For the past 10 years I've been really fortunate to celebrate my birthday in different places around the world. From New York to Italy, Cambodia, Bali, Las Vegas, Vietnam and many more, I just love how each places give me different experiences, inspiration, reminder to always live a meaningful life and spread love everywhere you go. Turning 29 last month was very very special, I finally got to cross South Africa off my bucket list. I started my little adventure in Kruger National Park for 3 days, then I moved to Sabi Sands Game Reserve to experience safari on private game reserve for another 3 days, flew to Durban and finally Cape Town.
If you read my previous post about Kruger National Park, I absolutely loved my first game drive experience in South Africa. You come into the park with zero expectation, only later you find bunch of animals. Even though I didn't see any hyena, cheetah, lions, leopard in Kruger, I'm so glad I decided to do another safari in Sabi Sands game reserve located about 2 hours drive from Kruger. Why Sabi Sands? Based on my research, many people voted for Sabi Sands as the best private game reserve where you can spot all the big 5. I'm not ambitious to see the big 5, but I feel like while you're in South Africa, don't do just one safari - go spend and experience in other places if you have extra budget of course. It takes about 2 hours ride from Sabie Bush River Lodge to Elephant Plains Lodge, and if you don't drive like me just get ready to pay extremely high price for shuttle service. I still can't believe I had to pay A LOT for my transfer from Sabie Bush River Lodge to the lodge then later back to Mpumalanga airport. Trying not to check bank account but yes the entire experience was definitely worth it. I fell in love with Elephant Plains Lodge the first time I saw it on internet, it's such a beautiful lodge, excellent service, great food and they have two pools where you can spot elephants. But if I have to compare with Sabie Bush River Lodge, my heart will always go for Sabie Bush River Lodge. For USD 50 per night in Sabie Bush River Lodge, the staffs truly spoil you with how warm and sweet they are, better food and the garden just fabulous. While in Elephant Plains Lodge, yes you pay more ( SGD 1200 for two nights, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and two game drives in the morning and afternoon ) but it's still worth it as you get to see more animals. My suggestion is: go experience both, Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands or other private game if you have extra time and money.
Meanwhile, I had a new interesting routine during my stay with Elephant Plains Lodge. Nothing beats waking up early for morning game drive from 5.30 to 9 am, then back to the lodge for breakfast and nap. Wake up again for lunch at 2pm then afternoon game drive starts at 3 pm until 7pm, dinner and early sleep. I mean, what kind of life is that? For the first time in two years I didn't touch my laptop at all so it did feel like a real holiday/honeymoon. The best thing was you never knew what you were going to see. One morning we drove around and found the hyenas family, three gorgeous cheetahs chilling on the grass, then my last night just when I thought I'd never see lions, my ranger suddenly told me 'I got a surprise for you' and next thing you see 8 lionesses sleeping on the ground. And my happy heart just singing all the Lion King songs including "in the jungle the mighty jungle the lions sleep tonight". Oh even just scrolling down and looking at those pictures I took in Sabi Sands bring back the joy where I got to pretend like Nat Geo photographer on assignment to South Africa.
Okay now, let's talk about how does it feel like to be 29? How does it feel like to grow a year older? Honestly, I feel a lot stronger than before. I become more comfortable on my own skin, I am extremely proud of how far I've come, proud of my scars, bruises, past and my other achievements. It's not always easy to go through some tough days especially when you live by yourself in foreign countries for years, but again...what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Here are some important things I learned for the past year:
*Always count your blessings.
*Dream bigger. Work harder/smarter. Practice, practice, practice even when no one's watching
*Be brave, take risks. Even if it means you have to lose your privileges, struggle and fail.
*Trust in the timing of your life
*First, love yourself. Have courage to walk away from the things and the people who no longer inspire you. Things that no longer move you. Including some people who don't value or appreciate you. Always know your worth!
*Celebrate life, including small wins. Treat yourself, even if it's just sitting in a cafe and order a cup of coffee.
*Enjoy the moment
*Ladies...be fearless, fun, sexy and fabulous!
It's a long post, thanks for reading. I do hope the pictures inspire you to visit South Africa one day, in fact I am still dreaming to return and maybe explore Namibia, Botswana...too many places to visit!