The first roar sounded far enough to comfortably fall asleep while a frenzy of croaking, bleeting and cackling carried on in the background. Twenty minutes later the second roar sounded closer, but it was the even closer third one that make me sit up right for the second night in a row with my heart beating fast and slightly panicked.
This experience was as authentic as African safaris can get. With nothing but a tent canvas separating you from the wide-awake wilderness in the pitch black night, you cannot help being on the alert. Aside from not getting much sleep, a getaway in the African bush is a unique one and staying in an unfenced camp is getting as close to nature as it can get.
This was also my first time on safari in this famous and well-loved region of South Africa. I also did this trip on my own, daring to finally do my first solo female trip in my home country.
The Honey Guide Khoka Moya Camp
Located in the heart of the Manyeleti Reserve sharing unfenced borders between the Kruger, Sabi Sands and the Timbavati, the Khoka Moya camp offers you the ultimate glamping experience in the bush. Spacious, furnished tents are placed around the camp allowing privacy and safety and all are in walking distance from the outdoor pool and boma dining area.
Each tent is set up above the ground and has its own private bathroom and deck area that looks out into the bush. Food portions at the restaurant are generous to say the least and well prepared with fresh ingredients.
The animals are free to roam on the grounds here at any time. With elephants marching in to drink water from the pools, hornbills skipping between the pathways and a variety of fowls and frogs coming out at night. You are not allowed to walk alone or venture out your tent at night. In the evenings, one of the staff will accompany you from your tent to the dining area and back.
Going on Safari
You are awaken by the beating drum at 5 am in the summer season. Everyone meets at the dining area as you are welcomed with tea, coffee and rusks while mischievous monkeys run across the roof and rustle the tree tops.
The landscape at dawn is beautiful. You’ll see all the grazers out at this time and lounging lions catching some of the first rays of sunlight for the day. Each game drive will include a stop by the watering holes in the area. Mornings will be accompanied by hot beverages and evenings a cocktail of your choice. Of course I went with Amarula, one of our nation’s prized liquors grown and made right here in the in the bush.
READ more on top wine and food spots in Cape Town here
Spotting the Big 5
This trip also doubled as my birthday getaway, so my expectations were high. I got very lucky on this safari and managed to see all the Big 5. I did my research before choosing where to do my first safari. The Manyeleti lies in the life-rich Southern area of the Kruger and Greater Kruger regions meaning the grasses here are the best and will naturally attract the herbivores. Where’s there’s game there’s prey, making this a high-probability wildlife viewing area. However, there’s never a 100% guarantee you will spot all the animals. They move to their own accord.
You will find plenty of giraffe roaming the grounds, even before arriving at my camp I spotted them alongside the road. Herds of wildebeest, impala and a zebra can be found across the veld throughout the day.
On my first day on the evening game drive we spotted a pride of lounging lions. Honeyguide Camps offers private jeep drives which allows you to actually go off-road right through the bushes and trees to view the animals up close. There were 2 other jeeps at this site. The lions remained calm and while some looked at us briefly, they would simply drop their heads back to sleep unfathomed. Just stay in the car and you’ll be fine.
A call came through the intercom. Our ranger said two rhinos were spotted further on. With all the anti-poaching campaigns and awful visuals I have had to witness on TV here in South Africa, finally seeing these beautiful animals made me somewhat sad. Two male white rhino males were grazing in the thicket. One still intact with his horn, the other one without. The latter had his horn cut to save his life as part of the program to curb the death toll on rhino poaching. I’ll be honest, I thought it was unfair. Their horns serve a purpose in their lives and who wants to see a mutilated rhino in the wild? Where’s the photos? We were warned that poachers are watching social media to help them find and locate horned rhino. I’m not prepared to take that risk, so I won’t be sharing these images any time soon.
The following day we came across a group of male elephants, more impala, a shy warthog and a variety of birdlife. Nearby the watering hole we heard grunting hippos, but only saw them in the distance. I also saw a pair of rare water buck.
It being my birthday, I just had to spot the leopard to make the whole experience “complete”. It was on the evening drive that we got the call on the radio as the sun was setting, that a female leopard was going back to her cub with a fresh kill. About 5 different jeeps with on-lookers were on her trail as she calmly sauntered back to her cub with a dead hare in her strong jaws.
She eventually disappeared into the thicket and we went to view a nearby group of African buffalo. On our way back we witnessed the moon rise over the plains as a dazzle of zebra stampeded over the road along with impala high-jumping on their trails. With the sun down, the hunt would begin.
Going on a South African Safari as a South African
It has been my dream to go on safari here in South Africa in the actual bushveld for years. I also did this short holiday alone. As a female in South Africa I am all too aware of the risk that entails. This trip however has only reinforced my wanderlust for my country and this continent as solo female travel is not impossible in South Africa. Yes, I had concerns before doing this but the whole experience was safe and amazing. After all, this is my home. I also realised a trip to to the Kruger and the South African wilderness is an immense privilege for anyone to experience. I highly encourage any traveller to add this on their experience list.
I met other guests at the camp who were on their fourth safari and trip in South Africa. They told me a holiday in the bush is addictive and you’ll always come back for more. I know I cannot wait to plan my next African safari.
Solo Female travel tips for a South African safari:
- Book transfers from the airport. The Khoka Moya Camps provide transfer options from and to Johannesburg’s OR Thambo and Hoedspruit Airport as these are the closest. Hoedspruit Airport is only about 40 minutes away from the actual campsite so I chose to fly to Hoedspruit. The drive from Johannesburg can take up to 5 hours. You can arrange your transfers with Honeyguide Camps before arriving.
- Sleeping alone in a tent in the wild is not as daunting as it sounds. If you’re up for adventure then you’ll love it. Honeyguide Khoka Moya has a shared dining space so you get to meet and chat with your fellow campers throughout your stay. Safaris are meant to be social in my opinion.
- Don’t take or leave ANY food inside your tent. There were hyenas and monkeys outside and it’s best you don’t leave anything that could attract the animals.
- You can buy malaria treatment at the local pharmacies. I took it as a precaution method although I never got any bites on this trip.
- Summer or winter? Winter is always a good idea as the foliage is less and you can spot game easily. Summer is the rainy season and I got lucky on my stay as the rainstorms stopped just before I came. However, it was still beautiful and you can enjoy afternoon swims.
- What to pack? In summer you will need a light warm jacket for both game drive for the early part of the morning and when the sun sets. Bring a thicker jacket and cap for winter. Avoid bright colours and white as these could annoy the animals. The lodge provides you with everything inside your tent from soap, towels and drinking water.
Are you interested in doing your safari in South Africa? Contact Honeyguide Camps, my experience with them was professional and they were helpful every step of the way.
Honeyguide Tented Safari Camps
They also have 3 different tented safari camps around the Kruger region in South Africa.
Contact: email@example.com or +27 21 424 3122
Have any more questions? Feel free to pop me a question in my contact section or comment below.
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This was a trade exchange media trip made possible by Honeyguide Camps