Africa, Dear Africa (volume 3)

Africa, Dear Africa

A Safari Diary by Patrice Walters – On Tour with Outdoor Africa
Part 3

Our next destination, back into South Africa to Tembe Elephant Park, was a really special treat! Royal Thonga is a small, intimate camp (only 14 guest chalets) that was luxurious, gorgeous and comfortable! GuGu, Caesar, Bongo, and Vesi were eager to welcome back River and they quickly adopted us into their family as well.

Cape Buffalo - Tembe - South Africa

On our afternoon game drive, we watched a bull Elephant ripping apart trees like they were made of straw, a bunch of Dung Beetles on a mass of whatever you can guess they would be on, a couple of Crocs lazily enjoying the sun, and a large herd of Buffalo. .

Then the perfect end of a perfect game drive; Vesi stopped at a beautiful site, set up a table-turned-roadside-bar where we enjoyed beer, wine, soda, and water as we watched the sun begin to set. Another safari vehicle joined us, carrying Hayden (an Outdoor Africa partner) and his 2 guests. It was a fun way to meet Hayden, the friend of our friend who referred us to Outdoor Africa! Arriving back at camp, River ambushed us from a hiding spot — another memorable River moment!

Another day in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa

Lions in Tree - Tembe - South Africa

The next morning, our game drive netted us another extremely rare sight; Lions up in a tree! Vesi said it was because it had rained heavily the previous day, so the Lions wanted to get off of the ground where they were being bugged by the newly hatched bugs. It was amazing to witness River and Vesi track the Lions and see their excitement to find them. Vesi, like River, is clearly passionate about his country and all of her offerings!

Elephants at hide - Tembe - South Africa

That afternoon we watched 2 Elephants from a blind as they pushed and shoved each other and threw mud, fighting over a small water hole created by a broken water pipe. Never mind that they had a big body of water right behind them.

Before heading back to camp, we had a very up-close encounter with a curious juvenile bull Elephant who came within a couple of feet of our vehicle checking us out. The day wouldn’t be complete without having our roadside adult beverages while watching the sun going down. Ahhh!

Meeting the Thonga People of South Africa

Rather than a game drive our last morning at Tembe, Hayden took us to Escabezeni on a cultural tour of the Thonga village. Hayden sent the Prince of this royal village to ask the King’s permission for us to visit the village.

Ilala Palm Wine - Tembe - South Africa

We watched them demonstrate how they make Palm Wine, after which we tasted it — YUM!

Sangoma - Tembe - South Africa

Then on to visit a Medicine Woman. Very ceremonial. After 15 minutes of waiting for permission, we were finally invited into her medicine hut where all 6 of us lined up in the small round hut across from her. She asked, “Are you afraid?” and laughed that none of us wanted to sit near her.

At that point, Joan (another guest of OA) and I crossed over and sat next to the Medicine Woman while her beautiful baby girl (2 years old), sitting next to her, kept a close watch on me. Apparently, her young daughter had never seen anyone with blonde hair before. What the Medicine Woman shared was such a profoundly touching experience, I have no words!

Sangoma and us - Tembe - South Africa
Sangoma and us – Tembe – South Africa

The feeling of connecting in South Africa

Because of River’s and Hayden’s strong lifetime connections, we were granted special privileges and access to restricted areas in the parks, allowing for closer viewing of animals and visiting the Thonga village for example. This alone was PRICELESS!!! It was emotionally challenging to depart from Tembe. But we did. It was a little teary with GuGu, Vesi, Caesar, and Bongo all there to send us off with their blessings and our promises to return.

And the journey continues…

Read more:

Part 4 – Africa, Dear Africa – A tour diary by Patrice Walters

Start from the beginning:

Part 1 – Africa, Dear Africa – A tour diary by Patrice Walters

Part 2 – Africa, Dear Africa – A tour diary by Patrice Walters


  1. Ralph Wilfong on May 13, 2019 at 12:45 am

    Delightful! I still have the traditional sundowner on occasion; gin and tonic.

    • Toby Brown on May 16, 2019 at 2:35 pm

      Ralph! The number of local Gin distilleries in SA has exploded! You’ll get to try some new ones when you visit again! 🙂

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We enjoyed laughter, sunsets, elephants tussling and drinking water, hippos in St. Lucia estuary, dipping our toes in the Indian Ocean and so much more. It truly was a wonderful, memorable visit that will linger inside us forever. Thank you Outdoor Africa!


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THANK YOU OUTDOOR AFRICA for providing me with the experience of a lifetime. Toby customized the trip based on our specific preferences and abilities. Hayden was truly a wealth of knowledge about all things South African and I learned to really appreciate nature in a way that I never had before.


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We could not have had a better trip! My husband worked with Toby Brown in the U.S. who then coordinated with Hayden Elliott over in SA. We had three weeks with Hayden driving us the entire time. His knowledge of the area, animals, birds, etc. was amazing.


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