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After postponing a 30th birthday in March and being locked-down for nearly five months in Gauteng, the change to Level 2 meant we could hit the road to celebrate a belated birthday. After experiencing the Pafuri region back in 2018, we knew we had to return to this gem of a spot. So there were two things to celebrate.

We set off early via the N1, and in a few hours, we were sipping the BEST coffee in the world at the Seattle Coffee Company outlet in Caltex Starstop the Ranch, just past Mokopane. I kept some notes about our route and other good places to take a break and will share them with you in another blog.

As the kilometres ticked over, we felt the stress drain away, each of those 144 days cooped up at home fading to memory. After the turn towards Tshipise, the traffic also diminished and our excitement started to build, but also some apprehension. With such happy memories from 2018, would Pafuri be the same in a COVID-19 world? The Pafuri Camp reopened on September 1st, and we knew we’d be amongst the first guests.

An Apprehensive Arrival

Happily, our fears were unfounded. “The more things change, the more they remain the same”, and, lucky for us, this is the case at Pafuri Camp. First, we passed quickly into the park via Pafuri Gate, surely the quietest of all the Kruger Park entry points. Soon we spotted some old friends – nyala and kudu, ellies, and warthogs.

We arrived at Pafuri Camp and found Enos, the camp hospitality manager, waiting on the wooden walkway. His smile was hidden by a mask, but I could see it in his eyes. It was a bit emotional to be back, and I felt like giving him a hug but then I spotted his thermometer gun. Rules must be obeyed!

Enos had also been counting the days – 154 of them without guests to welcome. “It felt sad” he said, “like a school without children.” With our temperatures logged, we gladly accepted our emergency radio and a welcome drink. Looking down on the river, we spotted ellies in the water and birds skimming for insects. This vista of nature seemed very familiar and comforting.

Despite the COVID regulations, the perfect Pafuri experience has changed little. On our afternoon game drive, we were the only guests and our guide, like all staff, was masked. But we could still hear the admiration in his voice as he showed us a family of elephants browsing in the fever tree forest. The new rule is a maximum of six guests in a vehicle, except for groups visiting together.

At dinner time, we enjoyed a delicious three-course meal which was individually served under silver cloches.

Hand sanitizer is available in each tent and hands-free dispensers have been mounted in convenient places. Everyone practiced social distancing throughout the weekend. I noticed that all hard surfaces were wiped down thoroughly and cleaned on a regular basis, and Enos said that behind the scenes staff is observing protocols very strictly.

It was a relief to find how little had changed at camp, and even the spa treatment continues – fantastic!  Guests can still enjoy various relaxing massages overlooking the Luvuvhu River.

A Heavenly Haven

Our days in Pafuri were filled with game drives and fine food, relaxation, and good conversations. We even took a walk instead of a drive one morning. All agreed not to mention the ‘C’ word for the rest of the stay, just happy to feel free again, like the wild animals and birds.

I kept some detailed notes about the journey and the stay and will share them in the next blog. For now, I am happy to report, if you need to escape – Pafuri is safe and ready for you.

Untold Adventures – Carmen van Wyk