Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, Sabi Sands

Our next stop on this very enjoyable trip was to the Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge which is situated in the southern part of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. I had never stayed at a lodge in the south, and had always believed that the game viewing here may not have been as productive as in other areas of the Sabi Sands – how wrong I was. Sabi Sabi produced more than enough for our two night stay here on the 22nd and 23rd June. Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge is one of the biggest of the lodges in the Sabi Sands, with a total of twenty five suites – and they accept children of any age here (but children under the age of six are not permitted on game drives). I have often been asked why this is so, and it is for a number of reasons – a crying child can sound very much like an animal in distress, and this may attract predators which may react differently to the vehicles, if there is this distress sound emanating from it. Another reason of course is that other guests may not be too happy with having a crying child on their vehicle for the three hours plus, that the game drives take. It was a bit of a different experience for me to visit a lodge this size in the Sabi Sands – most other lodges do not even have half as many rooms. The public areas have huge viewing decks which overlook a fairly large spotlit waterhole. There was also an enclosed lounge and two pools, also overlooking the waterhole, as well as a room where one could access the internet – a new introduction to many of the lodges in the Sabi Sands – probably due to demand, but not my cup of tea, this is exactly what you want to get away from. 

Meals, including the dinners in the open air boma, were heralded by blasts on a kudu horn, and were all great, as was expected, with many different choices of meals produced. Breakfasts and lunches were enjoyed at the private tables on the dining deck, and during dinner all the guests gathered in the open-air boma where the food was served. We shared our dinner table with our ranger and the other guests from our vehicle, which is a nice touch, with those from the same vehicle inter-acting with one another in a social setting. Breakfasts were buffet style, and had all that one would expect, fruit, juices, hot drinks, cereals, yoghurts, breads, cold meats, cheese, and then a choice of hot breakfast, eggs, sausages, bacon, mushrooms and more – you know, exactly as you have at home! Lunches were a 3-course affair, with a choice of main and then the boma dinner was quite superb, with all types of food on offer, various starters, mains and desserts.

Our suite was huge with twin beds, a separate lounge, a dressing area, mosquito net, overhead fan, air-conditioning, an inside and outside shower, bath, toilet and twin basins, enough cupboard space, a bar fridge and secluded deck – I could easily move in here for a month or two!

During our afternoon tea we were introduced to our guide, Darred and our tracker, Henry Zulu (nice to meet a Zulu in this area!) all in all, we were five guests on this game viewing vehicle, also a Land Rover. We set off and had hardly left the lodge when we came upon a herd of about thirty to forty elephant, which were slowly making their way to the waterhole in front of the lodge. We stayed with them whilst they drank their fill, with the lodge in the background complementing this setting. Once again, many animals, such as giraffe, impala, nyala, hyena, reedbuck (which are fairly scarce in this reserve), a herd of about 120 buffalo, kudu, and more were seen during our stay here.
We followed a leopard, which was searching for something to eat, when we saw that she in turn was being followed by a hyena, which obviously was looking for an easy meal which the leopard would provide. Maybe the fact that she was aware of the hyena made her nervous, as she missed out on both an impala and a scrub-hare, both of whom got away safely. The quality of the drives here were good, and Darred was a very good guide – his interpretations of what we were seeing were excellent.

The next morning we tracked some fresh lion spoor, and eventually found six adult females and ten cubs on a buffalo kill. They seemed to have killed this animal during the night, the cubs were hidden in long grass and hardly showed themselves, and those females that were feeding were doing so with little enthusiasm. There were one or two of the cubs that ventured out from their hiding places to go into the body cavity of this dead animal, but did not stay too long – most of the buffalo had been consumed during the night. One young lion was playing with the tail of the buffalo, but in such a place that I could not get a decent photo of him.

After breakfast Henry Zulu took me and Janice off to Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge for a look around. My, what a fantastic lodge – surely the most opulent lodge that I have been into, in this reserve. The magnificent Amber Suite is truly something to behold – something that those discerning guests who want impeccable service and luxury will be satisfied with. The standard suites here have a lounge, bedroom, plunge pool, the usual indoor and outside shower, bath, twin basins, two toilets and one set of binoculars in each suite for your use, whilst The Amber Suite is by far much larger than my humble abode, and has all the amenities of the standard suites, plus an entertainment area, wine cellar, two lounges, steam shower/room, a large plunge pool and comes equipped with its own butler and private safari vehicle, guide and tracker! The open spaces here have many seating areas, lounges, bar, wine cellar (which also serves as a private dining area) and of course a magnificent spa with four treatment rooms.

On that afternoon’s drive we again followed a young male leopard, which was not playing ball – he was hidden in long grass, and only when the light was nearly gone did he show himself and climb up a little hill, where I managed to get a photo of him. What really stood out for me on this drive was that as it got dark enough, Darred stopped in an open clearing, switched off the motor and all vehicle and spot lights, so that our eyes could adjust to the dark and we could savour the night sounds of the bush. Once our eyes had adjusted to the dark, Darred gave us a talk on the night sky and the various constellations that we were seeing. There is something magical about sitting in the dark on a clear African night having the stars and constellations pointed out to you by someone who clearly has a lot of knowledge on this subject. Darred, if you are reading this, it was fantastic, and thanks for this.
The last morning, apart from the general game, we again tracked a male leopard and eventually found him. He seemed to be fairly old, maybe just past his prime, but a magnificent animal nonetheless. His only draw-back that he seemed to be blind in the one eye – his left eye was blue and opaque, but this did not seem to bother him at all. He obliged me by being very relaxed and I took quite a few photos of him. We also saw a family group of three white rhino in a clearing and spent some time with them – they were very relaxed, and the longer we stayed with them, the closer they moved to our vehicle, to almost within touching distance.

All in all, this visit opened my eyes to the great game viewing enjoyed in the southern part of the Sabi Sands, and the fact that Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge is one of the few lodges in this area that accepts children of all ages, makes it a very attractive option.

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