Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kambaku Safari Lodge, Timbavati - Keith Marallich

I was looking forward to my visit to the Timbavati Game Reserve, a large tract of private game reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park and surrounded by other game reserves, with not a fence in sight. This means that the animals are free to roam anywhere in the 58,000 ha Timbavati Reserve or their neighbours, the 40,000 ha Umbabat Reserve, the 95,000 ha Klaserie Reserve and the 2.2 million ha Kruger National Park, from one reserve to the other. If these nomadic animals still have the energy left after travelling in this area of 2,393,000 ha, they still have the opportunity of crossing into the 23,000 ha Manyeleti Reserve or the 75,000 ha Sabi Sands Reserve – and I’m not including the Mozambique part of this transfrontier park, it is just too much! The hectare (symbol ha) is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres (100 m by 100 m). A hectare of land is about 2.47 acres. This is bigger than some countries, but enough of the stats – and now to the lodge.

The lodge that Janice and I stayed at for two nights was the Kambaku Safari Lodge, situated in the western sector of the Timbavati Private Game Reserve. This lodge is not star-rated (many game lodges are not star rated) but had it been, it would in my opinion qualify for more than five stars for service and friendliness. I have had the privilege of staying at many private lodges in and around South Africa, lodges that have awesome reputations and long pedigrees, but I can honestly say that Kambaku, for me, certainly rates up there with the best of them. From the owners to the lowliest staff members deserve accolades for their attitudes to guests and their attention to service. One can sense that this was not a show – these staff members truly enjoy doing what they do and enjoy having visitors at their lodge and what they do, they do well. 

Getting to the lodge is a piece of cake – one drives on a good tarred road all the way from the R40 main road between Hoedspruit and Hazyview, you travel past the Eastgate (Hoedspruit) Airport on a good tarred road, and enter the Timbavati Reserve, still on a good tarred road. From here its a few kilometers to the lodge on a dirt road that is in pretty good condition.

Clarissa welcomed us at the lodge and gave us a run-down of the lodge, the times of the various activities, teas, meals, drives, the do’s and don’ts, etc. The shared lounges and dining areas are comfortable and the room that we had been given was very pleasant. Accommodation at Kambaku Safari Lodge comprises of eight thatched, en-suite chalets situated in a semi-circle overlooking a waterhole. Each of the eight thatched chalets contains a full en-suite bathroom with both a shower and a bath. Decorated in the best of ethnic, our suite exuded luxury and elegance. The king-sized four-poster bed, elegant beaded throws, bright cushions and plush accessories affirmed its splendor. There was also a gift shop for those people who felt the need to buy some mementoes of their visit. There is an elephant proof fence around the camp, which is likely to keep out these great pachyderms, surely also buffalo and rhino, but not much else. Unfortunately for Bryce and Nicola, the owners, this fence does not keep out the porcupines which dig up the garden on a regular basis or the honey badgers that from time to time raid the lodge for whatever it is that honey badgers desire. Unfortunately for Janice and me, we did not see the porcupines (Janice has never seen porcupines in the wild) or the honey badgers (which must rate amongst my favourite animals – man, I love their attitude!).

 During my stay here I was given a tour of the lodge, and what especially stood out for me was the self-sufficiency of the lodge, relying on solar power rather than the sometimes erratic national power supply grid, garnered from burning coal which is where South Africa’s power is derived from. Only the hot water geysers are currently gas powered, but this will soon be placed on the solar grid as well. Other that the hot water, the solar power runs all the lights, power plugs, refrigerators, freezers etc. whilst gas currently takes care of the hot water and the stoves. 

At high tea we were introduced to our ranger, Van and our tracker, Albert – what a delightful team, both full of knowledge, at ease with guests and each other and very good at what they do. The first animals that we encountered on our afternoon drive were a fairly large herd of impala – probably the most common antelope in these parts. Because of this, most people tend to ignore them as there are so many of them. Do yourself a favour next time you come across impala, observe them for a while and you will not be disappointed, these are interesting animals. Whilst we were watching this herd, all of a sudden three of the animals started to stot. This is when an impala jumps high into the air to release pheromones from the fetlock scent gland in their hind legs, in mid-air. This scent is easier for a rapidly running impala to pick up than one left on the ground – a follow-me sign really. This is called stotting. Now I was so taken with this unexpected behavior that I forgot that I had a camera in my hand, so no photos were taken of this behavior – chalk this down to a missed chance!

