Rippon’s Safari Lodge
What can I say about Rippon’s Safari Lodge and the Shamwari. The Shamwari is a huge game reserve in South Africa on the eastern Cape. According to Nofias, our guide, it is over 285,000 hectare, and with each hectare equalling 2.47 acres, you do the math. There is no way to convey the area to you other than it was huge. Filled with mountains, beautiful valleys full of plains game, steep canyons with all kinds of life, it is just stunning.
Did I say it was big? Nofias looks out over just a small part of the Shamwari.
The Shamwari is dedicated to the management and preservation of the animals. Many are not native to South Africa, but of course all are native to Africa. It is highly managed for the right balance, and the reserve has resident biologists, vets, and game wardens. Of course it is high fence, and you Texans familiar with that can appreciate just how massive and long that fence is. The area used to be made up of sheep farms and now contains 4 lodges.
Rippon’s, where we stayed, is still owned by the Rippon family, and has been a part of the reserve system for 4 years. When sitting on the porch, or by the pool, you can see giraffes, assorted bucks, warthogs, and god knows what else just gazing at the scenery. One of the managers told us about sitting by the pool and hearing someone sitting down beside her. She thought it was a guest and was surprised to open her eyes and have a baboon sitting on the chair next to her watching her. But no matter how cool that is, once you get on the truck, Africa comes alive.
Nofias Mpala, our guide and a fine gentleman.
When I say Africa opens when you get on the truck, it was such a wonderful experience that we ended up staying for 2 extra days. In fact, we only brought clothes for the 2 day stay, but no one cared, Rippon’s is laid back. So lets start with the guide.
Nofias was part biologist, historian, and story teller. Like all the guides, he was certified in South Africa, which requires study and exams. So a drive in the Toyota Land Cruiser was not only a sight seeing trip, but a history lesson all in one. His knowledge and experience was passed to us, from each animal and it’s sub-species, to how good the termites tasted. And folks they tasted great. One of the things that was so wonderful was that every time we got in the truck we saw something amazing. Enough that I passed on a couple of potential fishing days, so you know it was something if I did that! We ended up going on 8 game drives, and here is just a small part of what he showed us.
Off we go!
Giraffes. One of the hundreds we saw. It was something to look at a far away hill and see their heads above the trees. In fact, he had not even got the truck in second gear when several crossed the road in front of us. One cool animal.
The Boss and his sons. There were 4 of them, and at 7 months old they weigh 80lbs. Seeing them this close fills you with a feeling that we are not all that. He could cover 100 yards in 4 seconds, and crush your head like a grape.
Another of his kids. Busy fellow huh?
Love their tracks.
Warthog. Now these guys have lots to worry about, see above. The lodge had lots of them in the compound, they found out it was safe from the cheetahs, but they are everywhere. One of my favorites.
And what African safari would be complete without these guys? We spent an hour in a herd of 20, one of the great moments of the trip.
A Serval Cat. Nocturnal, they are rarely seen.
(As a side note, one of the people with us for a day or two was the production manager for the London Ballet and Opera. He first came to Africa in 1994 to put on a ballet in the Masi Mara for the Masi. He was forever changed, has returned often, been on many safaris throughout Africa, and had never seen one. This was a real highlight.)
Aardwolf. A relative of the hyena they are also rarely seen.
Another of the big animals in Africa. We never did get a great shot of any hippos, and the little guy in the picture kept ducking, and we were not even that close. Guess he was just shy.
Cheetahs. It was almost dark as we walked across the field to get within 2o -25 feet. One of the great moments in my life! Sorry about the picture, heck, I was having a hard time breathing?
Zebra. One of the truly iconic animals of Africa. They were often mixed with other plains game.
Oryx. A majestic animal with cool horns.
Springbok. Very common, know for springing/hopping when they run. And also very tasty I might add.
Impala. (I think.) A very beautiful animal with great horns.
