Besides 6 hours a day of game drives and sleep, what else did we do the rest of the time?
There was a gym in the lodge, but we did not even know where it was located; two unheated outdoor pools overlooking the river that were way too cold for us to take a swim. I spent one afternoon pampering myself at the spa. Another afternoon, we visited children in the villages outside of Kruger.
Food was a major component of our safari experience. There were constantly food and beverages around. We were fed five times a day. Two snacks during the game drive breaks while we watched sunrises and sunsets. 3 course gourmet meals were served while the menu changed daily during our stay. We had some interesting wild games on the menu, such as Nyala loin, kudu tartar, wildebeest, etc. The chef was very skillful in preparing the wild games. They all tasted quite good, not gamey at all.
Although this trip was my birthday gift, I wanted to do something for H as well since it was also our wedding anniversary. I had secretly booked the tree house for one night as a surprise.
There were three tree houses in Lion Sands. Chalkley treehouse was the original treehouse built by the funder of Lion Sands. Kingston treeouse was built a few years ago with a shower & a roof, which was the one I booked. The newest addition which must have just opened up after our trip in the recent months was Tinyeleti treehouse.
The treehouse surprise was a bit tricky to pull off. There were so many variables that made me anxious. Would it be too cold at night? What if there is a wild fire since the bush was very dry and there was a wild fire warning? What if wild animals, like leopards or monkeys would jump into the treehouse in the middle of the night? Would I be exposed to mosquitos that carry malaria? Would H enjoy it? I was nervous the whole time not sure if the treehouse would be a good idea. However, I remembered many years ago when H and I slept outside by a lake one summer night, it was one of the most amazing experience we had.
Other than my anxiety about spending the night in the wild, there were also other details that I needed to iron out without H's notice. The morning of, I met with the chef to decide on the dinner menu, packed up the toiletry and hand our overnight bag to Andrew, the lodge manager, behind H's back. The staff was in on the surprise and did a great job distracting H while I made these arrangements.
In the middle of our afternoon game drive on 9.8, Andrew and another driver came to take us away from the rest of our group. H had no clue what was happening. After about a 10 minute drive in the bush, we were led to a beautiful and exclusive treehouse lit with candle lights and oil lamps.
The treehouse overlooked the african bush which was covered with a warm yellow glow of rising dust in the horizon. The dinner boxes, wine and champagne were already set up at the dinner table on the deck. There was no electricity, cellphone or wifi reception. Andrew left us a spotlight and a walky-talky in case we needed to contact the staff for any emergencies. The main lodge was 8 minutes away from our treehouse. In other words, if we made the first 8 minutes of any emergencies, like a leopard attack, we would have a good chance to survive. Andrew and the driver closed the draw-bridge after giving us a brief tour and drove away. H and I were completely alone in the wild.
The treehouse was luxurious, and the setting could not be more beautiful and romantic. We were both nervous and excited at the same time. We watched the sunset while enjoying the delicious gourmet meal and sipping on champagne.
Once the sun went down, the temperature dropped. It was pitch dark. Our high powered flash light could not spot any animals, but we knew the animals were active. They were out hunting and making all sort of growling and humming noises that I had never heard in my life. It was such an unique experience. Once we finished our dinner and got used to the animal sounds, we wrapped ourselves in blankets, laid on the lounge sofa, looked up to the stars, and talked and drank. There was no light pollution and not even one airplane flew over the sky the entire night. The milky way and other countless stars filled the pitch dark sky as far as our eyes could see. We also spotted quite a few shooting stars that night. This night without the distraction of technology went by slowly. Breathing the cool fresh air, and hearing the unknown animal sounds, it felt surreal that we were all alone under the African wilderness.
We barely got any sleep that night despite the comfortable bed and the warm blanket. Every little noise from the wind and animals startled us. And just when we were getting used to the noise, the bush became quiet all of a sudden. The wind died down and the animal movements stopped. Now the complete silence kept us awake.
We got out of the bed around 5 AM, and watched the sunrise while we had coffee and breakfast. We were a little tired, but still giddy with excitement that we had this amazing and memorable experience.
That same evening, our group stopped at a beautiful lookout by two gigantic trees for our bush happy hour. We were sipping wines, taking group photos, and chatted with our ranger and another lovely couple that was sharing the same vehicle with us the past few days. As we watched the sunset and took in the cooling bush air, H wrapped his arm around me as we both became quiet. We were a bit sad that our vacation was coming to an end, but also very happy that we had found the Africa that we hoped to see.
Click for PHOTO ALBUM 9.9
Click for PHOTO ALBUM 9.10