A May 2005 trip
to Komatipoort by Linda Kaye
Quote: Komatipoort is a quaint little town on the edge of South Africa within a stones throw of Mozambique. Komatipoort is a gateway to Kruger Park. Komatipoort is a favorite spot for tiger fishing. Komatipoort simply IS.
Komatipoort was born of the railroad in 1890, when the Dutch Railroad Company laid tracks between Mozambique and Pretoria, South Africa. Like most boomtowns of that era, Komatipoort was filled with liquor drinking construction workers and was also plagued with outbreaks of malaria. Today, it is a tranquil and peaceful town, known for its tiger fishing and its close proximity to Kruger National Park.
We spent four glorious days and nights at the Komati River Chalets, an elegant respite on the edge of Komatipoort. Walks along the river, viewing crocodiles while tiger fishing from the banks and long quiet evenings with friends were memories in the making.
We experienced excellent cuisine at the Tambarina Restaurant and although it took the better part of one evening, the wait was well worth it.
Two full days in Kruger National Park, only 11 km from our guesthouse, allowed us to do some serious wildlife discovery. We were determined to see everything that walked, flew, crawled, slithered or swung from trees.
But, by far the most exhilarating experience was tracking white rhino through the bush at a private game reserve -on foot.
Beware when buying certain items. Our friends purchased a beautiful plaque with the names of the countries carved on a map. A price was agreed on and the transaction completed. It was not until later that evening we discovered that the word Africa- was spelled ARRICA.
LAUNDRY: Almost all guesthouses or B&Bs can arrange to have your laundry done. It normally takes a full day and the clothes are returned clean and pressed, for a very small fee (normally about .00 U.S. Dollars) for a large load. When planning our wardrobe for this trip, we made sure that everything we packed was washable and didn’t require heavy ironing.
FUN & GAMES: I always pack a deck of cards and our friends brought a travel-size scrabble game. Since most places we stayed did not have good television reception, it was nice to have something to do in the evenings.
Safety is always in our thoughts; we planned our days so that we were not on the highway after dark. The town of Komatipoort was only a 5-minute drive from our Guest House. We found the Spar, the local supermarket, met all our needs for groceries and other supplies. There were also three or four restaurants and petrol stations. We were comfortable driving in Komatipoort at night because we knew exactly where we were going and how to get there.
We did our homework regarding driving directions. MapQuest served us well as the directions were simple and accurate. We made sure we had phone numbers of our guesthouse or bed and breakfast in the event we had trouble.
Both bedrooms have a full bath, one with a tub and one with a shower. The African bathtubs are wonderful, slightly wider than we are used to and almost 6 feet long. Big, soft towels were provided daily. A few things I noticed: (1) there are no electrical plugs in the bathroom (2) the lighting in most bathrooms are dim and (3) the mirrors are very small. It was explained to me that because the electrical current is 220 (instead of the 110 in the US) plugs and lights are kept well away from any water source and at a minimum.
The kitchen is small, but well equipped including a microwave, two stovetop burners (no oven), refrigerator, pots and pans, dishes and utensils. A large container of filtered water is provided daily for our use as was instant coffee, tea, sugar and creamer.
Outside on the patio is a large round table with chairs and a braai for outdoor cooking. No briquettes or starters are provided but these items are available at the local supermarket in town.
The housekeeping staff seemed to appear whenever needed, whether it be to make a bed, wash dishes or clean the braai (barbeque pit) we had used the night before. Ros and her husband, Duncan, are the owners of Komati River Chalets and live on the property. They were always ready to assist us in planning tours, giving us directions or recommending restaurants in the area.
From our chalet, it is a short walk to the Komati River where we would walk along the bank looking at the slow moving water. We were cautioned NOT to even touch the water because of the crocodiles. There were also hippos that inhabit this area; so needless to say, we stayed close to the chalet after dark.
Komati River Chalets offer both Self-catering or Bed & Breakfast Chalets. Self-catering means that you provided your own food and do the cooking. Those who choose the Bed & Breakfast Chalets enjoy superbly prepared continental or full farmhouse breakfast in the dining room. Also offered is a fully licensed bar for a relaxing drink in the evening.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 4, 2005
Komati River Chalets
Komatipoort, South Africa 1340
+27 013 793 7623
Portuguese influence is evident in both the colorful décor and in the food. The outside is painted in vibrant colors that carried inside to the main dining room. The patio is so inviting on the cool African evening that it encourages guests to remain long after dinner is over.
We arrived at our appointed time and were immediately seated in the dining room, one of only four or five tables. There was a large party sitting on the outside patio. So, when we waited over an hour after we had ordered to receive our food, we could not understand. However, the wait was well worth it. It was obvious that each item we ordered were prepared and cooked specifically for our order.
Our friends ordered the seafood feast for two, but shared it with all of us. On the large platter, there were shrimp, clams, crab, mussels, and a couple of things no one recognized, but ate anyway. In the center was a small bowl of spicy sauce for dipping. In general, shrimp, be it Mozambique-style or Portuguese, is grilled with the heads and shells. Fried shrimp is virtually unknown here. It is quite messy to eat, but the flavor is unique and the reward is something you won’t soon forget. This feast was topped off with cheese, garlic bread.
