30 Jun 175 Leopard Street | Episode 2
For those of you that don’t know me yet, let me introduce myself. I am Marli, the General Manager of Rhino Post Safari Lodge and Plains Camp @ Rhino Walking Safaris, the best-kept secrets of the Kruger National Park (also the best private concession in the Kruger National Park, in my very humble opinion). My husband, Brian, is the Executive Chef and this is where we met and our love story unfolded. Cute hey? We think so!
Let me give you a bit of background and some insight into our story: I have been working for Rhino Walking Safaris for 13 years and Brian has been here for 10 years. We have been married for 6 of those years and have 2 beautiful daughters aged 2 and 5. When we got married we moved into a house in the Skukuza Staff Village rather than living on-site at the lodge, as we had been. The Skukuza Staff Village has been where we have spent our lockdown. Our daughters Ginalee and Freya go to school at the Skukuza Educare Development Centre in the Skukuza staff village.
Imagine growing up barefoot in the Kruger National Park surrounded by like-minded friends and amazing wildlife? Well, that’s the norm for our two girls and one day they will truly appreciate what a blessing it is to live this life. It’s not unusual to share the jungle gym with a few vervet monkeys and the resident leopard tortoise. Impala are often seen feeding around the school fence and there is an extensive warthog family whose main objective in life is to keep the grass short (It’s a gardeners dream I tell you!)
The school is situated right next to the Skukuza Golf Club where some recent sightings of Lion caused a stir on social media. Well, folks, this happens rather often and the kids have had first-hand sightings of lions, hyenas and even leopard walking by. Yes, this might sound extremely dangerous, but on every occasion, the section ranger was called in to ensure that the wildlife didn’t wander too close to the school grounds and if they did they would politely chase them off.
Friday’s are a highlight in the school week and the girls come back gleaming, sharing stories of the magic that unfolded in the day. Friday means that it is Ranger Club Day! Smiles all round I tell you! Dressed in camouflage jackets the children are taken on walks by armed rangers and can safely explore the golf course and the staff village on foot. They are visited by the SANParks Veterinary Team who even came and darted an elephant on the playground! (Okay, it was a stuffed soft toy elephant, but the darting was real!). Even the anti-poaching team has done a demonstration with a helicopter and dogs. Gina told me all about how the baddies got arrested for hurting our animals. What a way to learn, what a way to live. They are very fortunate to have such a blessed opportunity to be part of such a special learning environment.
Video Credit: Principal, Skukuza EDC
For the first 2 levels of Lockdown, we spent lots of time outside in our awesome garden. It’s full of trees and plenty of shade. It’s taken Brian about 5 years to grow grass in the hard dry soil, but I think the 3 loads of fresh rhino dung finally did the trick (no we did not follow rhino’s around with a bucket or raid their territorial middens and collect the dung ourselves. Too risky… we purchased it from the Rhino boma that cares for injured and orphaned Rhinos).
Lockdown in the park has been a good experience. I think the Skukuza residents are the luckiest people in South Africa to be locked down inside the Kruger. We are under the very same rules and restrictions as the rest of the country. Hats off to the SANParks staff and protection services for running such a smooth operation. We too had the same rules as the rest of South Africa. Stages 5 & 4 were tough, you could not leave your yard. We were not allowed to go on game drives, shops were only operating on certain days at specific times. You were not allowed to exit the park unless it was an emergency and you had several authorization permits to allow you to do so. You also get screened and sanitized on your way out and on your way back in. We are fortunate to be in such a safe environment. Who needs to go on game drives? Every morning we have a troop of vervet monkeys who come to play on my daughter’s jungle gym. We love watching them as they jump and play and have the best time. Midday we have a warthog family that comes and trims our grass we, we have nyala who walk past our fence in the afternoon and a couple of hours before sunset, the mob of banded mongoose come to take over our yard. Plus the hadedas and guinea fowl on the lawn in the very early hours of the morning. Let’s not forget the loyal guaranteed sighting of the countless Impalas walking past the fence. I ask again, who needs to go on game drives right?
With level 3 I managed to get a permit which allows me to travel from Skukuza to the lodge and back. The very first trip I did, I felt like an outlaw. Like I was breaking the rules and that I was the only vehicle in the whole of the Kruger Park. It was so cool, but it was a bit daunting and a tiny bit scary. I was expecting to see buffalo carcasses with a pride of lions feeding on it in the middle of the street, but unfortunately, there weren’t any. There were heaps of elephant dung on the road, a male giraffe mounting another male giraffe (which was a first for me) and herds of elephants (the ellie’s seemed more surprised to see me).
The cherry on the top of the cake was a pack of Wild dogs welcoming me back on our access road. I felt like royalty! They have become regulars now and I get to see them almost every day. The Alpha female is heavily pregnant and we think that they might be denning on our concession this year. Will keep you posted!
Off course SANParks opened up for self-drive day visitors during level 3. This was wonderful news as it meant the Kruger residents could also start driving around. The first 3 days every single Skukuza resident was out in full force, but there were members of the public too and many of them.