01 Jun2014

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We are back from a spectacular holiday and our chocolate labrador is just as thrilled to see us as we are to see her! Note the photo above vs. the photo in the previous post — 4 duffels have blossomed into 4 duffels + five other pieces of baggage! :)

So here are the actual answers to the “fill-in the blanks” post:

Marketman and family are off on a trip of a lifetime to South Africa. We were not allowed to bring our normal luggage and had to pack wisely, cramming a carefully coordinated wardrobe into these duffel bags because this is all that would fit on the small private charter planes we would be flying to our safari camp. On arrival, we jumped into/onto a Land Rover and almost instantaneously run across a few impala (antelope) while on the way to our 5 star hotel. Temperatures may range from 8C to 30C, and keeping warm or cool enough will be a challenge, but to see some leopards and lions, it’s hopefully all worth it. While there will probably be sufficient wine to drink, MM frets Coke Light will be scarce or non-existent. MM has his supplies of champoy and spicy sampalok close at hand, to battle potential motion sickness. Despite the type of luggage, MM had to make sure he brought along only the finest underwear, as the valet and/or butler(s) might judge him. This is a part of the world we have never visited, but we hear there is rice. The fourth duffel is mostly empty, leaving space for some shopping and we are likely to stock up on mohair scarves and blankets (from Angora goats) and exotic skins like crocodile and ostrich. On the way home, a quick stop at the Changi airport will mean superb duty free shopping and we are close to home.

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The journey began on a late afternoon Singapore Airlines flight from Manila to Singapore. A short layover in the Changi airport then we boarded another Singapore Airlines 777 from Singapore to Johannesburg, South Africa, a roughly 10.5 hour non-stop journey across the Indian Ocean. We arrived, cleared customs and were met and whisked off by van to the other side of the runway, where the hangars for private jet services were located. The waiting lounge of Federal Air Charters was luxuriously simple — with comfortable furniture, a thatched roof, beautiful outdoor garden and seating areas right beside the tarmac. They had cappuccino machines, hot soup, sandwiches, cookies and soft drinks at the ungodly hour of 6am when we arrived. A four-hour wait here meant catching up on some sleep, emails, or a quick visit to their in-house safari gear shop in case we needed further outfitting. We didn’t buy anything, having carefully chosen and packed a wardrobe of sand, tan, olive and brown colored clothes and shoes to ensure we blended in with the locals (humans and animals alike).

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Our bags were carefully weighed and tagged to our destination, and I braced for our weigh-ins as well. I had gone on a three week diet beforehand to shed some 8-10 pounds to make sure I didn’t breach weight restrictions (or pay for another seat!) and so I could also eat with abandon while on holiday. One look at our party of three (Mrs. MM is petite and the Teen is svelte) and the attendant didn’t bother to weigh us at all. Phew! Saved from potential humiliation… heehee.

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The turbo-prop that pulled up was bigger than I had expected, a 19-seater pressurized cabin that cruised at close to 25,000 feet and there were only 12-13 passengers destined for three different safari camps. We boarded, took off and settled in for a 1+ hour flight to Northeastern South Africa, near the Kruger National Park.

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The first part of the trip was flying over a blanket of clouds, which slowly gave way to a clearer view of the landscape below. It was surprisingly populated (I had visions of heading into the jungles for some reason, despite knowing the bush was actually that, a bunch of bushes!) and simple homes in large settlements were visible for much of the flight.

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Closer to the safari camps, the landscape turned quite brown (this was the late Fall, start of Winter in the area) with clumps of green and an occasional black or dark form on the horizon. Our pilot said to keep our eyes peeled for animals, but we didn’t really see much (probably more a result of dirty windows and failing eyesight).

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The plane landed at a small airstrip at Mala Mala to drop off a few passengers, took off minutes later and flew at low altitude to Londolozi, then we had the whole plane to ourselves before landing at the private airstrip at Singita. We had arrived after nearly 24 hours in transit, bedraggled but excited at the same time, and were about to experience the four most incredible days in the bush (on safari).

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The arrival/departure “hut” was the quaintest we have ever seen, like an outdoor lanai in a chic home, stocked with an extensive selection of cold drinks and a toilet. It also had the shortest wait time before our flight on the way out. We arrived about 8 minutes before boarding our plane when we left a few days later. Note Marketman in safari colors, which were perfect for the occasion. It was close to 27C and sunny when we arrived. I was still sporting a tan from a weekend in Bantayan a few days before.

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We were introduced to Sipho, our guide/spotter/driver and Louis, our tracker who would be with us for all morning and late afternoon drives to see the wildlife. We got into our Land Rover, which despite being a 6-seater (for guests), was for our exclusive use for the next four days. We noticed other camps had 9 seater Rovers so we appreciated this extra touch of space or added luxury. Over the next few days, Mrs. MM and our daughter would sometimes change seats to get a different vantage point (while I stuck to my middle level seat).

