This time, our adventure through Swaziland, as much off-road as on-road, prevented us from making the evening game drive at Amakhosi Safari Lodge, northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
With hunger at bay, three trips to the waffle station at The Royal Swazi Spa Hotel near Mbabane, Swaziland later, we thought we’d given ourselves enough time to explore off-road and make the game drive.
Speaking of Swaziland, or now known as The Royal Kingdom of Eswatini, I ponder whether they’ll change their flag, as South Africa did…
After checking Google Maps (yes, as mentioned before, not always a good idea), we decided to head for the 4×4 only dirt tracks from Nhlangano through to Mhlosheni in Swaziland, straight through the Swaziland / South African border post as shown on Google and then onto the N2 freeway towards Pongola. Around thirty kilometres later we’d then arrive at the private game reserve, Amakhosi Safari Lodge, just in time for the sundowners in the heart of the African bushveld.
Well, Google maps indicated a border post that did not exist, which was supposed to lead straight onto the N2 freeway about twenty kilometres outside of Pongola. A camouflage army tent or two got in the way of us hopping back on to road only a few hundred meters from the N2. For almost two hours, we bumped along sand and mud through informal settlements and people walking for kilometres without shoes, and then realised we had to turn back, back to Nhlangano and then through to the other side at Mahamba Border Post, where some of our belongings needed to be scanned on the SA side. The department of agriculture, forestry & fisheries confiscated our fresh produce as we hadn’t declared it. Fortunately, they let us off the fine. A smile still goes a long way…
From there we navigated and went off-piste to avoid ten kilometres of never-ending vehicle-swallowing potholes, the shoulder of the roads in better condition than the almost non-existent asphalt.
Always top up
The detour caused a slight stir concerning the fuel tank. With Pongola still 50kms out of range, the fuel light emblazoned orange. The reserve is only 50kms! No! A little dangerously, I freewheeled downhill. But we decided it may be a little more dangerous to be stranded on the side of the N2 with townships on either side of the road. Our driving a little dangerously but safely paid off. We made it to the petrol station with less than a drop left in the tank!
A smooth journey accompanied us the rest of the way to the reserve. Unfortunately, we still missed the game drive. Three male nyalas, with their beautiful spiral horns, grazed in between the chalets were a great sighting on our front doorstep, whetting our appetite for tomorrow’s game drive which didn’t disappoint.
The morning sunrise, the awakening bush, smell of fresh dung, incredible sightings of elephants playing in a dried up waterhole and two male cheetah brothers lazing together close to the track, the knowledge of the guides, the hospitality of the staff, luxury lodge and gourmet food all deserved 5-star ratings.
I’d first visited Amakhosi Safari Lodge in 2013 and I found my second visit to be as unforgettable…
Amakhosi Safari Lodge
Exquisite morning, sightings
Pass through KZN
Of course, resistance was futile when it came to choosing a path less travelled all the way back to Umhlanga Rocks. What could have taken just over four hours took us just over seven hours.
From Hluhluwe, we navigated through mountain passes, all along back roads, over four hours of the most magnificent vistas ascending and descending, some treacherous gravel roads and through settlements teeming with cattle and goats. I never knew such ethereal rurality existed in KwaZulu-Natal, a province so rich in culture naturally exuding raw beauty.