When you’re visiting a private nature reserve like Wild Rivers, it’s not surprising to find this is african bush in the raw. I stayed at Rukiya Camp for just two nights and was sad I wasn’t able to stay longer. Set on the banks of the Blyde River just a few steps from where it meets Olifants River, the camp is a serene setting in the heart of the nature reserve.
I’ve been to a variety of safari lodges, from a basic campsite in the Serengeti (campground), to bush camps in Botswana (Linyanti Bush Camp) and full on luxury in Namibia (Okonjima). This time I wanted to be away from those with just “the big five” in mind. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to hear “show me a lion” or “I haven’t seen a leopard yet”, wild animals do not come to order guys! But, then I guess I was spoilt by my first ever trip, when the big five came by chance and luck on day one in Tanzania. These days I’m happy to witness any animal, from small to big and I love spotting new birds too.
I was collected from Phalaborwa Airport by Lily, who later proved to be a great host. On the drive to camp, it started to rain and we had to dodge a couple of leopard tortoises who were crossing the road. The weather meant a lack of big cats over my 2 days, but I had a few new and special sightings which I will explain later.
Whether you want to sit back and relax by the gorgeous pool, or take advantage of the activities on offer within Wild Rivers or nearby private reserves. This is a break away from the large camps of the Kruger. Far more intimate whilst still having a luxurious feel, at the same time very laid back. I was allocated one of the family tents, which meant that I had a serious amount of space to relax after the morning drive. The tent had a veranda where you can sit and admire a variety of birds and smaller creatures of the bush. The bed….well I slept extraordinarily well for me, very comfortable then.
The main area is decorated simply in that laid back african style that I love, where a mix of different natural materials are married together in a way that immediately makes one relax. Lunch and dinner are simple but delicious affairs, whilst breakfast was taken half way through the morning drive in a picturesque setting, not far from where we’d seen rhino tracks.
Game drives and walks
I arrived in the afternoon and went on my first drive at 4.30pm within Wild Rivers itself. The guide and driver Donovan was excellent, explaining more about the reserve and the animals we might find there. We stopped for a while at a termite mound, which although had long been abandoned by termites, had since been used by a variety of other animals; including aardvarks and porcupines. Our sundowners were taken in a really beautiful spot overlooking the Drakensberg mountains. We were also joined by some cute lizards who came out to share the view.
On the way back to camp we spotted an african civet disappearing into some bushes, too fast to take a photograph but a first for me, it’s always great to see the nocturnal animals and a rare sighting. We were also lucky enough to see chameleons, another first.
The following morning we were taken to a nearby reserve which is part of the Balule Reserve open to the Greater Kruger. Here Donovan often got out to check the tracks of a lion we were hoping to see. It’s the first time I’d seen guides exit a vehicle to track on foot and it’s testament to the experience of both guides at Rukiya Camp, that they were willing and capable to go that exit step….so to speak, to find elusive cats.
After a leisurely lunch and a walk by the river, the afternoon drive took us back to the same area. Here we witnessed about 40-50 vultures fighting over the carcass of a buffalo. Really amazing to watch! We then had a great sighting of elephants, including youngsters and the biggest crocodile I’ve ever seen with his mouth around the buffalo carcass. Scary, but amazing.
Guided walks are also on offer and will be adapted to your needs. On this occasion i’m not sure who was tracking who, us the leopard, or the leopard us. Pretty excilerating anyhow.
If you want to stay off the beaten track to experience some excellent guiding and care, stop for a few days at Rukiya.
- Leopard Tortoise*
- Flap neck chameleon (I think)*
- Lizard (common?)
- White Back Vulture
- Pied Wagtail
- Chacma Baboon
- Vervet Monkey
- Plains Zebra
- Cape Buffalo
- Blue wildebeest
- Honey Badger
- African Civet*
- Scrub Hare
- African Hoopee
Next stop……Cape Town