Our intrepid explorers, Gia (16) and Indi (15), head to KwaZulu-Natal for a 2-week road trip combining bush and beach. First stop is Rhino Ridge, the only privately owned safari lodge in Hluhluwe.

We were so excited to be heading to Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge, a five-star luxury game lodge in the Hluhluwe/Imfolozi Game Reserve in KZN. Given how rough things have been with COVID for everyone, we were so grateful for the chance to escape to the bush, especially in the warmth of a KZN winter. We were looking forward to heading out on a 5-day wilderness walking trail with Ezemvelo and ending our trip at the beach on the North Coast.

It really is amazing how much there is to see and experience in our own country. It is especially relevant in these times of the pandemic where we can’t travel abroad. Plus, as South Africans, we all qualify for fantastic specials. What a time to support our tourism industry by travelling local, as everyone fights to survive and re-emerge.

We arrived at Rhino Ridge just in time for a delicious spread of high tea. We were met with the warm smiles of the staff and refreshing welcome drinks. The view from the lodge, set high on the ridge, is utterly beautiful. High tea was a little tower full of every delight imaginable, made all the more delicious by the accompanying views over the reserve. Dad enjoyed a cappuccino and we blissed out on creamy hot chocolates.

We then set off on our first game drive with our very kind and knowledgeable ranger, Simo. We headed off to try and track the wild dogs that had been spotted in the north. On the way, we spied a water monitor up close bathing in the sun – we totally felt his vibe!

In the nearby river, we saw a few terrapins, which were super cute. The rest of the drive was pretty great for sightings – we saw a journey of five giraffe, several rhino, a lone buffalo, herds of impala, a few nyala, wildebeest and zebra, but unfortunately we didn’t spot the rare wild dogs. Although we weren’t able to track them, other guests had seen them earlier that morning so we hoped we might find them on a subsequent drive.

We continued driving through the beautiful African bushveld and stopped to witness the most extraordinary sunset. There’s nothing quite like a sunset in the bush, as the clear, unpolluted skies are swept with colours of red, pink, orange and yellow. We parked to enjoy it over drinks and snacks on top of a hill with a 360-degree view of the landscape.

We then headed back to the lodge for dinner which was outstanding. We decided to all start with the fresh salad and then my mom, dad, and sister had the creamy tomato and mushroom pasta and I had the lemon risotto. The food on the other guests’ tables also looked amazing too, with ostrich steaks and venison options. We are all pescatarian and were provided with our own special menu at every meal, which made us feel very well cared for. For dessert, we had the berry parfait which rounded out a very satisfying meal. We headed off to our luxurious villa to get tucked up in our cosy beds. Indi and I had our own massive room with an incredible view out over the bushveld.

The next day we had a bright and early start. We had coffee, tea and rusks while being completely transfixed by the pink and purple sky. The first thing we noticed on our morning game drive was how crisp and fresh the air was, so unlike the air you find in the city. As we drove through the landscape it seemed as though everything was just waking up. You could see the moon behind us against the pinkish sky just above the mountain ridge.

an easterly direction almost directly towards the rising sun. We saw many beautiful bird sightings including two martial eagles, which my dad was very happy about. We also had an incredible rhino sighting. They were so close that if you reached out you could touch them. We were lucky to have a zebra walking right past the vehicle.

On returning to the lodge, we wolfed down a tasty breakfast and went back to the room for a refreshing shower and nap. After some relaxing rest time, we were treated to another exceptional high tea. Indi and I decided we could get used to this life! After tea, we set off on our afternoon game drive. We saw many more antelope, vervet monkeys, rhino and buffalo. We stopped to have drinks and snacks at a picnic sight overlooking “Siwazamamakhosikhazi”, which means the cliffs of the women in Zulu. Simo shared the rich and beautiful history of this special place with us and before we knew it, it was time for another incredible dinner of mussels and prawns, followed by delectable chocolate mousse.

On our game drive the next day, we saw by now regular sightings of rhino, giraffe and antelope as well as incredible bush spiders in their enormous silken webs. After a stop for hot chocolate and coffee with biscuits and muffins, Simo drove the scenic route back to the lodge via the northern loop near Memorial Gate, trying to track the lions – sadly we weren’t lucky this time.

At the end of the loop, we had the most amazing elephant sighting. A young bull tried to mock charge us and we saw mothers and babies crossing the road right in front of the vehicle. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

We had the most amazing stay at Rhino Ridge. It is an experience I will cherish and never forget, and I highly recommend this safari for South African families. In this time of COVID, where international travel opportunities are restricted, this is one of the best experiences you can have – it will make your soul happy and give you a renewed appreciation for the beauty on our doorstep.