Kudo. We saw many females but the big males are wary. One of the top trophies in Africa. And they are also pretty tasty.
Eland. One of the really big plains game.
Blesbuck. You would see them in herds, often with other plains game. Another really beautiful animal.
Baboons. Together they are called a troop. We stopped at a small cafe on the coast for coffee and the sign on the door said ring if it is locked because of the baboons. The owner said the big one had figured out how to open the door and they would charge in and steal food and anything else that interested them.
Hartebeest. Now this guy is just plain cool looking.
Brushbuck. Saw lots of females, but this the only big male we saw. Just an odd kind of look to them.
My favorite picture. Nancy took this one and it is headed to the wall.
And one last one for the road…..you said you wanted to get close!
I could go on and on about the safari. I have hundreds of pictures that need to be gone through and arranged, but I wanted to give you a taste of the diversity. My daughter was with us and she kept track, in the 2 days she was there with us we saw over 50 different animals and birds. There is no way I can ever relay what it was like. But it was a once in a lifetime trip that left me astounded every single time we went out.
Rippon’s Safari Lodge
Once we committed to the trip my wife, the sponsor of Team Nancy, did her research. The reviews she found on the lodge were great, and did not do it justice. What a place. The people were great, the facilities fantastic, the food delicious, and there were animals right outside the door. If you ever think about a trip, Rippon’s is the place. They cater to individuals and families, making special accommodations for children both in living quarters and in the game drives.
Your day starts when your guide knocking on your door at daylight to head to breakfast. He will eat with you at both breakfast and supper, giving you a chance to learn anything your heart desires. Then it is off to the truck for a morning drive. They last about 3 – 3 1/2 hour and then back to the lodge for lunch. After a couple of hours to rest, off for another drive of 3 – 3 1/2 hour until dark. It happened to be winter on our trip, and on our return from the evening drive there was hot chocolate waiting. And of course that was after your sundowner with drinks on a mountain top overlooking the Shamwari. Then off to a great supper and sitting around with other guests and sharing experiences. What a way to end the day.
And let me say this about the staff, they were nothing short of wonderful. Really nice folks who actually care about your stay. The grounds were lovely and the rooms nice. I could no more highly recommend them if they paid me. And by going in the winter, the savings put it in reach of most folks for that once in a lifetime trip. What a place for a family to experience South Africa in a safe and comfortable way. Remember if you go in winter, it actually gets cold as you race across the Shamwari hunting for animals.
Rippon’s Lodge. Each are great rooms with a view to die for. As nice as any hotel anywhere.
The room. And no tv! If you need a tv here you need to re-examine your priorities!
Waiting for you on arrival before you head out on your first evening drive. This was just a sample of the great food that was to come.
The ladies with the laundry. They were wonderful. Pick up your clothes, turn down your bed, straighten the room a couple of times a day, just wonderful service by great people.
The sundowner. Hot or cold libations, you order and then watch the sun set in one of the last great places on earth.
So there you have it in a nutshell. This is but a small part of the whole, my words can not describe what a trip it was. There is no way to put in words how perfect everything was at Rippon’s. The best decision we made on our whole trip was staying a couple of extra days. Being there 4 days allowed you 8 drives. There was not one drive where we did not see something awesome. So if something like this is on your bucket list, this is the place!
Tomorrow I will post about the mission. My daughter has a foundation, Vilakazi, that is dedicated to the poor children of South Africa. I am so proud of the work she has started. For our mission we worked in schools in the townships and it was another experience I will never forget. We did but a drop in the bucket, the need is so great and the children so poor. It was life changing experience for me and I look forward to writing about it.
So keep stopping in, after the mission there are still some great places, things, and people to tell you about. And I hope to have all the pictures downloaded online so you can see them. So thanks for stopping by. I appreciate everyone who reads my stuff. Who knows, maybe I will get a fishing pole in my hand soon.
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Good Luck and Tight Lines.