Our package deal from South African Airlines included a three-day stay and safari at the Tanda Tula Private Game Reserve located in the northeast section of South Africa adjacent to the world-famous Kruger National Park.  Tanda Tula was one of the first luxury private reserve camps established in the area and prides itself in giving the visitor beautifully appointed African safari styled “tents” in a gorgeous reserve with no boundaries and no fences.

During our three-day stay at Tanda Tula, we would be going on an early morning safari ride, a late afternoon one and a surprise evening safari where we would be tracking the two dominant male lions in the reserve.  We were also surprised with a candlelight dinner IN THE WILD….yes that is right.  We ate an enormous feast right smack in the middle of the game reserve, while the rangers stood by on the watch.

We took the morning flight out of Cape Town non-stop to Hoedspruit, one of three airports located near the Kruger National Park.  Here are some photos of my first day into the wild.

Boarding the plane to Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport:

View from the plane of the Southern Cape:

Small, clean airport in Hoedspruit, one of three airports in the vicinity of Kruger National Park:

After collecting our luggage, we were met by our driver from Tanda Tula Private Game Reserve in the Timbavati Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park.   Our two-hour van ride was like nothing I’d ever experienced (at this point, I had not been to India or Nepal thus passing through the African villages felt like being on a movie set).  There was village after village located right next to the roadway filled with Africans in traditional dress and women walking along the side of the street carrying their goods on their heads and children wrapped around them in brightly colored fabrics.   Men and children were loaded into the backs of trucks and there was no sign of anything remotely modern.  I desperately wanted to take some photos along the way but held back thinking that not the proper thing to do.  Our van was the nicest vehicle for miles so getting out of the car to snap some photos would be extremely rude!

As we approached the numerous private game reserves, the roads became more modern and the villages disappeared.  Here is a view not far from the entrance of Tanda Tula Game Reserve:

Arrival at Tanda Tula Game Reserve.  Tanda Tula which means “to love the quiet”:

Checking out the surroundings….there are NO FENCES!  Yes that is correct.  One of the beauties of visiting a private reserve is that you are literally in the wild.  The entire base “camp” is without fences or boundaries meaning the animals are free to roam wherever they please.  You must take extreme caution, especially at night.  No one is allowed out of their tent once darkness hits as elephants, lions and leopards have been known to invade the campsite.  There is always a ranger on alert just in case a herd of 20-30 elephants decides to trample through your camp!

Here is a picture of the most annoying, yet charming friend….the neighboring monkeys that live in the trees surrounding the “tents”.  You better watch your breakfast when eating on the outdoor verrandah….or it will be gone!

Ok….drum roll please….here is a picture of our “tents”.  Yep, these are our luxurious tents.  There are eight in total and apparently they run for about $1000 a night if you were to show up and rent one.  Our incredibly, amazing package deal from South African Airlines (remember $1800 for our Atlanta-Jo’berg flight, two other internal flights and lodging in three places including here!) must have really been getting a steal on this part of the deal.  When we arrived at Tanda Tula and checked in, my dad mentioned that I was his daughter, not his wife (they had us originally in one “tent” and it only has one bed, not two like we requested), their simple response was “no worries” you can stay in the tent next door at no charge.  Can you believe it?  I got a $1000/night tent for free!  Wow!!!!!

The inside view.  Note the minimalistic structure.  It is sturdy yet not too enclosed so there is no avoiding the sounds of the wild.  My first night sleeping alone was a little scary as I would jump at every noise and it took me awhile to finally fall asleep to the bizarre, dramatic sounds of the wild.

Plus your own private bath tub and bathroom which includes an OUTDOOR shower, right in the thick of things.  It felt a little strange actually taking a shower that first night as dusk settled in and the animals began to make noise.  Plus there were more bugs than I’d ever seen but this was so cool!

Tanda Tula has beautiful, lush grounds and even a pool in case you are interested in taking a dip (it gets quite hot there in the afternoon).

Every meal is prepared from scratch and contains a delightful selection of South Africa’s finest.  Our meals were eaten on the large, open-air dining hall which afforded views of the game reserve and if lucky, a curious giraffe or two.

Here is a photo of our first dinner, a delicious, spoiling buffet:

Me and the friendly bartender, known as “smiling” because he ALWAYS smiles!

View from the open-air verandah into THE WILD…..

I wondered what on earth was out there?  Would it come near the camp or even scarier, my tent while I am alone, tucked away under the luxurious white covers?  Those thoughts swirled around my head as I turned off the lights, closed my eyes and listened to the call of the wild.  Nature at it’s finest.

Stay tuned….next post will be of my first 5 am safari!  (And yes….I saw lots and lots of wild animals!)


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