite chilly but we could always count on housekeeping to have the little electric space heater running so that our tent was warm and cozy when we returned from a nighttime game drive.
Each tent has its own private balcony area for observing the bush. Every afternoon, I saw a family of nyala grazing below our balcony. One morning, I saw vervet monkeys playing on top of Susan's tent. There are no telephones or televisions inside the tents; therefore, we could always hear a symphony of animal sounds - especially in the early morning (click to listen). I heard some of the most peculiar sounds at night. There was one that sounded like a man whistling at a sexy lady. There was another that sounded like Curly from The Three Stooges saying "Oh, Boy" over and over. But, the sound that really got me going was during our last night at Kapama when I heard a hyena. Exciting!
This nyala family grazed under our balcony everyday
"Shhh! Don't tell Susan there is a monkey on her tent."
The public areas of Buffalo Camp are the pool, the Buffalo Bar, and the dining lodge. The camp can accommodate up to sixteen guests. During the three days we were there, there were never more than twelve guests.
All meals are included in the price of the stay. We had an outstanding chef named Lexun who prepared superb gourmet meals for the camp. Beverages are not included in the package price and are charged to your tent. You settle the bill at checkout time.
lunchtime in the dining lodge