"Ten luxurious newly built canvas tents are set on wooden decks built on stilts over a steep sided riverbank."
This first thing that came to my mind is that I was going to be eaten by a lion in South Africa while sleeping in a tent. I grew up near San Fransisco and move to a teeny cow town in Oregon when I was 21. As I have aged, I have learned that camping should include a coffee pot, a mattress, a heater, and preferably should not be in a location with animals that eat raw flesh.
When we landed at the small Hoedspruit airport, we were immediately greeted by an employee from Kapama and transferred to Buffalo Camp. I felt like I was climbing in the car to be served on a platter to wild animals. The ride to Buffalo camp was quick and easy as the entrance to Kapama is directly across the street from the airport.
About 2 minutes into my "death drive" the driver stopped the car and pointed out a giraffe standing a few feet away. Okay, now I am feeling that my death drive may be worth it. I had just found an animal that has longer and skinnier legs than I do and he was just hanging out on the side of the dirt road.
Once we arrive at Buffalo Camp, we are quickly greeted and given a quick rundown of how Buffalo Camp operates. We were then escorted to our tent. You know, the one that I thought I would be eaten alive in a few hours before my arrival. As we are escorted to our tent and shown the amenities of the tent, all of my fears disappeared. The best way to describe the tent at Kapama Buffalo Camp would be to tell you that if the Ritz Carlton had tents, this is what they would look like. There was all of the standard items you would find in a hotel room and more! My tent has a down comforter and a Nespresso machine! Everyone should camp this way!
As far as my fear of being eaten, the campground (if that is what you want to call it) has fencing below the tents to prevent animals from entering the campground and there are cattle grates at the entrance to prevent them from entering also. No need for me to worry about becoming a meal or a toothpick during my stay.
After we settled in to our room, it was time to head out for our first game drive. Since my expectations of the tent were off, I tried to throw all of my other expectations out the window. We get to the safari vehicle and meet our ranger and tracker (Joe and Foster). We climb into the vehicle with one other couple staying at Buffalo Camp and off we went.
The first stop on the game drive, a quick pit stop by a water hole to see a lion resting in the afternoon sun. She was tucked in the brush and really did not want to be bothered, so we moved on to bigger and better things.
The next stop on our game drive, elephants. We drive down several dirt roads while our ranger and tracker follow the tracks to locate the elephants. We finally come to a stop, shut off the engine, and listen. We could hear the cracking of trees, but still no visible sighting of an elephant. Then out of the trees steps an elephant, followed by another, and another, and another.... Holy (insert expletive here)! I am sitting in a vehicle with elephants about 10 feet away! Who would ever think that you could get so close.
We sat in the vehicle ( and moved if necessary) while a group of elephants ate trees and baby elephants played. Who could ask for a better way to spend your first day looking for the big five? Two down, three more to go!
The next stop on our game drive was for a quick sundowner in the bush. A small table it set up, a white tablecloth is placed on the table, and drinks are served. On this particular night, I had a beer with the jackals in the bush. How cool is that? I need to do this every night!
Once we are done with our sundowner, we move on. It is now dark and the spotter is using a light to try to locate animals. We drive until another vehicle locates a lion and we head over to look. Two lions, a male and female, lying in the bush relaxing in the dark. The perfect way to end the first game drive.
My mother and I use a small amount of time to take about our excitement and what we might see on our next drive and then head to dinner. When you sit down for dinner, you sit at a table with the other guests that are in your vehicle and the ranger. That means that when you eat, you get to know the other guests in your vehicle and also the ranger that is driving you around to see the animals. These are the same people I will be spending the next 3 days with. This is a great way to get to know everyone.
After dinner, it is bedtime. With a 0530 wake up time and the cold weather, I waste no time to run back to my tent to bury myself under the down comforter and to crank the heater up!