We then came upon a large herd of buffalo, until our vehicle was totally surrounded by buffalo in every direction. Were there eight hundred, a thousand, more? Who knows, only that there were plenty of buffalo to be seen. When you are in the midst of a herd of buffalo, safely ensconced in the game drive vehicle, you are safe from them, but if you suddenly encounter them on foot, be afraid, be very afraid… especially be afraid of the old “dagga boys”, they are not to be trifled with. If you are on foot and you see buffalo, make sure that they don’t pick up you or your scent, so rather go the long way around!

We then made our way to a hyena den that Van and Albert knew about, and chanced upon two sets of hyena pups, one set probably about five months old and the others probably less than two months old. How satisfying to be able to sit in peace, with only our vehicle present, watching these cute and endearing animals at play and at feeding. This den was situated within an abandoned termite mound which made the ideal home, with what looked like three separate entrances in the mound, all linked by tunnels.

Later that evening, as it was growing dark, Van took us on a fairly long drive to a leopard that had been sighted. Luckily our timing was perfect – we came upon the leopard just as she made her way up the tree to continue feeding off an impala that she had killed. What may have encouraged her to get into the tree at that particular moment was the sudden appearance of two hyenas – they had smelled blood! Once she was up the tree, she was not concerned with the hyenas, not even when she had dropped a fore-leg of the impala on the ground and this was snatched up by one of the hyenas, to be crunched up within seconds.

Dinner that evening was a treat – the table had been set up under the stars overlooking the waterhole and we were joined by Bryce and Nicola, Van and three other guests. The meal, a three-course affair, was superb. A person with no teeth and a very blunt knife would have found that fillet steak tender – never have I had such a tender piece of meat (and those that know me will also know that I have had my fair share of meat in my life).
That following morning’s drive did not produce any predators, but we did see lots of general plains game, such as zebra, giraffe, impala, kudu, steenbuck, etc. Whilst enjoying brunch back at the lodge, a small herd of seven or eight elephants wandered down past the waterhole, but did not bother to stop in for a drink. Oh well, another wasted opportunity. That afternoon, before high tea, as I was lazing on my verandah overlooking the waterhole, I seemingly awoke from a slight nap and saw what looked like a wolf at the waterhole. I rubbed my eyes and thought, “No, it cannot be a wolf – it must be a wild dog” This did not go down too well either, so I rubbed my eyes again and saw that it was a side-striped jackal, but not only the one I originally saw, its mate too had also joined at the waterhole, so I was looking at two of them – the fuzziness of waking from a nap... This was maybe the first time that I had seen these beautiful animals in the daylight, all my previous sightings of them had been at night. Along with the jackal at the waterhole were both banded and slender mongoose and a number of birds, all taking turns to drink. The game drive that evening produced some elephant, giraffe, kudu, general game and hyenas – no cats this time. However, we were treated to a magnificent sunset, so all was fine in Africa. 

What a surprise at dinner. A private dinner had been arranged for Janice and me in front of our chalet under the stars and another superb three-course dinner was served. The bath was adorned with flowers and candles, as was the bed (okay, not candles adorning the bed) and I suspect that this was more for Janice than for me as no flowers had been placed in the shower for me!) and a lovely evening was had by all.

The following morning dawned overcast but no rain as yet. We came upon two white rhinos just as there was a break in the clouds, so I managed to get a half-decent photo or two in fairly good light. Isn’t it still a treat to see rhino in the wild, despite the severe pressure placed on their existence by those backward people who regard rhino horn as a cure for some disease or bodily malfunction or something? I have news for you people – chew your finger and toe-nails, it works just as well, is easier and cheaper to harvest and is legal!

We continued on our drive and came to a vast open area, where Van pointed out two cats in the distance – cheetahs! We got fairly close to these two male cheetahs and our luck held -  we were rewarded with another break in the clouds to give some sunlight on these beautiful cats. We must have sat with them for close to 30 minutes and when I asked Van later why no other game drive vehicles had turned up, I was informed that their game drive vehicles were the only ones permitted to traverse in this particular area. (I could not help at this time but think of some clients of mine that visited S.A. about three years ago, clients who had a special interest in photographing cheetahs, and we did not even see one in about two weeks of safari! What they would have given for 30 minutes or more here). These brothers posed and played around the vicinity of the vehicle and this is certainly the sighting that stood out for me on this trip. 

