There are not words enough to describe the perfection of this afternoon. Today we traveled from our hotel in Stellenbosch to Ant’s Nest lodge in the Waterberg. We flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg and were picked up by our driver, Tefo, to continue the rest of the way in a van.
During the drive we had a very interesting conversation regarding HIV and AIDs in Africa. Growing up, what I largely remember about Africa is the AIDs problem and how terrified I was of it. I had to know whether or not it was something that also concerned Carmin, as she grew up in South Africa. She said it absolutely had been something that scared her! From our conversation I discovered that all of Africa suffers from the HIV and AIDs problem and that it was particularly prevalent along the trucking routes through the continent. Many African cultures regarded wearing a condom as emasculating for men and the idea of discussing HIV as taboo, which made the infection spread much more quickly. Tefo told us that there is a newspaper writer and a radio host that both are open about their HIV infection and encourage discourse regarding the issue. Also, it is required that you be blood tested before you get a job and every two years thereafter.
After driving for around four hours, we arrived at Ant’s Nest. Carmin has found us the most amazing place to stay. I am blown away by the rustic magnificence and tranquility of the lodge.
Our hosts, lodge managers Peter and Helen, are very welcoming and engaging. As soon as we arrived we discovered that Carmin had reserved the entire place for us as it is rented on an exclusive basis. I felt like I was in a reality TV show for a moment because we were sent to look at all the different rooms, everyone had to pick one. Dan and Dennis’s rooms were chosen quickly, and Carmin told me to pick whichever room I wanted. I wound up with an amazing suite!
All of the rooms here have thatched roofs that smell wonderful like sweet hay. The attention to detail in decorating is incredible. Dennis asked about the room decor and we were told that Tessa (one of the owners) decorated them in a Kenya theme as she is from there. I kept pacing from living room to bedroom to bathroom completely speechless.
Upon our arrival, we’d decided to go on an excursion in the jeep to view animals. After tea and chocolate cake, we headed out and it was not long at all before we had our first sighting a cluster of zebras. They’re so beautiful! We all thought they were posing for Dennis. I think they may be my favorite safari animal so far. We also spotted impala (much smaller than I imagined), warthog, blue wildebeest and kudu on the drive.
Everyone kept having to shoosh me! It was so exciting to see these animals in their natural habitat. We are also lucky to have arrived after the first heavy rains of the season so the grass is young and bright green. Impalas have the ability to become pregnant but not give birth right away holding their babies inside themselves until conditions are just right. Due to the abundance of grass after the long dry season, the impala just started giving birth, so there are tons of little ones running around! As we drove along, despite the fact that Dan taught me what to look for in animal spotting, I was busy staring far into the distance at the beautiful green, tree-covered hills and blue sky with sparse puffy white clouds when I heard Carmin telling us there was something on our left.
Three incredibly tall giraffe heads extended over the trees and bushes where they had been eating. I felt so oblivious for not even noticing them at first. They were so remarkable! There were two females (cows) and one male (a bull). We hopped out of the jeep at Peter’s suggestion and tried to get a little closer. It wasn’t long before they ran away at full speed but even that was a lovely sight.
The sun was getting low in the sky, and as we rounded a bend and came into a clearing, I noticed lawn chairs set up for all of us, including a table with drinks and snacks. We were able to watch the sunset and relax with a gin and tonic. Carmin said Gin and tonics are the quintessential old-time African drink because the gin contains quinine which drives mosquitoes away.
Dinner this evening was served outside at the lodge. The star-filled sky, unpolluted by city lights, was our backdrop. Midway through dinner our hosts heard snorting from beyond the courtyard. Four white rhinos had wandered over and were pulling up the grass to eat. It was so unreal! We were so close to them we could clearly see their heavily textured skin and big, jutting horns! Dinner was absolutely delicious as well stuffed peppers as an appetizer, beef fillet with chunky fried potatoes and sweet beans as the main course, and a chocolate torte with ice cream and raspberry sauce. Everything was complemented by a cabernet sauvignon/shiraz blend from the Stellenbosch wine region we’d visited the day before. I am so looking forward to another day at the Ant’s Nest. Tomorrow morning we’re heading out on horseback to see more animals!