Harry had a steak that was tender and juicy with a baked potato. I had chicken cordon bleu, filled with ham and melted cheese with a thin crispy, perfectly golden baked coating. There was absolutely no room for dessert when we were finished.
Here, at the Tambarina, as we found out, dinner is more of an elongated experience of being with friends, lost in conversation with no regard for time, a glass of wine and magnificent food on a beautiful African evening.
Oh, the kitchen did finally close, about 10:30pm. We saw the entire kitchen staff parade through the restaurant and out the front door. Their job was done for the day.
57 Liebenberg Street
Komatipoort, South Africa
27 12 793 7988
Our guide, Andrew, came to our chalet the evening before our tour, to introduce himself and let us know what to wear, what to take with us, and what we could expect.
He also provides wildlife tours inside Kruger Park with our clients safely into a large, well armored safari vehicle. Andrew casually mentioned that the rhino tour was twice the cost of the wildlife safari because of the danger. He quickly pointed out that the danger was to him, not us. He would be in front with a rifle and would be our first line of defense.
Okay, now I am really getting concerned. I think to myself, what happens if we come up on a rhino, something happens to Andrew, then what happens to us??? Not wanting to be the only one of our party to admit fear, I simply smiled, took a deep breath, and said nothing.
Up early the next morning, we followed his instructions regarding light colored clothing, hat, long sleeves, good walking shoes and sun block. We piled into his SUV for the 30-minute drive to the Kwa Madwala Private Game Reserve.
At the headquarters building inside the reserve, we were introduced to our driver and our tracker, and asked to sign forms regarding liability. (Oh, my goodness).
After a quick bathroom break, we piled into a safari vehicle to begin our adventure. The tracker rode on the front where he had a good view of the road and surrounding areas as we drove. Once he located rhino tracks, the vehicle was parked and we were given last minute instructions.
Okay, now I feel GREAT!
Off we went, leaving the security of our vehicle far behind us. The weather was pleasant: partly cloudy skies gave us some relief from the sun. We walked for almost two hours; saw giraffes, evidence of large animals, and lion and rhino tracks. The sheer anticipation of seeing one of these huge beast was exhilarating- like pulling the arm on a slot machine and watching the "7s" roll and one by one stop on the payline – all except that last one.
Quote for the Africa in Focus Website: The objective will be to view the animals without impacting their natural behavior, and sensitivity to the animals is top priority. This experience is exciting and exhilarating, as you will experience what it feels like to be just another animal in Africa’s wilderness.
Despite the efforts of our guide and our tracker, we found no rhino. However, we had the most excellent walk through the African bush you could imagine.
Kruger occupies over 7,724 square miles in South Africa, measuring 217 miles north to south and 37 miles east to west. Although the accommodations inside the park are expensive, there is one big advantage. Park guests have a little more time for game viewing since they don’t have to get to the exit gate by a specific time. I imagine the animal sounds at night inside the park must be a thrill of a lifetime.
Early reservations are required for those wishing to stay inside Kruger Park. Choices range from huts and safari tents to cottages, bungalows and lodges. Tariffs for accommodations vary between $28 USD to $250 USD per night.
We entered the Crocodile Bridge Gate at the Southern end of the park. It was early morning, about 6:30am, and there was already a line to enter. After paying and securing our passes, we proceeded on the main road. It was a foggy morning and the sun was just starting to peak through the low clouds. We commented that we would probably not see anything right away because of all the traffic in the area. Then, all of a sudden, barely visible through the fog was a huge elephant, grazing just off the road. We name this beautiful site - the Elephant in the Mist.
Guided Safari Tours: There are guided safari tours, which I would highly recommend if you are limited on time and not on a tight budget. Riding in a safari vehicle, provides a better view of the surrounding area than a typical automobile. For a half day game drive expect to pay $46.00 per person; full day $61. This usually includes park entrance fee, light breakfast, bottled water and cool drinks, and a professional guide.
Self-Guided Tours: The advantage of the self-guided tours is that we set the schedule. If we happened on a group of animals, we had the luxury of spending time watching them, and sometime watching them watch us. The baboons were especially curious about these strangers in their world. Our best sightings were on the small side road, away from the main paved roads. It was down one of these side roads that we found a large group of zebra and wildebeest. Several of the zebra had nursing babies. We stopped our car, turned off the engine and enjoyed watching the animals graze and interact with each other.
Among our wildlife sightings were the rhino, Cape Buffalo, hippos, giraffes, zebras, elephants, warthogs, baboons vervet monkeys, impala, kudu, nyala, and wildebeest. Our favorite-feathered friend was the yellow-billed Hornbill, who appeared to enjoy posing for our cameras.
From the Crocodile Bridge Gate to Lower Sabie is only 35km, but it took us almost four hours. Lower Sabie is a Main Camp, one of many inside the park. Main Camps offers restaurant facilities, snack bar, souvenir shops, fenced picnic areas, restrooms and a chance to get out of the car and stretch. Kruger is so large that in the two days we spent there, we only covered one small corner of the park.
In November, December and January (summer months in Africa) gates open at 4:30 in the morning and close at 5:30pm. In July, opening is at 6am, closing at 4pm. Be sure to keep your receipt (travel document), as you will need to present it as you leave the park.
Daily park entrance tariff is $18 USD for foreign guests.
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