Friday, 8 February 2008

"Do you know my mum" tour!

Epic's 1st Kruger Safari in 2008 - "Do you know my mum" Tour! We started on the 17 January with 11 clients from UK, Netherlands & Hungary and returned back from the Kruger on the 24 January as friends.

Strangers first meeting.................is this the end???
.................

No - we are best friends ;-)

Koene & Jacoba - (Netherlands)

Michael, Rob & Amy - (UK)

Lorraine, Guy, Don & Celia - (UK)

Mike & Eva - (Hungary)

Koene, Jacoba, Lorraine, Guy, Mike and Eva added another couple of days at the end of the safari to visit the beautiful Cape Town as well. They all had a great time and promised to post some of their highlights of the tour when they are back home! So keep watching for new comments and photos!

Until soon :-)
Posted by Sabine & Alfie - Epic Enabled

3 comments :

Eva, Mike said...

Dear Alfie and Sabine, we want to thank you both so very much for making this holiday possible, enjoyable, memorable and great fun. One word covers it: awesome!!... We still find it hard to believe that we have actually been on a South African safari-in a wheelchair, stroked Savannah the cheetah from a wheelchair, walked with Choby the lioness, in a wheelchair! It's a dream come true!
Many thanks again and God bless you and the wonderful work you do...
Eva and Mike. Budapest, Hungary

Bob Hanna said...

Michael’s African Safari

On Monday 14th of January, Michael’s safari trip, the dream he had wished to realise, finally began to come to fruition. After months of preparation and trying to imagine the reality, Michael, my colleague and myself, found ourselves at the holiday Inn at Norwich where we had booked rooms in readiness for our very early flight the next day.

One of our biggest worries was how Michael would cope with such a long plane journey, involving a stop in Amsterdam to change planes for South Africa. In the event, he rose to the occasion with his usual calmness and ability to go with the flow. Having been delayed in Amsterdam for two hours, we eventually arrived in Johannesburg where we were subjected to another delay caused by the agonising slowness of the customs process and what appeared to be a chronic shortage of staff.

Michael however remained patient throughout and our tour guide, Alfie Smith, was there to meet us and had a taxi waiting to take us to our first port of call, the Willow Park Hotel, which was about fifteen minutes from the airport. Once at the hotel, Alfie helped us to find our rooms, and as we were to stay at the hotel for the next day and night, he said he would meet up with us and the rest of the group in the bar of the hotel “pub” at six o clock the following evening.

The next day, after breakfast, Michael, myself and my colleague, relaxed at the hotel and spent quite a lot of time bird-watching in the grounds and around the lake area of the complex. We weren’t sure what Michael’s perception was, and whether he realised that he had travelled all the way to South Africa, but he seemed to revel in the social experience of the hotel’s life and had a lot of opportunity to chat to the staff and to other residents, as well as people attending conferences in the complex.

That evening when we gathered in the pub, Michael was able to meet the people who would be our fellow travellers for the safari trip. There were eleven of us in total, three of whom were wheelchair-users, accompanied by their spouses. One of the couples came from Holland and another from Hungary, but all spoke very good English, and the group as a whole displayed a great sense of humour and fun, as well as being welcoming and inclusive towards Michael, my colleague and myself.

Alfie proceeded to explain the itinerary to us and warned us that the weather was likely to be much hotter than Johannesburg (around 40 degrees centigrade), but that the mosquitoes were probably not going to be as bad as we expected and that mosquito nets weren’t usually necessary.

He explained that our first destination, Tshukudu Game Reserve, was about 350 kilometres from Johannesburg and we therefore arranged an early start the next day.
When we rendezvoused at reception the following morning, we were introduced to Alfie’s safari vehicle, a huge converted Mercedes truck, with a chair lift and sides which opened up in a roller-blind fashion, to allow us to get an unimpeded view of the wildlife when we were out on game drives. There were rows of comfortable seats in the vehicle, and it was thereafter affectionately referred to as “Impi” (Zulu name for a group of worriers). It became our mobile home for the rest of the trip.

We travelled off to Tshukudu the next day, passing through a lot of farmland and mountainous country before getting into the bush and reaching our destination. The bush camp consisted of a cluster of small thatched cottages and once we had all been allotted a residence we unpacked, and then met for supper at tables set around a campfire. Alfie and his assistant, Jerry made all the food throughout the trip and on our first night we had spaghetti bolognaise.

