Just to step back for a minute – we’re on the southwest side of Krueger National Park in South Africa. The first stop on our safari is Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. We arrived around lunch time on Sunday and after setting up in what can only be called “luxury accomodations” complete with colorful monkeys, we sat down to a meal of cold cuts, salads, grilled game and fish with vegetables, and ice cream (!). This was followed by a short nap, at least for Lynn and I, before going out on an evening game drive.
In the capable hands of Jabulani (Jabu), our ranger, and Jack, the tracker, we were off searching for wild animals. Now Jabu is the senior ranger for the area and driving the Land Rover but he’s got a .44-50 rifle sitting in front of him while Jack is sitting on the seat in front of the bumper. So when you see the animals just think about who’s got it all hanging out.
On this first drive we’re looking for a leopard who’s had a kill but he may have lost it to hyenas. We’re on a dirt road driving 10-20 mph when we come to a halt and Jack and Jabu are looking at tracks in the dirt and are sure the leopard is moving off to the west. We turn off the road and 15 minutes later find a big leopard in a tree feasting on a baby warthog, Yummm! Now parts of this warthog were on the ground and being consumed by a somewhat smaller leopard. So we’re seeing these guys at a distance but the big guy walked right beside the Land Rover on the side where I was sitting. Could I have slapped him on the butt? Yes! Did I? Hell no! I’m climbing in Lynn’s lap hollering “Mommy!”. Not really but freaking incredible! The animals are not intimidated at all by people or vehicles and just do what they do. Jack sits on the front of the Land Rover and yawns, ho hum, another day, another dollar.
How do you follow this up? Well, gin and tonic with game jerky was a good start along with a beautiful sunset. This became our routine for the evening game drives – search out game and enjoy the evening and our friends, new and old.
Now this first night was special. We added the leopard to our Big 5 list and in the dark just outside Bush Lodge we came upon a pride of lions. Totally dark and they’re walking down the middle of the road. One male who looked like he was about to keel over along with a couple of females and 4 little cubs with ginormous paws. The big male was all skin and bones but Jabu said he would make a kill within the next day or so and fill out.
Back to the lodge for a nice dinner and wine before we were all off to our small lodges guided by a ranger or member of the staff. The lodge area is only protected by an electrical fence so they encourage you to stay indoors at night. I’m ready for bed so no problemo. Tomorrow comes early and that’s the subject of the next installment.
The end of the first day “in the bush” and we’ve seen 3 of the Big 5 up close and personal. What are they going to top this with? Stay tuned as it just gets better…