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Once our stay was over, we were driven back to the airstrip again and here we finally understood the strict limitations on the type, size and weight restrictions for baggage (and humans) as this tiny private four-seater prop plane landed (just seconds after three zebras dashed across the unfenced runway!) and taxied to the departure hut. It was so small that our four bags barely fit in the tiny cavity under the floor of the cabin! I had to crawl in on my knees to get to my seat! As we all rolled our eyes at each other, said a silent prayer and donned the earmuffs to drown out the noise from the engines, we flew at an altitude of 3,000 feet for just 20 minutes to the nearby Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport for a truly rough flight (thankfully on a larger jet plane) to Cape Town just as a powerful storm was hitting the area…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Marvien says:

    Welcome back MM :-)

    Jun 1, 2014 | 6:52 pm

     
  2. aileen says:

    Loooong time lurker here, just had to comment because this is also a dream destination for our family. Hope you will post more details of your trip. Will definitely bookmark this in my travel folder as i have bookmarked most of your posts in my recipe folder. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Jun 1, 2014 | 6:53 pm

     
  3. Khew says:

    So exciting!!

    Jun 1, 2014 | 7:01 pm

     
  4. Thel from Florida says:

    Adventurous family, very glad you had a safe and great time :)

    Jun 1, 2014 | 8:44 pm

     
  5. Kasseopeia says:

    Holy moly! That is one HUGE item off the bucket list (mine included) and i am giddy to be living it vicariously through your blog! Way to go, MM and family. Been reading MarketManila for 7-8 years and never a dull moment! Looking forward to the next posts.

    Jun 1, 2014 | 10:55 pm

     
  6. Elit says:

    Ang bitin naman ng kwento MM! Can’t wait for the rest of the adventure to unfold! :)

    Jun 2, 2014 | 12:34 am

     
  7. jade186 says:

    Wow, excitedly looking forward to your next posts :-)

    Jun 2, 2014 | 3:34 am

     
  8. Connie C says:

    Perfect outfit colors for the safari MM or you would be too attractive for wildlife.
    Sure the Land Rovers have massive front bumpers and ride high, but even if they do, did you ever wonder if you were safe enough for an errant lion or tiger with no railing on the sides?

    The climate up the northern end of the country (ZA) gave you relatively warmer temperatures but you must have had the “kilig to the bone” cold up Table Mountain in Cape Town in late May.

    Jun 2, 2014 | 5:20 am

     
  9. Betchay says:

    Your dog is so cute….rolling over from happiness of seeing her( female, right?)masters! Our dog do the same whenever we arrive from a long vacation…she wants her belly to be caressed!

    Nice “porma” MM! Very fit despite you always being surrounded by food! What a great adventure for your family! I don’t think I can ever do this in my lifetime as I have a fear of riding small planes. :( Looking forward to more stories and photos from your trip!

    Jun 2, 2014 | 6:39 am

     
  10. friedneurons says:

    That sounds absolutely awesome! I’ve been dreaming about an African safari for years now. Every so often I’d browse the website of Abercrombie & Kent to stoke the fires. Hehehe. Someday… someday…

    Jun 2, 2014 | 6:51 am

     
  11. Al says:

    Can’t wait for the next chapter. very informative for an armchair traveler like me.

    Jun 2, 2014 | 7:09 am

     
  12. ami says:

    Those tiny planes would scare me out of that trip! Looking forward to your safari posts.

    Jun 2, 2014 | 8:27 am

     
  13. Irene says:

    MM, i guessed right! :)

    Jun 2, 2014 | 8:57 am

     
  14. Angela says:

    I like the Barbour jacket. I hope you made a stop to Stellenbosch and Capetown.

    Jun 2, 2014 | 12:31 pm

     
  15. Chinky says:

    Looking forward to more posts on your vacation! Welcome Back!

    Jun 2, 2014 | 7:45 pm

     
  16. Adobodiaries says:

    Read every sentence of this entry.

    Jun 2, 2014 | 7:50 pm

     
  17. terrey says:

    haven’t been here for sometime and this is what awaits me! so envious! but thanks for this great amazing, wonderful post(s)!

    Jun 9, 2014 | 2:35 pm

     
  18. Megamags says:

    What an amazing trip. Brings back memories of my honeymoon almost a decade ago. We did the reverse — Cape Town then safari. And I still remember those tiny planes! We rode in a four-seater (including pilots), and they told us not to worry because we were close enough to glide to the ground in case something happened. Ha!

    Jun 10, 2014 | 9:33 pm

     
 

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