Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Until you have been on safari experiencing the absolute thrill of seeing your first animals in the wild, it is really hard to convey the physical feeling. There is such tension, anticipation, and straining of the eyes to scour the landscape in anticipation. You immediately know that your ranger is a pro seeing things you are oblivious to, it’s the split second of movement that he sees….he is so attuned to the environment. You gain such respect for their tracking skills but even more for the wide scope of knowledge. How they spot spoor and scat droppings identifying an amazing assortment of animals. Learning the difference of spots and rosettes in a split second sighting of a slinking cat in tall grasses.
For me personally, the thrill continues every time I am able to get into the bush, it never diminishes. I obviously love traveling, but when I know I am heading to Africa, the excitement just continually swells for weeks.
We had experienced two lodges at Sabi Sabi, a private game reserve adjoining Kruger National Park. Sabi conserves the wilderness with open fencing to allow the game to move freely. The National Park is in northeastern corner of South Africa and is one of Africa’s largest and oldest (1898) game reserves. Its high density of wild animals includes the Big 5, along with over 300 species and 47 large mammals. Hundreds of diverse bird species such as vultures, eagles and storks. What is interesting is that there are many private reserves like Sabi that abutting the park, like Mala Mala and Timbavati adding to the massive size.
Selati Camp and Earth Lodge are two very different oases in the bush – Selati Camp is a 7 tented cabin replicating a bygone age. Exactly what you would imagine of a former 19th century camp, overlooking a creek with train memorabilia from when the Selati Line crossed the White River and Sabi. At night in the Boma with the glow of the lanterns it was magical under the tree canopy listening to whooping of hyenas in the distance. But a memory that still lives with me today, was before morning light, I was awakened by two lions chuffing with low groans very close by, a vocalization used to let others of the pride know where they are or setting territorial boundaries; not at all threatening to me, but I certainly knew I was in Africa.
At Earth Lodge it was other worldly, built into a slope of the surrounding environment. Upon driving up the lodge you see no buildings, you walk via a tunnel like path and come out to a panorama of the wild savannah and a waterhole. Here there are 13 luxurious earth tone integrated modular units surrounded by tall grasses and lengthy vistas. Each had their own pool, outdoor patios, and huge bathrooms with both indoor and outdoor showers. The walls are sculpted cement with natural wood and drift wood like limbs created headboards, polished floors with local art work accent pieces. This was a place that you could stay for days on end in total privacy.
On our game drive one morning, I saw my first leopard in the wild, it was waiting out a warthog at its den, and even though they are nocturnal animals he was not giving up on his breakfast. We saw a magnificent Bateleur Eagle with his red face and huge wing span looking out for his next meal. Lilac breasted rollers, brilliant bee-eaters and kingfishers were everywhere. And elephants galore, best were the youngsters who had to show a little cheeky bravado to mock rush the vehicle. I loved the silence of just listening… tummy rumbles, chopping and trunk snorts and blows. Elegant giraffes ambling as they pulled at the tallest leaves. And yes, there where lions lounging in the shade as we all know cats sleep for long stretches. They are evening hunters with the females hunting in fine-tuned maneuvers to feed the pride.
Coming home from our last evening drive we came upon a hyena just at the lodge entrance eating a buck… we sat silently listening to the noise of bones being crushed. In the morning there was not a scrap left on the spot as evidence. That is why they are known as the “vacuum cleaners” of the bush.
Your experiences on safari are so encompassing that they filter out any thoughts or distractions of the outside world. You are pulled into the moment and focus only what is in front of you – it does reset your conscientiousness in the best way. Take in the sights, sounds and smells for you will never forget them.
It's a privilege to be under the African skies.