We booked an afternoon game drive so decided to have lunch in the restaurant beforehand. The restaurant setting is lovely, looking out over the the waterhole, home to 3 hippos. We were lucky enough to get a table outside for an uninterrupted view of what was going on. So we had a wonderful view of the hippos that were very active in the water whilst we waited and ate our lunch. Meal service wasn't the fastest but we had over 2 hours before our drive so was in no rush and were royally entertained by the hippos anyway. The meals we had were excellent, well presented and very tasty, (there was a slight mix-up with the choice of potato on both our orders, but no real apology). We should have paid the first bill presented to us as it was only half of ours but all sorted in the end. The view and the activity of the hippos made the meal for us anyway.
We went out for the game drive, 2 groups went out, ours had 5 on the vehicle, us, an English couple and 3 from Poland. The guide introduced himself as Jock. Anyway we set, no preamble no chat about expectations. We have done several game drives in various locations in South Africa over the past couple of years so we weren't expecting much animal activity due to it being so hot, it was mid 30's. We did see Springbok, Nyala, Giraffe, Rhino, Zebra, Waterbuck, Wildebeest and Kirdu so weren't disappointed with the sightings, however the guide came across as not very interested at all. Whilst he told us a bit about the animals we saw there was no real interaction about anything else, nothing spontaneous about the reserve, the work being done, other animals, flora and fauna, birds etc. He was asked about the lions, we knew they were in a different enclosure, and elephants but were simply told that was a different experience and we wouldn't see them at all. The refreshment stop midway was in a rather uninspiring spot, in a dip at the end of a track, no spectacular 360 degree views.
We set off back and thought we were just returning back the same way but did turn off to go around the waterholes. The buffalo were asked about but the only comment was it was too hot for them, and they would be seen, no further elaboration. The last 15 mins of the drive was rushed as he had to be back for another drive at 1700 and so it was all rushed, past the waterhole with the hippos without stopping and no comment about them either though we could see them.
We did see some animals but the whole experience was marred by the apparent lack of enthusiasm of the guide, a first for us as we have always come across them in the past as generally they want to pass on what they know and the work being done and about the animals and their park.
We had booked a night drive which we were not going to go on after our daytime experience and only went after the owner of the B&B we were staying at encouraged us to go.
The day after we went back, we weren't staying on the site. We had an evening meal, arrived about 1730, giving plenty of time before the night drive at 2000. The meal again was excellent though no rush so it was 1930 before we had finished. Again the hippos were active and entertaining and just before 2000hrs they emerged from the water for night-time feeding. We also had the sight of a fish eagle perched on the other side of the waterhole the whole time we were eating.
The night drive guide was Royden, we were the only ones on it, who was totally different from the day before, enthusiastic, animated and wanted to tell us about the animals, the reserve, flora and fauna that bush dwellers used to catch fish and as an antidote for the poison they used. We saw the hippos feeding, Giraffes, Rhino, an owl that flew into a tree, Buffalo, Eland, Zebra, Kudu and Nyala. The midway point we stopped at was the same as we had the day before but this time we had a night time sky that was alive with stars. The whole experience was enlightening and much to the credit of Royden and just goes to show that an enthusiastic guide can make or break an experience. He is to be commended.
Overall it is worth eating in the restaurant to overlook the waterhole to see that is going on. The food is very good but service is not rushed. The game drives covered the same ground mostly saw the same animals but the day drive was an experience I can forget, the night time one with a different was guide was memorable because of him.