Now I usually have the same disconnect with shopping malls and most things electronic that the majority of today’s folk have with all things natural. If you are a bit like me and like all things natural, then this lodge is it. You will not find 5-star spas here, but good quiet nooks to sit quietly and contemplate the meaning of life. You will not find caviar and French-sounding names on the menu, but good, wholesome, down-to-earth South African food, you will not find air-conditioned, climate controlled suites with bar fridges here, but good, comfortable rooms under a thatched roof and with overhead fans (powered by the sun). Your game drives here will be conducted by enthusiastic, knowledgeable guides with a passion for nature and the staff will be friendly, and genuinely friendly at that. You may also meet the owners, who have in their time managed many top lodges in Botswana and South Africa, and who have a belief and passion for their lodge – go there, you will not be disappointed!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Nkomazi Game Reserve – Jeremy Williamson

A gem of a find !

Now here is a wonderful game reserve destination ! Nkomazi Game Reserve.

Malaria free, between Barberton and Badplaas, at an altitude where both Low and Highveld antelope species are found, this wide diversity of species makes for such interesting game viewing. Open, Central East Africa type savanna topography in places, this looks so much like one expects Africa to be. Grasslands, with a herd of wildebeest here, zebra over there and a few eland, then some hartebeest and blesbuck over there, with a single Jackal scouting between. 

All this visible from a single point. Drive a bit further and there, in the distance on the low plains, is a herd of Elephant heading for a wooded stream.

 A secretary bird,  striding proudly through the long grass searching for something to eat, gives us a brief nod as it passes. Looking good, Africa as it should be !
The road network from the entrance, to the Komati Tented Lodge, is such, that management have opted for guests to be met at the gate,  where safe undercover parking is provided, with a lounge and toilets. To then be transported – on the first game drive, sort of  – to the Lodge. Well you are in an open vehicle and driving through the Park with animals near and far. Hartebeest lying right next to the road were so relaxed they did not budge or blink. The crash of white rhino too, were, well, crashing!  

 As we had arrived later than the normal pick-up time, arrangements were made for us to join the afternoon game drive, with our luggage continuing to the Lodge. More rhino and another jackal as we drove through to the wooded stream where the herd of elephant were enjoying the succulent reeds and thornveld schrubs. 

 More interesting birds too, Bald Ibis, a Red-throated Wryneck  and was it another Secretary Bird?  Sundowners on the bank of the Komati River, hippo, crocodile, otter! The telemetry system hinted at lion in the vicinity, the lion eluded us, so we disembarked to enjoy the sundown with a glass of fermented grape, done to perfection.

 We arrived at our overnight abode in the dark. Lemongrass scented towels to freshen up as we alighted, a mini maglite thrust in my hand and we were guided to our large walk-in Meru style tent, which by the close sound of rapids in a river, meant that it was perched right on the banks of the Komati River. ‘Out of Africa’ – this is it,  military campaign chests, officers campaign chairs and paraffin lamps, giving our place of repose, a comfortable luxurious ambiance.

  “It is going to be cold tonight, so light up the gas heater when you get back to your room”. “Oh and bring a jacket to dinner, we will be dining in the Boma”  The skies here are even more clear than in the Kruger Park area we had recently been experiencing – fabulous, no wonder there is a computer driven telescope for evenings  of Star Gazing for guests. Not tonight, tables set in the Boma around a crackling fire with a couple of braziers ablaze and scattered around, to warm from all sides. Dinner, after starters was to be a traditional South African braai. I was taken aback a bit, watching those chefs braaing over the smoking coals, using their iPhone’s, ‘torch app’ to check on the meats’ progress. We were closer to the modern world at Nkomazi than I had thought. The braai meat was done perfectly.  Maybe hands free Petzl headlamps would be the answer for the chefs? Everything else was of the best and latest, but with an old twist, such as the tents and military styled accoutrements.

 Fine Royal Doulton bone china dinner services, colourful  Kelims on the floors, but best of all was the shower concept. Here was this zinc sink below a beautiful Victoriana maze of chrome piping. Shower curtain thrust into the sink to retain the splash, great shower, piping hot too.

Yawn, dawn, what a beautiful awakening, warm duvets aside, the tent was quite cozy with the day outside rather fresh, no early morning healthy dip in the plunge pool for me today!. 

Right on the bank of the Komati River, the Komati Tented Lodge is a delight. Resident and rather tame nyala antelope shyly looked away as I stumbled and tripped under my load, en route to my caffeine fix and normal functionality. 

Vehicles ready, blankets and layers of clothing - we climbed aboard and were off to the open plains and its myriad of animal.  This game reserve deserves a longer stay to fully appreciate its diversity.

