Since moving to South Africa and opening up Macadamia Lodge, The Yoga Hut and developing the Macadamia Orchard, we find that our we no longer have days out as a family as there always has to be somebody on duty. A few weeks ago though, I decided to throw caution to the wind and suggested that we should go out for the day “en famille”. I had recently read about iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority reintroducing the wild dogs to Mkhuze, and wanted to see if I could find them as I have never seen them in the wild.
We got up at 4.30am, prepared our breakfast for the trip, packed our camping chairs, locked up all the doors, checked all the windows, set the alarm, unset the alarm, went back in, checked again, gave the dogs their water bowls, shut up the house again and reset the alarm before finally heading off (as you can see, we don’t’ make a habit of going out very often). It was still dark outside and we were hoping to catch some wildlife just after sunrise.
We headed up the N2, past Hluhluwe eventually turning right onto the dirt road and drove to eMshophi gate, an easy hour and a half from home. It wasn’t long before the wafts of Yogi Pat’s breakfast forced us to stop at the first picnic site where we munched away listening to the birdlife. We spent the first few hours in the park following the roads, visiting the information centre where I found out about the guided fig forest walk, (must book for next visit). We didn’t see much game, but there was plenty of birdlife to keep us occupied and the vegetation and landscape was stunning. I decided that maybe this wasn’t a park for great game viewing and chose to just enjoy the views and birdlife whilst keeping a beady eye out for those elusive wild dogs. We took another break at the Nsumo Pan, admired the distant Lebombo mountains, wading birds and then a couple of us had a snooze and just enjoyed the beauty and calmness around us.
We debated whether or not we should go home or see more and quite rightly opted to discover more of the park. We headed south and took one of the loops, and there we came across a family of rhinos. Mama Rhino was very jittery as her baby was nearby and too close to the road, and more importantly us, for her liking. We sat there for what felt like an hour whilst she mock charged us before we were finally allowed to slowly move past. So excited were we after our near brush with death (slight embellishment here), that we almost drove past the giraffes on the next bend. They were all standing close to each other looking at something in the grass. On closer inspection we realised that there was a family of cheetahs sitting there watching the giraffes. Well, what excitement, I couldn’t believe it and what made it so much more special was the lack of cars and traffic, this was our moment alone.
The rest of the afternoon flew by with more and more sightings of wildlife and eventually, we sadly left this beautiful park at Ophansi Gate and took the slightly longer route home. We never did see the elusive wild dogs, but I will be back for more. Mkhuze truly is another hidden gem in KwaZulu-Natal. Needless to say, when we got home, we found a burst water pipe and empty water tank as punishment for us going out for the day, but it was worth it just to discover Mkhuze.