The second night at Tanda Tula we were in for quite a surprise and adventure.  Clinton, our fun-loving ranger told us that we were going to go on a night safari.  First, we were to meet the happy-go-lucky always smiling bartender “Smiling” in the bar at promptly six o’clock where we were to pick out our preferred drink for cocktail hour in the midst of the wild.  Yes, you heard it right.  We were going to have happy hour right out in the middle of the game reserve!

Next, we followed Clinton obediently to the bar, picked out our drinks which were loaded into an ice-cold cooler and placed aboard the land cruiser.  Then we were off into the night filled with half-excitement half-fear.

As the sun was beginning to set:

It was time to pull over for cocktails and h’ors-d’oeuvres right smack in the middle of the game reserve.  Here is a photo of Clinton, our ranger, and our tracker setting up shop:

There were plenty of cold beverages.  We were even asked before setting out what we would prefer to drink and Smiling, our bartender, loaded up the cooler with the drink of our choice.  For me, it was my beloved South African Sav Blanc, definitely one of my favorites:

For my dad, he preferred an ice-cold beer as it was a hot and sticky day still.  My Dad and I enjoying our drinks in a land full of wonder:

After a nice buzz, the real adventure starts….our night tracking of the two dominant male lions in the reserve.  Here we caught up with them and followed them around, silently watching their every move and prowl:

Here we are playing follow the leader:

We followed the lions around for an hour, watching them pace and guard their environment.  It was a pretty amazing experience!

The next night, we were in for an even bigger surprise.  Around dinner time, we were all told to meet at the reception area and then instructed to board the land cruisers.  Where were we going?  I wondered.  They didn’t ask for a drink preference this time so it wasn’t for happy hour nor did they mention that we were going on a night safari.  Instead, it was total silence and suspense.

We drove into the thick of the game reserve, in pitch black darkness.  Everything was still in the park. There were no animals.  No noises.  Just the sound of the land cruiser leading us somewhere into the dark night.

Then, we saw it.  A light.  What was it?  As we came closer, we realized the light was coming from a circle enclosure of torches.   The flames of the fires spiralled peacefully in the light wind.  We got off the land cruiser, followed Clinton and were cheerfully greeted by the entire staff at Tanda Tula with a welcoming drink and an enormous bonfire.  Then we saw it….the huge, long table for twenty placed strategically in the middle of the circle, next to the fire where we were going to have a feast of a lifetime smack in the middle of the game reserve!  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  What a spectacular surprise!  We drank, dined and drank some more for over two hours, never once (well ok, maybe a few times) feeling the least bit concerned we would be attacked by wild animals or hungry lions who wanted to join the feast.  There were armed guards at each corner of the makeshift camp, armed with tranquilizers just in case any animals decided to crash our party.

It was a night I’ll never forget.  It was an unbelievable experience!  I woke up the next day with a headache so big I thought I’d been run over by a herd of elephants but it was worth every minute of the misery for a night of eating and drinking under the stars and into the wild!

Stay tuned….My last post on South Africa will include a two-day visit to Jo’berg where we visited Soweto and saw a completely different side and perspective on South Africa.  One of clear and total segregation. 

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