Ngala – 50th Birthday celebrations
June 23, 2021

Today was my 50th birthday and I honestly could not think of a better way to spend it but in a game park with my family and closest friends. It was a fantastic day of great memories.

We headed out for our morning game drive at the usual time after being woken up at 5:30am. The plan was to do a ‘Grade 2’ walk and that means tracking elephant, rhino or buffalo on foot but in order to do that you need to find their spoor and then track them. We couldn’t all do that together so the plan was to split up and do separate ones. We headed to an area where they usually find rhino and the other vehicle headed to a different area after hearing there was an elephant bull in the area. The other vehicle with Eric as the ranger just happened across a lioness and that ruled out the possibility of them getting a walk in. That lioness then reunited with her cubs.

The possibility of spotting something on foot immediately was overridden by actually spending time with lions and cubs and so we headed over to the area and after the younger generation were finished, we took their spot and watched the lions interacting. It was amazing to see (and hear!) the cubs feeding. It was also interesting to watch a lioness return to the pride and how the other lions responded by rubbing up to the others. By the way, I forgot to say that before we saw the lions we happened upon 5 hyena including one carrying a rack of ribs!

We then started to head back to the camp but instead of breakfast at the lodge, they had organised breakfast in the bush for us and the other guests. It was a lovely experience especially on your birthday! We then walked from the breakfast venue back to the camp instead of driving back. The walk was a ‘Grade 1’ walk so really trying to avoid the game but rather just talk about the ‘smaller’ things of the bush including the different plants/trees, ant lions etc. It was really interesting though pretty warm. It took us just about an hour to walk back (though it was only 2 kms roughly). We did hear elephant noises and the guides were very quick to direct us away from them so that we didn’t in any way get into danger.

We got back to the lodge at 11am and lunch was at the usual time of 1pm. Everyone was pretty full so we only headed to lunch a bit later and most people had very limited lunch given how late breakfast was. When we were finishing up at lunch we saw a herd of elephant come down to the pool area to have a drink so we all rushed over to watch them do that (the way it is constructed enables you to do that safely).

By the time we were finished watching it was already almost time to head off for the afternoon game drive. This time all the family went together to celebrate my birthday on the one truck. Immediately we got on the truck Nikki told us that they had found a female leopard with a Nyala kill and while they hadn’t see them, she had 2 cubs as well. We headed straight to the area to see if we could get an opportunity to see them. It was better than expected. The leopard was up the tree just lying but after a fe minutes the Nyala head fell from the tree ans she immediately jumped down to eat some and also to cover the scent. She then called in the cubs and basically out of nowhere they appeared. They both ended up scaling the tree and feeding from the remaining carcass. What an incredible sighting.

We then headed back north for a drinks stop but on route Nikki told us they spotted aarvark spoor and we should just check them out. They are very hard to see. After a few minutes our ranger said ‘Look there – one in the road’ and we all couldn’t believe it. M actually turned and told J how lucky he was to see it given how rare sightings are. As we moved closer the aardvark never moved and then we realised it was a bronzed aardvark! The rangers and their respective girlfriends (both of whom are also at the lodge) had played a prank on us! But the good news was that they had a bush drinks break already set up for us including a cake with a sparkler for my birthday. Another special experience!

After a long drinks break, we headed back to the camp and saw a hyena on the way back. Dinner was in the boma again tonight (beef & trout for main course) and a lovely way to top off a fantastic day to celebrate my 50th. The number of birthday messages was almost overwhelming. It was a truly special day with great friends and family. The only downside was that our friends who live in the UK never made it out due to Covid … we did miss you S&L!

Until tomorrow

P, H, S, K, M, O, C, J, B, S, R, J, B

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