From Zimbabwe to South Africa via Zambia
David, Olivia, and John decided to leave the packing until later and left at 6:15 a.m. to see the Zimbabwean sunrise one last time. Few things compare to seeing that big African orange sun come over a hill ridge bringing a clean slate and a promise of a great day. Truly worth the ride in the nippy morning air.
Breakfast and packing was done by 9:00 and we departed Matetsi River Lodge for the last time. There were many people to hug and whom to say “See you next time”. The staff really was wonderful, and it was a privilege to stay at the Lodge and be so well taken care of. Maybe the staff felt the same way - some ran alongside our bus as we left, and every time we thought we’d left the staff behind, they’d pop up from somewhere else bringing a smile to our lips.
The transfer from Matetsi was fairly smooth all things considered, but we did have to unload all our luggage and change bus on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border. The only reason we had to cross the border into Zambia, was to catch a commercial flight to Kruger National Park. The Zambia border control still insisted on selling us visas despite the fact that we would be gone less than a couple of hours later. Cost: $750. Cash only... Nick wondered if we could pay with one of the 50 Billion Dollar(!) bills that street sellers were trying to sell to us and if the immigration office would have change for 50 Billion dollars…
We arrived well in time for our South African Airways flight from Livingstone International Airport. The kids devoured what could be ordered from the concession stand – the chicken sandwich was declared the winner of all things ordered. John and Olivia tried to find a lounge where complimentary drink could be had. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge, but eventually it was found, very well-hidden behind four completely empty and rather large lounge rooms. They stocked up on refreshments and for the second time the Priority Pass membership equaled free soft drinks and Wi-Fi.
It was critical that we left Livingstone Airport on time so that we would arrive at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport no later than 3:45. The is a strict rule in Kruger National Park, that cars cannot be on the road after 6:00 p.m., so counting backwards we would have to leave Mpumalanga by 4:00 p.m. given that the last flight was one hour long followed by a drive of similar duration. It all worked out perfectly and the many combined hours spent worrying where we would sleep if we got stuck in Nelspruit, turned out to be wasted - luckily so.
The drive from Kruger Airport to the Singita Lodge revealed many different animal species and a beautiful sunset. But arriving at the Singita Lebombo Lodge was something that we will probably never forget. Walking into the reception area was amazing with its stunning architecture and views of the nearby mountains, river and rooms. The lit pool looked very tempting and in general these lodges take such a beautiful presence at night with the way they incorporate light into the overall presence- often using candles, lanterns and open fire. We were all taken back by the beauty of the place and stood for a moment just to enjoy and appreciate just how lucky we were to call this place home for the next three nights.
After seeing our beautiful rooms, it was time to sit down for dinner. The kids with their saved-up energy were served in the entertainment room, and the teens got their own table. As it always happens on safari trips we’ve been fed delicious food at the lodges, but once the taste buds sprang into action, many of us agreed that this was the very best meal we had had on our trip. The open kitchen was a nice addition, allowing us to watch the chefs prepare the meals. The wine selection did not disappoint and the bartender, John, whipped up tasty drinks for those in the mood for an aperitif. All-in-all this was an incredible start and we went to bed excited of what the areas would look like at sunrise.