Africa’s luckiest Impala.

It was the kind of sighting one only hears about, almost too outrageous to believe. Did that really happen? If it did really happen, it always happens to someone else, some really lucky person. This time however, we were the lucky folks. Here’s the summarized account of what happened, recounted by Lawson’s tour leader Leon Marais…

“The day started off cool and damp with a ‘Scottish mist’, and what a day it was to be. We headed off at 05h30 without any expectations on what was to be an almost unbelievable morning. Our guide Mornè heard that a pack of 8 male Wild Dogs had been found and we quickly joined the line up to see them. Soon we caught up with them on the hunt, moving at a fast trot through the bush. At one point a Duiker made a lucky escape, as did a herd of Impala, the dogs’ main prey item. Eventually, after an already spectacular sighting, we left them, allowing another vehicle to take our place, and headed off to a nearby dam for a coffee break. Mornè confirmed over the radio that they were moving in a westerly direction, away from the dam, and we disembarked and Dion, the tracker, began pouring the coffee. Then we noticed a herd of Kudu on the run close by, followed by an Impala ewe tearing across a clearing at a terrific pace with the dogs in hot pursuit. She ran around the inlet of the dam and then launched herself into the water to escape the dogs (at this point we were still standing around the vehicle with dropped jaws). The Impala then paddled into the middle of the dam where the Hippo’s set upon her, one bull even dunking her under the water. The dogs ran around to our side waiting for her to make the shore, with one of the Hippo’s charging out of the water to chase the dogs off. The resident Crocodile then also got involved, probably equally happy to latch on to the Impala or an unfortunate dog. Eventually the Impala made the shore and, with dogs after her she dashed back into the inlet area, where she collapsed into the shallow water. One of the dogs then bounded in and tackled her, but the attentions of the Crocodile convinced the dog to get out of the water fast. On the shore a pair of Waterbuck stormed in, chasing the dogs, and a curious Spotted Hyena arrived on the scene. The wily Impala then went to hide behind a large tree trunk in the water, out of sight of the Crocodile, which had now become the main threat. The dogs eventually, and very reluctantly, decided to give up and slowly made their way out of the area, calling with their mournful ‘hoo-hoo’ goose-bump-inducing call as they went –what a moment!. The Hyena also left the area, and the Impala suddenly made a dash for the shore, emerging somewhat shocked but not visibly injured, a pure miracle indeed. After the action had subsided we resumed our coffee stop (we felt like we needed shots of Whiskey in the coffee to calm down), with a White Rhino coming down to the dam opposite us just to end things off”

The most peaceful lodge.

Ok, so we can’t say that we’ve visited EVERY lodge in Southern Africa. Far from it, we’ve probably only scratched the surface so to speak, though with our high standards there are probably quite a few that don’t really warrant a visit, at least not when there are better alternatives. Over the years however we have visited quite a few lodges across the region, and we have a number of firm favourites. Now each lodge offers something unique, even though their ‘offerings’ may be the same as many other lodges. Design, location, situation, staff and other factors combine to create a unique experience, and it’s that experience that, at the end of the day, determines which lodge is a favourite and which lodge isn’t. Of course each lodge also has its strengths, where for example the game viewing might be so good that one is willing to compromise on other aspects. Or the game viewing might not be so great but the lodge experience is so good that it warrants patronage. Mkhaya’s Stone Camp in Swaziland is the perfect example of the latter. It’s not a Big Five reserve so forget about Lions and Leopard etc, though the Rhino sightings can be very good.  But the camp itself is wonderful, and it takes the award for ‘Most peaceful camp’. There’s no electricity, the open-sided chalets (yes, it’s pretty unique!) are situated far apart from one another, and there’s a very small but efficient staff compliment. This adds up to an incredibly quiet camp, far enough from the outside world that one is spared from the ‘village’ sounds in the background, while the staff are very good at keeping a low profile when they are not busy serving the guests (at some lodges the staff area can produce a lot of noise!). Daytime siestas are very relaxing, while by night all one hears is the calming chirps and clicks of crickets, the odd night bird or Spotted Hyena whooping as it passes by on a foraging mission. Lack of WiFi means that one tends to take a bit of a break from electronic devices and return to paper and ink, making Mkyaha Stone Camp a very good place to just get back to simplicity, peace and relaxation.