Friday, July 15, 2011

Djuma Vuyatela Lodge, Sabi Sands

From Cheetah Plains it was just a short trip to their neighbour, Djuma Vuyatela Lodge, where we stayed for just the one night. Now I know that I regret staying only one night at any lodge, but Vuyatela really was a place that I would have loved to have stayed at for many more nights. The game drives here, and we did only two, an afternoon and a morning drive, were superb and were probably the best that we had had this entire trip – and that says a lot. The Vuyatela Lodge itself was also very good, with good staff, good food and friendly service.
Our suite consisted of a bedroom, with large bed (king, queen, family? I don’t know, but it could have slept quite a few people comfortably!), separate dressing area, a big bathroom with bath, his and hers basins, shower, an outside shower and separate toilet, all with the good smelly stuff – in this case Molton Brown. Lest I forget, there was also a separate lounge, where we had lounge chairs, a desk, a bar fridge and where coffee was left for us on our morning wake-up call. Our deck, with its own plunge pool, also overlooked the waterhole that was in front of the lodge.

The public areas consisted of inside and outside lounges, a dining room, complete with a fish tank with local fresh water fish, an outside boma, large deck overlooking the waterhole, which had a whole community of residents, hippo, waterbuck, impala, wildebeest and more. There was also a lookout tower overlooking the waterhole, so one could spend some time here if one had time and a very long lens! They also had a library where there was a TV as well as two computers for use by guests wanting to use the internet, as well as a gym and a spa.

After checking in, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch and then on our afternoon game drive we were introduced to our ranger, Ephraim and Amos, our tracker. We were in the company of another photographer, a local from Johannesburg, whom I suspect was in some way connected to Djuma and who had been asked to take some photographs for them, and he was calling the shots. This worked beautifully in my favour, as I too like my photography, so was quite happy when he instructed Ephraim on occasion to park our Land Cruiser to best suit the subject and the light. All of us being keen on photography on this vehicle, we also didn’t mind spending longer than normal at a sighting, especially the leopard sightings, which I think this chap was tasked to photograph. On our afternoon drive we came upon the two leopard cubs from earlier that morning (when I was on the drive at Cheetah Plains) and we were able to spend some time with them. After a while Ephraim heard about three cheetahs that had been seen on the Kruger Park boundary, so we headed off there. Unfortunately the light was poor, but I did manage to get off a photo or two of these rarely seen animals. We also made a turn at the lion kill where the lionesses had killed the buffalo, and the feeding was still continuing here. Among others we also saw elephant, rhino and buffalo – what do you know? The big 5 in one drive!

That evening at dinner we had an interesting guest at our table – Marc Weiner, the person who does the on-line line game drives for “Wild Earth TV” in this area, and he had some interesting stories to tell. I had seen him and his cameraman in this area on quite a few occasions, in this funny vehicle with a long antenna, but was unaware of what he was doing. Now I know – he was doing a live broadcast of his game drives on the internet.
The following morning produced all the usual suspects, including the two leopard cubs again. Back at the buffalo kill, the lionesses had left the scene, and had left behind a male, who was resting up in the shade, that is until his face was touched by the sun – and with a little help from our spotlight, some photos were taken of him. We had to use the spotlight, the light was still very low. Of the leopard cubs, their mother had left them and disappeared and these two were now on their own for a few hours or for a few days, who knew? The young male was a bit shy, and did not show much of himself, but his sister was quite happy in our presence and I was able to take quite a few photos of her. After leaving them we then found another male leopard that we followed for a while, but eventually we left him in the thick vegetation. After driving around unsuccessfully for a short time, we went back to the female leopard cub. Just as we were about ready to leave the young female, I saw some movement in the distance, which turned out to be an older, mature leopard, which we then followed and stayed with for awhile until he had drunk from a waterhole. After this morning full of leopard and lion (four different leopards seen on one drive!) it was back to the lodge for breakfast and to pack.

I really enjoyed this lodge; I enjoyed the contemporary d├ęcor and art adorning the walls, the game drives, and everything about the lodge. At no stage did Ephraim or Amos indicate that time was running out – the only time that Ephraim was concerned about the time was when he asked me what time I wanted to depart. If I am at a leopard sighting, as good as these, I may never want to depart! Will I recommend this lodge to my clients – you bet I will!

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