 Home to the Barberton Daisy and now, recent consideration of the reserve becoming a World Heritage Site, due to  it being a very good representation of the Barberton greenstone belt, which is situated on the eastern edge of the Kaapvaal Craton.  This greenstone belt  is well known for its gold mineralisation as well as for its komatiites, an unusual type of ultramafic volcanic rock named after the Komati River that flows through the belt. Some of the oldest exposed rocks on Earth (greater than 3.6 Ga) are located in this Barberton greenstone belt of the Swaziland–Barberton areas and these contain some of the oldest traces of life on Earth. Several endemic butterflies, plants, spiders and insects roam this locality, and add their magnificence to the splendor that is the Barberton Mountainland. Nkomazi Game Reserve appears to have something for everyone.  My  grandfather – a geologist, started his explorations in a very interesting mineral rich area it seems. Based in Kaapsehoop, he must have trudged these plains, I wonder what the wildlife in the area must have been like then?

The wildlife is pretty good now, as our two game drives attest. Loads of antelope of numerous species - all rather relaxed too.

No scampering off as the vehicle approaches. Mind you the rhino were a bit skittish this morning and raced off as we approached, amazingly fleet of foot.  That’s the way “Stay safe fellas”. 

With a longer stay we were almost certain to see a lot of the more unusual residents of the reserve. I would be keen for that, as they have some rarely seen, special animals here.
Back to the camp for a rather gourmet breakfast – the nyala peeking through the mess tent entrance and we peeked back. Very tame.

 Departure was not all that bad, as the drive to our vehicle  would give us another ‘game’ drive through this lovely reserve. As we approached the gate there seemed to be a large gathering  of various antelope there to bid us safely off on our journey home. Blesbuck, wildebeest and hartebeest,  each with their own circle of friends, a lone ostrich presiding over this lot.

For my own interests, geological, scenic, the vast diversity of fauna and flora, this is certainly a venue that I have already started planning on being able to return to. I really admire those with the foresight to secure such vast areas, to fence and protect them,  and then reintroduce species long lost to the biome creating a wonderful haven for our wildlife and a most delightful venue to visit, this one is different and very good!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Umkumbi Safari Lodge – Jeremy Williamson

If it’s a Game Lodge within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve,  is it automatically,  a good Big 5 game viewing destination?   Lana and I went and had a look-see if this was the case.
 What a most wonderful locality for the Lodge, situated right on the bank of the Sand River with the open flood-plain below. This has to be one of the better Lodge outlooks in the Sabi Sands area. As we arrived and walked through to the deck, so a small herd of elephant were feeding in the reed-bed immediately in front of the camp.

We were met by Herman, the Lodge manager and Jason, who was to be our Ranger for the duration of our stay.

Umkumbe is amongst the more affordable of the Lodges in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The rooms have this really lovely view but are very modest in size and furnishing, with only a shower and toilet en suite in most of them. The rooms were however air-conditioned. 

Lana and I were given the honeymoon suite, very comfortable and here there was a bath and shower in this larger chalet.

The food is rather basic, the main lodge comfortable, service reasonable, with the bar operating on a self help honesty basis, but then this is the Sabi Sand and it’s rather all about the wildlife, is it not? 

The game drives at Umkumbi Safari Lodge can be good, as we were to find out, or were we just incredibly fortunate?
Jason and Tracker Moses  guided us on the little maze of roads – nyala, buffalo (some old dagga boys), impala, then giraffe, some dwarf mongoose and then the light started to fade and with it my hopes of something good.

Sun down and a genet in the spotlight – then the call came through, a leopard on the boundary. This became something of a road race on a par with the Dakar Rally!  We had to get there before the leopard moved off, back onto the neighboring property. We roared past a large herd of elephant, who stood back, blinking their long eyelashes in awe as we sped past, a dozen foreign bodies  bouncing up and down on that Land Rover contraption, jaws set, hands gripping whatever possible,  tightly, eyes slit protectivly against the wind, we were ready . Lights - our neighbors vehicle, Sabi Sabi,  that had been following him -  there he was, magnificent in the spotlight, in the riverbed / boundary. He lay down on a sand bank in fine repose for the photo shoot,  then casually marked his northern boundary limit, then ambled along the stream and away into the bush on the far bank.

I looked back, another three vehicles on the Umkumbi side, had arrived just in time,  and were watching him too. These were visitors from outside the Park, who had been brought in to Umkumbe, for “a sunset drive in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, to be followed by a firelit Boma dinner”, before being driven back to their hotels.

