This is the second of a four part travel series across the south of Africa. Six family members traveled to four countries over ten days: Capetown and Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and Chobe National Park in Botswana. We briefly entered Zambia so we’re counting it.
Sabi Sands is one of several private game reserves in northern South Africa. It’s adjacent to, but separate from, a relatively well-known game reserve called Kruger National Park. In Kruger, the safari tours must stay on the roads whereas in Sabi Sands you’re allowed to go off road in pursuit of an animal (quite exciting!). There are generally no fences between the reserves and the park and animals wander about. Our guides, however, were respectful of the known boundaries.
It was surprising that all the animals completely ignored us. It seems they’re so acclimated to the big eleven seater open top jeeps that they don’t even flinch when we approach them. No reaction whatsoever, not even a whisker twitch.
We stayed at Cheetah Plains, a traditional safari lodge with individual thatched huts, a pool with an overlook of a watering hole, and a great bar. We fully enjoyed all aspects of the property, especially the bar. My favorite drink was Amarula cream which is made from a local nut. Delicious.
Each day we went on a morning drive (that’d be 5:30 am) and an evening (4:30 pm) ride through the bush. Every ride was different and you never knew what you’d see.
Below are a series of images of lions. There were lots of lions. Lots and lots of lions. Prides of lions, grown female lions, baby lions, lions everywhere with the exception of the big males. They must have been off to a bachelor party somewhere.
I was a bit dismayed to find that many of lions had mange, thus their coats were spotted and not the rich golden color they should have been otherwise. Our guide said it was an acknowledged problem but as the lions were not endangered, the park rangers simply let them be.
Next up, leopards. We were fortunate enough to go on a safari in 2004, and caught only two sightings of the rare animals. Those shots were far away but this trip was very different. Sightings were frequent and the big cats were completely at ease even though we were sometimes as close as 20 feet away with the engine running.
These images may be of the same leopard, a young male, but our guide wasn’t sure.
I love the big cats, but the birds caught my eye as well. Such colors and beauty!
OK, one more big cat… We sat and watched two cheetah brothers contemplating a lunch of impala. We were hoping to see a chase but the impala lived to see another day, thankfully for them.
There were animals besides the big cats, believe it or not!
Now for the finale. Our guide sighted a white rhino cow with her 5-6 month old calf deep in the bush. We were incredibly lucky as rhino sightings are few and far between. FYI-“White” is a misnomer. The Dutch named them “Wide” Rhino which was mistranslated to “White”.
We took off through the thick brush, the jeep heaving side to side while knocking over brush and small trees. If the rhino even noticed this loud crashing “animal” loaded with eleven humans approaching her, you certainly couldn’t tell. Subtle we were not. We got within 30 feet or so and were thrilled to experience such an extraordinary and rare sight But wait! There’s more!
The mom and baby turned away and our guide thought she might be headed to a nearby watering hole. The guide was right. We moved to the watering hole area and patiently waited. With the rustle of the bush (she’s not subtle, either), she exited and came out into plain site. You could almost hear our stunned silence. How lucky were we? But wait. There’s more.
The mother then proceeded to plop herself into the mud for what I’d call a “spa” experience. The calf, no way. He would not, and I mean not, leave his poor mother alone. He pestered her continually, jumping on her, romping around in circles, head butting her, butt butting her, trying to get her to play with him. No dice. You could almost see the mother sigh, then give up on what must have been an anticipated moment of relaxation and peace. Laboriously, she slowly got up and joined her boisterous son. Many a mother can totally relate!
Below are a few stills and a couple of videos. Our guide was joyous watching these two as in his seven years as a guide had never seen anything like it. Enjoy!
Trivia question – what do you call a group of rhinos?
Answer: a crash
Goodbye, Sabi Sands. If we’d stayed any longer I’ve have needed to buy more camera storage cards! Onto Zimbabwe!