My First South Africa Safari Experience

My First South Africa Safari Experience

I believe when you think of South Africa you think of a safari.  Well, I was lucky enough to have the most incredible safari experience while visiting South Africa in November 2019.  I spent 3 days on safari in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, which is located in the Southern portion of the Kruger.

Getting to Kruger National Park was extremely easy.  I took a short one hour flight from Johannesburg to Skukuza Airport.   I was met by an English speaking driver who transferred me to Savanna Private Game Reserve.  The drive from Skukuza to Savanna was about 40 minutes.  Some of it was through the Kruger National Park, so I was lucky enough to see a few giraffes, impalas and monkeys.

                  

Upon arrival at Savanna, I was welcomed by one of the managers Tash.  She was so welcoming, which set the tone for my stay at Savanna.  Tash checked me in and we talked about the lodge briefly and she then walked me to my tent.  Tash explained not to worry if I heard some noise on the roof of the tent.  She stated that the baby monkeys liked using the tent roofs, as their slide!  Walking into my tent, I was speechless!  It’s hard to put into words how amazing this place is.

Afternoon game drives normally depart from the lodge around 4:15 pm.  I didn’t get to Savanna until about 3:45 pm and I needed to shower.  So, Tash assured me to take my time and that if everyone left for the game drive we would meet up with them, once I was ready.  This is just one example of how accommodating everyone at the lodge is!

It’s time to head out to meet up with Neil, the Ranger.  Thankfully, Neil and the other guest my vehicle were not too far away.  Neil and the other guest were very welcoming and were excited about adding someone their vehicle.  Within just a few minutes of joining Neil, we spotted a pack of Wild Dogs!  Did you know that the Wild Dogs are on the endangered species list?  We continued on our game drive and came across 2 elusive leopard siblings.  We sat for about 30 minutes just watching them in awe.  As the sun went down we got word that the father of the 2 leopard cubs was on the move, so we worked our way to his area.  Sure enough, was a very large male leopard that made is way within 2 feet out our safari vehicle.  BREATHTAKING!

        

 

After our game drive, we headed back to the lodge for dinner.  To our surprise, back at the lodge, we were welcomed with a lantern lite area where everyone was enjoying a cocktail and talking about their evening game drive.  It was finally time for dinner and we were directed into a 100-year-old dining train car, where we enjoyed a wonderful 5-course meal.

Day 2 at Savanna Private Game Reserve started off with getting a wake-up call at 5:15 am.  I was then picked up by one of the guides who escorted me up to the main lodge for coffee, juice and few morning snacks.  We then jumped on our safari vehicle and headed out in search of some elephants.  It took a while, but with the great teamwork of our tracker and guide, we found them!  These animals are absolutely amazing and I couldn’t get enough of them.  If my safari experience would have had to end at that point, I would have left happy.  After leaving the elephants we came across a cape buffalo and a few other animals on the way back to the lodge.  We were welcomed back with a made to order breakfast.

 

                       

It was now time to transfer to my next lodge…Dulini Lodge.  We were taken in a safari vehicle with a ranger from Savanna.  Upon arrival at Dulini Lodge, we were met by one of their managers that welcomed us and showed us around the property.  I was in shock with how much wildlife was at the property, just hanging out without any care in the world.

I had a little downtime once I got to my room so I took advantage of the plunge pool and waited for lunch to be delivered to my room.  Around 4:00 pm I headed up to the main lodge to get ready for the evening game drive.  There was a little excitement because there had been word that the lionesses were back in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve.  They hadn’t been seen in over a week, so Fred (our Ranger) was pretty excited to find them.  I was excited because if we got to see the lions we could check the Big 5 off our list.  Sure enough, with the help a few other rangers we found the 2 lionesses, just hanging out under the shade of a large tree.  We continued on to see more elephants, zebra, rhino and the leopards.  The leopards that we came across today were a mother and her 18-month-old cub!

              

 

It was time to head back to the lodge and it was completely dark out and our tracker spotted some elephants, so we slowed down to check them out.  What an amazing experience sitting in complete darkness with just the moon for light and hearing these gentle giants chomping on branches and walking through the brush.  We had to sit there for about 15 minutes because they had blocked the road.  I didn’t mind, I could have sat there all night!

We get back to the lodge and we are being welcomed back from a group of locals singing, dancing and drumming.  I can’t put into words how special this moment was.  It was so moving it brought me to tears, not just a few but streaming tears.  This is one of those moments you only see in a movie and I was lucky enough to experience it.  Once I pulled myself together, I headed back to my room to get changed for dinner.  Everyone was told dinner was going to be a surprise so I was super excited to head to dinner.  Our surprise dinner was a BOMA.  This is a dinner that is outside in an area and the meal cooked out on the open fire and is buffet style.  Another experience to check off the bucket list!

Day 3 starts off just like the day before with an early morning wake up call and a game drive.  This game starts off the same as others but we got word that the 18-month-old leopard his mom had a kill up in the tree.  So, guess where we were heading!  Wow…how cool to see a leopard in a tree eating with several hyenas below waiting for any morsel to drop.

         

After another successful morning game drive with Dulini Lodge, we headed back to the lodge for breakfast and then transferred to Dulini River Lodge for my last night on safari.

Fred (the ranger) was actually the person who did my transfer to the Dulini River Lodge.  Again, we were greeted by our Butler Positive.  Positive them showed me around the property.  Once again there was so much wildlife wandering around the property.  During the downtime before the evening game drive, I took advantage of the spa services and had one of the best massages I have ever had!

Time for the last evening game drive.  Like the others, this one was just as amazing with all the wildlife that we were able to see.  Again, spending more time with my favorite, the elephants!

           

Day 4 my last morning game drive, what a sad day!  This game drive didn’t disappoint. Getting watch a rhino and a giraffe drink from a watering hole was unbelievable.

Just a few final thoughts on my first safari experience.  The staff at all 3 lodges were beyond amazing, they truly love what they do.  They make you feel like you are the most important person in the entire place.  Anything you need they are right there to assist.  This experience was the most incredible experience that I will remember forever.  From the moment I arrived at the first lodge to when I had to leave, every moment was something moment was special.  When it was time to leave Dulini River Lodge, I could have cried because I didn’t want this experience to end.  Now, that it is over I can only dream about the next time I can be back in South Africa on safari!

 

 

Nicki Bechtol

Africa Specialist