We returned to the quizzical elephant herd, assured them that we indeed wanted to see them too. We made our way back to camp, en route, the lights of other vehicles driving in parallel, just away from us could be seen. Umkumbe is a very long extremely narrow stretch of land between Sabi Sabi / Nottens and its northern boundary and relies principally on sightings of animals passing through. With this area having such a high concentration of wildlife, the chances of seeing the Big 5 along with a wide diversity of other species,  seems possible. 

Back in the camp and to dinner. The reason for the over large Boma for the  number of Umkumbe’s Lodge guests, now became apparent, we were expecting guests. The three  vehicles we has seen earlier, arrived in a cloud of dust,  spilling out their mix of enthralled languages. They had been lucky, leopard, elephant and buffalo, of the Big 5 and giraffe, zebra and some antelope. The guests the previous night, we were told, were not so lucky.

The Boma too was a good one for these guests. Crackling warm fire and a potjie dinner. Large caldrons (potjies) one with a chicken stew, the next venison, with a third, the South African staple, ‘stywe pap’ (a porridge-like maize-meal dish). There was also a corn and pea, veggie dish and salad. This is the way to feed a hoard of folk in the bush. Umkumbi have this down to a fine art it seems as it really was delicious. This followed by plated poached pears and ice cream. Then off to the honesty bar for a night cap.
Africa began to waken when we boarded our Land Rover for the early morning game drive. This also turned out to be pretty good. Nyala, then some kudu cows, glowing in that lovely early morning light,

….. then we came upon her, a lioness, (which very obviously was sill suckling her cubs), out on the hunt.

We followed her for some time, as she tested one opportunity after another, enough, maybe best to leave her to it, alone.

A tree squirrel, more giraffe and some impala - later we heard that another vehicle had seen a female leopard in the Sand River bed near the Lodge, but the Ranger had been unable to raise us on the radio. The animals certainly are here. When we arrived, guests who had spent three nights at the Lodge, had yet to see any of the large cats. Their luck changed with our arrival, leopard on the night drive and lion this morning, finally the Big 5 ticked for them, Lana and I missed on rhino whilst at Umkumbe.

At most of the Lodges in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve area, on a four night stay,  one can be fairly well assured of seeing all of the “five most dangerous animals to hunt” – the Big 5. Here at Umkumbe? The limited traversing gives me doubts. Where leopard can normally be seen almost daily, here, I am not too sure and the record reflects this. If only they could share traversing with a neighbor and increase the size of land they traverse on.

Back to the Lodge for breakfast.  Laid out on the deck was a fine cold breakfast spread. Cereals, fruit, juices, with the hot breakfast, cheese omelets and toast, help yourself! 

 Lana and I consequently had a rather reasonable one night stay at Umkumbe. Would you?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Notten’s Bush Camp – Jeremy Williamson

Location, location - that has to be a bit of what it is all about with regards to good big game viewing. Notten’s has a prime location in the south eastern sector of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, situated between Mala Mala, Sabi Sabi and Londolozi Game Reserves - the game viewing here is excellent. Wonderful too, that Notten’s has reciprocal traversing with Sabi Sabi, expanding their game viewing potential enormously. Notten’s Bush Camp is one of the oldest family run Lodges in the Sabi Sand area and retains much of the personal style of the family bush camps of old.

Overlooking an ephemeral stream and open plain beyond, where a strategically placed water-hole entices a variety of animals - the public areas and deck, shaded by a magnificent Jackal-berry and strategically placed bar with a Barista’s dream coffee machine, entices guests.

Lana and I arrived at Notten’s to a warm welcome, refreshing drinks, with a herd of buffalo on the open plains in front of the Lodge - we started to settle into bush mode.

Our Ranger, Geoff and tracker, Fox, were anxious to show us the splendid game viewing experienced here. We arrived for high tea on the Lodge deck where a sumptuous array of delectable food was laid out. Savory - quiche, salads, then a flavor of Africa, Springbok babotie, delicious, with sweets. cakes and drinks done,

we clambered onto one of the comfortable Land Rover Safari vehicles, with a bit of friendly encouragement from our amiable host Grant Notten, we headed for the bush. Bushwillow, marula, acacia, the lovely open bushveld savanna of the lowveld, magnificent Scotia - the weeping boerbean, on so many of the termite mounds, the golden grasses and look closer, dainty flowers scattered along the way, a botanists dream. The way, dirt tracks winding seemingly aimlessly through the bush, but they took us right up to a herd of elephant.

