My recent post covered the insanely luxurious Lion Sands River Lodge but now its time for the good stuff - the safari. I mean, that's why most of us go to Africa in the first place. This is the low down on Sabi Sands reserve and the Lion Sands Safari.
Sabi Sands reserve is connected to Kruger National Park without fences. The same game roam freely throughly the territories that have virtually the exact same landscape. The safaris through Lion Sands River Lodge are twice a day: once in the early morning and again in the evening before sundown. This is when most animals are active and the sun is not directly overhead which is necessary for you in your open top jeep.
The ride in the jeep (that is comfortably packed with water and blankets) is 3 hours long as your ranger and tracker take you through the park. Driving around for 3 hours might sound boring but the excitement of tracking animals in the wild makes it fly by. Think watching a leopard stalk its prey at sunset. Not to mention driving around reminded me of the Indiana Jones ride at Disney Land! We held on for dear life giggling while our ranger sped through the terrain to catch a sighting.
As the sun went down, we would park at a view point to watch the sunset over drinks. The best part? The nights are so clear you can see every star imaginable along with a few of the planets. I am not used to seeing the Southern Cross so this was spectacular for me.
The biggest question is whether or not you will see the big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo) and how often? The answer is YES you will and quite often. Obviously there is no guarantee you will see these animals but I can't imagine driving through this reserve without seeing anything. On our first drive we saw two male lions and a herd of elephants within the first 10 minutes! It was almost alarmingly close to our lodge.
On that same day we saw 4/big 5 including herds and herds of elephants and giraffes. There is something so exciting about driving through the bush only to stumble on these beautiful creatures. The leopard was the only animal we missed on the first day but finally spotted one the next day along with a baby cub! These are the most beautiful creatures in the I have ever seen. Throughout the game drives we also saw a pack of lions and hippos.
A note on Hippos
The highest cause of death by an animal in Africa is from the Hippo! The protective animals are easily threatened by other creatures and can run up to 40 kmh. Don't get between them and their land! We took a walk to see tens of hippos swimming - the only time our ranger held a weapon in hand. Not to mention they so blend well that it is not uncommon to stumble upon them by accident.
I can't say enough good things about our ranger, Bianca. Her passion for animals and tracking was electric as she lit up a room. We had an amazing time listening to her teach us about the animal behaviors and patterns as she gleamed with excitement. Such passionate people are rare to come by so we felt very fortunate.
Kruger vs. Other African Parks
What makes Kruger (and Sabi Sands) special is the fact you drive through a vast range of bush (or as we Americans know it as just really dense land with shrubs and trees). What makes this unique is the ability to get very close to animals. In our car a leopard literally walked next to me so close I could have pet it and I made eye contact with lions only 5 feet away. To see these animals so close is spectacular and thrilling to say the least. What you wont get from Kruger are the vast plains with African looking trees you have seen so many pictures of. These parks are more like Chobe National Park in Botswana or Serengeti in Kenya. Here you find great migration herds in the vast plains - also spectacular! While you do see zebra and elephant herds for days in parks like Serengeti and Chobe I do hear that lion and leopard sightings are very rare.