Going beyond the realm of spas and chandelier-lit exquisite dinners, the Kruger National Park in South Africa gives a bespoke experience, which can hardly be matched by another destination in the world
By: Aparupa Ray Ganguly, Hospitality Communication Professional
Posted on: September 20, 2012
Going beyond the realm of spas and chandelier-lit exquisite dinners, the Kruger National Park in South Africa gives a bespoke experience, which can hardly be matched by another destination in the world.
I remember my childhood days when I’d perch myself on the bed for hours, gazing at the television without a blink, watching wildebeests migrate and herds of Thompson’s Gazelle graze on the vast expanse of African grasslands. Little did I know that I’d actually see a day in my life when I’d be standing right there, in the midst of the Savannah, witnessing African splendour, and leaving my footprints on a continent I have always been in awe of. The thought of sighting the ‘Big Five’ - cheetah, lion, wild buffalo, African elephant and giraffe - has been one of my greatest travel musings.
My heart pounded with excitement and I couldn’t wait to be there when I was told about my impending trip to the great Kruger National Park. Our flight landed in Nelspruit (Kruger Mpumalanga airport). A bright and sunny day greeted us as we spotted our pick-up from Imbali Safari Lodge. “Africa - a land of myriad contrasts, baffles the mind with its vivid landscapes, throbbing wildlife and the warmth of its lovely people” - I thought to myself.
The road to Kruger was no less than a trailer of what actually awaited us. Zebras prancing around in the open grasslands made way for our Jeep to cautiously navigate through the forest. We reached Imbali just around sunset. Greeted by the warm, endearing team at the Lodge, we were truly made to feel at home. A glass of sherry, followed by a show around of the property spoke about the understated luxury of the lodge. The décor and the objects d’art seemed to be inspired by traditional African elements. Dim lights, thatched reed roofs and a pool with an alfresco sensibility made for a bespoke luxury experience in the midst of the African wilderness. Our room, in fact, was less of a room and more of an indulgence with massive glass windows offering expansive views of the Kruger and an outdoor Jacuzzi in sync with the sights and sounds of the forest. The friendly lodge staff told me that the place was actually situated on an ancient elephant route.
As the night slowly slipped in, we huddled in the cosy living room of The Imbali, soaking in the quietness of the jungle, occasionally punctuated with the call of frenzied cicadas. After an impressive three course gourmet meal specially created by the chef, I strolled on the wooden deck. I couldn’t help but get mesmerized with the beautiful night sky - clear and starry. And before I knew, I had my first grand sighting of a full sized African black rhino, staring at me with a steady gaze, across the watering hole. Spellbound by its majestic presence, I was totally immobile. My African safari had just begun!
The next morning heralded the advent of an exciting African bush picnic. We hopped on to a military green 4x4 jeep for our first official safari at the Kruger. It was a cold, nippy morning, the forest still wrapped in a blanket of mist. Dawn was breaking in from the corner of an African horizon, bursting into a brilliant crimson within no time. An endless landscape of slate-like brown bush, interspersed with rocky outcrops, made an impressionable sight.
As dawn kept crawling in, the semi-arid wilderness gave us a sneak peek into the abundance of life. The topography changed colour and texture every few miles. Sometimes woody, sometimes bushy and other times grassy and expansive. Our three hour game drive was perhaps the most satiating experiences of a lifetime for a wildlife aficionado like me. For the sake of numbers, I had come face to face with four of the famous Big Five already! I never knew I would be so nervous to see the majestic lion with its tawny mane, walk arrogantly past our way, till I came back and checked the photographs I had attempted to take, all of which seemed to be shaken! The cheetah did decide to stay elusive, watching us from somewhere in the bushes, but I had no complaints. We came back to Imbali and freshened up for the day ahead.
The excitement hadn’t ended. We embarked on yet another safari in the evening, just around sunset. The sky wore an unapologetic scarlet hue, shining in its own glamour. We headed to the deepest parts of the forest. After driving around for an hour and spotting scores of zebras, wild buffaloes and wart hogs, we stopped for a short while. A glass of chilled champagne along with an assortment of mixed meat finger food made for an unforgettable bush picnic.
Spread over 352 kilometers along the Mozambique border and home to innumerable species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and trees, a single visit to Kruger was not enough. My holiday was coming to an end and I wasn’t done yet. I wanted more of Kruger and promised to return. The scent of dewy grass, the vibrant fuchsia twilight skies and the enamouring silhouette of a slender giraffe are experiences I hold very close to my heart. The magic of Africa is perhaps beyond the realm of words. Africa is like a song, rhythmic and melodious, where the earth is in tune with the soul of the sky.
A seasoned hospitality communication professional having experience with brands like The Imperial New Delhi, The Park Hotel and others, Aparupa comes with an unquenchable thirst for travel. She believes creativity is the ability to imagine something that never existed and travel fuels creativity. Eclectic and personalised, her frequent sojourns have spurned travelogues that are fresh and inspiring with a poetic narrative. Follow her on lovemy30s.wordpress.com