Spend a bit of time with these matriarchal elephant herds with young, colloquially known as ‘breeding herds’, and one is able to gain a fascinating insight to the elephant social structure. These mammoth pachyderms are my favorite, I can be absorbed by their behavior for hours. Well too many hours we did not have, the sun had long passed its zenith and was already falling out of the sky. It was becoming dusk when Fox found him. Sniffing the evening air, then stealthily approaching the earthly retreat of some warthog. From one subterranean excavation to the next we followed him.

Nobody home, new tactics, what about that herd of impala ? What a magnificent cat ! I marvel at how accustomed these feline predators have become to the intrusion from us gawking tourists, I am sure he was putting on a bit of a show for us, walking right up to Fox rather brazenly and sniffing at his boot, the Fox did not budge, he probably knew this tom well. His attempt to approach the impala was not as polished and they danced off into the gloaming, their ‘follow me’ markings and pheromone scent keeping the herd loosely together, whilst seemingly disgruntled, our leopard turned his back on us and headed off away into the bush.

We took the hint and Geoff found some open ground for our sundowner stop. Out came a gas stove, on went the boerewors and ribbetjies. We watched the last rays of sunlight fade whilst tasting these and the other snacks, sipping all the while on some of the Cape’s finest. Absolutely nothing wrong with this! Spotlight out and we were hoping to find some more of the nocturnal species – how Fox could identify an animal by a reflective pin-prick amazed me. A night-jar, a glimpse of a genet and then, “Ingwe” – a leopard off to the right. Geoff swung off the road and we made for where Fox had seen the glimmer. There she was, stealthily on the hunt, she seemed a bit shy and eventually chose a course through a dense tambotie stand, making it impossible to follow - how lovely, two excellent leopard sightings on the first evening ! “Well this IS the Sabi Sands you know”. Imagine arriving back at the camp to a fairy-lit garden. The pathways were lined with glowing paraffin lanterns, our room festooned with lamps and candles – no electric lights here. This brought back fond memories of days on the farm in my younger days.

 There is electricity – that is, for the ceiling fans, the kitchens, bar fridges, Italian coffee machine (of course) and the geysers, which produced profusions of piping hot water in the shower, then to dinner. Warm fire on the patio and in the dining hall, good wine, camaraderie and super food! Casual, warm and a more friendly place would be hard to find. Would that be an espresso before retiring? Hot water bottles and comfortable warm duvets and before I knew it my internal time-piece had me rousing. Lana and I are used to paraffin lanterns but one of the guests had turned the wicks down to extinguish their lamps and could not get them relit for wake-up, so candles only in her room. Bit of a panic. Maybe for such international guests, a bedside electric lamp would not go amis, this would be a good ‘security blanket’ in the wilds of Africa, easy to read by too and should not detract from the flame lit ambience? The Lodge does provide excellent portable spotlights which we used to good avail in the early morning – had to identify that sound in the brush right next to our veranda – a small herd of Buffalo which slowly moved off. “A thermos of hot water for your early morning tea will be placed at your door with a knock to wake you at 06h00”. Too late, we were up and dressed, we were not going to let that speciality coffee machine lie idle. Coffee and rusks done, warm gear, blanket, hot water bottle, camera equipment and we were away on Safari.

The bush was alive, white rhino and calf right next to us, so unconcerned. I whispered her a warning – “look out for the rhino horn poachers”

– Kudu,


zebra, grey duiker, steenbuck and then a leopard. Hungry fellow this. He was busy feeding on a steenbuck that he had just caught and was not interested in even giving us the time of day. Head down and food the priority, we let him be. We wended our way through this delightful open vibrant savanna – a crash of three rhino,

a herd of buffalo and another of elephant.

What outstanding game viewing ! The Lodge staff really were so friendly and capable, I can see why this is such a popular venue. Comfortable affordable accommodation, good food, a lovely setting and then really excellent game viewing, as only the Sabi Sand Game Reserve can produce. I have yet to experience better sightings of the Big 5, at any game park in southern Africa outside of the Sabi Sands area. Notten’s was living up to the tradition. In fairness it is the leopard sightings that caps it for this area, normally so elusive.

 If such wildlife viewing is so special for me, having spent the greater part of my life visiting the wilds of southern Africa, how fantastic must it be for a first time visitor from overseas, to be able to see the five most dangerous animals, hunters deemed as prize, in a stay of 3 or 4 nights, and to see them really well and up close. All these photographs were taken on my iPhone (joking!) but they really could have been. Add this venue to your “Bucket List” ?
Photographs by Jeremy and Lana Williamson