That night we got our first taste of the bush when we all heard lions growling. They sounded as if they were just outside the window and we learnt the next day that they had been prowling around the camp’s perimeter. Alfie told us that lions can be heard growling five kilometres away.

To start our first full day of the safari we were taken for a game drive by Jakes, one of the rangers in Tshukudu. We set off at about six o’clock in the morning and this was to be the norm throughout the trip.

We had brunch back at the camp and then went off to see Jessica, the baby hippo who had been orphaned by the floods and then adopted by a farmer. When we arrived we were taken down to the jetty in the river. Jessica was there. We were given corn cobs to feed her by hand and Michael did this more than once, smiling all over his face! However he did balk at kissing Jessica and suggested that my colleague do this instead, which she then did. This was all part of the Jessica experience and other members of the group took the opportunity to give her a little kiss. She would even massage your toes and one of the ladies in the group sat on the jetty with her toes in Jessica’s mouth. The farmer told us that Jessica even watched television with them. There were several dogs on the farm who all apparently played with Jessica. Michael asked the farmer how old the dogs were, and he replied that they were all three or four years old, and that they didn’t tend to live much longer than this because they were taken by the crocodiles when playing down by the river with Jessica.

The next morning Alfie along with Jakes and another ranger called Kim, took us to walk with the lion cub, Chobe (quite big, about two years old). Kim’s dog, was also there and played with Chobe throughout. They were firm friends as they had grown up together. Michael seemed a bit wary of Chobe and didn’t want to stroke her, but he did agree to have his photo taken with her.

After this we had brunch, then Alfie took us to Hoedspruit Endangered Animal sanctuary. Among other things, we saw an orphaned baby rhino, which was being raised by an adult sheep which was acting as a surrogate mother. Michael was very taken with this and kept asking us how old the sheep was, as it was much smaller than the rhino! There were several cheetahs in the reserve and there was a big breeding programme underway there. Once the animals had finished with the meat carcasses they were thrown in an area called the “Vulture Restaurant” where they were finished off by the vultures. There were several vultures there when we stopped by and the Guide explained to us that different types of vultures had different jobs when tackling carcasses. He explained that this was why vultures circled, namely to let the other necessary vultures know that there was a carcass below so that each species could do its part of the job.

After this visit we went for another game drive, and came across a small herd of elephants in the road, who were familiar with Jakes, the ranger. There was one very playful baby elephant that kept trying to get onto the vehicle. Jakes was able to shoo it away. He said it particularly wanted to play because it had lost its sibling. Apparently the other baby elephant had been gored and killed by a rhino, when it wandered into the rhino’s space at one of the waterholes. This was a particularly eventful game drive and Michael was very animated throughout. As well as the elephants we saw, a fish eagle, giraffes and hippos, along with numerous colourful native birds.

The following day we were up early again, and this time went walking with a tame cheetah named Savannah. Michael seemed much more relaxed with Savannah than he had with Chobe and seemed quite happy to stroke her. He looked very happy when Savannah purred in response to his stroking and when he tickled her ears Alfie told us that cheetahs are the only big cats that purr! Alfie warned the wheelchair users not to get too close to Savannah as she was nervous of wheelchairs.

This message was brought home even more strongly when we went to another part of the reserve to see a semi-tame king cheetah. The cheetah’s hackles went up and it started to advance on the wheelchair which was at the front of the group. Kim, the ranger chased it back, while Jakes, the other ranger, stood in front of the wheelchair with his rifle at the ready. After this the rangers thought it best if we left, and sure enough as soon as we began to retreat towards the gate, the cheetah started to circle the group quite menacingly. This necessitated Kim to chase it back again while Jakes ushered us all towards the gate. Once we were all safely outside, Kim explained that cheetahs regard anything smaller than themselves as prey and because the wheelchairs were fairly low on the ground compared to those of us who were standing, the cheetah probably picked them out of the group as potential prey.

Later in the evening, Jakes, the ranger, took us to the lion rehabilitation centre in Tshukudu. We saw a group of about ten lions, which were lying beside the road under the trees. We were ten feet or so away from them. Jakes was familiar with the lions individually and he said he could get one of them to roar to order by revving the engine of the vehicle. He then proceeded to do this, and the lion roared, much to Michael’s amusement.

