Good afternoon friends!
Myself and my mom arrived a little early for check in but I had decided beforehand that I wanted to grab some lunch at the Kingfisher Restaurant that overlooks a small dam. The lovely Mariska greeted and seated us and gave us a little time to settle in. After pulling myself away from the view for a second, we placed our order. We had a lovely chat with Samson, who was excited to tell us about the two hippos that had recently made the pond their home but they were very shy and stayed hidden underneath a low hanging tree branch on the other side of the dam.After enjoying my chicken mayonnaise tramezzini and probably the best kola tonic & lemonade I’ve ever had, we made our way back to reception to check in. As we were getting our bags from the car, a few dark clouds began to fill the sky. By the time we had made it to our chalet and unpacked the heavens opened and gave Mongena a heavy soaking! The sound of the rain and the coziness of Chalet 9 began to relax us immediately.
I had booked a game drive for 4:30pm and was happy to know that Zane would be our guide again. He even remembered us from our Christmas Day game drive! Thankfully the rain had cleared up and there was a freshness to the air which made a change from the humidity we had arrived to. Starting the drive, we made our way along some very muddy roads that the rain had dredged up. We spotted Eland, Zebras and Wildebeest. Zane and our tracker, Jomo, could see some buffalo moving off into the thicket in the
distance so we quickly made our way towards them before they disappeared completely. A relatively large herd of buffaloes, we watched them graze for a little while and then continued skiing along the muddy paths.
Zane heard over the radio about a lioness that had been spotted and we immediately headed in that direction. Jomo did a fantastic job finding her, his natural instincts were incredible. She was sitting, listening to the world around her, she was a fair distance away and I could only see her through a gap in a tree. Then she suddenly stood up and began walking straight towards us. She quietly walked around the back of the safari vehicle keeping a very close eye on us. We then followed her for a little while as she wandered through the bush and onto the road. She lead us behind Mongena’s 28 hectare dam and there we stumbled upon a male elephant emerging from the reeds. We stayed with him for a few minutes while Mongena’s other game vehicle followed the lioness up the road. Deciding whether to stay and see if more elephants emerged from the reeds or to follow the lioness more, all the guests unanimously voted to follow the lioness. We caught up with her as she decided to lie down in the grass next to the road, not sure if she was going to make a kill, we soon decided to move on and leave her be, partially because we were all starting to get a bit fed up from the smell coming from the burning reeds that had been started by a lightning strike earlier in the afternoon.
As we were making our way towards our sun downer spot we spotted red hartebeest, warthogs and another huge bull elephant! Arriving next to Mongena Dam a little after 6pm, we were welcomed by a gorgeous setting sun. Taking advantage of the silhouetted trees and beautiful reflections, I took photographs for ages!
Arriving back at the lodge after adding rhinos to our Big 5 list, spotting a total of 4, we thanked Zane and Jomo for a great drive and headed back to our chalet for a little while before heading over to the Kingfisher Restaurant to have some dinner. Realising how busy the restaurant was, I was worried we wouldn’t get a table on the deck but as I walked in the lovely people of Mongena had reserved a table for “Panda Kennedy” right on the deck with a gorgeous view over the dam while lightning filled the skies, scorching the earth in the distance. Our waiter Mike was incredibly friendly and helpful, he made us feel most welcome! I enjoyed a delicious rump steak with rice and topped the evening off with a bowl of ice cream!
Day 2 greeted us with beautiful blue skies and the resident family of zebras outside our chalet as we made our way over to the Tshukudu Lapa for a buffet breakfast. A fantastic variety of food but not too much to overwhelm you. Anything you’d want from a full English to a continental breakfast and even a few delicious pastries.
We decided to spend the day relaxing and enjoying Mongena. Sitting by the pool quietly watching the zebras grazing a few metres from us and listening to all the different bird calls from the trees above.
While my mom did a crossword, I explored the gardens searching for the Woodland Kingfisher I had spotted earlier. After seeing the Kingfisher a few times but unable to catch a photo of it, I made my way to the Bateleur Conference Centre to try and pick up a few bars of 3G. An tree agama kept me entertained while I posted a few social media updates. The heat of the early afternoon eventually got the better of us so we grabbed a quick drink at the Kingfisher Restaurant and enjoyed watching a Pied Kingfisher diving for it’s lunch before spending the rest of the afternoon swimming and enjoying the surroundings.
After a quick power nap we headed back up to reception to meet Zane for another late afternoon game drive. He had just returned from trying to put out the fire that the lightning had started the day before with the other game rangers. We had only been out for about 5 minutes when we spotted 4 rhinos in the distance. It was a quite drive after that, all the game seemed to be hiding from the heat. So Zane started showing us interesting flora and what they were used for. He also showed us rhino dung with tons of dung beetles in it, he even let me hold one but before I could take a photo of him, the beetle decided it was missing it’s pile of dung and leaped from my hand back into his smelly home.
We made our way over to Mongena Dam again for sun downers and enjoyed a different angle of the water. Listening to jackals calling in the distance and watching the water birds settling down for the night, it was pure bliss. We enjoyed a lovely chat with Zane as he shared stories about his wildlife experiences and the funny questions he receives from guests. He also told us about 3 cows that had wandered onto the property the night before near the lodge and a pride of lions had killed them so were were going to head in that direction before returning to the lodge. Zane and Jomo spotted them in the distance and a buzz of excitement filled the game vehicle. We slowly pulled up next to them a few metres between us. It was the same lioness we had seen the day before with her 14 month old cubs. They were all nibbling on the cow carcass not really paying any attention to us. The mother then stood up and walked towards us but turned away at the last second and lay down behind the game vehicle. There was a little girl right in the back who was very frightened and we decided to leave the lions to enjoy their meal in peace. Arriving back at Mongena Lodge from a lovely game drive. We thanked Zane and Jomo for their hospitality and headed straight for dinner.
The restaurant was a little quieter tonight but we decided to sit inside instead of the deck as the heat seemed to bring out quite a few bugs who had no respect for personal space. I ordered the steak pasta and it was very flavoursome! I followed that with another bowl of delicious ice cream and chocolate sauce. Arriving back at the chalet, I began to pack my bag and found myself a little sad as the next morning I’d be headed back to the real world again..
A fantastic few days, not far from where I live and spent with lovely people who truly take pride in their jobs. A special thank you to Gavin for giving me the opportunity to return to Mongena and experience the hospitality. To Mariska, Zane, Jomo, Mike, Samson, Christine, Betty and to anyone who’s name I didn’t catch but made my stay incredible, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope to see you all again soon!