On our final day at Tshukudu we rose at five-thirty, had a coffee and went off on an early game drive. After this we had breakfast, packed up our gear, and headed off to Kruger Park. On the way, we visited a tribal village, which is now an educational centre for local school children and tourists. Our host, who was the chief’s son, met us and explained everything in advance. We were treated to a song of welcome and a tribal dance by some of the children, and we then visited the huts which all had a different function in the life of the tribe. We were shown how to make grass mats and how to grind maize into flour.
The highlight of the visit was a tribal meal which we ate in the “wives’ hut” and which we ate with our hands. Michael declined to have any of this and in fact seemed overawed by the visit. He was completely silent throughout, which was unusual and seemed excited about our meeting with the chief of the tribe and his wife who joined us for lunch and answered our questions. Despite his silence during the visit, Michael obviously took a lot in and talked about it on many occasions afterwards. He was particularly taken with the chief whom he mentioned a lot throughout the remainder of the trip.

After the visit, we carried on to Kruger where we were to spend one night in tented accommodation on the side of a dried-up river bed. The tents were very elaborate, standing on wooden bases, with a small staircase up to a patio. Across the riverbed from the tent which Michael occupied that night was a huge tree in which a large group of baboons were beginning to roost for the night. They were making a lot of noise, squabbling, fighting over perches, and in some cases, knocking each other out of the tree.

Alfie, our tour guide, had warned us to keep the wooden doors of our tents tightly shut, as baboons had been known to get inside and trash people’s tents, looking for food. Indeed, this had happened to him on a previous visit. Luckily, this didn’t happen to us, but the next morning we were woken by Vervet monkeys jumping from tree to tree and using the roof of the tent as a trampoline in transit from one tree to another on either side of the tent.

After our one-night stop here, we headed for our final destination, Skukuza, which was a big accommodation complex in Kruger Park and as well as having quite luxurious housing for visitors, also had shops, restaurants and swimming pools. We arrived in late afternoon and still had time to go out for a game drive before supper.

On this occasion, we saw what is known as the” Big Five”. This refers to lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino, and it is quite a coup to see them all in the space of one drive.

The next day we were up again at six o’clock to have an early breakfast, before an all-day trip. In the early part of the trip we were stopped in our tracks by a couple of lions who were lying in the road, and who eventually caused a traffic jam as all the visitors were trying to capture them on film. They eventually moved and we headed off to the crocodile bridge area where we saw crocodiles and hippos, as well as groups of baboons who were on the bridge in big numbers and would jump on any cars which stopped for any length of time.

Eventually we went up to a mountain area where there was a look-out post, giving a panoramic view of the bush as it stretched away into the distance, Alfie our guide, told us at this point, that the Kruger Park was huge, roughly about the size of Holland, and that fences were now being taken down on the borders to allow the animals to go into the park areas of other countries.

Michael, my colleague and I stood in the hide and tried to see what we could spot. Michael proved very good at this, which was no mean feat, as the animals were well camouflaged and the greenery was at its most profuse, being the wet season. We had our final supper that night out on the grass between the houses we were occupying, and we started to get our gear packed afterwards. Michael, my colleague and I had managed to get to the site shop after the game drive and Michael chose himself a couple of lovely books about Kruger, as well as some clothes, and one or two other things which took his fancy.

The next day we set off early to go back to Willow Park in Johannesburg for one more night before flying home the next day. Before leaving Kruger we saw some hyena cubs lying under a bush at the side of the road. We hadn’t seen any hyenas up until that point. We also passed some zebra and wildebeest grazing together, and our guide told us that they did this for protection.

Once we were at Willow Park, we relaxed in readiness to leave the next day. In the process of this we also said goodbye to our fellow travelling companions who had been such good company throughout the trip. We spent the next day at Willow Park resting up, and got our flight back home late that evening.

Michael managed to get some sleep on the flight, and we all arrived back in Norwich at lunchtime on January 26th, having had a great safari and with a feeling that Michael had truly realised his dream.

Bob Hanna – February 2008

Anja & Koene Tietema said...

Dear Sabine, Alfie and Joshua,

It is already a long time a go that we have been on safari with you and with our friends out off Hungary and England but every week we have to tell people in Holland off the wonderful experience we had with Epic Enabled. There was not one moment that we have to think ahead of the problems there are maybe has to come when you are in a wheelchair. And the way of travelling in an open car, seeing the big five, and feeling the
nature in all his greatness was awesome. After the safari we went to Fish Hoek to rest a little bit and Sabine and Alfie have showed us the coast of South Africa and Cape Town with Waterfront and off course Table Mountain.
If you want to make such a trip we surely recommend Epic Enabled.

Many thanks for this wonderful experience in South Africa and for your friendship

Anja and Koene Tietema.

Swifterbant Holland